Speaker Ralston Announces North Georgia Office of the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation in Ellijay

(The following is a Press Release from the Office of David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced that the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation has opened a North Georgia Office in Ellijay. The office is located in the Collaboration on River’s Edge (CORE) Building, a workplace innovation space and initiative of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.

“I am proud to welcome the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation to Ellijay and look forward to the good work that will be done to further economic opportunity throughout rural Georgia,” said Speaker David Ralston. “This center is a direct result of the work of the House Rural Development Council and our continuing efforts to ensure prosperity is accessible to all Georgians – regardless of zip code.”

The center, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center, has named Janet Cochran to lead the North Georgia Office. Cochran comes to the center with more than a decade of experience as a project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

“Finding ways to not only maintain but to multiply the economic and cultural vitality present in so many of north Georgia’s small towns and rural communities relies heavily on relationships,” said Dr. David Bridges, Georgia’s Rural Center interim director, “and we know that our presence and personnel there will only improve our ability to facilitate positive outcomes. Janet brings a wealth of experience in managing economic development projects in this region of the state, and we’re excited to have her join our team in this role at the North Georgia Office.”

Headquartered at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.

“Promoting a strong business environment that enhances the quality of our community is not just the chamber’s mission in words, it is behind everything we do. The opening of CORE and the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation is a cornerstone moment in that mission and one that we have worked tirelessly to support and create for many years. I join with our 650 members in celebrating,” remarked John Marshall, Gilmer Chamber Chairman of the Board.

“As chairman of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation it has been our goal as a private, citizen funded organization to help spur economic growth for our community and region. CORE being the home to the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation North Georgia office brings our vision to reality. We look forward to continuing to serve our communities for years to come,” said Kent Sanford, Chairman of the Board.

“Working with Speaker of the House David Ralston and the House leadership to bring the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation North Georgia office to our community will have economic impact to the entire region. We look forward to continuing to work to insure the success of the center and all of our partners within CORE,” remarked Lex Rainey, Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority Chairman of the Board.

Located in Gilmer County, Ellijay is a thriving rural community in the North Georgia mountains, offering a unique blend of southern hospitality and natural beauty. The area leads Georgia in apple production and is a center for agribusiness and agritourism.

For more information about the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, visit http://www.ruralga.org/.


Insurance Leads Discussion at Jasper Council


The Jasper City Council hosted another set of members from the Pickens High School Youth Leadership Program. Six seniors and three Juniors attended the meeting as the Council spoke.

After approving minutes from the February 1st meeting, the council hosted Matt Bidwell, of the MSI Benefits Group, Inc., to speak about the City’s Health Insurance plan. The plan is set to renew with Blue Cross Blue Shield on April 1st unless the Council would change it. While they had budgeted for a 12% increase to insurance, the actual increase Bidwell presented at the meeting amounted to a 13.5% increase after they had plead the case with Blue Cross Blue Shield to drop from 30%.

Bidwell stated they looked at Aetna Insurance as well as the company was able to submit a bid without the entirity of City Employees submiting Health Histories and extra paperwork. However, Aetna would have asked for more than the original 30% increase.

While deliberating the topic, City Clerk Lisa Hoyle said the Council could possibly cover the 1.5% difference between the budgeted 12% and actual 13.5% increase with an “over budgeted” in Liability Coverage the County had. The motion for approval came from Council Member John B. Foust Jr. with the comment that next year he wanted to look into getting all the paperwork from the city employees required for the City to collect more bids.

The Council moved on approving one reduced water/sewer rate application and a read resolution for Section 125 Plan. During the Mayor’s Reports, Economic Development Director Gerry Nechvatal gave updates as the coming Traffic study should be starting by the end of the month and plans are early in process to develop an area near Piedmont Hospital. Plans are hopeful to entice several developments, one specifically being a hotel. Nechvatal himself stated the hotel could be useful as Jasper does not currently have any specific locations for a convention or large meetings and groups.

Another issue was brought up in the meeting as the shop owners on Main Street have been speaking of concerns about parking on Main Street. The problem is said to happen on days that court is in session at the Pickens County Courthouse. Police Chief Greg Lovell stated the City Police are looking to begin writing citations for parking violations in the posted two hour limit locations and are also looking at options including the possibility of a citizen employee to monitor, somewhat similar to a meter-maid you might see in larger cities.


Meeting Financials


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