MAY 8, 2017 — City Hall in downtown Fort Gaines, Ga. Ten years ago, Clay County was doing well. Unemployment was low. But today the county has the highest unemployment rate in the state and no longer even has its own high school. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Research center proposed to boost rural Georgia businesses

A government organization could be created to help rebuild the economies of rural Georgia communities, according to legislation introduced this week.

The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would identify business opportunities, create community plans, provide assistance to various industries and help coordination with nonprofit organizations.

State Rep. Jason Shaw, the sponsor of House Bill 951, said Georgia’s growth needs to spread beyond metro Atlanta.

Stacey Abrams is running for governor.

“Rural Georgia has not seen the same level of economic prosperity,” said Shaw, R-Lakeland. “The Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation would provide a central location for research and information on rural development, which is crucial to enhancing economic opportunities.”

The center was a recommendation of the House Rural Development Council, which also is seeking to expand internet access and improve health care services.

The center would be located within a college or institution of the University System of Georgia, possibly at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.

The latest version of the state’s proposed budget, which is pending in the Senate, includes $25,000 to fund the center. The House version of the budget sought to appropriate $75,000 for the center.

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