24 Jun 2024

Community Visioning: A Case Study

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Welcome to the final segment of our Community Visioning series! So far, we’ve discussed the importance of Community Visioning and Implementing Your Community Vision. In this final part, we will explore how grants can be utilized to help implement specific projects and goals, as was the case with the City of Whigham, and how that aligns with the community’s collective vision.

Grants are direct monetary assistance to an organization undertaking a specific project or program. They fund solutions to identified problems within a community, and funding may come from federal, state, or private resources.

All local governments operate on a finite budget, which means that projects must be prioritized based on available funds, greatest needs, and the greatest impact. Grants can be used as a resource to help fund projects either partially or completely, allowing the local government to get more out of their limited funds and complete a project they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Let’s employ the City of Whigham as a case study to demonstrate how strategic approaches can transform a community’s aspirations into tangible realities.

This past January, the City of Whigham held an educational session for elected officials, city staff, stakeholders, and citizens to discuss the opportunities available to implement a sewer system. The city outlined a great need for sewer system in the community, and the session invited speakers from Electric Cities of Georgia (ECG), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD), and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). The city also invited local, state, and federal partners to participate.

The meeting provided the opportunity for the community to hear ideas from each organization that could be utilized to start the process of implementing a sewer system from scratch. During the session, we learned that the estimated infrastructure cost was around $5 million, which was not feasible. The goal was to strategically use grant programs to help Whigham complete the project over time.

The first step was to utilize the USDA Search Grant to complete preliminary engineering, which does not require a local match, and work with RCAP to write the grant application. As the process began, an opportunity became available to apply for a federal earmark from Congressman Sanford Bishop’s office. With the assistance of Congressman Bishop’s staff, RCAP, and ECG, the City of Whigham submitted a request for $5 million to fund their sewer project.

It is important to note… Each community’s experience with opportunities and timelines will be different. However, every community can follow the same steps of developing a community vision, strategically partnering with stakeholders, and starting implementation.

In May of this year, Whigham was notified that Congressman Bishop had selected their project to move to the next round of review for federal funding. This does not guarantee that the project will be funded, but it is a positive step in the right direction that all started with community visioning, partnerships, and motivation.

Revisiting a shared vision is crucial for maintaining alignment and ensuring long-term success. Economic and Community Development, therefore, is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Leadership plays a vital role in this process, and hard work and dedication are key to continued success, as in the case of the City of Whigham.

Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” There is no time like the present to get started! 

Bonus Pro-tip: 

Did you know that ECG’s Office of Economic and Community Development curates a monthly list of grants and funding opportunities that may meet needs in your community? These resources are designed to help bring your community’s vision to life. Explore our blog page for our current Grants & Funding resources.

If your community needs assistance with visioning or would like to learn more about the visioning process, please contact Jon R. McBrayer, MPA, our Community Development Project Manager.