City of Cedartown Selected for Revitalization Initiative

Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Research Program Selects City of Cedartown for Revitalization Initiative

Six-month project to help city develop, plan short and long-term
economic development goals for job growth, downtown revitalization

ATLANTA— The Economic Development Research Program (EDRP) at the Georgia Institute of Technology is working with Cedartown to help a coalition of civic and business leaders develop a strategic assessment plan to guide the city’s economic development efforts.

The strategic assessment process with the northwest Georgia city includes a comprehensive analysis of the community, which will include interviews with local partners and regional stakeholders in surrounding Polk County. The completed assessment will also guide downtown redevelopment and business attraction efforts.

The project began in January 2022 and is expected to take six months to complete.

“The EDRP’s core mission is to provide research that will help propel communities into a more competitive position, and this strategic assessment is one of the first steps in that process for the city of Cedartown,” said Candice McKie, EDRP project manager. “Ultimately, this assessment will help guide downtown redevelopment efforts and align them with Cedartown’s vision, leverage its assets, and maximize small business and job growth objectives.”

The assessment’s findings will help define Cedartown’s strengths and areas of opportunity, and provide a preliminary vision to guide the city on attainable, effective actions to reach its short and long-term economic development goals. The strategic assessment will also aid Cedartown as it prepares its application to obtain “Rural Zone” designation from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

As Polk’s county seat, Cedartown falls within the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission area, a 15-county body that provides several services to its member jurisdictions, including aging programs, workforce development, transportation, and local/regional planning.

Located about an hour’s drive west of Atlanta, Cedartown is roughly nine square miles in area and home to about 10,000. Incorporated as a city in 1854, Cedartown’s downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its distinctive 1890s-era architectural style. The community’s outdoor attractions and amenities include Big Spring (the South’s largest natural limestone spring) and the Silver Comet Trail.

Even with Cedartown’s cultural and natural amenities, local officials say the city is ready for revitalization. That desire fueled their drive to apply to the EDRP for assistance in creating a downtown redevelopment plan.

“This is a tremendous program, and we are blessed to be a part of it. Having a strategic assessment plan will allow us to stay focused on our goals for downtown revitalization,” said Cedartown City Commission Chairman Andrew Carter. “This effort will open the door to new business and employment opportunities. Georgia Tech is a great partner to have and we’re really looking forward to studying the data they will provide us.”

Funded through a U.S. Economic Development Administration University Center grant, EDRP serves rural and economically distressed communities in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Powered by Georgia Tech’s Center for Economic Development Research, EDRP leverages Tech’s assets to help communities engineer economic development success through affordable, in-depth research.

Communities that apply for a research grant must commit local funds, based on their capacity. That local funding maximizes resources and ensures community involvement through all research project phases. Some recent EDRP studies include projects in Meriwether, Twiggs, and Walker counties.

About the Economic Development Research Program (EDRP)
EDRP is Georgia Tech’s signature program for providing affordable economic development research and analysis capacity for communities that need it the most.  EDRP is funded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center grant program (Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute is a designated EDA University Center).  EDRP is available to eligible communities across eight southeastern U.S. states. To learn more, visit

Southwest Georgia Strategic Planning

Since the Great Recession, rural downtowns across the country have undergone a renaissance. While larger communities typically have physical amenities that draw talent, the overall cost of living to be “close to everything” can be burdensome. Now during the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities are beginning to realize the certain advantages and potential for attracting talent that can work just about anywhere with the right infrastructure. Recognizing the opportunity to capitalize on their assets, the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission (SWGRC) contracted with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) to conduct a strategic plan to use as a roadmap to pursue the region’s economic development goals.

