FVSU receives $50,000 grant to strengthen rural Georgia

Published By: Jeff Brothers September 6, 2012

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Dry, furrowed but fallow field in south Georgia.

In a state with a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, higher than the 8.2 percent national average, Georgians may be able to look for assistance from a program through Fort Valley State University.

Joy Moten-Thomas, FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program’s assistant administrator for community development and outreach, recently received a $50,000 grant.

The grant, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development’s Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) will be used to provide training to rural communities selected to participate in the Stronger Economies Together (SET) program.

SET is a USDA Rural Development-sponsored program that encourages rural communities to collaborate and develop plans to strengthen economic conditions and competitiveness.

“We are asking communities to think not only about themselves, but to focus on a regional approach that they can accomplish by working together to achieve a common goal shared by all,” Moten-Thomas said.

The program will be working with 24 rural “strikeforce” counties, a government term that describes areas with conditions of persistent poverty and stagnant economies. These counties selected by USDA Rural Development through an application process include: Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Emanuel, Grady, Johnson, Lee, Macon, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery Seminole Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen and Worth.

Moten-Thomas said the program includes two regional teams consisting of the 24 counties. Each team will participate in nine mandatory training sessions over an approximate nine-month time span, totaling approximately 40 hours of training.

During each training, participants will work on modules concerning topics such as profiling your region, building a strong regional team and planning for success. Persons scheduled to attend include elected officials, community representatives and non-profit managers. Sessions will take place at facilities in the selected counties.

The training modules will be facilitated by Moten-Thomas and a representative from USDA Rural Development. Moten-Thomas said participants will be able to come together and identify weaknesses, strengths, partnerships and resources. At the end of the training, each team will have a regional plan for their proposed activity. Moten-Thomas said external funding is available to launch each team’s regional activity. Training is scheduled to begin later this fall.

For more information on training, or interest in joining a regional team contact Moten-Thomas at (478) 825-6954 or e-mail at thomasb@fvsu.edu.