In 1993, Georgia EMC’s Pat Merritt, then Manager of Community Development, served as a loaned executive to Governor Zell Miller’s Rural Development Council for a year to create and implement a comprehensive training program for elected officials and community leaders in economic development strategies.
The creation process included facilitating representatives from 35 organizations from across the state to develop the initial curriculum. The organizations included: Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA), Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern University, regional commissions, statewide economic developers from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the electric utilities (Georgia EMC, Georgia Power and MEAG), and many local economic development professionals.
The resulting initiative became the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. It was debuted for founding partners, ACCG and GMA as a One Day Introductory Training Program in 1994 and was debuted in Southeast Georgia in the fall of 1994 as a 4-day regional training program.
“My experience of Georgia Academy as a new Executive Director was beneficial. Each month a new topic was discussed that involved community, leadership and economic development. The speakers provided statewide resources and kept the classes interactive. Overall, Georgia Academy provided me with a tool belt of resources and information to implement into our community.”—Mandi Tanner, Executive Director
“The course was a great tutorial for the ‘How To's’ of community development, not only what to do and examples of where success has been achieved, but also how to find funding. I took the course two years ago and still use the materials today, both in the community where I work and where I live.”—Joe Vogt, NA Toll Manufacturing Manager
“Top quality succinct training and professional networking from both a local and regional perspective. Amazing course…well done all around. Relevant to both my day to day operations and community engagement to engage informed economic development efforts and resources in a tangible manner. Both educational and inspiring!”—Don E. Gray, Jr., Director of Facilities Management
“My attending the Economic Development Academy has proven to be an asset to me in my duties as Mayor. The Academy is a great resource not only for newly elected officials but for all Public Servants that want to be an effective leader, and continue their personal growth and development.”—Joyce E. Denson, Mayor
“I believe the Georgia Academy for Economic Development (the Academy) is invaluable to elected officials, community leaders, or anyone interested in building their community. Graduating from the Academy taught me that no matter how much experience a person has they will greatly benefit from this program.”—Len Robbins, Publisher, AIR Publications
“The Georgia Academy of Economic Development is the most beneficial economic development program that I have attended. It opened my eyes to aspects that I had never considered.”—Courtney Umbehant, Mayor
Based upon large gathering (200+ people) facilitated meetings in each of Georgia’s 12 regions in 1993, the Governor’s Development Council (GDC) (a public-private partnership charged with setting Georgia’s economic development policy and the coordination of economic development efforts in the State), recommended the formation of a comprehensive economic development training program for local elected officials.
What became the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, was formed to leverage and coordinate public/private resources in providing elected officials and other community leaders with uniform and comprehensive economic development training in every region of the state.
The Academy is a consortium – a coalition – of public/private economic development organizations at the state, regional, and local levels brought together to develop and deliver the Academy’s programs.
It was seen in 1993 and still today, that the Academy’s greatest strength is building the public/private partnerships required for achieving long term success in community and economic development.
From 1994 to 2008, the Academy was held in two regions per year with the primary facilitators being provided by Georgia EMC and Georgia Power. In 2008, when the state funded the Regional Service Delivery Regions, more resources were dedicated from the two electric utilities and management of the Academy as well as regional recruitment and logistics provided by the Department of Community Affairs Regional Staff.
From 2008 to 2020, the Academy Regional Program has been offered annually in each of Georgia’s 12 service delivery regions. Over 10,000 Georgia leaders have graduated from the Georgia Academy for Economic Development Regional Program. Thousands of elected officials have participated in the One Day Academy, with GMA continuing to utilize the program as the accredited economic development training for municipal elected officials. Today, 26 years later, the primary facilitators continue to be provided by Georgia EMC and Georgia Power with the support of the Regional Resources of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.