A STRATEGIC PLAN
FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Tattnall County Development Authority
Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute
Joy Wilkins, CEcD Larry Edens, CED Danny Duggar
Martha Schoonmaker, CEcD Don Betts Patrick Wilbanks
Vivian Chandler Todd Greene Tracy Findley Cole
Tharun Pathapati Paul Counts MacKenzie Stevenson
July 3, 2002
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Tattnall County does not currently have a strategic plan for economic development. Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Institute (EDI) began its efforts to conduct a strategic assessment of Tattnall County in January 2002. From January through June 2002, EDI staff engaged in a discovery process to understand the community’s current economic development positioning and future potential. This project has been made possible with funding provided by the Georgia Rural Economic Development Center (GREDC) at East Georgia College.
The purpose of this research is to provide the information, analysis, guidelines, and recommendations for a “Strategic Economic Development Plan for Tattnall County, Georgia.” Recommendations compatible with the community’s vision and quality of life are based on feasible development objectives for the next 10 years.
Members of EDI’s project team conducting this strategic assessment of Tattnall County bring unique expertise in a wide array of critical areas including community economic development, economic development research, entrepreneurial development, industrial development, professional development, technology development, and tourism development.
Our team conducted a comprehensive economic review of Tattnall County, interviewed dozens of local community leaders and representatives, and performed detailed assessments of varied facets of the community’s economic development program, examining entrepreneurial readiness, industrial properties and infrastructure, technology capacity and services, and other relevant issues. Based on our research and findings (as presented in attachments to this report), we believe there are six most urgent issues that Tattnall County must work together to start addressing now in order to increase its potential for economic development.
This section provides a brief description of (1) the six urgent issues and (2) a summary of key recommendations to address these issues. Greater detail on these issues and additional recommendations are available in the main body of this report.
1. Tattnall County’s community division is yielding an economic development crisis situation. The county’s leadership must understand how this division continues to seriously hamper community progress, and that future efforts will require everyone working together, to realize success.
Focus first on building community solidarity. Tattnall County should pursue initiatives to build community solidarity and unity. It should host a community-wide summit of leadership, encourage leadership to receive training in mutual gains negotiation, and amass an internal and external public relations campaign that celebrates the special assets of the county and its municipalities of Cobbtown, Collins, Glennville, Manassas, and Reidsville.
2. Tattnall County’s history reveals the community’s inability to follow-through on many initiatives. Community division and lack of broad-based leadership participation and support will thwart Tattnall County’s ability to initiate its strategic planning process and follow-through on implementation. Community leaders identified lack of leadership as an economic development liability and ineffective leadership as an economic development threat.
Engage and grow new leadership. Tattnall County should recruit graduates from previous and future Leadership Tattnall classes, the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, and other similar programs, to fill key roles in the community’s strategic planning and decision-making process. Existing and potential new leaders should participate in leadership development exercises on a continual basis.
3. Tattnall County’s lack of community-wide strategic planning and visioning has significantly hampered its ability to progress.
Create a strategic planning team. Tattnall County should create a strategic planning team and recruit participation from EVERY sector of the community. It should seek both members who can provide vision (e.g., to form a Steering Committee) and those who can actively engage in developing and implementing the resulting initiatives.
4. Tattnall County must focus on improving the lot of its youth. In 2000, the county had the third highest pregnancy rate among Georgia’s 159 counties. It posted the 18th highest high school drop out rate in the state.
Improve youth development. Community leaders should show high school students how they can fit into Tattnall County and its economy after graduation. Efforts should be made to increase awareness among parents and young people about the importance of high school completion, and issues relating to teenage pregnancy, crime, and drug abuse.
5. Tattnall County’s economic development program is limited in scope and capability by the lack of financial, volunteer, and leadership resources, and absence of community-wide support. The economic history of Tattnall County shows that entrepreneurial development is the single most successful strategy for creating new jobs. However, entrepreneurs are not getting the attention, support, and assistance from community leaders necessary to maximize continued development and growth. Tattnall County’s rather weak competitive position for industrial development is another indicator that the community should consider additional options for creating jobs or bringing in new revenue. For example, the potential for tourism development has not been maximized. Lack of high-speed telecommunications services has significantly impacted existing industries like the Rotary Corporation and entrepreneurial development. However, Alltel has recently deployed new services, opening up new opportunities.
Strengthen economic development program capacity. The Tattnall County Development Authority should employ a part-time or full-time staff assistant / office manager to support the Executive Director, and actively recruit volunteers from every possible outlet. It should expand public relations efforts to educate citizens, the leading funding source for its services, about the value, activities, and progress of their community’s economic development program. The Tattnall County Board of Commissioners should increase annual funding for the Development Authority.
