ABAC To House New Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation

Staff Report From Tifton CEO

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Governor Nathan Deal opened a new door of opportunity for economic revitalization for rural Georgia on Wednesday afternoon when he signed House Bill 951, creating a Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation which will be housed at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

“On behalf of all Georgians who live in rural Georgia or who grew up in rural Georgia, I want to thank Governor Deal and the legislators who turned this idea into reality,” ABAC President David Bridges said.   “Rural communities face many challenges, hurdles, and obstacles as they attempt to revitalize and strengthen their situations.”

Bridges grew up in rural Terrell County in the tiny town of Parrott.  President of ABAC since 2006, Bridges is the longest serving president among the 26 institutions in the University System of Georgia.  He prepared a proposal for enhancing community and economic development in rural Georgia and presented it the Georgia House of Representatives Rural Development Council in February.

“Shrinking populations, export of the most ambitious and talented young people, failing businesses, loss of access to primary health care services, closure of hospitals and loss of tax-paying brick and mortar retail stores plague much of rural Georgia,” Bridges said in the report.

The Georgia Rural Development Council, created as a part of the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation in HB 951, aims to address those needs by studying “the conditions, needs, issues, and problems affecting rural economic development as well as examining related policy areas which may include population studies, access to health care, infrastructure, education, unemployment, and economic growth incentives.”

Created by action of the Georgia General Assembly, HB 951 was sponsored by Representative Jason Shaw, Representative Sam Watson, Representative Penny Houston, Representative Jay Powell, and Representative Terry England, and it was broadly supported by legislators from across the state. Powell, England, and Watson headed up the House Rural Development Council.  

“The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation will focus its efforts on outcome-based project management—projects that result in measurable impact,” Bridges said.  “Personnel from the Center will be on the ground working to make things happen.”

During his visit to Tifton at the Henry Tift Myers Airport, Deal also signed House Bill 769, which relates to rural health care legislation and put his signature on House Bill 684 which is the FY 2019 state budget.  He highlighted budget priorities in the North Wing of the State Capitol early Wednesday morning before traveling to Acworth, Blue Ridge, and Statesboro to share information on the new state budget which takes effect July 1.