The Southwest Georgia region has been hit hard because of natural disasters, and more recently, sustained a significant community impact during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. During October 2018, Hurricane Michael impacted more than 20,000 businesses in Georgia. According to FEMA, southern Georgia sustained approximately $3 billion in damages in the agriculture industry alone (according to estimates from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and Georgia Forestry Commission). Most recently, several Southwest Georgia counties reported the highest COVID-19 case count per 100,000 people in the state, while unemployment claims had risen over 4,000 percent during April 2020. Under the CARES Act, the SWGRC is conducting this strategic plan to prioritize the region’s most pressing economic needs, and to help inform their short and long-term economic resilience strategies. These strategies will assist the SWGRC in developing public-private partnerships, as it strives to revitalize key industry sectors and attract people and investment.

As an EDA University Center, Georgia Tech is uniquely positioned to assist communities throughout the Southeast on various economic development initiatives. The Economic Development Research Program (EDRP) is Georgia Tech’s signature program for providing affordable economic development research and analysis capacity for communities that need it the most. CARES Act Recovery Assistance and EDRP are funded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center grant program and administered by Georgia Tech. These funds are available to eligible communities across eight southeastern U.S. states.

Update: Rossville EDRP Project

At 1.2 million square feet, the 27-acre Peerless Mills site is the largest parcel in the heart of Rossville, Georgia. Located just three miles south of downtown Chattanooga in Tennessee, Rossville’s downtown revitalization will largely be shaped by the redevelopment of the Peerless property.  Since the Great Recession, rural downtowns across the country are undergoing a redevelopment renaissance. While larger communities like Chattanooga have amenities that draw talent, the cost of starting a business and the overall cost of living to be “close to everything” can be burdensome. Recognizing the opportunity to capitalize on their assets, the city of Rossville and the ReDev Workshop submitted an application to the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Economic Development Research Program (EDRP) for an assessment of their strategic priorities for the local government to use as a roadmap to pursue the city’s economic development goals. The objective is not to re-invent the wheel, but to suggest actions that will enable the city of Rossville to prioritize its most pressing needs, and to help enhance and strengthen the work of the ReDev Workshop.

Most of Rossville, including the Peerless Mills site, is located in a federally designated Opportunity Zone (OZ), which encourages private investors to take an equity stake in economic development through local businesses, real estate, or development projects in exchange for a reduction in tax liability over time. However, Rossville has not yet seen this infusion of much needed private investment from the OZ program. With this in mind, Georgia Tech recommended that Rossville focus on improving its public stormwater infrastructure and activate its downtown development association (DDA), which would provide a strong foundation for the eventual redevelopment of the Peerless Mills complex and facilitate other development in the city. 

Outcomes of the Study: Rossville was recently designated by DCA as a “Rural Zone” community

EDRP is Georgia Tech’s signature program for providing affordable economic development research and analysis capacity for communities that need it the most. EDRP is funded through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center grant program. EDRP is available to eligible communities across eight southeastern U.S. states. Applications are currently being accepted to EDRP, please apply here.

EDRP Launch: City of Rossville

In August 2018, the City of Rossville, GA submitted a proposal for a grant through the Economic Development Research Program (EDRP). The proposal presented a case for the development of a “Strategic Priorities Assessment” to prioritize projects that will bring greater investment into the city based on its evident strength in location, real and tourism estate assets, and proximity to a regional economic hub. The Strategic Priorities Assessment will be directed towards providing recommendations for building the capacity of the citizen-run Rossville Redevelopment Workshop to take advantage of the new federal Opportunity Zone designation, and undertake community redevelopment initiatives in the city.

The City of Rossville, GA is located in the Chattanooga, TN-GA Metropolitan Statistical Area, situated in a valley between Missionary Ridge to the east and the Lookout Mountain to the west. With a population of 4,105 and a median household income of $32,182 (FY2015), Rossville has experienced an increase in its poverty rate and decrease in job growth over the years. Downtown Rossville is ripe for improvement – the 27-acre, 1 million square foot abandoned Peerless Woolen Mill is situated in the heart of the city. However, the City’s access to highways and interstates and proximity to the Chattanooga area and other tourism assets provide an opportunity for leveraging and supplementing the City’s capacity to undertake economic development programs.