Strengthen community systems and services for economic development. Tattnall County should establish and enforce appropriate zoning ordinances and building regulations in unincorporated areas. It should encourage all citizens to support the operation of the Tattnall Community Hospital. It should fully support efforts to accelerate improvement projects on U.S. Highway 301 and U.S. Highway 280.
Strongly support entrepreneurial development. Tattnall County should assign a leader and form a local task force to drive the local entrepreneur development effort. The Tattnall County Development Authority should develop and make available a local entrepreneur start-up kit containing resources on how to start a business in Tattnall County.
Develop competitive industrial properties. The Tattnall County Development Authority and the Glennville Development Authority should develop and issue a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for making joint investment in industrial properties, buildings, and infrastructure.
Build a tourism industry. Tattnall County should determine the feasibility of a hotel / motel tax, focus on improving the visibility and private sector support of the Wiregrass Trail, and work to integrate agri-tourism and agribusiness initiatives into the Wiregrass Trail marketing program.
Enhance technology capacity and services. Tattnall County should encourage extensive participation in the new technology alliance for the purpose of identifying and addressing specific community needs. It should enroll community leaders in a technology-based economic development class and local technologists in a mini-economic development class (e.g., Technology Leadership Training).
Strengthen relationships with Fort Stewart and the Georgia Department of Corrections. The TCDA and GDA should have regular contacts with key personnel (e.g., public affairs/relations staff, procurement staff) at these installations.
6. Tattnall County’s Hispanic residents are rising significantly in number, but many are barred from becoming vested members of the community. Hispanic residents accounted for approximately 40 percent of Tattnall County’s non-incarcerated population growth from 1990 to 2000. Language and cultural barriers are hindering their ability to become vested members of the community.
Help more Hispanic residents become vested members of Tattnall County. Tattnall County should develop a strategy with immediate actions to integrate Hispanic residents. Increased efforts should be given to addressing language and cultural barriers.
“Change is inevitable; progress is optional.” Tattnall County must overcome major hurdles to realize greater economic development. The first is to decide as a community to become progress-oriented. This is much easier said than done. Leaders in many communities are plagued with either relative complacency with the status quo or burnout; Tattnall County is no exception. Yet, nine leaders did indicate that recent leadership has been more progress-oriented in its thinking which, is a positive sign. Most leaders would like to see a growth in jobs and industry. Many leaders expressed their desire to increase the reasons for young people to stay in Tattnall County. However, the county has experienced little advancement in recent years. Leadership from every sector of the community must (1) agree that it is time for progress and, equally important, (2) fully commit to working together for progress.
This section details the major issues confronting Tattnall County as the community addresses its economic development needs. These issues have been identified based on conclusions drawn from a combination of information, research, analysis, personal interviews, as detailed in the attachments to this report, as well as discussions with community leadership.
Although every community has an infinite number of issues to work on, the issues described herein this section are what we consider to be Tattnall County’s most urgent issues as well as other urgent issues. While their resolution may be long-term in scope, they require nothing less than immediate and urgent attention.
ISSUE 1: Tattnall County’s community division is yielding an economic development crisis situation.
Community division is both real and perceived in Tattnall County. It is no secret to those living within or outside the community that a long-standing rift exists between the cities of Glennville and Reidsville. Three of four statewide or regional economic development marketers cited this rivalry as a liability for Tattnall County in attracting new industries.
Tattnall County’s leadership is also well aware of the community division problem. Fourteen community leaders identified “competition among the five towns” to be a leading economic development liability; many cited the lack of working relationship between Glennville and Reidsville specifically. Fifteen leaders considered the lack of community unity to be a threat to economic development. “Working together as a community” was the second most frequently mentioned response when leadership was asked to identify the most important “next step” for Tattnall County, accounting for 21 percent of the total responses. When asked about the most significant issue facing Tattnall County, 13 leaders identified the need for a unified leadership. Only a small number of leaders interviewed did not view community unity as a problem.
Tattnall County’s lack of community unity and divided leadership has already proven expensive for the community to bear. Following are just a few examples of how this division has impacted Tattnall County:
§ Poor image among statewide and regional economic development leadership
§ Duplication of services
§ Community lack of appeal to potential investors
§ Split public support for economic development among two development authorities
§ Prevention from having a competitive economic development product
§ Internal competitiveness for potential external support
§ Inability to deal with potential economic development threats
§ Ineffective decision-making about how to meet the needs of Tattnall County’s citizenry
§ Lack of ability to follow-through – e.g., on implementing recommendations provided by earlier studies (e.g., Wiregrass Trail) or initiatives identified through the comprehensive plan and other efforts (e.g., “How to Sell to Prisons” workshop)
§ Lack of community focus, vision, and strategic thinking - resulting in a community of inaction
That’s the bad news. Among this list of examples, the inability to deal with potential economic development threats is one of the most alarming. Currently, the community lacks the fortitude - that comes along with a unified strategy - to deal with threats to economic development identified by community leaders such as the sustainability of agriculture, industry closure or downsizing, or problems of ineffective leadership. Such a strategy is vital for supporting Tattnall’s existing industry, as well as enabling the community to grow and attract new industry.
