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Commissioners get report from Three Rivers

Economic growth is often discussed locally in terms of a city, the county or even the state, but on Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners had the opportunity to consider the economy at a regional level.

The Troup County’s Board of Commissioners received an update from the Three Rivers Regional Commission on Tuesday, outlining hopes for greater intercounty cooperation in the future to improve jobs and workforce in the region. The Three Rivers Region is made up of Carroll, Heard, Coweta, Meriwether Spalding, Butts, Lamar, Pike, Upson and Troup counties, and despite the diverse nature of the counties included, the possibility of growing together is appetizing for leaders.

“This is something that I think all of the 10 counties can get behind in identifying what we think is our regional identity,” said Kirk Fjelstul, the executive director of the Three Rivers Regional Commission.

The regions were chosen by the governor, and that identity will likely be defined by the region’s strengths and weaknesses, which leaders admit could be difficult to agree on for such a large section of the state.

“It is a very large region, so when you look across Lamar and Coweta County, Carroll County — it is a huge region,” said Patrick Crews, the Troup County Board of Commissioners chairman. “It is kind of diverse, so to me that is kind of the weakness to me in such a large area.”

If those common traits can be determined though. Fjelstul said that it could mean a better future for all of the counties involved.

“The ability for this region to find its identity — what we all have in common — will give us a lot of opportunities,” Fjelstul said. “One of those examples that I gave you that Three Rivers has done is, we know in terms of enhancing its economic competitiveness, developing and enhancing our workforce is one of the key things that we can do for ourselves.”

The Three Rivers regional commission issued a grant to the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce to conduct a workforce study to identify skill sets needed in the region. The final result of the project will be a website that shows specific regional or county job needs and availability.

“It will not just identify your workforce characteristics, but it will be able to identify your strengths and your challenges by industry type,” said. “That will help us all identify where our strengths are in the region, what we need to do better, and it is information that we’ve never had before. We’ve always had to go to the state or to the City of Atlanta to rely on Atlanta statistics, and now we will have that for ourselves in this region. It is something that nobody else in the state has done.”

That information could help counties in efforts to develop a stronger workforce to meet the needs of local industry without having to sift through a large amount of information on larger cities like Atlanta and Columbus. It also makes it more likely that resources for things like the workforce study will remain local as well.

“The good thing about it is the three primary economic engines are LaGrange, Carrolton and Newnan,” Crews said. “When they show the numbers of what has been awarded jobwise and funding, LaGrange and Troup County have been the big winner with that. In that region, we stand out as one of the leaders, and I think that is an advantage for us rather than being included in something like Columbus or metro Atanta.”

Crews told Fjelstul that Troup County is still very interested in an import, export highway between LaGrange and Macon which has been discussed in the past. Fjelstul said that he intended to discuss what the proposed highway with the Georgia Department of Transportation after he is able to confirm what the desired finished project would look like with members of the commission to ensure that everyone is asking for the same thing.

County Commissioner Richard English, LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and Curtis Brown serve on the Three Rivers Regional Commission on behalf of Troup County.

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