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September 10, 2018 | Spotlight

Institute welcomes UGA’s new rural economic development specialist

Rural Development Manager Saralyn Stafford joins UGA from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to connect local communities with rural initiatives coordinated by the university and its Public Service and Outreach units like the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Writer: Jana Wiggins

The University of Georgia strengthened its vigorous economic development outreach with the recent addition of a knowledgeable community development professional.

Saralyn Stafford, a community and economic developer with a 30-year career focused on Georgia, joined UGA this summer to connect rural communities with the university’s vast knowledge and expertise. Stafford will serve as a liaison with local elected officials, chambers of commerce, economic development professionals, school boards, nonprofit organizations, small business owners and other community leaders.

“Economic prosperity in rural Georgia is a top priority for the state and a strategic priority of the University of Georgia’s outreach programs,” said Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for public service and outreach. “Saralyn is well known as a collaborative and knowledgeable leader with great passion for rural Georgia, and we are thrilled to have her join our team.”

Members of the Georgia Economic Developers Association learn more about UGA’s economic development initiatives at a recent panel presentation organized by our rural development liaison Saralyn Stafford and including Vinson Institute Director Laura Meadows.Stafford will be based in South Georgia’s Coffee County and represent UGA’s Public Service and Outreach units. Her work will focus on connecting communities with the Institute of Government and other PSO units, including the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the Small Business Development Center and the Archway Partnership, to assist in addressing community and regional challenges.

Stafford has a strong record of working in community and economic development across the state since 1987 with a focus on rural communities, particularly in Southeast Georgia. As a local economic developer and chamber of commerce president for 15 years, Stafford led efforts in the City of Waycross and in Coffee and Pierce counties.

She has served in various leadership capacities at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in Atlanta for the past 16 years. Most recently, she provided technical assistance and oversight for local and regional planning, research and surveys for local governments, downtown development, the state’s AmeriCorps program and the Keep Georgia Beautiful initiative as the DCA division director for community development.

At UGA, Stafford will also offer her expertise in training government officials and community leaders and in strategic planning within rural communities.