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Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership

PROPEL in Baxley

How the program works

How the program works


We launched PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) in 2022. PROPEL provides rural communities with resources to create systems necessary to support their own economic and workforce development strategies. The two-year program is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant; it also received a $250,000 gift from the UGA Foundation in the spring of 2022.

The program will guide low-income rural cities and counties through a six-step model to develop and execute a plan to advance their economies. This model will focus on economic development, data analysis, strategic planning, community engagement and vision setting. The program was awarded top honors in the Place category at the University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Awards of Excellence program in October 2023. The award recognizes PROPEL’s economic impact on Georgia communities. 



  • Data Analysis

    • Review economic and labor market data to inform strategy development

  • Citizen Input

    • Collaborate and engage with business leaders and key community stakeholders

  • Asset-Based Strategy Development

    • Identify community resources and develop a vision for the community’s economic future

  • Planning Implementation and Support

    • Advance the strategic planning process using acquired skills

  • Links to UGA Researchers

    • Connect communities with UGA academic faculty for research and partnership opportunities

  • Impact Evaluation

    • Assess the effectiveness of the community’s economic development strategic planning process

PROPEL collaboration



PROPEL includes collaboration between UGA Public Service and Outreach units

  • Institute of Government

  • Archway Partnership

  • J.W. Fanning Institute of Leadership

  • Small Business Development Center

PROPEL Communities

 PROPEL Communities




  • 2022 Communities

    • Grady County

    • Appling County

    • Pulaski County

    • Washington County

    • Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (Clay, Quitman, Randolph, and Stewart Counties)

  • 2023 Communities

    • Baldwin County

    • Ben Hill County

    • Burke County

  • 2024 Communities
    • Emanuel County

    • Crisp County

    • Marion County

Additional communities may be added in the future.


PROPEL Rural Scholars

PROPEL Rural Scholars


The PROPEL Rural Scholars program provides students interested in rural Georgia the opportunity to work alongside a Public Service and Outreach mentor and community leaders to work on and implement relevant research to communities. The two semester program will equip future leaders with the knowledge and experience to take roles in economic development, community development, and civic leadership.

Learn more about the PROPEL Rural Scholars program.

PROPEL In the News

PROPEL In the News


Appling County reaps success with UGA Institute of Government help

January 26, 2024

Award-winning PROPEL program highlights rural development efforts

Read more.


U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to fund expansion of UGA’s PROPEL program

November 20, 2023

The University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand its work with rural communities in Georgia.

Read more.

University of Georgia’s PROPEL program receives top national honors

October 17, 2023

PROPEL, a University of Georgiaprogram, took home the top prize from a national awards competition honoring outstanding economic development initiatives, research and accomplishments.

Read more. 

Research by UGA students makes an impact in rural Georgia communities

July 26, 2023

UGA students who participated in the PROPEL Rural Scholars program are more attuned to the needs of rural Georgians and how government works thanks to the yearlong experiential learning opportunity at the University of Georgia’s Institute of Government.

Read more.

UGA’s PROPEL program to help guide Pulaski’s economic development strategy

May 17, 2023

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.

Read more.