Through the work of Americus Main Street and the City of Americus, in 2016 One Sumter was able to support the installation of the first phase of the Downtown Wireless Speaker System improving the shopping and dining experience within the City’s Central Business District. With an investment of development programs can only aspire to achieve.
Grow With Us
One Sumter’s focus on Economic Development covers a broad brush of critical priorities for the community – downtown redevelopment, job creation, industrial growth, retail sales, broadband accessibility, regional partnerships, and tourism. Through the strategic integration of priorities and partnerships, One Sumter has leveraged its financial resources to align with the objectives of existing of existing entities already addressing those issues helping them further their goals faster, and has continued to “dig in” on areas that were outside the scope of any other organization (i.e., broadband and fiber connectivity).
Through this truly collaborative approach, One Sumter’s work often represents the progress and success of our partners: Americus Main Street, Americus-Sumter Tourism Council, Plains Better Hometown, Sumter County Chamber of Commerce and Sumter County Development Authority, to name just a few.
The highest ranked issues and challenges are listed below:
- Community Unity;
- Integration of Technology;
- Long-Term Thinking (planning for future generations)
- Mobility & Accessibility of Transportation;
- Sustainability; and
Priorities for Growth
In 2016, the Sumter County Development Authority revamped its Industry Appreciation Event and launched a series of Industry leader Tours targeted at getting business leaders and public officials in the doors of our manufacturing facilities and on the grounds of distribution and mining industries. Both of those initiatives are targeted at One Sumter’s goals of strengthening relationships among business and necessary decisions to support job growth, expansion and infrastructure improvements to enhance economic growth in Sumter County.
Also in 2016, the Sumter County Chamber of Commerce completely restructured its organization to reflect the mandated priorities from the business community through One Sumter’s Business Action Plan. The new Divisions of the Chamber, Business Development, Education, Governmental Affairs and Special Events, each represent stated priorities of the business community. One Sumter has been privileged to support the work of these Divisions through sponsorships and resource allocation, as they will continue to serve as the outreach to the beyond the initial five-year investment.
Early on, One Sumter recognized the need to established community-wide priorities for growth. Establishing the One Sumter Growth Task Force in 2016, over 20 community leaders from across Sumter County came together to focus on critical areas and challenges related growth and expansion in all five municipal areas. Looking at everything from transportation corridors, blueways and greenways for recreational use, industrial expansions, and housing development, the Growth Task Force completed an assessment designed to identify the essential priorities for growth in Sumter County.
As a result of those discussions, One Sumter launched the Change Intiative in 2017 to respond to the need to better understand Community Unity as an issue and a priority for growth in Sumter County. Partnering with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia, faculty from the University spent five days with 20 community members who were dedicated to establishing an Action Plan for Change. Through deliberations, One Sumter and its partners are committed to creating a Change Initiative Coalition dedicated to addressing issues of diversity and inclusivity.
“The Change Initiative, sponsored by One Sumter, is an integral part of building a true sense of community in Americus and Sumter County. If we want to break down cultural barriers and build a sense of understanding in our community, we must be willing to come to the table with a cross section of people from the entire community and talk about the uncomfortable topics that divide us and keep us from understanding one another. The Change Initiative is the first step toward accomplishing that goal.”
Chief Mark Scott, Americus Police Department
Supporting the expansion of tourism to underscore the Carter legacy...
Plains Better Hometown, Friends of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, Americus-Sumter County Tourism Council, Southwest Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority, and Sumter County Chamber of Commerce partnered together in 2016 to launch a truly signature event for Sumter County – Plains, Trains & Fireworks! With over 3,000 attendees to the inaugural event, event seekers from across South Georgia were treated to a unique opportunity to celebrate America’s Independence with our very own President Jimmy Carter and his family during a street festival and fireworks extravaganza. With over 200 traveling to the event aboard the historic SAM Shortline excursion train, hometown family fun is now an annual event for the Fourth in Sumter County. One Sumter is a a proud sponsor of this annual event.
“LEADS is a dynamic and powerful leadership experience that empowers current and future leaders of Southwest Georgia. Its regional participation aligns with today’s need for regional foresight and collaboration.”
