The drive to develop a single, shared vision for the future of Haralson County and her cities is well under way, and those in charge of creating it hope to unveil a draft of the strategic development plan they have called “Grow Haralson” by early October.
Since announcing the initiative at the beginning of the year, a group of business and civic leaders have conducted surveys and divided themselves into committees to address several key issues – including one key problem: trash.
“Surprisingly, that was what most people in the survey and the town hall meetings brought up,” according to Tara Chapman, executive director of the Haralson County Development Authority. She said one of the committees created as a result of the “Grow Haralson” process has already begun work to tackle the issue, developing a prototype beautification proposal designed to increase civic pride, as well as make the county more attractive to potential business and industry.
“If they come in and they see trash everywhere, what kind of message does that send about our community?” she said.
But that is only the start of the “Grow Haralson” initiative, as civic leaders delve into deeper matters, working to develop a plan that, Chapman says, will answer the questions of “what do we want Haralson County to be, what are our assets, what are our weaknesses – what do we aspire to be?”
Some of those answers will be unveiled sometime in early October, when the leaders present their draft plan to the public. Until then, Chapman said, citizen involvement is still being actively sought for each of the five areas the group has already identified for focus.
To assist in the process, the county has hired Janus Economics, a Tennessee-based consulting agency which has an established track record in helping communities develop such plans, including the one it developed for the Albany/Dougherty County area.
Back in April, the drive to develop a strategic plan kicked off with a series of surveys and town hall meetings in which citizens, elected officials and business leaders all provided input on the future development of the county. Chapman said almost 400 surveys were turned in as a result, which were then discussed and analyzed by the “Grow Haralson” committee.
“There was tons of information,” Chapman said. “Of course, a lot of it we were aware of, but it was neat to see the general consensus over certain issues.”
In addition to the committee assigned the task of beautification, the group also divided itself into an economic development committee, an educated workforce panel, a leadership development team and a sustainability and implementation committee, which will make sure the leaders stay focused on the strategic plan by setting goals and working toward them.
There is no set deadline for meeting each of these tasks, Chapman said, because the “Grow Haralson” plan is strategic in scope, covering five years of development activities.
“We’re trying to build awareness (that) we’re out there,” Chapman said. She added that members of the public are not only invited to monitor the group’s progress via their website, www.growharalson.org or Facebook page, but residents, business owners and local employees and students are also urged to help shape the county’s future by joining the panel or the committee of their choice.
“All they have to do is just give me a call, and we’ll find a place (for them),” Chapman said. “We want the community to get excited about it, because we feel like this is a huge step in the right direction for this community. All the cities and the county back this process 100 percent, so we feel great about that. The momentum is really building.”