Whitfield County 03.26.12
Weaving new ideas about the carpet industry
By Chris Starrs (ABJ ’82)
Charles Simpson has undergraduate degrees in political science and economics, had thoughts of going to law school, then worked at an ad agency in Birmingham and is about to finish his MBA degree at Terry College. But even with the array of credentials and experience he’s already compiled as a young professional, perhaps Simpson’s greatest gift is that of a storyteller.
In a project he became involved in with the Archway Partnership, UGA’s innovative public service initiative, Simpson had to call upon all of his storytelling abilities to help the movers and shakers in Dalton/Whitfield County’s $14 billion flooring industry counteract a thorny problem facing the carpet business.
“The Archway Partnership and Terry College came to me with a project that involved rebranding the flooring industry to attract a highly qualified workforce, which is basically a fancy way of saying they’ve had a hard time attracting and retaining the talent they need to keep up with the way their equipment is automated,” Simpson says.
The Archway Partnership was founded in 2005 to bring UGA and Georgia communities together to address integral economic development challenges by expanding access to higher education resources and by putting UGA student-participants to work on real-world economic development projects.
“Our mission is to work with communities to articulate their highest priority needs, with the university bringing resources to help those communities meet those needs,” says Melissa Lu (ABJ ‘03), the Archway Professional in Dalton/Whitfield County.
The initial Archway “portal” was established in Moultrie/Colquitt County and since then seven more Georgia locales have become Archway Partners.
Simpson says Dalton has to overcome several challenges to recruit the kind of tech-savvy talent the local flooring industry desperately needs. First and foremost, the industry is “heavily tethered” to the construction sector, which remains in the doldrums. Add to that the perception that the flooring industry is declining and not enough manufacturing and engineering applicants were in the employment pipeline, and it’s clear the industry needed some fresh thinking.
“I was brought in to work with full-time Archway Partnership professionals to do research in order to find out what draws people into flooring, to develop strategies for changing perceptions of the industry, and to come up with tactics to execute those strategies,” says the Mobile, Ala., native and Emory University graduate.
Taking what he’d learned in his classes, Simpson devised market research initiatives designed to help change industry perceptions, with ambitious plans for website development, institutional videos and mobile apps.
“The flooring industry has always known it had a neat story to tell,” Simpson says. “They haven’t really had someone come from the outside to encourage them to tell their stories.”
“Charles has been a great partner for our community,” says Brian Cooksey, director of operations, training and development for flooring titan Shaw Industries Group. “He quickly learned about our industry, developed a plan, and went to work. It’s been great to have a resource from outside of our industry to bring new perspectives and ideas to help us solve our problems.”
Simpson – who spent the time between Emory and UGA working for a business-to-business advertising agency in Birmingham — said the Archway Partnership project was an ideal opportunity to take what he’d learned in the classroom and put it to practical use among many heavyweights in the flooring industry.
“This is a high-priority project, where I was presenting to an executive committee of industry officials, public school personnel, county government and community leaders,” he says. “The industry people were weighing in on my insights. I’m working with C-suite executives. If they’re going to be involved in something, it better be worth their time.
“I was really fortunate to have worked as a strategist at an ad agency because I learned a lot of things I was able to take to this project. Also, the in-class experiences I had at Terry gave me a lot of statistical analyses tools and a lot of marketing theories and principles I was able to apply to this. So it was the best experience I’ve had because I’ve been able to actually apply all the things I learned in the classroom.”
The story, as Simpson tells it, gets even better. He was invited back to do marketing work on a contract basis with the Dalton/Whitfield County Joint Development Authority.
“Charles and the work he did exemplifies what the Archway Partnership is really supposed to bring to communities,” says Lu. “Charles had a great opportunity here to get his feet on the ground and try some different things. But the value to the community – of having somebody who doesn’t have a history in the area, has no preconceived notions, does thorough and statistically backed research, and follows that up with idea generation and presentations to communicate those ideas – that value cannot be quantified.”
