Charles B. Rice grew up in Early County, Georgia, and moved away to make his fortune. Upon returning, he was struck by the downtrodden state of the county, and undertook a 50-year visioning effort to turn things around. Recognizing the expansive scope of his challenge, he engaged PlaceMakers to facilitate an economic development visioning process characterized by wide community engagement, master planning, a form-based SmartCode customization, and ongoing guidance in how to implement ambitious efforts in a climate of economic disinvestment.
Early County’s economic decline over the last fifty years had come about through a changing national economic focus from agriculture to technology. In response, PlaceMakers launched an effort to invigorate the local economy by rallying local ownership over their collective future. The foremost challenge was creating a healthy business climate for the county’s respective communities, enhancing quality of life for local residents, and sustaining growth for the future.
This was done through an extensive two-phase charrette process that began with aggressive public engagement and visioning and culminated in an eight day planning charrette on the courthouse square. Revitalization plans were produced for the towns of Blakely, Arlington, Damascus and Jakin, together with the proposed eco-tourism friendly town of New Hilton.