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Three graduate from development academy
With Georgia Academy for Economic Development diplomas in hand, Liberty Countys John Baker, Melissa Jones and Lisa Waye, stand between Georgia Powers Regional Project Manager Jason Coley and Georgia EMC community development consultant Ariana Reaves. - photo by Photo provided.

The Board of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development announces three Liberty County leaders recently graduated from the 2016 Region 12 Multi-Day Training Program.

Class participants represented a number of professional and non-professional economic development fields, including elected officials, public servants, business leaders, educators, and social service providers from ten counties in Coastal Georgia. The Academy provided each of the graduates an opportunity to gain a unique understanding of the complexities of economic and community development on the local, regional, and state levels.

Liberty County graduates at the November 29, ceremony included:

•John Baker, chairman of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority

•Melissa Jones, a planner with the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission

•Lisa Waye, program assistant with the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority

Created in 1993, the academy assembles a cross section of economic development professionals and resources to provide this training across the state. The board of directors of the academy represent public and private economic development organizations and agencies from Georgia. Since its organization, the academy trained thousands of professional and non-professional economic developers, and since 1998 the academy has been offered annually in all 12 regions of the state. Georgia EMC and Georgia Power provide facilitators, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs provides staff support to the program.

Georgia EMC’s Vice President for Community and Economic Development Pat B. Merritt, CEcD, said, "Our community development team is proud to partner with and provide facilitation and presentation services on behalf of Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives. Involved since its inception, the team’s work with the Academy graduates has enhanced levels of leadership capacity and community development preparedness for continued economic development progress throughout the Region." In Region 12, CED cooperative members are Canoochee EMC, Coastal EMC, Excelsior EMC, Okefenoke EMC and Planters EMC."

"Georgia Power has historically played a major role in the State’s economic development. The Academy has formalized the opportunity to bring together stakeholders to share best practices, leverage expertise, and build relationships among our communities with the same goal in mind: ensuring economic growth and prosperity for our state. We are proud of the strong partnership that delivers this program in each of our regions every year," says Georgia Power Company Community Development Manager Johnna Robinson, chair of the Georgia Academy board.

"One of the goals for the multi-day regional Academies is to encourage multi-county cooperation," says Corinne Thornton, Director of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. "Many times the participants discover the issues facing their community are the same as those facing other communities in their region, and can then combine limited resources to address the issue."

The Academy’s multi-day program, taught one day a month over a four-month period, includes training in the basics of economic and community development, plus specialized segments on business recruitment and retention, tourism product development, downtown development, planning, and other essentials for community success. In addition, the curriculum features specific leadership skills such as consensus building, ethics in public service, collaborative leadership and other segments needed for effective community leadership in economic development. Local elected officials may receive certification training credits through the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association for completion of this program.

The next Region 12 Georgia Academy for Economic Development program will begin in August 2017. For more information on this, please contact Jennifer Fordham at (912) 865-4212 or by email at

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