By Bob Ross and Trey Ragsdale
Even though Thanksgiving was last month, we are especially thankful this month for the efforts of more than 225 diverse citizens who stepped up to serve Fayette County in a unique capacity.
They participated in a variety of activities to launch a process that will span the next six months to define a Fayette County vision and accompanying implementation plan.
Our consulting partner, Market Street Services, formally kicked off the visioning process in several meetings at the Dolce Atlanta-Peachtree Conference Center with presentations to the steering committee and a broad cross-section of community leadership.
Market Street CEO Mac Holladay described our future, in part, with an Albert Einstein observation that “Life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving.” And Fayette County is moving … together, as a community.
Holladay discussed economic realities of the recession, details of the visioning process, and how everyone can engage in that process. Holladay and his very involved team have begun the in-person research. Two Market Street team members spent seven hours last month touring our county and more than 25 hours last week in one-on-one and small group meetings.
Market Street conducted nearly 20 in-depth interviews over three days, and also moderated ten focus groups composed of 9 – 15 diverse Fayette County citizens suggested by steering committee members and by members of the community. Focus group participants included representatives from public education, small businesses, large employers, seniors, community services, high school students, young professionals and recreational and cultural arts.
Participation was lively, informative and insightful. The parent of one student participant later emailed, “I just wanted to let you know that [our son] found the session today very interesting. How great for these teens to have had the opportunity to participate in the visioning process for Fayette County!”
Recognizing the benefit to its almost 30,000 Fayette County residential and business members, Coweta-Fayette EMC provided some initial funding to launch the effort, with additional early financial contributions from Georgia Power and Kaiser-Permanente. The list of other individuals, businesses, and governments who have indicated their interest in providing needed support over the coming months continues to grow.
Other community members eagerly stepped up last week, too: the Dolce Atlanta-Peachtree Conference Center, NCR Corporation, the Fayette County Library, Fayette Senior Services and Clayton State University eagerly hosted meetings in their facilities, while Panera Bread in Peachtree City and Atlanta Bread Company in Fayetteville graciously donated refreshments for the various gatherings.
Additionally, the Fayette Development Authority and the Fayette Chamber of Commerce have contributed countless hours of staff time, facilities and administrative supplies to the effort.
Moving forward, the visioning process relies heavily on quantitative data, such as census data, economic indicators, and the like. Market Street is comparing Fayette County with three other counties we selected — Hanover, Va. (think Richmond), Forsyth, Ga., and Williamson County, Tenn. From that analysis, we expect to learn about some best practices we may want to customize to achieve goals set through the visioning process.
Early next year, Market Street will present their analyses, conclusions and recommendations, which the steering committee will use to develop a vision statement. The more people that participate now, the more inclusive and comprehensive the vision and implementation plan will be.
Everyone can (and should!) participate and give your insights; visit www.FayetteVision.org before Dec. 31, 2013 for a link to an online survey and urge your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to do likewise.
[Bob Ross and Trey Ragsdale are co-chairs of the Fayette Visioning Initiative Steering Committee.]