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City continues push for $3 million award
Update submitted in Americas Best Communities contest
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The team supporting Statesboro’s selection in the America’s Best Communities contest submitted a progress report last week on how it plans to move from quarterfinalist to semi-finalist status in the next round.

Organized by Frontier Communications, The Weather Channel, DISH and CoBank, the competition is intended to spark ideas leading to economic vitality and sustainable growth in the small towns and rural communities served by the sponsor corporations.

Communities with populations ranging from 9,500 to 80,000 were invited to participate, and in April Statesboro was announced as one of 50 quarterfinalists. The city’s application was submitted using the Averitt Center for the Arts’ non-profit status, a competition requirement, with Executive Director Tim Chapman serving as lead contact.

As a quarterfinalist, Statesboro has already won $50,000, which will be used to strengthen the local economy and improve quality of life – and to help reach the contest’s next tier.

“Semi-finalist and finalist rounds will whittle the field, with three winners announced in 2017 claiming first, second and third prizes of $3 million, $2 million and $1 million respectively,” said Jaclyn Cason, general manager of Statesboro’s Frontier Communications of Georgia office.

“This competition is not just telling a story, but helping create one for our community,” she said. “Being in the top 50 is great, but Statesboro likes to be number one. We’re enjoying this contest every step of the way.”

A final submission is due in November, after which 15 semi-finalists will be invited to a January 2016 ceremony announcing eight finalists, each of which will be given $100,000 to execute plans to earn the top $3 million prize.

 “This competition couldn’t have come at a better time for Statesboro,” said team member Mandi Cody, City Director of Planning and Development. “As we continue to plan and execute South Main Street revitalization, the contest dovetails beautifully, helping us promote our vision and drawing attention to our progress. Winnings would hasten our progress considerably.”

Chamber President Phyllis Thompson agreed, noting early successes resulting from the South Main project along with its well-established objectives had to impress judges.

“Entrants were judged for the strength of their vision, their ability to act on it and the ultimate impact they achieve,” she said. “Some communities may have had a ‘plan for a plan,’ but Statesboro is already executing one and can show that it’s working.”

Thompson said each of the last three Community Leadership Conferences highlighted downtown revitalization, and a core team including past Chamber Chairs Darron Burnette and Keely Fennell has met routinely for the last several years to maintain traction on the public-private project.

For the competition, Statesboro outlined the “Blue Mile” vision championed by community leaders including Mayor Jan Moore and then-Georgia Southern president Brooks Keel. The entry proposed using competition winnings to kick-start the streetscape improvement plan.

 “As we approach the half-way mark of the quarterfinalist round, we feel we’ve already scored a number of wins even beyond the chance at the big prize, Mayor Moore said. “As the only candidate community in a state deemed the best in the country for doing business, we’ve earned a lot of attention already from organizations that make or communicate with decision makers in the business arena,” she said.

“As the largest telecommunications company focused on rural America, we recognized the need for and the economic impact of new, strategic investments on the revitalization of small towns and communities across rural America,” said Frontier Communications Executive Chairman Maggie Wilderotter in a news release. “This contest is designed to challenge a community’s brightest and most innovative

thinkers to develop meaningful strategies and plans that will transform their town or city … (and will then) become available as a roadmap for growth for all rural communities across the U.S.”

 

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