Now is the time!
By Kathleen Russell
Now is the time for all of McIntosh County’s people to come together for the good our wonderfully unique, beautiful, historical and loving community that is filled with natural resources and opportunities to turn our tide to a prosperous, healthy, educated and joyous place to live, work, play and a place for many to visit and enjoy.
That is the job set before each one of us.
Now is the time, because this community refuses to accept the outlook study conducted Georgia Chamber of Commerce called Georgia 2030.
The outlook for McIntosh County is not a pretty one, as reported in The Darien News in the July 6, 2017 issue. The study predicts there will be a decline of jobs by 4.2 percent (244 jobs) by 2026. The county is to have a population loss of 5.9 percent. McIntosh County is ranked one of 53 Georgia counties that are distressed, and the only county on the Georgia coast to be placed in that position. It predicts that by 2030, the 32.5 percent of the county’s population will be age 65 or older. The outlook said the poverty rate for all ages in McIntosh County is 21.3 percent and 37.5 percent of the adults in McIntosh are not working.
Inevitable? Absolutely not!
Now is the time to do something about those negative predictions and float all of our boats on a rising tide in McIntosh County.
Some McIntosh County residents got together with that idea in mind to bring this community together to refuse accepting the negatives and embrace and promote our positives and be a successful community. Identified as the Community Development Steering Committee, it has set a course and is being coordinated by the Darien-McIntosh Chamber of Commerce.
This is just the beginning of work to involve every single resident in this county. Task Forces have been formed and leaders assigned, who are opening arms for other residents to volunteer to diligently work on these projects.
Currently, there are eight task forces: Darien River Bridge Task Force; Branding/Marketing Task Force; Education/Workforce Development Task Force; Tourism Task Force; Community Enhancement Task Force; Retail Development Task Force; County/City Services Consolidation Task Force; and Communication Task Force.
In a regular basis, each task force will report to the community about the headway it is making.
Darien River Bridge Task Force:
• Leaders are Patrick Zoucks, McIntosh County Manager, and Wally Orrel, President of McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority.
• The Georgia Department of Transportation is going to build a new Darien River Bridge, with the estimated completion date of 2023. There is community concern about how the possible closing of the bridge during construction could impact downtown Darien, the businesses, customers and residents from getting from one side to the other. There is also concern about the change of the footprint of the bridge.
• The job of the task force is to coordinate with GDOT and their engineering design company to develop a plan with the least impact to the community during the construction. This committee will continue their involvement until the completion of the project. Plans are to meet with GDOT quarterly for updates and advisement and then update the community on the plan and process through various media.
Branding/Marketing Task Force:
• Michael Hardy is heading up this task force and the goal is to change the perception of internal residents from “it cannot be done” to “it can be done”, with the mindset of our environment is special and unique. The external perception for those who come to McIntosh is “this is the place I want to be”.
• The first step in marketing and branding is to convince existing residents and leadership that the future can bring about opportunities. The marketing/branding message will be disseminated to all avenues. The marketing/branding external message for retirees and businesses will communicate that McIntosh County is a place for them.
• The reasons the future brings opportunities in McIntosh are its beautiful natural environment to enjoy a multitude of sports; its historic perspective; its diversity of people; opportunities for volunteerism; its home grown entrepreneurship; and its close proximity to Savannah, Brunswick, St. Simons and Jacksonville.
• Materials will be generated for all McIntosh County residents to promote this community to everyone they meet.
• Complete marketing blitz in key markets through social media
• Market outreach to potential customers, such as Sun City
• Include marketing/branding message in all county websites
• Create marketing video about the county.
Education Task Force:
• Team leader is McIntosh County School Superintendent Dr. John Barge.
• In order to attract business and industry to our community, we must create a stable, engaging learning environment that prepares students with the skills they need to be successful in post-secondary education and the workplace. Additionally, we must create a working environment that attracts and retains quality educators.
