By: Tia Lynn Lecorchick
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) designated Madison a PlanFirst Community, which recognizes a community’s “hard work and successful comprehensive plan implementation. Madison’s inclusion in the department’s program will provide access to a number of incentives and opportunities. Madison is one of 10 communities statewide to receive the title. “Good planning by local communities is the hallmark of economic growth,” said Gretchen Corbin, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. “These are communities that can serve as statewide models for others in how to actively and strategically implement a vision for the future.” Brian Johnson, Director in the Office of Planning & Environmental Management for Georgia Department of Community Affairs sent word of the Madison’s award and acceptance into the program. “I commend you on your efforts that have led to this prominent designation. Madison will be recognized across the State of Georgia as a community that possesses a vision of its future and maintains an active strategy for implementing that vision. We are looking forward to working with pertinent staff in the coming years as we identify other communities that have demonstrated success in great community planning. Adriane Wood from the DCA Office of Planning and Environmental Management will be contacting you to secure a date for us to meet with you,” said Johnson. “This is a well-deserved acknowledgement of successful planning. We look forward to honoring your achievement.” A PlanFirst designation last for three years. Madison’s term will begin January 1, 2015 and end on December 31, 2018. “We are thrilled,” said Callahan. “There is an overall benefit for three years, meaning that any state programs that they offer, we get preferential treatment. We aren’t guaranteed or promised anything, but we will be offered lower interest rates on loans and get extra points toward grant applications and things like that.” “It’s a carrot—a reward system—for implementing good planning practices. This is an incentive program for communities doing things well to encourage them to continue doing things well,” added Callahan. “It is quite the honor to be recognized for all the hard work and successful comprehensive plan implementation efforts over many years,” said Brian Johnson of the GDCA. According to the GDCA, “The PlanFirst program received 30 applications in its inaugural year. Eligible communities were required to address four primary program criteria focused on having a proven record of plan implementation success: goals, leadership, community participation, and implementation. The designation will…enable these communities to take advantage of various incentives that include public visibility, eligibility for funding, and certain reduced interest loans.” The GDCA will make an appearance at a council meeting within the next few months to present all the information surrounding the “rewards and responsibilities” that accompany a PlanFirst designation. Incentives include: Statewide recognition for community achievement, use of the PlanFirst logo (currently in development), two PlanFirst Community awards indicating dates of designation, Annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application eligibility, bonus points on applications for DCA programs as Employment Incentive Program (EIP), Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund (DDRLF) and Redevelopment Fund, access to a reduced interest rate on certain Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) state loans, and free attendance at the DCA Community Planning Institute events. The GDCA is planning to present Madison with the PlanFirst award at the State Capitol on January 28, 2015.