The good news is that this is one economic development issue well within the community’s control to mitigate or resolve. The community has made some progress in this area. Leadership points to the high school consolidation as a positive factor in this regard. This consolidation has reportedly helped to create a sense of unity among high school students. More needs to be done to overcome community division.
For Tattnall County to realize greater economic development and to enhance the lives of its citizenry, the leadership of its fractured communities must decide to engage in collaborative problem-solving. Community leaders must learn how to set up a working relationship that will yield both individual and mutual benefits. This can be done through the strategic planning process. It does not mean that either city must forfeit its identity or unique interests. Rather, they can continue to support their own interests to some extent, but must also realize and strongly support their shared interest – that is, the economic development of Tattnall County and the citizens they have sworn to serve.
RECOMMENDATION 1: Focus first on building community solidarity.
1. Be a problem-solver (not a friend or an adversary).
2. Separate people from the problem (focus on the problem).
3. Focus on interests, not positions.
4. Invent options for mutual gain.
5. Insist on using objective criteria (e.g., expert’s opinion, market standard).
ISSUE 2: Tattnall County’s history reveals the community’s inability to follow-through on many initiatives.
Community division and lack of broad-based leadership participation and support will thwart Tattnall County’s ability to initiate its strategic planning process and follow-through on implementation. Growing and engaging new leadership is not equivalent to replacing existing leadership. It refers to grooming future leaders, as well as cultivating new skills among existing leadership.
County’s leadership has been somewhat engaged in leadership development programs. During 1990 and 1992, the Leadership Tattnall program graduated 66 community leaders. Of these, the Tattnall County Development Authority estimates that 48 continue to be either active or potential leaders. During the past three years, 13 community leaders participated in the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. In 2001, five board members of the Tattnall County Development Authority participated in the University of Georgia Development Authority Board Member Training program. At least four Tattnall County leaders have graduated from Leadership Georgia during the past five years.  However, it is unclear as to how engaged these potential new leaders have been in Tattnall County’s decision making.
Despite significant efforts at leadership development, leadership / community unity issues accounted for the highest share (20 percent) of responses given by community leaders when asked to identify Tattnall County’s most significant issues. Leaders identified related issues as both an economic development liability and threat.
Given the survey responses, Tattnall County would benefit from greater leadership development training, as well as follow-on guidance regarding how to translate their training into community practice.
Tattnall County’s leadership does not appear to reflect the diversity of the community in terms of race, age, or gender. Looking at race as an example, just over 60 percent of Tattnall’s population was white in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Approximately 31.4 percent of Tattnall’s population was black. Of Tattnall’s total population, an estimated 8.4 percent was of Hispanic origin.
Several leaders mentioned concerns relating to the inability to retain young people. Others described a need to develop new leaders. It is unclear to what extent the community’s youth has participated in any level of leadership development training. One way to retain community’s youth is to engage their interests. Leadership development training can instill a sense of pride - both personal and community - so important in helping young people combat the other challenges they must face. Offering leadership development opportunities to young people encourages them to become “vested” citizens and join the community’s work force.
Continual leadership development is critical for Tattnall County, for existing, new, and potential leaders alike.
RECOMMENDATION 2: Engage and grow new leadership.
ISSUE 3: Tattnall County’s lack of community-wide strategic planning and visioning has significantly hampered its ability to progress.
When asked what the most important next step is for the community, 11 leaders called for the establishment of a community vision and plan. When asked what the Tattnall County Development Authority should do next, 17 leaders called for the development of a strategic plan for economic development. In other words, there appears to be some momentum among Tattnall leadership for a strategic planning process. Statewide and regional economic developers also advocated that the community develop a unified strategic plan.
According to one leader, Tattnall County has “so many meetings to set goals but not enough action.” A review of the community’s progress on its 1995 comprehensive plan reveals several economic development initiatives that have been delayed or postponed. Tattnall County has benefited from various studies but has lacked the ability to follow-through on many of the recommendations. In addition to previously discussed issues of community division and leadership, much of this is also due to a lack of an organized and focused community effort.
