Butts County, which includes the cities of Jackson, Flovilla and Jenkinsburg, as well as communities such as Indian Springs has applied for and received initial acceptance by the Georgia Department of Economic Development to be the recipient of a Tourism Product Development Resource Team Program. Offered by the GDECD Office of Product Development, the program assists counties, cities and individual tourism partners in giving new life to existing resources as well as identifying and fostering new tourism products within communities. Communities that are selected for the program receive technical assistance and financial resources in the hopes of creating new opportunities and markets for Georgia tourism products through strategic partnerships, packaging and marketing.
Of the 159 counties in Georgia, 21 have so far been selected for this program and have benefitted from the information and assistance provided by the TPD team. Putnam county is the closest one located to Butts County to have been selected for this program since it began in 2009. The team works to evaluate a community’s past, present and potential for tourism growth, seeking to find areas that promote innovative, unique local experiences. As a selectee of the program, Butts County will host a team of experts in tourism and community development who will engage in an in-depth analysis of the community and ultimately provide a full report of recommendations for enhancing our existing tourism product as well as ideas for future product development.
Prior to this, the community will undergo a process that can take anywhere from four to eight months of meetings, preparations, evaluations and identification of resources to be included in the study. The GDECD Regional Project Manager will work with the assigned local project manager, along with a strategic community team actively working to promote tourism product development in Butts County, to achieve these goals.
Locally, the project will be coordinated by the Butts County Office of Government Relations. Michael Brewer, who serves as Director of Government Relations will work closely with the recently developed Local Tourism Committee. The committee formed as a direct result of a strategic planning summit held earlier this year by the Butts County Chamber of Commerce and Partners for Smart Growth. The summit concluded that enriching and developing our existing and potential tourism offerings was a priority that could greatly benefit the entire community, bringing in tourism dollars, enhancing awareness of the community and its many offerings and becoming a destination for people wishing to get out of the urban centers of Atlanta and Macon for rest and relaxation. The committee includes representation of the local governments, state parks, privately owned tourism centers, Jackson Lake and others, and has already held a number of meetings over the past several months. It will seek formal recognition status from the Board of Commissioners in the coming weeks.
All of this will lead up to a site visit by the TPD Resource Team that will last from 2-4 days, intended to showcase potential products and existing assets that can be approved for inclusion in the plan. The team, which can range from 3 to 12 members, will be hosted by the various community partners engaged in this process with the state as they evaluate different areas of potential tourism product that can include:
- Arts and Culture
- Nature and Adventure
- Heritage & Historic Preservation
- Sports and Recreation
- Festivals and Events
- Downtown Redevelopment
- Industrial Tourism
The economic impact to Georgia since the program was begun in 2009 has resulted in millions of dollars of tourism development, ranging from small business ideas to large infrastructure development. Once the team has compiled its report and study, a community-wide presentation is held to show the findings to the community at large and to present recommendations for local leaders to utilize and develop. Ongoing support from the team continues following the presentation of recommendations as we go through the continuing process of tourism development.
“This is both a tremendous honor for our community and an opportunity for us to truly define our role in the many tourism offerings that are available from Butts County to the greater state of Georgia” said Michael Brewer. “We have so much to offer in terms of outdoor recreational activities with Jackson Lake, Indian Springs, Dauset Trails and the Ocmulgee River but there is a lot more than can be explored and developed for tourism potential. Ongoing efforts by the Village at Indian Springs has brought a great deal of attention to our area. Jackson, Flovilla and Jenkinsburg offer historical places to visit, places to eat and things to see, including various annual festivals and events. We have an active Arts Council, Civic Organizations and others working hard to promote their offerings. By putting all of this together, receiving guidance from the State and pulling all of our oars together we can really put ourselves on the map for people looking for things to do and places to see. It’s a win-win for everyone”.