By Patrick Yost
State legislatures toured parts of Madison last week as part of an effort by the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce to showcase the development of the community.
Nine members from the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, including State House Representative Dave Belton, gathered for a luncheon at Farmview Market to listen to various presentations about recent and upcoming examples of economic development happening throughout Morgan County.
“The tour last week, just like the many visits before, was exclaimed by everyone as the best one they’ve been on. People are so impressed by the spirit of cooperation between the cities and the county and the schools, and at the innovative way we are bringing prosperity to our villages all while maintaining our beauty and our rural identity. They also loved the way we embrace Agri-tourism to in so many creative ways,” said Belton.
According to Bob Hughes, president of the Madison Morgan Chamber of Commerce, the legislative representatives were briefed about the local tourism industry, the Urban Redevelopment project in Madison, the revitalization of Town Park, the Mannington Mills expansion, the opening of Farmview Market, and the coming Georgia Safari Conservation Park (GSCP) project.
“This was a familiarization tour,” said Hughes. “It was the perfect opportunity to bring our legislators up to speed on what’s happening in our community.”
Hughes also took the committee on guided tours through some of Madison’s historical homes, sites around downtown Madison, and finally, through the GSCP land.
“They just loved it,” said Hughes. According to Hughes, the committee was excited about the potential of the zoo.
“They want to come back and do some follow-up studies on the potential economic impact the zoo could have, not just for our city and county, but for the entire state and region,” said Hughes.
Bill Killmer, chief executive, gave a presentation to legislatures about his vision for GSCP and timeline for opening.
“We always appreciate the opportunity to talk to elected officials from across the state about our project and the exciting things that are happening in Madison and Morgan County. A big thank you to our Representative Dave Belton for helping to make this possible,” said Killmer. “We have finalized the complete master plan and are now focusing on financing. Phase one will include a world class Safari Park, education facilities, giraffe feeding station and exhibits. When fully developed the project will include treetop lodging, glamorous camping, meeting and event facilities, restaurants, a night safari experience and additional exhibits.”
“If everything goes as planned, they should open sometime in 2018,” added Hughes.
The meeting with state legislatures was part of a proactive attempt to keep Morgan County on lawmakers’ radar.
“It was a good opportunity for us to showcase what we are doing and also to get our faces in front of the legislators so that if down the stream we need to look for some legislative assistance, they will at least be familiar in what we are trying to accomplish,” explained Hughes. “We want to keep them involved because I believe we are going to continue to grow, but we are going to grow smart.”