The EDI team devised several recommendations that should become the basis for a strategic plan. Strategic planning requires the formation of an energetic strategic planning team. It cannot be a one-person show; rather, it must involve as many stakeholders as possible. Stakeholders are defined as people with a vested interest in the community’s future – e.g., elected officials, civic leaders, industry leaders and business owners, educators, citizens, and all interested parties representing every sector and all facets of the community. Every member of this team must be responsible for a specific task or area and commit to its implementation. Every team member must truly want to create the strategic plan and carrying out its initiatives. Additional support should be sought from external parties, such as, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; Georgia Electric Membership Corporation; Georgia Department of Industry, Trade, and Tourism; Georgia Power Company; and various educational institutions.
ISSUE 4: Tattnall County must focus on improving the lot of its youth.
In 2000, Tattnall County had the third highest teenage pregnancy rate among Georgia’s 159 counties. The county posted the 18th highest high school dropout rate in the state. Its juvenile arrest rate has climbed significantly during the past 20 years. When compared to other counties in the state, Tattnall County scored a “D” on the Human Capital Index, a grade that was lower than that of its peers. See Attachment A for our Local Economic Review of Tattnall County, Georgia.
Although community leaders identified youth development concerns as economic development liabilities, this accounted for a mere 6 percent of the responses. Despite the high school drop out rate, low educational test scores, and low percentage of high school graduates qualifying for the HOPE scholarship (see Attachment A), 92 percent of the responses provided by leaders when asked about how well the local public education system meets the community needs indicated “well” or “very well.” However, among community leaders, educational issues were the third most frequently mentioned significant issue facing Tattnall County. There appears to be mixed awareness concerning the gravity of the community’s youth development situation. Addressing youth development concerns must become a top priority for community leadership.
The small share of leaders who did consider youth development a leading problem expressed concerns relating to teenage pregnancy and high school completion. They pointed out a lack of childcare programs and a lack of things for young people to do in Tattnall County. When discussing education, some leaders expressed concerns relating to lack of parental involvement in the school system. One leader described a sense of “parent apathy.” Efforts must be strengthened to increase the involvement of parents in their children’s educational life. Concerns relating to language barriers among Hispanic children and their parents were also voiced. Such barriers hinder the ability of these children to learn, socialize, and develop within the Tattnall County school system.
Test scores on the ITBS for third grade reading signal a low literacy rate among third graders. (See Attachment A.) Some leaders identified literacy as a concern regarding the workforce as well, underscoring the importance of the adult literacy center in Tattnall. Efforts are required for improving the literacy among school age children.
Several leaders expressed the need to provide high school students with a vision of how they can fit into Tattnall County after graduation. Community leaders and parents must share this vision with their kids to motivate them to do well and channel their energies into productive activities that yield both individual and societal benefits.
Youth development is so important for developing a quality workforce. From early childhood and elementary school to high school and college, Tattnall County must work aggressively to address the needs of its youth.
RECOMMENDATION 4: Improve youth development.
Our team identified several issues relating to key facets of Tattnall County’s economic development program including:
B. Community systems and services
C. Readiness for entrepreneurial development
D. Competitiveness for industrial properties
E. Tourism development
F. Technology capacity and services
G. Fort Stewart and Georgia Department of Corrections
Approximately 75 percent of the community leaders interviewed felt that the Tattnall County Development Authority (TCDA) is responsible for handling economic development functions in the county. Generally, leadership provided favorable remarks for the Executive Director’s efforts. Statewide and regional economic developers also provided positive feedback regarding these efforts. However, the economic development program’s capabilities are limited by a lack of resources (e.g., volunteer / staff, financial), and countywide support.
In small, rural communities, the private sector seldom invests in the development of industrial parks and speculative buildings because of the slow absorption rate and the extensive infrastructure and marketing requirements. Thus, the tasks of creating competitive industrial properties and effectively marketing them normally fall to the community’s public development authorities. The roles, capabilities, and limitations of the public industrial development authorities in Tattnall County are discussed in Attachment D (Industrial Development Assessment of Tattnall County, Georgia). Three active public authorities are involved in industrial development: the Tattnall County Development Authority (TCDA); the Glennville Development Authority (GDA); and the Reidsville Industrial Development Authority (RIDA).
From the viewpoints of operating efficiency and marketing effectiveness, a single public development authority for the county would be ideal. Undoubtedly, intra-county competition and the long-standing rivalry between Glennville and Reidsville resulted in the present fragmentation and duplication. While it appears highly unlikely that the three organizations would merge into one, efforts should be merged into one cohesive community effort. Until that is accomplished, increased cooperation and collaboration between the TCDA and the GDA are essential to strengthen and unify the overall program. When asked how the economic development process in Tattnall County could be improved, the most common response (45 percent) of community leaders was “better cooperation between economic development organizations in the county.” Also, this study recommends that the RIDA phase out of industrial development activity and rely upon the services of TCDA.
