Leaders in Washington County installed electric vehicle charging stations to lure travelers into the rural downtown to eat and shop while their cars recharged.

About 100 miles north, Hart County rebranded its education foundation and developed a marketing plan to raise money to benefit students and teachers.

Washington and Hart counties are poised to become UGA Connected Resilient Communities, recognized for demonstrating a high level of community collaboration and partnership with the University of Georgia. Completing the CRC program, which is facilitated by the UGA Archway Partnership, helps communities stand out in a highly competitive economic development environment.

“Washington and Hart counties have completed hundreds of projects that prove that these communities are forward thinking and strategic in leveraging the resources of the University of Georgia,” said Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach.

The charging stations in Sandersville were among the projects that UGA graduate student Alec Shirer worked on during his internship with Washington County. His research helped community leaders better understand how charging stations work and how to evaluate bids for the project.

The Gold CRC designation was presented at the ribbon-cutting for the charge station hub. (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

“They almost create these little mini-destinations,” said Jayson Johnston, chair of the UGA Washington County Archway Partnership executive committee. “Our goal is that people have to make that stop for 20 to 30 minutes to an hour in a community where they can get out and shop and enjoy and have an experience. It’s another step of that resiliency or being relevant as a rural community.”

In Hart County, school officials and the county education foundation—now called OneHartBeat—worked with students from the Institute for Leadership Advancement at the UGA Terry College of Business to identify consistent branding for the program and a plan to market it.

“They also came up with a logo for us, and a flyer that showed our mission statement and the three main areas that the foundation supports,” said Bobbie Busha, who became director of the Hart County education foundation in fall 2021. “They did some research about Hartwell, where we could put flyers out, what groups we wanted to talk to and what media we wanted to promote the foundation. I was extremely pleased.”

Hart county participants in the OneHARTBeat program receive Gold designation plaques. (Photo Brittany Standifer/Archway)

“The thing that was so impressive to me was that when each student in the formal presentation talked about why they chose this project, they each had a heart for it, which is what we’re all about,” Busha said. “They felt that this was their most personal way to give back, that they could see the result of what they were doing and know they made a difference.”

Hart County, Washington County and McDuffie County—the first to receive the CRC designation in April 2022—are all UGA Archway Partnership communities. As such, they work with UGA faculty and students to address community-identified challenges. Since 2005, Archway has worked in 14 different rural communities, addressing a range of issues from healthcare to economic development. It has consistently been recognized for its impact on rural Georgia and its residents, last year receiving the C. Peter Magrath Award for Community Engagement, the national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ highest award for public service.


Contact: Michelle Elliott, mwe@uga.edu