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County on target for Archway Partnership

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

All that stands in the way of starting the Archway Partnership Project (APP) in Clayton County is appointing a person to act as a go-between for the University of Georgia and the county, which should happen within the next 30 days, according to Kim Siebert, director of the Clayton County/UGA Cooperative Extension Service.

On Thursday, during the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's monthly Early Bird Breakfast, Siebert spoke to members of the business community at the Oakwood Cafe, located inside the State Farmers Market in Forest Park.

During the meeting, she gave an update on the efforts to leverage the expertise of the entire University System of Georgia for the good of Clayton County and the surrounding area.

"We're in great shape," said Siebert. She said at the end of April, the last of the cities needed to sign the agreement did so, and that the Archway Operations Team at UGA is in the process of interviewing candidates to become the Archway professional assigned to relate the needs of Clayton County back to the university.

"Right now, it's been narrowed down to two or three candidates," said Siebert. In June, the individuals who have passed UGA's interview process will be presented to the Archway Executive Committee.

The committee members will draw from several groups of stake holders, including the Clayton County Board of Education, Board of Health, Board of Commissioners, Chamber of Commerce, Southern Regional Health System, and the general community.

"The community will vet the candidate," said Siebert.

The Archway program was started in July 2005 in Colquitt County, as a way to bring academic solutions to areas faced with the problems caused by rapid growth. Since then, the project has spread to Glynn and Washington counties, with Clayton being the fourth -- and first urban county -- to come under the program.

"Ultimately, we will be a portal for the southern counties, such as Henry County, Pike County, and so on," said Siebert.

Members of the metro Atlanta business community, some of whom had never heard of the Archway Project until Thursday, look forward to the positive effects the project may have on the Southern Crescent.

"Anything that is going to help the community down here is going to help other areas of the state," said John Ewing, a treasury sales officer for SunTrust Bank in downtown Atlanta. "Having a program to take that knowledge and spread it out to the community ... I think it's a fabulous idea."

"We can all benefit from the vast resources it will bring," said Dawana Manning, branch manager of Gateway Mortgage Group in Stockbridge. "I like the fact that they are involving the people of the community, who will have their hand on the pulse of what is going on. That is going to help on so many levels in helping the people here be receptive of receiving the information."

"From a chamber perspective, it gives us the resources we need," said Lacey Ekberg, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce. "It's not just studies or research. I think it will make a big difference in business retention."