The City of Rossville’s proposal was selected for its innovativeness, magnitude of project impact, level of engagement displayed by the city government and local populace, and finally its probability for success given available resources and funding. To develop a plan that builds on the strengths and provides the capacity to overcome extant challenges, this EDRP project will utilize the skills and energies of Georgia Tech researchers, state and local officials, and build on the expertise of resource development specialists to complement previous and current efforts in the City of Rossville to foster a healthier economy and to better the quality of life for its residents. The project with Rossville began in November 2018 and will be complete in May 2019. The plan will include research, community engagement, support the development of public-private partnerships, and provide data-driven recommendations that will facilitate their decision-making process for community redevelopment.

About EDRP: In 2017, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) a five-year EDA University Center designation to leverage the university’s assets to build regional economic ecosystems that support high-growth entrepreneurship, and improve community capacity to achieve and sustain economic growth. EI2 uses the EDA University Center grant funds awarded through their designation to administer EDRP. Through strategic planning studies, forecasting, feasibility studies, readiness assessments, economic impact analysis, and labor market studies, the program strives to inform policy decisionmaking, and to help governments and economic development organizations carry out their mission.

For project-related questions, contact:

Leigh Hopkins

Phone: 404-894-0933 | Fax: 404-410-6910

Email: ude.hcetag.etavonninull@snikpoh.hgiel

Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

CEDR will be providing strategic planning and facilitation assistance to the recipients of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge grants, and help those communities activate their smart community plans.

For more information on the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge, please contact Leigh Hopkins, Sr. Project Manager at ude.hcetagnull@snikpoh.hgiel.

Important dates:

April 9, 2018 (7:30am – 4pm): Workshop and Expo, GTRI Conference Center, 250 14th Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

May 1, 2018 (5pm): Proposals due


From the Press Release: 

Announcing: The Georgia Smart Communities Challenge

The first statewide program to support local governments across Georgia with seed funding,
technical assistance, and more as they plan and activate smart development.

ATLANTA—The Georgia Institute of Technology and its partners are excited to announce the
launch of the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge (“Georgia Smart”), open to all
communities in Georgia. Local Georgia governments of any size—cities, counties, or
consolidated city-county governments—will lead selected teams. Georgia Smart will provide
seed funding and access to technical assistance, expert advice, and a network of peers. A Georgia
Tech researcher will assist and advise each team and conduct research in support of the
community’s needs and goals.

Georgia Smart is the first program of its kind in the United States, bringing together an
unprecedented coalition of university, industry, and public sector partners to support local
governments in adopting cutting-edge technologies in their communities. The program is also
unique in that it extends beyond large cities to smaller communities whose voices have not been
as prominent in smart community development and who may not have access to technology

“We’ve spent the past year in workshops and dialogue with local governments across Georgia to
better understand their challenges and priorities. From these communications, we developed a
program that is sensitive to the local context while fast-tracking smart communities. We aim to
create more models for smart development that can be shared and applied across the state and
beyond,” said Debra Lam, managing director, Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation at Georgia

Georgia Smart is seeking proposals in the areas of smart mobility and smart resilience. Each of
the four winning teams will receive direct grant funding of up to $50,000, as well as additional
funds for research and technical assistance with a required local match. Georgia Tech and its
partners will then work with the winning teams throughout the year on implementing their
proposals, creating four testbeds of smart community development.

Follow this link for more information.

Clinch County Community Assessment

Across the nation, rural areas are facing challenges associated with shifts in demographic and economic trends. The most successful rural areas are those that are addressing their specific issues head-on. Clinch County is a rural county located in the southeastern part of Georgia with a population of approximately 6,800 people. Despite its small size, the county has an active and engaged development authority whose goal is straightforward — Grow Clinch. Over the past few years, the development authority has demonstrated its commitment to growing Clinch by hiring their first executive director and increasing their programming and activities. Using this momentum, the development authority requested a community assessment from Georgia Tech as part of EI2’s Economic Development Research Program (EDRP). The Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) developed a process to help Clinch County facilitate economic growth as effectively as possible.

