Chairman Jason Shaw Introduces Legislation to Create the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Friday, February 16th, 2018

State Representative Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland) introduced legislation that would create the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation.

“Our state has experienced tremendous economic success in recent years, and we are proud to be named the No.1 state in the country to do business for five consecutive years,” said Rep. Shaw. “However, this significant growth has been largely focused within the Metro Atlanta region, and rural Georgia has not seen the same level of economic prosperity. Rural Georgia faces distinct economic challenges, and with this legislation, we could continue to study these issues. The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would provide a central location for research and information on rural development, which is crucial to enhancing economic opportunities in these regions.”

This legislation would create, in connection with the University System of Georgia, the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation to serve as a central information and research hub for rural leadership training and best practices. Best practices may include community planning models, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with nonprofits, religious organizations and other higher education partners. The center could establish satellite offices as necessary to accomplish its mission.

The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would be located within a college or institution of the University System of Georgia that awards Bachelor of Science degrees in rural community development, and the president of the college or institution would appoint a center director. The center would assume the business and responsibilities of the Centers of Innovation Agribusiness administered by the Department of Economic Development.

Additionally, the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would include the Georgia Rural Development Council, a 12-member council that would offer guidance to the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation and study the conditions, needs, issues and problems affecting rural economic development. This council would also examine related policy areas as they deem necessary and appropriate, such as education, unemployment, infrastructure and economic growth incentives.

The council would be made of up six councilmembers, appointed by the governor, and each of these six members would represent one of the following areas: leadership management; business development and entrepreneurship; finance and taxes; logistics of rural industries; health care; and education. The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate would each appoint three councilmembers from different geographic areas of the state.

This bill is a product of the House Rural Development Council, which was established by House Resolution 389 during the 2017 legislative session. This council worked with rural communities to find ways to encourage economic growth and held hearings across the state during the summer and fall of 2017. The council will continue its work through the remainder of 2018.