Building A Diverse Economy

This Committee's "Story" continues to evolve. Through a year of community work, this committee has identified barriers to prosperity, created recommendations to address these barriers, and submitted their recommendations to the PPA Steering Committee. The committee will continue its work as the final recommendations and strategy for implementation are developed.

An important story told by this committee's recommendations revolves around the connection between the community's quality of life and the economy. These recommendations speak to valuing and fostering businesses that pay living wages and health benefits; businesses that see leadership potential in the individuals filling even entry level positions; and businesses that attend to the environmental health of the community. This committee sees potential in our community's food systems -- its markets, gardens, and high school greenhouses -- as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to contribute to overall community health and economic sustainability. And, finally, this committee sees that building hope through youth leadership, entrepreneurship, and economic self-sufficiency is a key in changing the culture of poverty.

The recommendations make it clear that Athens is part of a regional economy, and that Athens is the economic leader in the region. Businesses look at regional strengths and weaknesses, not just county-specific strengths and weaknesses, when locating a new business in a community. This is also true when businesses make decisions about retention and expansion.

The recommendations encourage all those involved in and interested in economic development and business retention to jointly develop a comprehensive plan to recruit, retain, and expand business in our county as well as to reach out and play a leadership role in creating an economic development entity to actively market the region to prospects meeting our criteria.

The committee has identified the importance of entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses as a means to create new economic opportunities, particularly for families in poverty. These recommendations address barriers including a lack of coordination among business development agencies and the zoning, taxation, and capital issues that thwart small businesses. The committee suggests that support for entrepreneurs must include mentoring, culturally competent engagement strategies, and creating new business capital opportunities and ongoing technical assistance. All of these opportunities must be part of a regional, strategic economic plan.