Greater Columbus is a much different place than it was in 1970, or in 2000 for that matter. The textile industry, once the economic engine of the region, has declined from tens of thousands of jobs to less than 500 today. Over this same period, the region saw the rise of major financial and technology companies -- like Synovus, TSYS and Aflac -- as well as new high-tech manufacturers, which have become the new drivers of our economy.
This transformation didn't happen by accident: it was the result of a committed group of business and civic leaders who understood the need to work collaboratively and deliberately to manage this change.
Today, we see a similar transformation in our economy and recognize that in order for our region to compete in the future for jobs and investment we need a comprehensive and holistic approach to economic development. That it is why, with the help of public, private, civic and community leaders, we undertook a strategic planning effort last year called the Regional Prosperity Initiative.
The 10-month long project is designed to realign and refocus our collective community and economic development efforts. Our mission is simple: to position Greater Columbus for the jobs and talent for the next decade and beyond.
The plan's guiding principles are focused on increasing prosperity, reducing poverty and improving quality of life in Greater Columbus. This will be accomplished by looking at five areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: encouraging a talented and educated people; targeting our economic development efforts; developing an enterprising culture; enhancing vibrant and connected places; and developing a cohesive image and identity.
Make no mistake about it: much work lies ahead. But I believe we are off to a great start in once again transforming our region's economy.
William P. Murphy
Executive Vice President, Economic Development
Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce
We are fortunate in Muscogee County to have our public libraries. Our relationship with the Muscogee County School District goes back for decades and that arrangement creates world-class potential for the service we provide for residents.
In the past week, we've received some great local and national coverage for our efforts to serve Muscogee County better. This includes the "Guys Read" program. Programs like these wouldn't be possible without the support from the two other groups who support the library as well: The Muscogee County Library Foundation and the Muscogee County Friends of the Library. Both are vital to our success.
The Friends raise funds through memberships, book sales, and through their used bookstores at each library. The Friends serve as administrators for grants which require a 501c3 IRS designation, and support us with efforts in programming, staff development, and in many other ways. Daily, we couldn't operate without the Friends support.
Our Library Foundation's role is to raise private funds to supplement our overall budget, through their endowment with the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley. These funds help us buy more books, hire more staff, and operate at a higher level than we'd be able to otherwise with only public funds. Additionally, other fundraisers from the Foundation, including the Annual Campaign and Wine, Women, and Shoes, augment our current operating budget.
In the case of "Guys Read," our Children's Librarian position is covered by the Foundation, and the Friends support wrap-up celebrations with food and prizes that we'd not be able to cover with government funds. There are many examples of how both organizations help us help our community. Both organizations are critical to our success. Both organizations are worthy of support.
Director, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries
Swim center circus
I have written to the paper previously about the Columbus Aquatic Center. The problem which seems to never go away is the cost of operating the center for the full 89 hour schedule, or having to cut that time frame in half due to budgeting restraints.
The bottom line, and what appears to be the council's stubborn opinion, is the city has no money available, and therefore passes the buck back to Parks and Recreation Director James Worsley. Mr. Worsley was scolded to put together a plan, which he did, and returned to council. The next act in this comedy was that not enough councilors were present to have a quorum, and the mayor promptly adjourned the meeting.
Why is one of Columbus's shining stars experiencing so many problems? The center has been a success as far as its needs and uses, but has been underfunded since it was built, and Parks and Recreation employees have worked their tails off to insure the center continues to thrive. I read that another private company has given council a proposal, but again that number is higher than council budgeted.
Why build an aquatic center if the city had no idea how much it was going to cost to operate it? The sad thing is it seems everything is in line for a wonderful asset to our city, but our city's leaders aren't interested. The list of problems piling higher and higher all seem to have a common denominator, Mayor Tomlinson.