Daryl Ingram, Electric Cities of Georgia
Establishing regional partnerships to accelerate economic development…
With regional partnerships as a focus of One Sumter’s economic development efforts, the foundation serves in a pivotal role for the 21-County regional leadership development initiative, Locate South GeorgiaLEADS (LSGL). As the entity responsible for coordinating the eight-month leadership experience, One Sumter is establishing partnerships across the region, and state, to tell the stories of South Georgia and leveraging the resources of the University of Georgia to instill critical leadership competencies to strengthen the leadership base of the region now and in the years to come.
A collaborative of Locate South Georgia, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, LSGL is the state’s largest regional leadership program representing some 21 Counties across South Georgia. LSGL is designed to facilitate awareness of issues that are essential to the future success of the region by giving participants the necessary skills and training needed to effectively lead South Georgia in the 21st Century economy.
Graduating a class of 32 leaders in march of this year, the program is moving forward aggressively with another cohort of 34 business and civic leaders to engage in the leadership experience yet again, starting in August 2017. With a foundation of the 21 economic developers that make up Locate South Georgia, plus some 10 or so affiliates that make up the economic development collaborative – coupled with the inaugural class of 32 and the next cohort of 34 – LSGL has already netted 100 individuals in just three years driving the economic message of South Georgia at every opportunity.
LSGL links regional site visits and issue awareness to relevant leadership development content within the framework of the Locate South GeorgiaLEADS priorities.
Locate South GeorgiaLEADS
The purpose of Locate South GeorgiaLEADS is to develop informed, aware, and educated leaders to promote and grow South Georgia by:
- Increasing awareness of assets and resources;
- Creating a shared sense of regional pride and ownership in both action and solutions;
- Strengthening partnerships and alliances and
- Enhancing political influence and acuity to support the needs and opportunities of South Georgia.
Improving retail sales in the Sumter County area…
Through the investments of One Sumter’s Honor Roll of Donors, One Sumter has been able to leverage the financial contributions of its investors towards the stated goals of the Business Action Plan – Specifically for retail recruitment and expansion, downtown redevelopment and implementation of the 2015 Renaissance Strategic Vision & Plan (RSVP) for Downtown Americus.
In collaboration with the Georgia Power Company, One Sumter is able to invest $46,500 in retaining the expertise and services of NextSite 360 to conduct a detailed analysis of our demographics and retail draw area to better understand which retail companies might be a good fit for our community over the next three years. By actively representing Sumter County at trade shows and conferences all over the country, the networks of the retail businesses. With a goal of increasing retail sales in Sumter County by 10 percent (10%) through 2019, One Sumter is proud to support the work of the Sumter County Development Authority, Americus Main Street, and Sumter County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Development Division as they focus on this critical area for economic development.
Enhancing downtown redevelopment…
Within the City’s Renaissance Plan (2015), traffic-calming solutions and streetscape design to enhance the pedestrian experience with the District were identified as a high priority, particularly along Lamar Street and adjacent side streets. The plan recommended the following:
Lamar Street Reconfiguration
A different road configuration could slow traffic and benefit downtown pedestrians and businesses. Currently, 9,540 vehicles per day travel on Lamar Street, and 10,670 vehicles per day are on Forsyth Street. Implementing a pedestrian-friendly deign could benefit downtown. Narrowing (removing one of the three lanes) the downtown portion of Lamar Street would:
- Reduce vehicle speed;
- Allow for additional diagonal parking spaces; and
- Continue be able to accommodate the current flow of traffic with two lanes.
Advocating the establishment of high-speed fiber optics lines to serve Sumter County...
“Advocating” is perhaps the best word to describe One Sumter’s efforts to improve broadband capacity in Sumter County since 2015. Contracting with Civitium, an Atlanta-based broadband technology firm, One Sumter’s Fiber Study Committee has been hard at work, mostly behind the scenes, conducting a feasibility study to determine our current fiber reality and the needs of our business and industry partners – and taking those results to potential providers both in our area and around the state. What we’ve learned and the impacts that have already been made are truly outstanding.
A brief synopsis of the Fiber Study Committee’s work and early results is below:
- Americus already serves a fiber “hub” for networks running from Atlanta to Tallahassee, FL and Jacksonville, FL.
- Citizens Telephone Company has high speed fiber connectivity to Ted Baldwin Industrial Park. Through the efforts of the Fiber Study Committee, more industries in the park have been able to access the services that already exist, but had been previously unaware of the capacity that existed.
