Writer: Baker Owens
Pulaski County is focusing on a long-term economic development strategic plan to ensure opportunity for future generations through PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership), a unique program of UGA’s Vinson Institute of Government. In its second year, PROPEL provides rural communities with resources to help create systems necessary for their economic and workforce development strategies.
With its prime location along the Golden Isles Parkway and proximity to Macon, Pulaski County sees a bright future in tourism and economic development. Through PROPEL, area leaders hope to maximize opportunities and plan for growth without changing the character of the historic community.
“We recognized the need to not only work on improving our community each day, but we wanted to be sure and look years down the road to be able to improve the community for long-term,” said Jenna Mashburn, Pulaski County Sole Commissioner. “PROPEL is helping us to come together across the county and think about how we make sure there are opportunities here for our kids and grandkids.”
Along those lines, a career prep day was held last month to highlight potential jobs and pathways at Hawkinsville High School.
“Our students are the future of this community,” said Debbie Puckett, assistant superintendent and federal programs director at Pulaski County Schools.
“We want to offer them every resource and opportunity available to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge to contribute to the overall success of our community. Collaboration with PROPEL through the Archway Partnership is one way that we can achieve that and we are very fortunate for the opportunity,” she said.
One of eight UGA Archway Partnership communities, Pulaski County is already familiar with the university’s public service and outreach mission to provide resources to help communities thrive.
In 2019, the county seat adopted the tagline “Come Home to Hawkinsville” after participating in Community Branding services by UGA’s Vinson Institute. The city has become noticeably more lively and welcoming after collaborating with UGA students and faculty from the College of Engineering and the College of Environment and Design, with many historic buildings in the area seeing renovations for the first time in decades. There’s also active redevelopment of Commerce Street, a new City Hall and plans for a riverfront parks area.
Pulaski County’s PROPEL steering committee of local citizens, business owners, and community leaders are currently focused on educating small businesses about rural zone opportunities and day tourism. Events to bring community together including Street Eats downtown and Second Saturdays, are already planned for the year.
Over the next year, with assistance from Pulaski County Archway Professional Sherrié Raleigh, the community will continue to focus on the implementation of its citizen-created PROPEL action plan to target areas of economic and community development to support Pulaski’s vision for its future.
If you’d like to be involved, please contact Raleigh at Lisa.Raleigh@uga.edu to learn about upcoming events or other input opportunities.
Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant with additional support from the
UGA Foundation, PROPEL was launched in spring 2022 by the Vinson Institute. PROPEL
(Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) is designed
to guide rural communities through a multistep model to develop and execute a plan
to advance their economies.
Picture at top: Commerce Street in downtown Hawkinsville is more lively and welcoming thanks to collaborations with UGA faculty and students. Historic buildings, including City Hall, are being renovated for the first time in decades. The community adopted the tagline “Come Home to Hawkinsville” in 2019 after participating in the Vinson Institute of Government’s community branding services.
Inset picture: A mural in downtown Hawkinsville reflects the community tagline “Come Home to Hawkinsville,” which was developed through the UGA Vinson Institute of Government’s community branding services. Many historic buildings in Hawkinsville are seeing renovations for the first time in decades thanks to collaborations with UGA faculty and students.