GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton told the Young Gamechangers that Georgia’s cities need their ideas.
In January, GeorgiaForward kicked off its second annual Young Gamechangers program in Dublin convening 34 of the state’s most promising young leaders, with the goal of helping the community “re-vision’” itself as a vibrant 21st century community.
Last year, the Young Gamechangers were in Americus and Sumter County. Dublin/Laurens County was chosen as this year’s area of focus.
“Dublin’s application rose to the top because of their community’s partnerships and participation as a community,” said New Town Macon’s Kris Hattaway, a 2013 Young Gamechanger and this year’s Young Gamechanger program director. “They have a can-do attitude, are constantly striving to stay ahead of the curve and genuinely try to work as a team for the betterment of Dublin and Laurens County.”
Georgia Forward Executive Director Howard Franklin described the Dublin area as on the precipice of monumental changes.
“Dublin offers challenges that can be creatively approached by the state’s next generation of leaders,” he said. “Our participants’ careers span arts and culture,business, finance, education, non-profit, government, law, urban planning and economic development. They have plenty to offer Georgia and Dublin, Laurens County — and that community’s leadership has welcomed the program with open arms.”
While GeorgiaForward has assembled leaders of all stripes over the last four years to explore solutions for the state’s most vexing problems, Franklin called Young Gamechangers one of the organization’s most exciting programs.
“It is giving young people the tools and opportunity to solve similar problems in different communities,” he said. “In addition to seeing some of those proposals take shape in Dublin/Laurens, we are developing the Gamechangers program into an incubator of great leaders and best practices.”
GMA is one of the sponsors of the program. GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton said the Young Gamechangers program fits with GMA’s effort to enhance municipal governments.
“We like that the program has a focus on cities,” he said. “We believe cities can serve as leaders in bringing about improvements to their surrounding communities and to the state.”
During their two-day stay in Dublin, the Young Gamechangers got to know one another, heard from a panel of local leaders and toured the area’s downtown and industrial areas. The group was divided into three sub-groups with each given a topic of focus — downtown revitalization, gateways into Dublin and attracting retirees through industry. The groups will tackle their topics over the next six months.
“Each group will work virtually to brainstorm their best 10 big ideas between now and April 4 where they will physically meet in Dublin,” explained Hattaway. “In April, the groups will have a chance to share their ideas and call on community leaders as needed. They will then narrow those big ideas down to their best three ideas that have been fully flushed out. Those will be presented to the public at Theatre Dublin on June 20.”
The Young Gamechangers, each under the age of 40, said they were excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the challenge ahead. They decided to lend their time and talents to the program for varied reasons.
As Grants Manager for the Foundations & Endowments Specialty Practice at SunTrust Bank, Emily Patteson got to observe the results from the 2013 program since one of the foundation’s clients was involved.
“There were creative ideas last year’s Young Gamechangers brought to Americus,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of that. The program does great work to help communities that don’t necessarily have the same assets as do big cities like Atlanta.”
Emily Haar, a program manager in the transportation department of the Midtown Alliance, said after being a life-long resident of Atlanta, she “wanted to work on economic development in a smaller community.”
Macon-Bibb County Public Affairs Manager Chris Floore wanted to learn from another mid-size city in Georgia.
“I also wanted to network with other young professionals in an environment where we can learn from one another,” he said.
Hattaway said the aim of the program is to provide out-of-the-box recommendations to Dublin and Laurens County.
“We hope these recommendations can be used by other communities around the state as well,” she said.
“After this six month process, these 34 participants will have working relationships with peers in various parts of our state in a variety of fields. Bringing these people together as they climb their career ladders will hopefully strengthen the unity of our state in some small way.”