At the onset of the project, CEDR conducted a review of existing documents, research reports, and work agendas relevant to Clinch County’s recent economic development initiatives, community planning, and visioning efforts. CEDR also gathered and analyzed secondary information on demographics, educational levels, housing characteristics, and income in an effort to understand the dynamics of Clinch County’s local economy. During the spring of 2016, CEDR’s economic development professionals traveled to Clinch County to conduct confidential one-on-one interviews with local stakeholders. CEDR staff also conducted confidential phone interviews with state and regional partners of Clinch County. Information collected in the local stakeholder and external partner interviews was synthesized to complete a SWOT analysis of Clinch County. Using findings from the SWOT analysis and secondary data collected, researchers identified and defined a group of industry segments for the county’s business attraction efforts.

Researchers provided recommendations to the Clinch County Development Authority (CCDA) derived from findings from the data collected, insights gained during the community and state partner interviews, and the target industry analysis. CEDR considered the following four characteristics as essential elements needed for inclusion in the recommendations:

  • broad base of community support,
  • data analysis pointing to existing gaps/needs,
  • tied to long-term community goals, and
  • impacts Clinch County’s economic development goal to “maintain a long-term sustainable and diverse economic base.”

Recommendations were grouped into seven overarching areas:

  1. workforce development,
  2. economic development product,
  3. support for existing business,
  4. cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in the community,
  5. marketing,
  6. partnerships, and
  7. targeted business attraction.

Though the goals of this research project did not include a strategic plan with implementation guidelines, the recommendations and actions offered will help to enhance and strengthen the work of the CCDA. The assessment concluded that the development authority would need to continue brainstorming and collaborating with local partners so that its programs and activities are instilled with local knowledge.

For project-related questions, contact:
Candice McKie
Phone: 404-385-2053| Fax: 404-410-6910
Email: ude.hcetag.etavonninull@eikcm.ecidnac

IMCP Communities Present at Regional Studies Association North American Conference

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) community representatives from across the country converged for a manufacturing-focused panel at the Regional Studies Association North American conference, which was held on June 16th at the Historic Academy of Medicine in Midtown Atlanta.  The conference was themed, “Cities and Regions: Managing Growth and Change”.  Building on this theme, the panel centered the discussion on “Regional Collaboration for Effective Economic Development Manufacturing Strategies: IMCP Communities”.

IMCP is one of the White House Administration’s main programs to support job creation and accelerate manufacturing growth by transforming their industrial ecosystems into globally-competitive manufacturing hubs.  Administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, IMCP does this by leveraging federal resources from across key government agencies with priority projects that IMCP communities identify for their key industry sectors.


Map courtesy of the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development

All of the panelists who presented at the RSA session work directly with communities and regions in a collaborative capacity to enhance manufacturing ecosystems across six key areas:

1) workforce and training;
2) supplier networks;
3) research and innovation;
4) infrastructure and site development;
5) trade and international access; and
6) operational improvement and capital access.

This integrated approach has helped regions across the country identify gaps in the current manufacturing ecosystem, develop strategies to improve the climate for jobs and investment, and create strong and committed partnership networks to implement those strategies.  Panelists shared their experiences – best practices, lessons learned, and practical advice – on how to build a strong manufacturing ecosystem and influence regional policy using collaboration and partnerships generated through the IMCP program.

Panelists for the session included:

  • Deepak Bahl, Program Director, USC Center for Economic Development and adjunct associate professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy.  Deepak also helps manage the AMP SoCal IMCP.
  • Debra Franklin, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Wichita State University, WSU Ventures.  Debbie also manages the South Kansas IMCP.
  • Erin Ketelle, Economic Development Program Manager at University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service, and TN’s DRIVE for the Future IMCP.
  • Julie Wenah, Counselor and Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.  Julie leads the White House National Economic Council initiative that currently supports 24 communities across the country, aka IMCP.

The panel was moderated by Leigh Hopkins with the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR).  Leigh also co-manages the Northwest Georgia IMCP with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission for the 15-county northwest Georgia region.