Additional providers of bulk broadband services for large commercial/industrial users have been identified:
- Georgia Public Web
- Level 3
Local providers have been approached about possibilities to expand or enhance services:
- Citizens Telephone Company
- Southern Fiber Worx
Through these discussions, all three local providers have committed to expanding or improving their current services, including:
- Mediacom is increasing its top-level service offering to Gigabit speed;
- AT&T has launched a wireless broadband solution in Sumter County – AT&T’s Fixed Wireless Internet Service; and
- Citizens Telephone Company is making significant investments in its service footprint to increase and expand broadband availability to customers.
AT&T and the Sumter County Development Authority have worked collaboratively to meet the criteria to establish the Ted Baldwin Industrial Park is now “AT&T Fiber Ready”, and can now begin marketing the park accordingly to increase recruitment efforts.
Detailed cost-analyses have been done to understand the necessary capital investment to build high-speed fiber infrastructure throughout the community. Five scenarios have been evaluated, with estimates ranging from $300,000 for the implementation of a project that focused solely on the Downtown Central Business District of Americus, to the larger analysis of over $30 Million for a broadband deployment across all of Sumter County.
One Sumter anticipates the ability to announce a fiber solution for business and industry soon, with hopes to focus residentially during a second phase.
Gigabit Enabled Broadband to Support Business Growth in Americus
Gigabit enabled broadband service is coming to the business community of Americus, Georgia, representing a $2 Million capital investment in infrastructure to support economic development and business growth. Through a collaborative partnership representing three years of effort, Pineland Communications, a subsidiary of Pineland Telephone Cooperative, of Metter, Georgia, announced today the build out of a high-speed fiber network that will span the business footprint of Americus.
Driven by the vision of the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation and its many partners, private and public, the announcement comes as a model solution for many rural Georgia communities looking to provide reliable and affordable service. With so many small communities facing the challenge of dwindling population and economic decline, gigabit service seems unattainable when costs and densities are considered. Pineland, and its leadership, however see this as an opportunity to service a hometown community much like their own.
Providing Advanced Technology and Services
Pineland General Manager and Executive Vice President Dustin Durden explains the long-standing mission of his company to rural communities, “Here in Americus, we have partnered with our electric cooperative brethren to help bring broadband networks to the areas of Georgia that lack service.” Pineland Telephone was formed in 1951 to provide basic telephone service to underserved areas of Georgia and sees a similar opportunity with broadband. “We continue that mission today providing advanced technology and services, as good, or better, than in many urban areas. As we move into a new era of connectivity, we stand to deliver a pipe of data to businesses where it will be consumed by an infinite amount of devices that we haven’t even dreamed up yet,” Durden continues.
With the new service, the majority of the businesses in the Americus area will have access to gigabit capacity. Service to customers is anticipated to go live in early 2019. Expanded capacity at an affordable rate for business and industry was exactly the motivation behind One Sumter’s efforts to identify a solution. With a mandate from its over 100 donors across Americus and Sumter County, One Sumter’s earliest priority was to “develop high speed fiber optics in Sumter County.” One Sumter invested $57,000 in a broadband feasibility study, and shared the results of that study and community needs with potential broadband solution partners. That initial investment by One Sumter and the efforts of its local utility and other community partners paved the way for the Pineland broadband project, with no other local funding or any tax payer’s money in the project. The Americus and Sumter County Hospital Authority agreed to sell the property for the central office location at 706 E. Jefferson Street to One Sumter at market value to solidify the last step in making the partnership with Pineland possible.
Rural America lacking the broadband service needed to compete globally is on everyone’s radar, with state and national legislation being considered so that solutions can be further developed. Pineland Telephone is at the forefront of those solutions in Georgia selecting Americus as one of its pilot communities to offer gigabit service—largely because of the initiative taken by the community through its efforts with One Sumter. Utility partners locally and at the state level worked together to make this pilot connection possible. Sumter Electric Membership Corporation, Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, Georgia System Operations Corporation, and Georgia Transmission Corporation all came to the table.
Their approvals and support provided a unique solution that is a win for the business community of Americus and Sumter County, allowing the Sumter County Development Authority and Sumter County Chamber of Commerce to market their hometown as a Smart Rural Community and Gig-Certified Community immediately.
Pineland can provide gigabit enabled broadband Internet service, advanced telephone services, security and alarm solutions, as well as managed technology and computer solutions. Service in parts of Americus will be active during the first quarter of 2019. Pineland representatives can be contacted via phone or web; (800) 247-1266, www.pineland.net, or at email@example.com.