Rural Development Institute Helps Georgia Communities Thrive

Staff Report

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

With a focus on helping Georgia’s rural communities sustain and grow their economies, Valdosta State University is excited to kick off its inaugural Rural Development Institute.  

Nine Georgia communities representing Bacon County, Crawford County, Dawson County, Lanier County, Mitchell County, Peach County, Seminole County, Twigs County, and Worth County have been selected to participate in the 2022 Rural Development Institute.     

Presented by VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact, the Rural Development Institute is an opportunity for the university to continue supporting the work of the Governor’s Rural Strike Team and provide a positive impact on Georgia’s rural communities. Participating communities have already been tasked with using a readiness index to conduct a self-assessment of their recruitment, education, infrastructure, leadership, demographics, and quality of life.   

On June 7 teams from each of these communities, including economic development, as well as city, county, and community leadership, will meet on the campus of VSU for a Rural Development Institute Summit. During this three-day event they will analyze the results of their self-assessment and work with mentors to identify their unique opportunities and challenges and develop a roadmap for economic success.  

“Our goal for the Summit is to offer a program that emphasizes experiential learning with a heavy dose of discussion, debate, and teamwork,” shared Darrell Moore, director of VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact. 

Highlights of the Rural Development Institute Summit include content experts, professional developers, and consultants delivering sessions on manufacturing, retail as a catalyst for economic growth, downtown redevelopment, rural tourism strategies to generate wealth, and more. Participating communities will also hear about workforce issues, the role elected officials play in economic development, and how community development is often a prelude to economic development.    

Each participating community will leave the Summit with a prioritized list of projects and initiatives that are designed to build a better future for the people who live, work, play, and visit in their areas. Through experiential learning initiatives, the Center for Regional Impact will use VSU faculty and students to help each community implement at least one of their projects in the months following the Summit. 

“Through the partnerships established by VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact, we have found that many rural communities experience similar challenges,” said John Crawford, vice president for University Advancement. The Rural Development Institute will benefit these communities by providing them with training, exposure to regional and national experts, and collaborative opportunities that have largely been unavailable to many parts of rural Georgia.”