• Continue to expand dual enrollment options with post-secondary education partners
• Ensure that career pathways offered in our district align to the needs of businesses and industries the community is looking to attract to McIntosh County
• Increase percentage of students scoring college and career ready on ACT/SAT/Accuplacer exams
• Increase graduation rates
• Stabilize leadership within the district and schools
• Welding program classes begin January 2018
• Law Enforcement pathway begins January 2018
• MCA is working with State Agriculture Education Director to develop a new pathway in commercial fishing
• SAT/ACT/Accuplacer average scores will meet or exceed state average
• Increase four-year cohort graduation rate to 90 percent or more
• Implement focus group with retired educators residing in the community to get their perspective
• Decrease attrition rate of district employees by 25 percent
Tourism Task Force:
• Leaders of the Task Force are Jan Chamberlain and Darien-McIntosh Chamber President Mandy Harrison.
• Objective is to improve the tourism product in McIntosh County; to offer a wider diversity of tourism products to potential visitors. Increasing visitation will increase sales tax revenue.
• The task force plans to develop a plan to execute the Tourism Resource Team’s report for McIntosh County and identify additional tourism opportunities.
• Committee will recruit subcommittees based on tourism type (i.e. ecotourism, cultural heritage tourism, etc.) to execute tourism product recommendations for the report, as well as identify new potential products.
• Work with Cheryl Hargrove, the Tourism Project Manager for the Coast for Georgia Department of Economic Development, to identify funding sources.
• Benchmarks include the development and adjustment of a list of recommended tourism products from the tourism report; list current tourism products to expand; list of potential new tourism products not already identified; create and execute target marketing of tourism products; and increase sales tax income.
City/County Services Consolidation:
• County Commissioner David Stevens and City Councilman Griffin Lotson are the team leaders.
• The objective is to implement a plan to eliminate duplication of services provided by the City of Darien and McIntosh, which will reduce costs and increase the effectiveness for both entities.
• The City of Darien and McIntosh County officials will work with Coastal Regional Commission on the Service Delivery Strategy to create a unified plan of services, which will eliminate duplications.
• Identify the most cost effective ways to deliver services
• Create a list of cost reductions to the City and County as a result of eliminating duplicate services
• Implement a unified plan of services
• Inform the public of the effectiveness and cost reductions
• Chris Harper is the leader of the task force.
• The objective is to put a plan in place to improve the appearance of our community, while providing activities and facilities for the well being of the community.
• Areas to focus on are Community Beautification with involvement with the Keep McIntosh Beautiful organization to develop plans and projects to make areas cleaner and presentable. Improve facilities through SPLOST proceeds. The county has plans to make improvements with recreational and emergency management, including parks, leisure service facilities, new fire houses, EMA facilities and police sub stations. The effort will be coordinated by Shawn Jordan, assistant county manager. Focus will be placed on restoring the recreational facilities at Eulonia Park, with the help of Recreation Director Butch Morris.
• Benchmarks for the task force include creating a list of completed SPLOST projects and a list of upcoming SPLOST projects; keep people informed of the improvements being made in community; create list of upcoming clean up plans; involve businesses in clean up plans; promote recreational activities; and develop more recreational/social activities for adults.
Retail Development Task Force:
• Wally Orrel is the leader for the task force.
• The objective is to improve the retail and hospitality opportunities in McIntosh County that will offer more shopping diversity and keep locals spending their money in our community, which will improve the tax revenues and jobs.
• Develop a plan to recruit and secure national and local retail businesses that will enhance the community and breakdown the trade areas that offer the most probable recruitment and industry needed.
• Committee will recruit by hiring a firm to determine best potential companies and industries, and then follow through on the potential businesses.
• Consider joining the International Council of Shopping Centers to advance the industry in McIntosh County.
• Develop city and county incentive packages
• Benchmarks will include developing a list of best possible industries in areas of the county; list local businesses to expand; list regional businesses to expand; list national businesses to expand; increase sales tax income; reduce property taxes and increase property values.
Communication Task Force:
• Task force leader is Kathleen Russell, with Margaret Toussaint and Judy Dodd.
• All of the work of the McIntosh Community Development Steering Committee will be reported to the people of McIntosh County
Everyone in McIntosh County is encouraged to be a part. The time is now and collectively so much can be accomplished!
To Volunteer and Be A Part of McIntosh County: Now is the Time!
Go to: mcintoshcountynow.com