The TCDA and the GDA have different strengths. The TCDA employs the only professional economic developer in the county, funds a marketing program, and maintains ties with state and regional developers, but it owns no industrial properties. On the other hand, the GDA has the only public-owned, full-service, competitive industrial sites in the county. However, the GDA has no full-time staff and very limited marketing capacity.
The GDA receives fixed annual funding from the city of Glennville, which it has spent primarily on property, infrastructure, and incentives. The TCDA is presently funded by a millage rate levied on the county tax digest. This levy is expected to increase to 0.5 mils in 2003 from the present 0.33 mils. To match funding levels comparable to other competitive rural communities, the TCDA would need incremental increases to 1.0 mils.
TCDA needs increased funds to invest in industrial property and infrastructure, update promotional materials and packages, employ an office assistant, and significantly expand its business recruiting functions. A mill increase alone will not be enough to support these activities. For example, developing competitive industrial properties would require additional funding avenues such as federal or state grants or allocation of SPLOST funds.
The TCDA receives few industrial prospect visits from the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism and other statewide developers. Tattnall County has an extremely small chance of locating an industry from the current flow of prospects from statewide developers. The TCDA has not been proactive in direct marketing and recruiting. A list of target industry sectors was developed during this study to assist TCDA in its marketing and recruiting programs.
Member-supported chambers of commerce play important local development roles by promoting business development and community pride and betterment. In the early 1990’s, a major community initiative was successful in combining the chambers in Glennville and Reidsville into the Greater Tattnall Chamber of Commerce. After a few years, most business and community leaders from Glennville withdrew from the Greater Tattnall Chamber and began supporting the new Glennville Merchants and Professionals Association. The Greater Tattnall Chamber is now basically a Reidsville organization with little financial support and limited programs. The tremendous effort put into establishing a unified chamber failed through lack of countywide commitment and cooperation. The opportunity was lost to build a strong, centralized chamber of commerce that could be a unifying and progressive force for economic growth.
RECOMMENDATION 5-A: Strengthen economic development program capacity.
B. Community systems and services
A community’s competitive position for achieving economic growth depends not only on its industrial development “product” per se, but also on other systems and services required by industry. Some of these requirements are met by state and federal government and private corporations, but some of the most critical, such as water service, are commonly provided by local municipalities.
Attachment D (Industrial Development Assessment of Tattnall County, Georgia) includes a brief assessment of the community’s economic development infrastructure and highlights local strengths and weaknesses. In the Reidsville and Glennville areas, the basic utility service requirements (electrical, water, sewer, and natural gas) for small and mid-sized industrial plants can be adequately met. Local highway systems are adequate, and long-term improvements are planned. Rail service is available only in the Collins area where other basic industrial services are inadequate. The local airport (Reidsville) is presently unsuitable for use by existing industry and is not a significant factor in industrial and business recruitment.
The Southeastern Technical College (STC) facility at Glennville and the Tattnall Community Hospital at Reidsville are important assets that need full community support. The appearance and vitality of the central business districts are critical factors in industrial recruitment. However, no towns in the county are currently active in state-sponsored community betterment programs. City and county governments must continue to improve, expand, and maintain key systems and services that support industrial recruitment efforts.
Many intangible factors such as community pride, community cohesiveness, appearance, protective ordinances and codes, and incentive programs affect the competitiveness of a community. The lack of zoning ordinances and regulations in unincorporated Tattnall County is resulting in pockets of substandard and haphazard development that lowers overall property values and discourages investment in quality housing and businesses. This issue needs to be addressed immediately.
As a Tier 1 county, Tattnall can provide incentives to prospective industry with the state’s investment and job tax credits and its 100 percent freeport tax exemption. Many communities in Georgia have an established policy for providing additional local incentives to prospects in the final stages of competition with other communities. The Glennville Development Authority has used additional local incentives when attracting or retaining business and industry. The Tattnall County Development Authority needs an established policy for offering local incentives. The community needs to continually improve the intangible factors that affect its competitiveness in attracting new investments and creating job opportunities.
RECOMMENDATION 5-B: Strengthen community systems and services for economic development.
§ A countywide task force, including the Tattnall County Development Authority, should work to coordinate and consolidate county fire departments to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and to reduce local fire insurance ratings.