The panelists tour ATDC during their Atlanta visit. From left to right: Leigh Hopkins, Julie Wenah, Erin Ketelle, Debra Franklin, Johanna Kaiser (ATDC) and Deepak Bahl. 

The Regional Studies Association provides a platform for researchers to address the effects of policy, organizational, and institutional innovations and their impact on work, identity, governance, production networks, infrastructure investments, technology diffusion, and place.  The annual North American conference was co-organized by Dr. Jennifer Clark with the Center for Urban Innovation at Georgia Tech.  The conference focused on the regional policy implications of emerging forms of governance and policy delivery relative to uneven development and inequality of market liberalization, financialization, and global competition in an era of recovering financial markets.  It also included a tour of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a technology business incubator in the heart of Tech Square.

For questions, contact:
Leigh Hopkins, AICP
Phone: 404-894-0933 | Fax: 404-410-6910
Email: ude.hcetag.etavonninull@snikpoh.hgiel

2016 EDA National Conference Report

Representatives from Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute descended upon Washington DC for the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) 2016 National Conference, April 7th – 8th.  After an opening keynote by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, Jay Williams, panel sessions that followed included the role of universities in economic development (a discussion on the EDA University Center program), scaling a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and  attracting young professionals to cities, and bridging the gap between economic development and workforce.


CEDR’s Leigh Hopkins presented on a panel that discussed “Partnerships that Drive Results in Advanced Manufacturing”.  Representing the northwest Georgia region, Hopkins, along with panelists from EDA-designated Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership (IMCP) communities from Maine, Minnesota, Connecticut, Oregon, and Pennsylvania described the challenges and lessons learned – from getting industry competitors around the same table to discuss issues important to their industry, making changes in technical education, elevating a traditional industry sector in the state, to organizing rural communities to apply for federal funding assistance.  It was evident at the conference that EDA is focusing its efforts moving forward on creating regional partnerships, understanding best practices for innovation, and creating workforce development strategies for a new generation of workers in manufacturing and other key industries that will help companies fill the gap in their knowledge and talent pipelines, now and as the pool of retired workers swells in the next five to ten years.

For questions, contact:
Leigh Hopkins, AICP
Phone: 404-894-0933 | Fax: 404-410-6910
Email: ude.hcetag.etavonninull@snikpoh.hgiel

Investing in Manufacturing Communities in Northwest Georgia

The Center for Economic Development Research at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) continues to play a critical role in the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative in northwest Georgia.

Northwest Georgia is home to the largest concentration of floor covering manufacturers in the world, and boasts production of more than 70 percent of the world’s total floor covering output, valued at over $9 billion. In September 2013, EI2 and the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NWGRC) were awarded an $85,000 challenge grant through the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) IMCP initiative to develop a comprehensive strategy focused on advanced manufacturing in the floor covering industry in the 15-county northwest Georgia region.

IMCP is a White House administration-wide initiative that is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and help cultivate an environment for businesses to create well-paying manufacturing jobs in regions across the country. IMCP supports the President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, launched in 2011, and is a critical component of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which prioritizes trade and investment.

EI2 led the creation of an “Advanced Manufacturing Strategy” for the 15-county Northwest Georgia region, as well as the successful application to become an EDA-designated Manufacturing Community during EDA’s first round of designations in 2014. Since 2014, EI2 has continued to provide implementation services under the Manufacturing Community designation in partnership with the NWGRC that have led to such notable results including the creation of an Advanced Manufacturing Academy at the Northwest Georgia College and Career Academy (part of the Technical College System of Georgia), selection into the Aspen Institute’s “Communities That Work Partnership” workforce development program, a statewide apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor, a new regional inland port in Murray County with the Georgia Ports Authority, a post-consumer carpet recycling technology pilot program in Dalton, and a veteran’s hiring program for transitioning military through Georgia Tech’s VET2 program.

Visit the initiative’s website:







For more information, contact:

Leigh Hopkins, AICP
Sr. Project Manager