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Young Gamechangers Bring Big Ideas to LaGrange on June 2

Topics include Going Green, Attracting Millennials, and Hidden Tourist Attractions

For the last five months 47 of Georgia’s brightest young professionals have researched LaGrange and Troup County history, met with community leaders and stakeholders, toured campuses, manufacturing plants, and neighborhoods in their quest to come up with innovative solutions to some of the area’s most persistent challenges. Their big ideas will be revealed when they present their final recommendations on Friday, June 2 from 2-4 pm at the Del’avant Event Center, 141 Main Street, LaGrange, GA 30240. The event is free and the public and media are invited. If you plan to attend, please RSVP here: georgiaforward.org/young-gamechangers.

“This class of Young Gamechangers is in an interesting situation with their current project,” states Kris Vaughn, Executive Director of GeorgiaForward. “The LaGrange/Troup County area is undergoing amazing growth right now. One of the Young Gamechangers’ tasks is to align their ideas to help increase the area’s momentum. They’ve been working closely with area business and community leaders, who have been extremely welcoming and helpful in the process. I’m excited to hear their big ideas.”

The Young Gamechangers are made up of professionals from across the state between the ages of 24 and 40 who work in diverse sectors including business, law, non-profit, arts and culture, education, finance, politics, tourism, marketing, urban and economic development.

Below are the four challenge questions that the Young Gamechangers have been working on:

  • How can Troup County strengthen the relationship between the local colleges (West Georgia Technical College, LaGrange College, Point University) and the community to encourage and incentivize more students to remain in the community post-graduation?
  • With great industry partners and proximity to excellent engineering schools, how can Troup County become a center for advanced manufacturing and innovative technologies?
  • With The Ray as a catalyst for conversation regarding environmental sustainability, how can Troup County become the greenest community in America?
  • Troup County is home to outstanding tourism assets that currently attract travelers ages 45+. How can the community appeal to more Millennial travelers/tourists?

Here is an introduction to some of the Young Gamechangers with a few sneak previews.

Amy Grantham - DAYBOOKAmy Grantham has been the Real Estate Development Director at DASH for LaGrange, Inc. since 2011. She specializes in residential rehabilitation and new construction. Her experience includes all aspects of project and program management, grant writing, development consulting, and leadership. Under Grantham’s management, her team successfully secured and administered over $3 million grant funds to support housing programs for local governments. She earned her B.A. (07) and M.A.T. (09) degrees from LaGrange College. In 2015, she became a certified Housing Development Finance Professional. She lives with her family in LaGrange, GA.

“We are working on viable solutions to strengthen the area’s relationship with college students,” states Grantham. “I’m a local so I have deep knowledge of resources available, as well as obstacles unique to LaGrange. I think that knowledge is helping me work with my team to create ways to get students out of their ‘bubble,’ and become more connected to the community through volunteering, shopping, working, and entertainment options.”

Casey BethelCasey Bethel is the 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Georgia Department of Education & Douglas County School System. He is a passionate educator, scientist and mentor. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Fort Valley State University and his M.S. in Plant Genetics from the University of Georgia. He tutors elementary and middle schoolers, teaches high school Biology and Physics, and is an Adjunct Professor at a local university. As a scientist, Bethel conducts research in biochemistry at GA Tech, hoping to find cures for Alzheimer’s disease and Inherited Glaucoma. He lives with his family in Douglasville, GA.

“We’re coming up with ideas to position Troup County as a center for advanced manufacturing and innovative technologies,” explains Bethel. “As an educator, I am familiar with the trajectory of students going from high school, to engineering majors in college, then pursuing a career. I know they need to be encouraged and engaged early. One of our concepts is to connect students, as soon as middle school, to area industries in a meaningful way in both their academic life and extra-circular activities. We have some interesting ideas for companies like Kia and Duracell to create opportunities to make this happen.”

Troy ClarkTroy Clark serves with the United States Department of Justice as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Georgia. As a federal prosecutor, Clark leads the investigation and prosecution of various white collar, fraud, public corruption, and child exploitation offenses. He is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Columbia County, and is an active member of the Central Church of Christ. Clark grew up in Marietta and now lives in Augusta, GA.

“We are working on the question about the area’s relationship with college students and retaining them after they graduate,” states Clark. “One of our ideas focuses around ways to create white collar jobs through collaborative spaces in partnership with area businesses.”

“I’m enjoying the Young Gamechangers program because of the emphasis on action,” continues Clark. “Our job is not just to learn, meet people and network. We are working hard to put together a comprehensive plan and resources. This project is for the benefit of LaGrange and Troup County, to enhance the good things that are already happening there.”

Shemeeka JohnsonShemeeka Johnson is Senior Communications Specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development where she manages all external communication and media relations for the Workforce Division. Her most recent accomplishment was the successful execution of the WorkSource Georgia branding campaign, Georgia’s first unified brand associated with its workforce system. Johnson is a graduate of Valdosta State University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Mass Media and an emphasis in Broadcast Journalism. She resides in Smyrna, GA.

“Our team is working on ideas to encourage millennial tourism,” says Shemeeka Johnson. “We are researching existing assets in and around Troup County and proposing new ways to leverage and market them for statewide and regional attention. We’ve also found some secret communities that have explosive potential as tourist attractions. You’ll have to come to our final recommendations to hear more.”

Matthew ForsheeMatt Forshee is the Team Supervisor and Community Development Manager for Georgia Power’s East Region. He is responsible for helping 11 counties around Augusta become economically diverse through new industry recruitment, existing industry expansion, downtown redevelopment, leadership development and community marketing. He serves as the Chairman for the CSRA Workforce Development Board and as a presenter at Georgia Tech’s Economic Development BASIC Program. Matt is a true Georgian: born in Statesboro, and spent his childhood in Dublin, LaGrange, Jesup, Ashburn, Tifton, Gainesville and Athens. He and his wife Allison and their three children live in Evans, GA.

“We are exploring the potential of the 16-mile stretch of highway running through Troup County known as The Ray,” explains Forshee. “Our challenge has been understanding truly what sustainablity is,  then offering ways to apply and implement that on a community level.”

“I think at the end of the day we’ve been brought in for an opportunity to make an impact through our big ideas,” adds Forshee. “I hope the community will embrace some of our recommendations. We can create a spark, but it will be up to the area leadership, businesses and citizens to carry the torch.”

Sponsors for the 2017 Spring Young Gamechangers program includeCommerce Club Foundation, Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Troup County Center for Strategic Planning, LaGrange/Troup County Chamber of Commerce, Troup County Development Authority, Development Authority of LaGrange, Georgia CEO, The Ray C. Anderson Foundation, Georgia EMC, LaQuinta Inn and Suites, West Point Development Authority, LaGrange College, West Georgia Tech/Thinc Academy, Hills & Dales Estate and City of West Point.

GeorgiaForward is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to improve the state of Georgia by engaging business, political, academic and civil leaders to collaboratively shape a statewide policy agenda.  For more information about the Young Gamechangers program and a complete list of the 2017 spring class, visit their web site: http://georgiaforward.org/young-gamechangers.

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MEDIA contact: Karen Hatchett at karen@hatchettpr.com.

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