Hart County 06.15.11
Helping to Develop Tourism Marketing in Hart County
The Gum Branch Megaramp Facility on Lake Hartwell was funded through the State of Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Go Fish Georgia initiative in partnership with the City of Hartwell and Hart County Government. In the summer of 2009, The City of Hartwell and Hart County Government requested assistance from Hart County Archway to identify a resource to develop a strategic tourism marketing plan for the yet-to-be-built megaramp. Bobby Chappell, a graduate student in Natural Resource and Recreation Tourism in UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry, spent the summer working with the Hart County Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Taskforce, Hart County Government, and other community members to collect information and develop the plan.
Construction of the megaramp was completed in summer 2010. During the construction of the facility, a number of trees along the shoreline surrounding the facility were inadvertently removed. The impact was that the site of the facility lost some of its natural beauty, some erosion began to occur along the shoreline, and homeowners whose lake houses formerly faced a wooded peninsula now faced the large asphalt parking lot constructed as part of the Gum Branch Megaramp. In response, the Hart County Archway Partnership tapped two landscape architecture interns, Colin Owen and Carmen Miranda from UGA’s top ranked College of Environment and Design, to assist the City of Hartwell and Hart County Government with creating site-wide landscape designs to reforest the shoreline buffer, create an entryway to the facility, and add shade and natural beauty to the facility. Owen and Miranda worked with Hart County Cooperative Extension Coordinator Charles Rice to ensure that the plants included in the designs were appropriate for the site and met the City and County’s specifications for low maintenance and drought tolerance.
Miranda created sketches and planting plans for the entryway area, including a nautical design for the wooden frame to support the entry sign.
The metal Gum Branch Megaramp entryway sign was designed by Hart County High School students and features logos from all of the groups that collaborated on the megaramp project. A HCHS construction skills class constructed the sign frame/posts according to the design created by the Archway landscape architecture intern Carmen Miranda. Class members from 2009-2010 Leadership Hart have plans to implement part of the landscape plan as part of their class capstone community project. In addition, the City of Hartwell secured a tree grant to plant some of the trees included in the site plans designed by Owen and Miranda.
Pulaski County 01.18.11
Leadership Development in Hawkinsville and Pulaski County
Over the past year, the Archway Partnership in Hawkinsville and Pulaski County has worked to address a local priority of developing additional energetic and motivated leaders.
In late 2009, the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute conducted a series of trainings to help community members to design a leadership development program and to train individuals who would serve as instructors, facilitators and mentors. The result of this effort was the formation of a new leadership development initiative, Pulaski Tomorrow.
“Developing our future leaders by positioning them to be an informed and cohesive group will enhance our community’s ability to progress efficiently and productively. It is incumbent upon the current leadership to offer the opportunities for leadership development,” said Jerry Murkerson, Hawkinsville City Manager.
In April 2010, Pulaski Tomorrow made a call for its inaugural class of community members who would commit to the intensive five-month leadership course. The group of leaders who answered the call reflects the community’s diversity and ranges from downtown business owners to local youth ministers, recent graduates and even includes current college students.
With sponsorship from the Hawkinsville-Pulaski Chamber of Commerce, the Fanning Institute, and Archway Partnership, Hawkinsville-Pulaski County community members organized, planned and facilitated this inaugural class with a program of study including: Understanding Leadership, Communicating Effectively, Making Group Decisions, Building Communities through Collaboration, Leading Community Change and more.
On Tuesday, October 19, 2010, Pulaski Tomorrow celebrated by conducting a graduation ceremony for the class of 21 Hawkinsville/Pulaski County community members.
Since graduation, the budding leaders have begun making their marks on the community with leadership roles in the Board of Directors for the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce and Boy Scouts, Public Authorities Training and planning for the 2011 class of Pulaski Tomorrow.
Additionally, the graduates are in the planning stages of “Adopt-A-Cop,” a community service project with hopes of raising $15,000 to purchase 22 body armor vests for the newly-consolidated sheriff’s department. Several of the former students serve on the project’s committee alongside representatives from local area businesses, Pulaski County Schools and Ocmulgee Order, an organization for professional development that was also created as a result of the community-driven effort for leadership development.