C. Readiness for entrepreneurial development
The economic history of Tattnall County shows that entrepreneurial development is the single most successful strategy for creating new jobs. Local entrepreneurs started 12 of the 14 local manufacturing companies. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are not getting the attention, support, and assistance from community leaders necessary to maximize continued entrepreneur development and growth. There is no evidence of an entrepreneur development strategy in any of the community plans or programs. Presently, no resources are marketed or identified specifically to help entrepreneurs.
A significant interest exists for entrepreneur development among community leadership. We expect entrepreneurs will continue to be the highest contributors to economic development in Tattnall. However, greater community support is required to leverage and expand upon the opportunities associated with entrepreneurial development.
See Attachment E for our Entrepreneur Readiness Assessment for Tattnall County, Georgia.
RECOMMENDATION 5-C: Strongly support entrepreneurial development.
Community Awareness and Support
Existing Entrepreneur Activity
Potential Entrepreneurial Development Opportunities
§ Tattnall County should establish working relationships with the procurement authorities of Fort Stewart, Georgia Department of Corrections, Rotary Corporation, as well as other local and regional businesses to identify outsourcing opportunities. A Business Retention and Expansion Process (BREP) survey should be performed to identify expansion and outsourcing opportunities with local business. Also, a working relationship should be established with the Hispanic community and entrepreneur development assistance offered to them
D. Competitiveness for industrial development
A major factor for selecting a location for a new or expanding industrial plant is the suitability of the specific site and its infrastructure. The community that cannot provide ready availability of competitive industrial property and infrastructure generally will either not receive visits from prospective firms or will be eliminated early from the site selection process. An inventory of local properties is essentially a product that the community markets to prospective firms and statewide developers and consultants. Preferably, for rural areas, a significant part of this product is publicly-owned. The marketing of privately-owned properties by a public authority precludes the local organization from dealing directly with the prospect regarding availability, pricing, covenants, rights-of-way, use restrictions, options for expansions, property or infrastructure improvements, and property-related incentives. This constraint reduces the chances for expeditiously closing the deal and attracting the industry to the community.
Attachment D (Industrial Development Assessment of Tattnall County, Georgia) contains an inventory of industrial properties in Tattnall County with a brief assessment of the competitive strengths and weaknesses for each property. Although this inventory includes a few attractive assets, Tattnall County is in a rather weak competitive position overall. The property with the highest potential for attracting outside prospects is the 25-acre tract in the full-service Glennville Industrial Park. This site has sufficient size to accommodate many typical prospects handled by statewide developers, but is insufficient for those requiring larger tracts. The available publicly-owned industrial property in Reidsville is simply not competitive for marketing to outside prospective firms. The publicly-owned 20-acre tract adjacent to the new Tattnall Hatchery would be suitable for some industrial uses. The county needs additional publicly-owned industrial property with full infrastructure.
The two available industrial buildings, Ithaca and TAM, are privately-owned facilities designed and previously used for apparel manufacturing. The sharp decline of the domestic apparel industry resulted in numerous vacant building of this type in the Southeast. With few apparel prospects and numerous competitive buildings, the chances for attracting a viable apparel firm to the community are low. The design characteristics of these buildings make them unsuitable for most other small or mid-sized manufacturers. The community should not consider these limited-use, privately-owned buildings as competitive assets for attracting typical industrial prospects. The community needs an expandable available building(s) suitable for a wider range of manufacturing operations.
In summary, the weaknesses in the community’s industrial development ‘product’ are the lack of (1) a larger full-service, publicly-owned industrial property for prospects that require larger tracts; (2) suitable publicly-owned industrial property in the Reidsville area; and (3) a suitable publicly-owned speculative building designed to attract typical prospects seeking sites for small and mid-sized facilities.
Recent commercial and industrial growth east of Reidsville and the proposed expansion of Rotary Corporation at Glennville are discussed in Attachment D regarding the implications for future commercial and industrial growth in the Georgia Highway 23 / 57 corridor between the community’s two main cities. Sites in this corridor should be considered for future public investment in industrial properties.
RECOMMENDATION 5-D: Develop competitive industrial properties.
[The following recommendations assume funding becomes available to the Tattnall County Development Authority for industrial property acquisition and infrastructure development through the expected mill rate allocation increase, property value reassessment, and attainment of funding from other sources.]
§ If Rotary Corporation’s expansion project comes to fruition, then the Tattnall County Development Authority and Glennville Development Authority should jointly purchase a large industrial park site in the vicinity of the Rotary expansion. The intent should be to develop a full-service park to become Tattnall County’s main industrial tract for long-term development and serve the county’s industrial use needs for 20-plus years.
E. Tourism development
The tourism industry has had a fair impact in Tattnall County whose major economic engines are agriculture, government installations and, to a lesser degree, manufacturing.
