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Balancing Nature & Commerce conference highlights natural habitats as economic drivers

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Dan Williams

By Dan Williams, program officer, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Teams from across the state recently gathered in Porterdale, Ga. in Newton County for the Balancing Nature & Commerce for Georgia’s Small Communities conference. The conference is a hands-on workshop about thoughtful and deliberate strategies for community planning and development. The Conservation Fund facilitated the conference which focused on how to transform a community’s natural environment into an economic driver.

Two years ago, a cohort from Porterdale used a grant from the Community Foundation to attend this same conference in West Virginia. They came away so inspired that they used this year’s Community Foundation funding to bring the workshop to Porterdale and benefit cities and communities throughout the state. The grant was made through Spark Newton, a fund established by the Community Foundation specifically to benefit nonprofits in Newton County.

The city of Porterdale took a thoughtful approach to interweaving conservation and community development with a focus on natural habitat, reviving the city core in the process. This work was driven locally, by the people who live, work and thrive there. It’s a great testament to the strength of local input when city leaders and residents alike are empowered to bring an urban planning concept from spark through to fruition.

Teams attending the Porterdale conference represented the richness of our state’s geographical and environmental diversity, from the wild wilderness of the Okefenokee area to the majestic mountains of Rabun County, and many communities in between. Attendees included elected officials, civic leaders and participants representing travel/tourism, economic development and city planning.

The Community Foundation is pleased we could facilitate the connections to make this conference possible. The essence of our Spark local funds is place-based impact. This grant will have impact and return many times over as the teams from across Georgia implement their individual community visions.


Featured image from Wikipedia Creative Commons user Thomson200.

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