Billy Webster (far left), Putnam Development Authority Director Terry Schwindler (center) and PDA Board Member Eugene Smith (far right), discuss the strategic plan at a steering committee meeting.

Includes additional lodging, workforce support

Compiled by Shannon Sneed
The Eatonton Messenger
March 15, 2018

 

 

After a year of goal setting, in collab­oration with Middle Georgia Regional Commission and a steering committee made up of several local investors, the Putnam Development Authority adopted a five-year strategic plan March 12.

Serving to inform PDA decision-mak­ing efforts in the coming years by pro­viding guidance to board members, the plan calls for improving available workforce to meet the needs of existing and future industry.

The committee, which included the PDA, Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce, Eaton­ton-Putnam Water and Sewer Authority representatives, as well as business owners and residents of the community, suggested providing training opportunities to the existing workforce by developing specific curriculums in conjunction with the Putnam County Charter School System and Central Georgia Technical College. Investment in appren­ticeship, internship and work-based learning opportunities were also suggested.

Tytan Pictures CEO Jim Stone, also a member of the steering committee, shared information with other committee members including goals for the future of film in Putnam County, particu­larly that of a vocational school for the arts.

The art-focused school would provide training for crews, craft services, carpenters, painters and other positions. It would also serve as a career pathway program that students could begin early in their educational careers.

According to Georgia.org, the entertainment industry in Georgia is booming. In 2016, the “film and television industries in Georgia generated more than $7 billion.” Furthermore, in early 2017, Georgia was named the top filming location world­wide — surpassing the United Kingdom, Canada and California. The strategic plan states that the PDA feels it is necessary to capitalize on the state’s reputa­tion by building up the existing film industry within the County while working to attract new film companies.

Putnam County is designated as a Camera-Ready community, so the committee suggested working to ensure the workforce is Camera-Ready and encourag­ing landowners to list their prop­erties with the state film office.

The plan also calls for the promotion of tourism expansion opportunities throughout the community, including collabo­rating with the board of com­missioners in the expansion of Oconee Springs Park.

Currently, OSP encompasses 12 acres along Lake Sinclair and provides a plethora of outdoor recreational activities, and lodging amenities are available at the facility including cabins and camper space for recreational vehicles.

Since the weather in the spring, summer and fall are ample to partake in the main activities available, the cabins and camper spaces are often filled to capacity.

The planning committee noticed the need to expand upon the availability of acreage to increase recreational opportuni­ties and rental space for lodging.

It was also decided the PDA should collaborate with the BOC in the expansion of recreation and sport tournaments.

Presently, the Putnam County Recreation Department has three fields to host baseball and softball tournaments and one gymnasium for basketball tour­naments with all of the amenities needed and recreation depart­ment staff is working with many statewide partners to host nearly 10 tournaments a year.

With the paving of a parking lot, addition of restrooms, purchase of additional proper­ties and expansion of fields, the ability to host additional tour­naments would greatly impact the economic growth of Putnam County.

The committee found a need to expand marketing efforts to attract visitors to Putnam County and downtown Eatonton.

Putnam County has many events and facilities to attract visitors to the area, including The Plaza Arts Center, Uncle Remus Golf Course and Uncle Remus Museum, Georgia Writers Museum and Briar Patch Trail Park; and throughout the year, many community events are held, including Easter egg hunts, the Christmas Bazaar, golf tournaments, Dairy Festival and outdoor concerts, with the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce and Eatonton Main Street completing much of the advertising and publicity for these events.

The planning committee addressed the need to further publicize the local facilities throughout the community that provide cultural, historical and recreational opportunities for visitors.

The plan notes that according to the study, many of the visitors coming to Putnam County are commuting for recreational opportunities and community events.

Currently, there is only one hotel in the county for visitors along Lake Oconee and within the city limits of Eatonton, there are only two motels. There is so much to attract visitors to Putnam County; however, there is very little regarding accommoda­tions to encourage them to stay overnight.

The planning committee addressed the need for the PDA to assist with the search of possible hotels for the area and identify the perfect location for the types of visitors they wish to attract.