“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Turns out that Helen Keller really knew what she was talking about.
Yes, Georgia’s cities have physical borders. But those city limits are purely metaphorical in terms of getting things done to benefit citizens and communities. Indeed, the most successful cities have managers, planners and elected officials who understand and appreciate how important partnerships with other cities, state and federal organizations, businesses and authorities truly are.
Here are two examples of Georgia’s cities that have achieved extra success, because they weren’t afraid to collaborate with other entities.
When the federal and state governments issued a call for next-level Census efforts, the cities of Centerville, Perry and Warner Robins answered with serious intention. The trio formed the Houston County Complete Count Committee in 2019 to prepare an action plan for the 2020 Census. The goal is to achieve the highest response rate possible for the entire county.
“An accurate, complete count during Census really ensures that we get the funding to match our jurisdiction,” explained Kate Hogan, director of economic development for the city of Centerville.
The effort is clipping along at a nice rate, with a press time response rate of 64.6 percent, compared with 2010’s final count of 66.2 percent. With a deadline of Oct. 31 (due to the impact of COVID-19), there’s plenty of time to see the 2020 number totally eclipse past rates.
The committee achieved such success by bringing together a team composed of all three mayors, as well as representation from the various chambers, jurisdictions, libraries and school systems. The committee developed a strategic plan with actionable items along a timeline from July 2019 to June 2020. The items included efforts to identify hard-to-reach populations and contact them via written postcards. The group also developed a social media strategy and toolkit for non-prof- its and other community partners to use. Of it all, the pièce de résistance was probably a multi-jurisdictional collaborative call-to-action video, which features trust- ed, recognizable voices in the community, as well as a version in Spanish. It has since been used across social media platforms, on television spots and has even been featured on National Public Radio.
Indeed, the committee’s early-bird attitude ended up serving them well during the COVID-19 pandemic, because although this unexpected curveball necessitated some adjustments, they were able to pivot to a stronger online campaign. Currently, Houston County leads Middle Georgia for the highest response rate.
Hogan advises others looking to establish similar committees to get the ball rolling as early as possible and recruit anyone and everyone who wants to participate.
“We enjoyed such a strong fellowship. Everybody felt heard and had something to bring to the table,” she said. “Even just educating them to take it back to their organization was so worthwhile. Because of that we just got so many trusted voices in the community involved.”
Bringing Nashville and Berrien County into 2020
Everyone can use a makeover from time to time. For the historic South Georgia city of Nashville, however, the recent rebranding effort is about more than just a new logo and catchy slogan. “It’s about hope, inspiration and change,” said Jill Wise, Main Street director for the city of Nashville.
To achieve that level of inspiration required a good deal of coordination. Fortunately, Nashville already enjoys existing partner relationships with both the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Rural Center. The trio formed a committee of business owners within the city and county. Next, they advertised and held three community meetings, open to all residents.
“We wanted to know people’s true vision, good and bad,” Wise said. “Working with the citizens, them knowing their opinion mattered...it made a huge difference in our community.”
Based on feedback, they realized the overhaul should communicate a strong sense of unity, community, stability and pride. Eloise Design Company took on the challenge and developed sharp, yet charming new taglines and logos for the county, city and the Nashville Farmers Market, which is the cornerstone of downtown. The transition is part of a five-year plan, but key signage is already being replaced, to great acclaim.
“The designs elicit all of the emotions,” Wise reflected. “I’m very proud to live here.”