A committee working to create a community improvement plan for Toccoa and Stephens County releases its summary of a September community input meeting.
â€śToccoa-Stephens County Tomorrowâ€ť is a privately funded effort that is being done in conjunction with the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce and the Fanning Institute from the University of Georgia.
In September, the committee held a community input meeting at the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College that was attended by about 150 people.
This week, the input was put into an Executive Summary and posted on the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerceâ€™s web site.
Toccoa-Stephens County Tomorrow Chairman Barry Roberts said one of the clear priorities is economic development.
â€śEconomic development is at the forefront of everybodyâ€™s mind,â€ť said Roberts. â€śJobs are important. People are ready to see things turn around in Stephens County. One of the things that we saw as we started looking at this information though was that to get to that point, there are several things that we need to do.â€ť
He said one thing that must be in place first is a long-term vision for the community.
â€śWe wanted to take community input and create a long-term vision for Toccoa-Stephens County,â€ť said Roberts. â€śWe are doing that as we speak. We are having a series of meetings and we are using the community input to do that. Once we have done that, what we want to do is hold that vision in front of not only our group, but other leadership groups in the community and in front of the community itself as kind of a beacon so that everybody is pointed in the same direction.â€ť
Another part of that vision is leadership development and Roberts said that the committee wants to work with leadership groups already in place to improve the diversity of the leaders in the community to make sure as many people as possible are represented.
However, Roberts said that Toccoa-Stephens County Tomorrow is not just about creating a long-term vision, but is also about taking on specific projects to help build forward, positive momentum.
He said one of the initial projects that they are looking at is improving communication of community progress.
â€śWe have the media, which does a good job, and we have the Chamber, which communicates things, but it seems like a lot of people do not even understand what we are doing right now because there are a lot of good things going on,â€ť said Roberts. â€śSo as we do even more things that are positive, we want to figure out a way of communicating that to the masses as effectively as we can, so that is one thing we are working on as well.â€ť
Another short-term project, according to Roberts, for the committee, is coming up with an identity for Toccoa-Stephens County.
â€śThat is still something we are talking about,â€ť said Roberts. â€śDifferent people have different thoughts. Currahee, military, is a huge part of that. Tourism is a part of that and the industrial area is a part of that. There are a lot of things out there. We are a lot of different things right now and we may end up being identified as a lot of different things, but right now, we feel like we need an identity. When people think of Toccoa, what do they think of? That is something that we are working on.â€ť
Roberts said the committee also points at litter and blight as something it can help with, as well as serving as an advocate when needed in areas like tourism, workforce education, and land use initiatives.
Roberts said the committee wants to continue to involve the community in the effort, noting that this report is just the first step in a lengthy process.
â€śWhat has happened so far is the same thing that other groups have done every four or five years for the past several years,â€ť said Roberts. â€śWe have not done anything different. All we have done is solicited input, which is a good thing, but it is not really anything different than some of the other groups have done. What we want to do, that will hopefully be different this time, is we want to take these things and push them forward. We want to stick with this for a period of at least three years and hopefully longer and we want to make some positive things happen in this community.â€ť
The executive summary from the September meeting at the Currahee Campus is posted at www.toccoagachamber.com