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Planning workshop focuses on Liberty County branding, SPLOST
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ST. SIMONS ISLAND — Day 2 of the county-wide planning workshop started with developing action plans for the top three issues chosen Wednesday afternoon: Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, branding Liberty County and business development.

Attendees were divided Thursday morning into three groups for each issue. Each group set goals, identified the stakeholders, benefits and obstacles to achieving goals and listed three to five action steps, suggested a lead person or department over the issue, developed a timeline and suggested funding sources. The groups then rotated to discuss another topic and go through the same process.

For example, the first group to discuss business development set the goal as easing business creation throughout Liberty County. Suggested stakeholders were government, business, the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, Liberty Regional Medical Center and customers. Benefits of achieving the goal were a seamless process, greater business creation, and enhancing the image of a business-friendly community. Obstacles included coordination between levels of government and the uncertainty of the military presence. Action steps listed were having a stakeholders meeting, create a “how to” guide and survey of what it takes to establish a business. The Chamber, Liberty County Development Authority and Hinesville Downtown Development Authority were suggested as leaders for business development, with a timeline of three to six months, and funding from the Chamber and development authority.

After rotating from issue to issue, the leaders chose which topic they wanted to participate in developing an action. They looked at all the suggestions to piece together a proposal. 

For SPLOST, groups discussed starting a grassroots campaign and one-to-one outreach.  They talked about voter turnout, the public's perceptions of the tax and having a question-and-answer session for residents.

Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards was concerned about the lengthy description of SPLOST on the ballot. He asked, “Can we get state law changed to get the ballot more simplified?”

Riceboro Mayor Billy Austin responded that it shouldn’t matter about the length. Rather, he said, people need to be more informed about the tax.

In the discussion about branding, Jeff Ricketson, executive director of the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, said: “We have a museum in Midway, but what about a museum for the county that will showcase the history of the military, hospitals and other things in the county?”

Paul Andreshak, executive director of Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, suggested having a museum near Interstate 95 for easy access for visitors.

Assistant County Administrator Bob Sprinkel spoke on some aspects of Georgia, such as it being one of the original 13 colonies and being a major destination for African-Americans.

“We’re already branded but we’re not promoting it,” Sprinkel said.

Hinesville Assistant City Manager Kenneth Howard agreed, saying, “We have the branding — we just need to build on top of that.”

Suggested goals were to create a catchy phrase; have a visual element, such as a logo or photograph; and create a docent committee. 

After rotating from issue-to-issue, the leaders chose which topic they wanted to participate in developing an action. They looked at all the suggestions to piece together a proposal.

The workshop culminated with the presentation of the three action plans. Edwards handled business development. Action items included: hold a stakeholders meeting, survey what it takes to establish a business, gauge the perception and reality on establishing businesses and create a how-to guide.

Entities chosen to lead this project were the Chamber, Planning Commission, LCDA, HDDA, businesses and realtors. A three- to six-month timeline was set to complete the how-to guide.

Leah Poole, CEO of the Chamber and Convention and Visitors Bureau, spoke about branding Liberty County. The action items were: inform residents about Liberty’s slogan, incorporate the brand in businesses, universities, municipalities, reactivate the Board of Education's marketing committee, use poles to advertise the county slogan and use the Main Street program for promotion. Poole will lead this initiative.

Walthourville City Council member Luciria Lovette presented the SPLOST action plan. It was decided to form a team of champions for SPLOST that will answer questions and receive input from the community. The team will go into the communities to engage residents. SPLOST also was a topic of discussion at last year’s planning workshop.

The plan developed last year will be adopted for this year’s efforts. That includes using social media, sharing the list of projects accomplished because of SPLOST funding and creating promotional materials. June was set as the deadline to form the SPLOST team and start the campaign.  

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