CONTRIBUTOR’S VIEW: Keys to progress

Published 11:10 am Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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By: Jim Thornton

Partnerships and collaboration are often the keys to progress. The inability of one individual or organization to solve systemic problems can often be attributed to the difficulty of seeing a problem from differing perspectives.

For example, if a community is falling behind or is being left out, there are usually multiple factors.

In LaGrange, there has been an upswing in growth and development over the past few years.

You can see this growth downtown, or at the various interstate interchange areas, or in some of the active residential areas of town.

This growth might be overlooked if one focused solely on southeast LaGrange along the Whitesville and Hamilton corridors.

Like other systemic problems, there are multiple factors involved in the lack of growth in that area of town.

The housing stock in that community has been neglected; the unemployment and poverty rates are higher in that area than citywide; and less attention has been given to the area in civic conversations.

Over the years, there has been a lack of public investment in the roads, infrastructure, and public amenities as well.

All of that is changing. 

After years of lobbying efforts by city officials, the Georgia Department of Transportation has finally started buying property for the Hamilton Road widening project, and construction should commence soon.  (City and state partnership)

The LaGrange Housing Authority is redeveloping the Benjamin Harvey Hill Homes (now known as Phoenix), with total redevelopment of the 1950s style apartments into new, modern units and a new linear park. (Housing Authority, US Department of HUD, city, and Callaway Foundation partnership)

Through an Innovative CDBG grant, the city will develop a job training center to teach building trades along the Whitesville corridor and part of the training work will be the redevelopment of several blighted properties.

These blighted properties will become new homes for residents and the trainees will develop job skills that are in high demand. (City, Georgia DCA, West GA Tech, Troup School System, Housing Authority, Jackson Services, and many others in partnership)

The city’s newly unveiled SOUL program will evaluate homes for energy efficiency and invest in necessary improvements to lower their utility bills. If non-utility issues are also discovered, those will be addressed through the “healthy homes initiative.”

The quality and affordability of the housing stock, especially in southeast LaGrange, will be improved for residents through SOUL (a partnership of the city, Groundswell, Southface, the Callaway Foundation, and local businesses).

The city isn’t doing all the work and cannot take all the credit. 

Rather, the city is facilitating the partnerships and collaborations of the government, nonprofit, and private sectors necessary to bring about meaningful and sustainable change to that important area of town.

The rising tide of growth, progress, and development will continue to spread through the community, and all areas of town will benefit.