Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership

We launched PROPEL (Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership) in 2021. 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 three U.S. Department of Agriculture grants; it also received a $250,000 gift from the UGA Foundation in the spring of 2022.

PROPEL guides rural cities and counties through a multi-step model to develop and execute a plan to advance their economies. This model focuses 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 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

  • 2022 PROPEL Communities
    • Grady County
    • Appling County
    • Pulaski County
    • Washington County
    • Lower Chattahoochee Council of Governments (Clay, Quitman, Randolph, and Stewart Counties)
  • 2023 PROPEL Communities
    • Baldwin County
    • Ben Hill County
    • Burke County 
  • 2024 PROPEL Communities
    • Emanuel County
    • Crisp County
    • Marion County

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 equips future leaders with the knowledge and experience they need to take roles in economic development, community development, and civic leadership.

PROPEL Rural Scholars Program