One Sumter exceeds goal in contributions

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2016


AMERICUS — A grand total of $2.2 million will be used to improve Sumter County’s economy over the next five years, due to the efforts of the One Sumter initiative, the community partnership between the Americus-Sumter County Payroll Development Authority (PDA) and the Americus-Sumter County Chamber of Commerce.
“We went over One Sumter’s campaign goal of $2 million due to contributions of the more than 100 businesses, industry and individual donors,” announced Bill Harris Sr., co-chairman of the campaign’s leadership council, speaking at One Sumter Economic Foundation’s first donor recognition meeting Tuesday morning at Georgia Southwestern State University’s Griffin Bell Golf and Conference Center.
“The funds will impact and stimulate the community’s economic growth and success,” said Harris, and recognized the campaign’s leadership council members: Paul Hall, leadership council co-chairman; Brad Lefevers, chairman; Jem Morris, Rick Whaley, Ginger Starlin, Dan Berman, Alex Saratsiotis, Lewis Webb and Marcus Johnson, communications chairman.
“We have many exciting projects ahead and great leadership in Mary Beth Bass, One Sumter executive director, and Barbara Grogan, director of the Chamber and PDA.
Hosted by the board of directors of the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation Inc., the breakfast event, in addition to the recognition and support of the contributors and community partners, featured an upbeat progress report of the initiative and implementation of the Business Action Plan focusing on economic and workforce development, marketing and communications and transportation.
The program opened with an invocation delivered by the Rev. Jerry Roe, senior minister at First United Methodist Church, Americus, and an enthusiastic welcome by Ted McMillan, chairman of One Sumter board.
One Sumter has apparently put the quote “it takes a village” to good use, for many strides have been made since the initiative was formed. There have been improvements made in downtown Americus as storefronts are being remodeled and occupied by new retail businesses. The goal of One Sumter is to keep that type of economic movement going throughout the county.
Keynote speaker Daniel Jackson, president/chief executive officer of Carroll Tomorrow on which One Sumter is patterned, shared examples of the success and impact that the initiative has made in the Carrollton community over the past 15 years.
Jackson focused his message on the effect individuals and groups have, for better or worse, on a community’s well-being and growth, and he advocated citizens from all sectors working  together as a team to make a difference.
“You don’t have to be sick to get better,” said Jackson. “Have a plan, make a commitment and head in that direction. It takes a village to work together to succeed.”
A major high point was Bass’ upbeat progress report that  began with a brief review of One Sumter’s action plan and concluded with future steps on how the organization will leverage its relationship throughout the community to create a strategy of “seamless integration” for future success.
“We’ve begun to implement a strategy of integration, conversation and intentionality,” said Bass, reporting on the action that has already been put in place to increase economic growth and community vitality throughout Sumter County.
“One Sumter has laid a strong foundation over the past six months and with the support of our donors, we anticipate much change and growth for Sumter County in the coming years. The level of involvement and engagement we’ve seen throughout the community has been extremely encouraging. Sumter County and its leadership are to be commended for undertaking such a bold step for growth,” said Bass. “I assure you we have been hard at work laying the necessary groundwork and building relationships needed to carry us through the next five years,” she said, illustrating her talk with a slide presentation reflecting the strategy.
“Over time, our hope is that the strategy of seamless integration becomes the ‘thing’ Sumter County is known for – that we are all champions for One Sumter and Sumter County.”
Bass said the next steps are to strengthen the need of economic growth in the community with a task force in each program of work and she announced the team leaders.
• Economic Development: Barbara Grogan and Brad Lefevers.
• Workforce Development: Valerie Duff and Kimothy Hadley.
• Marketing and Communications: Nicole Thurston, chamber director of marketing and events.
• Transportation: County Commission Chairman Randy Howard, Americus Mayor Barry Blount and DeSoto Mayor James Cutts.
Bailey White of Atlanta, a senior partner with Civitium, a consulting firm in the metro Atlanta area, spoke on the broadband feasibility study, a survey his business is conducting in the community regarding internet speed and possible increase in fiber optics in the effort to attract and help businesses and corporations grow. He encouraged everyone in the community to participate in the brief online survey at Information gleaned from the survey will give his firm data on what is needed in the community.
McMillan concluded the meeting with the challenge that everyone can help One Sumter make a difference.
“The community is more than willing and one goal is to change attitudes from negative thinking to positive attitudes and the way of thinking,” said McMillan.