Extensive local interest in tourism has been generated, largely by three initiatives for developing tourism products. Two initiatives are regional – the Wiregrass Trail Project (four counties along Georgia Highway 57) and the Altamaha River Waterway Project (eleven counties along the river). The former promotes the use of a scenic shortcut through rural towns for motorists to reach the Georgia Coast and the latter promotes the recreational use of 100 miles of the natural river corridor. The third initiative is the Farm Fresh Tattnall program that features 18 roadside and u-pick farms in the county who are members of a local farm cooperative. A brochure has been developed for Farm Fresh Tattnall, and the program did receive some mention among local leadership.
Another regional initiative is currently being examined. Part of the Woodpecker Trail runs through Tattnall County; this trail (state route 121) extends from South Carolina to Florida and is being evaluated for its feasibility as a regional tourism asset.
When asked about tourism advantages, community leaders cited the area’s recreational amenities such as the Altamaha River, local golf course, and other outdoor opportunities (33 percent of responses); natural historic resources (29 percent); Wiregrass Trail and Woodpecker Trail (13 percent); special events (9 percent); agri-tourism attractions (5 percent); and a small variety of other factors (5 percent).
In terms of challenges for the local tourism industry, community leaders cited lack of public services and accommodations (29 percent of responses); lack of tourist attractions (22 percent); limited use of Highway 301 and the Wiregrass Trail (13 percent); lack of community focus and support (13 percent); planning / zoning issues (8 percent); and a variety of other factors (15 percent).
The development of a viable tourism industry is one of the five major goals in the county’s 1995 comprehensive plan. The plan sets aggressive goals for the promotion of tourism but fails to identify funding sources except to recommend a feasibility study for the adoption of a hotel/motel tax – a recommendation that has not been implemented.
The feasibility studies and promotional materials for developing the multi-county tourism products have mainly been financed by grants from various state and federal agencies. Tattnall County leadership provided the initial driving force behind the Wiregrass Trail Project, but core supporters subsequently formed a non-profit organization to seek additional grants. At this time, promotional and product development funds have been depleted, and money is needed for updating brochures and kiosk displays and other promotional efforts and for continuing to determine the feasibility of seeking a state scenic byways designation.
The Altamaha River Waterway Project enjoys local support from the chambers of commerce and visitor boards/centers of the 11 member counties. Several local organizations outside Tattnall County have recently received sizable grants from state and federal sources for improving river access facilities for recreational use in their respective counties. Tattnall County has not been awarded such a grant, although the county has four river landing sites. The county is represented in the partnership by the Greater Tattnall Chamber of Commerce.
Tattnall County has invested little of its own resources in growing the tourism industry. While the county is experiencing some impact from the tourism industry, that effect would be greater with increased community investment in terms of both effort and resources. Massive volunteer support and new funds must be forthcoming from local sources if Tattnall County development organizations are to continue participating in tourism product development and promotion.
RECOMMENDATION 5-E: Build a tourism industry.
F. Technology capacity and services
When asked for the most serious issues facing Tattnall County, seven leaders cited lack of technology such as high-speed telecommunications services. The county has historically not had much access to broadband. Its smallest city, Cobbtown, has had access to digital subscriber line (DSL) service, but the remainder of the county was not served. However, in July 2002, Alltel deployed DSL service in Glennville; it has announced plans to do so in Reidsville in January 2003.
Tattnall’s largest private employer, the Rotary Corporation, as well as other existing industries, have been significantly impacted by the lack of high-speed telecommunications services. There is significant room for technology-based efficiencies at Rotary that could be used to expand market share, and reduce costs, that can now be examined given the availability of DSL service.
Tattnall County has not fully optimized the technology it does have. For example, a recent EDI technology opportunity assessment revealed that local government did not offer many services online, and the lack of free computer training hinders technology usage among area residents. However, advancements are underway.
Tattnall County’s public school system is to be commended for its technology program, which will continue to be essential for producing new technology users for the community. Greater effort is required for expanding technology skills among Tattnall’s adult population; area high school students could play a critical role in this effort.
Attachment C of this report details our Technology Assessment of Tattnall County, Georgia.
RECOMMENDATION 5-F: Enhance technology capacity and services.
G. Fort Stewart and Georgia Department of Corrections
This study did not include specific research related to Fort Stewart and the local units of the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) except for evaluating opportunities for entrepreneurial businesses to provide goods and services to these facilities. The findings are reported in Attachment E (Entrepreneur Readiness Assessment for Tattnall County, Georgia) of this report. However, during the various tasks of the study, including the community leader survey, information was gathered that helps define the community’s relationships with these major installations. First, during the community leader interviews, very little mention was made of Fort Stewart and GDOC as economic development assets for Tattnall County. Second, based on discussions with several community representatives, we conclude that interaction between Tattnall County leadership and the public affairs/relations staff and procurement contacts at these facilities is not as frequent and productive as it should be to maintain current and accurate information on economic impact trends, employment, and business opportunities.