“Pulaski Tomorrow cultivates leaders in various professional and civic fields. This leadership program is for people who want to effect positive change in our community, to make Pulaski County a better place to live, work, and raise families,” said Pulaski Tomorrow Chairman Harley Lawson.
Glynn County 04.16.10
Disaster Communications Kit
Though few people like to count on a disaster coming, citizens often rely on their local leaders to have a plan in place in case tragedy does strike. To help Glynn County leaders communicate to citizens during tropical storms and other crisis situations, the Archway Partnership enlisted the aid of UGA Masters of Public Administration (MPA) graduate student, Amanda Hampton, to develop a disaster communications kit.
“It is impossible to prepare during the storm – preparations need to happen before the disaster strikes,” said Glynn Archway Professional Joy Burch. “Amanda did an excellent job of listening to the needs of Brunswick-Glynn County and designing a Crisis Communications Kit that can be implemented immediately. This tool allows our community leaders to focus on educating the public prior to the storm and to fully focus on responsiveness during the storm.”
The kit contains all of the necessary steps for leaders to disperse information to Glynn County citizens, including templates for press releases announcing evacuation routes, debris clean-up procedures, weather information, and disaster recovery procedures. The purpose of the kit is to inform citizens of disaster management plans and strategies while providing the information necessary for citizens to keep their families safe. Following recommendations from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), in addition to the traditional means of communication, Hampton included social-networking site Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter as a means for delivering information updates to citizens.
“As the project was coming together, I could see the potential impact this could have as another tool Glynn County could use to keep their citizens informed and safe. That was something that I felt passionately about from the beginning and knew I had to be a part of,” said Hampton.
Hampton’s work helps prepare citizens for potential dangers ranging from lightning strikes, flooding, and tropical storms, to safer ways to go about disaster recovery. This type of information not only helps citizens prepare for disasters, but also helps keep order amid the chaos that can follow.
The kit covers nearly every disaster expected in a coastal community, with information ranging from helpful safety reminders like “go inside when you see lightning” and “avoid using telephones during thunderstorms” to less obvious tips like coping with disaster-related stress and how to keep orphaned and abandoned animals from invading your home.
Hampton gathered information from the National Weather Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Ready Georgia, and existing Glynn County materials to produce the kit. Though Glynn County had used most of these disaster-related resources before, Hampton’s kit consolidates all into one place for disaster management.
“I thought that Amanda did a great job with the project and certainly is owed a great thanks from our whole community for her hard work in helping to develop our response to major disasters or emergencies,” said Jay Wiggins, the director of Glynn County’s Emergency Management Agency. “I applaud the efforts of the Archway Partnership in bringing together groups that are so mutually beneficial to one another.”
Glynn County leaders decided that it was important for the disaster communication materials to be consistent across personnel changes, so Hampton formatted the kit into a self-contained, user-friendly package that can be easily implemented by anyone who has access to it. There are several hard-copies in print, as well as copies on an electronic flash drive. This frequency keeps the kit from being tied to one person’s office or one person’s computer, thus improving the government’s ability to respond to a disaster.
“The communication component can be crucial in a disaster situation. The continuity of the system is important, so that no matter who is in charge, they can the access the kit and go about the business of managing the disaster,” said Hampton.
Sumter County 03.05.10
Revitalizing the Eastview Cemetery
Revitalizing the Eastview Cemetery
Two UGA College of Environment and Design students have been creating a design plan to revitalize the historic Eastview Cemetery. Neglected grave stones fade and sink into the ground and exposed ditches make it hard for visitors to navigate the cemetery as they visit the departed.
Looking to historic cemeteries in other cities, these students created a design that is uniquely Sumter and draws attention to many of the sacred and significant elements of the site. To return the site to its historic dignity, the students created a design that improved landscaping throughout the cemetery, focused on an improved entryway, used native plants to landscape the cemetery, and made the space easier to navigate for families seeking to visit departed loved ones.
With the plan in hand, Sumter County government can competitively seek grant funding and other resources to finish the project.