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LCDA to join regional workforce effort on two-year basis

Liberty County Development Authority members agreed to join a regional workforce development consortium — on a two-year basis.

The LCDA approved spending $55,000 to join RISE, the Regional Industry Support Enterprise headed up by former LCDA staffer and CEO of the Bryan County Development Authority Anna Chafin.

“It something we believe we should be a part of,” LCDA CEO Brynn Grant told authority members at their meeting Monday.

But the LCDA is going into cautiously and members acknowledged that is being done consciously. Grant said she and LCDA chief operating officer Carmen Cole believe RISE could be “a very powerful region partnership.”

However, the LCDA also wanted to make sure there was benefit and results for their spending.

“We’re positive and we’re optimistic and we are going to be recommending to proceed thoughtfully,” Grant said.

RISE is focused on eight counties, with Liberty being one of them. RISE has asked for a four-year commitment from the target counties, but several have asked to get an evaluation of the initiative after two years, Grant added.

She said the LCDA can ask if it is getting the engagement and results it wants to see from a regional workforce program.

“I think it’s a risk worth taking,” Grant said.

Other county development authorities have partnered with their county commissions or their school systems for their RISE membership, Grant pointed out. Under the initial proposal, RISE will have a 15-member board of directors, with Chatham County, as the largest in population, getting four seats. Liberty will have two seats.

“It makes sense for us to do it,” LCDA member Luke Moses said. “The only way for us to get a seat at the table is to buy a seat at the table.”

“This is about workforce development,” said LCDA member and Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette. “If that is going to position us where our workforce is ready and competitive, then I am ready to suck it up a little bit.”

LCDA Chairman State Rep. Al Williams also urged to get periodic updates, with either someone from RISE or one of Liberty’s RISE board members providing the material.

“We don’t want to be unreasonable as we look at the other partners,” he said. “But an investment like this, I think we should at least have a report what’s happening with our money.”

Cole, along with representatives from Chatham, Bryan, Evans and Screven counties, were invited by RISE to go to Newton County to see the externship program in place there. There were 24 teachers from the Newton County school system involved, broken into teams and assigned to six different companies. The teachers ranged in grade levels from second grade to high school and taught subjects as diverse as math and English.

Cole pointed out now those teachers understand the kinds of jobs available and can begin taking what they learned in their externship and put into place in their own classroom.

“Kids have a limited experience with industry,” Grant said. “If we can bridge that understanding and they can see that opportunity, then maybe they can have doors open that weren’t opened before.”

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