Two potential opportunities related to housing were identified that could generate future economic growth in Tattnall County: (1) possible changes in the on-site subsidized housing policies at Georgia DOC facilities could create a higher demand for privately owned housing in the area; and (2) the Glennville area has not capitalized on its potential for attracting retired military personnel from Fort Stewart, many of whom stay in coastal Georgia. The establishment of the National Veterans Affairs Cemetery near Glennville may help bring more military visitors and retirees to the area. Tattnall County has not developed residential areas with appropriate housing and amenities that target military retirees.
RECOMMENDATION 5-G: Strengthen relationships with Fort Stewart and the Georgia Department of Corrections.
§ The Tattnall County Development Authority and Glennville Development Authority should have regular contacts with key personnel (e.g., public affairs/relations staff, procurement staff) at these installations.
§ The Tattnall County Development Authority and Glennville Development Authority should maintain current and accurate information on economic impact trends, employment, and business opportunities associated with these installations.
ISSUE 6: Tattnall County’s Hispanic residents are rising significantly in number, but many are barred from becoming vested members of the community.
In 2000, Tattnall County was home to an estimated 1,884 Hispanic residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is more than triple the number of Hispanic residents in 1990 (547). The growth in Hispanic residents accounted for almost 40 percent of Tattnall County’s non-incarcerated population growth from 1990 to 2000. By these numbers, Hispanics comprise approximately 8.4 percent of the community’s total population, and they are growing in numbers. Some leaders speculate that Tattnall County is also home to a number of un-documented Hispanic residents.
Tattnall County’s agricultural industry is heavily dependent on the Hispanic workforce. The farmer’s workforce needs are fairly seasonal resulting in a migrant settlement pattern among Hispanic workers. Many Hispanic residents live in unincorporated sections of the county and do not benefit from access to city services. There are no housing codes to minimize health and safety risks. Unpaved dirt roads are common. Many Hispanic residents occupy dilapidated mobile home units; some appear to house more people than is sanitary or safe. It is not uncommon to see these homes with shattered windows, barely hinged walls, and questionable structures. Air-conditioning units appear to be sparse. At the same time, public housing offerings do exist but may not be fully occupied.
It is uncertain whether many Hispanic migrant workers have a vested interest in Tattnall County’s future. Some workers send a good portion of their earnings to support their families remaining in their home country. Some migrant families stay a short time, some have made Tattnall County a more permanent home. Language and cultural barriers preclude much interaction between Hispanic families and other families in Tattnall County.
These barriers are especially apparent in Tattnall County’s school system. Many migrant families send their children to the public school system, but these children often do not speak English. In 2000, Tattnall County schools enrolled 309 Hispanic children. One Tattnall County educator contends that the schools need more English-as-a-Second Language (ESOL) teachers to address this need. The educator explained how Hispanic children are often unable to understand class work or read the exams they are being asked to take. Parents of Hispanic children often do not speak English either, making it difficult for teachers to discuss the educational needs of the children with their parents. The language barrier makes it difficult for Hispanic children to become engaged in their surrounding society, or to receive educational services or guidance on social issues such as drugs or teenage pregnancy. One Tattnall County leader explained the need for greater interaction among Hispanic and other residents outside the school and work system.
Tattnall County is also home to a number of Hispanic entrepreneurs owning small retail establishments. The growth in demand for such establishments will correspond with the growth in Hispanic population. In other words, Hispanic entrepreneurship is a growing opportunity for Tattnall County. Their existence encourages Hispanic residents to spend more of their income here rather than send it elsewhere. It makes good business sense for Tattnall County to support and enhance the vitality of these businesses.
Whether Hispanic residents stay in Tattnall County on a short-term or long-term basis, it is critical for leadership to consider how best to support their needs and to help them to become vested members of the community. Efforts are required to help instill a sense of community among new and existing Hispanic residents.
RECOMMENDATION 6: Help more Hispanic residents become vested members of the community.
About Report Attachments
Our team conducted a detailed investigation that included a comprehensive economic review of Tattnall County, interviews with more than three dozen leaders, and detailed assessments of the key facets of the community’s economic development program, such as entrepreneurial readiness, industrial development, technology capacity and services, and other relevant issues. Research and findings from this investigation are presented in attachments to this report, as follows: