The Center of the World

I have a limited perspective of this topic. That is, I have only been in Hartwell for nearly two years. So if this statement is controversial, I apologize. I am not certain we do enough to honor our indigenous heritage. The Cherokee Nation considered Hartwell Georgia the Center of the World. Yes, there is a historic marker, but it is barely visible as you fly down Highway 29. I think there used to be a store of some sort, but it has closed. I believe there is great opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion in our community by supporting The Cherokee. I wonder why we don’t? This is something that has been puzzling me for a few months. Maybe I’m wrong and I am just missing something. Cut scene to this year’s Hello Hart Magazine published by The Hartwell Sun. They have a wonderful full page history lesson of The Cherokee, how they interacted with Nancy Hart (the Cherokee called her Wahatchee or War Woman), how Cateechee entered our lexicon, and a description of the trading that took place here at the Center of the World. Personally I am going to do more to recognize our native tribe and the hardships they faced as they were pushed off their lands into Oklahoma. In my professional capacity, I want to organize a Center of the World event. I do not know what that would like yet, but I do know I am going to reach out to the Cherokee Nation for their input and blessing. We as Americans often get bogged down in the quagmire of blame in some of the troubled parts of our history. The Trail of Tears is certainly one of those black marks in our history. Celebrating The Cherokee Nation as an important contributor to our community’s history is a way to overcome some of this troubled past. I take pride in living in the Center of the World, I hope you do to.

Rethinking Housing

Recently, I attended the Georgia Housing Conversation at the Georgia Aquarium sponsored by Georgia Power with members of Hart County’s Chamber of Commerce. Hartwell is not the only community facing housing shortages as industry grows, and it was important to hear from experts in the field about innovative ideas to solve the problems associated with obtainable and workforce housing shortages. This meeting was followed up by Hart County’s Housing Taskforce just a few days later. At this meeting, Dr. Jeffery Dorfman of the University of Georgia, gave a compelling lecture about the realities of creating new housing. This blog will report about what I found most interesting. Dr. Dorfman started his lecture by saying there are three types of economic growth: “1) some growth will come to matter what, 2) some growth will be missed no matter what you do, and 3) there is a middle ground that can be impacted by policy choices…this will decide your fate.” This sentiment was echoed in the Georgia Housing Conversation.

I want to tell you about Cost Burden. HUD defines cost-burdened families as those “who pay more than 30% of their income for housing” and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.” Add in the cost of transportation, getting to and from work, many people are spending 50% of their household income on housing and transportation alone. In my mind, this describes a best case scenario. Many people may have student loan and credit card debt on top of that. This creates incredible strain on personal economies, especially because housing costs are rising as much as 42% while income is increasing at only 10%.

So what do we do? One thing is stop limiting options. Yes, you may not want to live in a duplex or quadplex, but that doesn’t mean somebody else might not want to. The point is allow for zoning that doesn’t restrict options. Another thing could be as simple as reviewing codes and ordinances for outdated restrictions that hinder development. Third, don’t reinvent the wheel. Many solutions exist in “the good ‘ol days” that people often wish for. Cottage courts, granny suites, and guest suites are making a comeback to solve workforce housing problems. Our College and Career academy is turning out high school graduates that are making $20 an hour. Let’s give them a place to live in town so that paycheck stays here too. Fourth, approximately 2000 households are needed to support a vibrant downtown. Walkability to and around downtowns are what baby-boomers, millennials, and Generation Z want, let’s give it to them. This reduces the cost of providing services to the community by the city and county. Finally, addressing density through lot size distribution. This doesn’t mean shrinking lots necessarily, it just means using what you have more efficiently.

It would be impossible to squeeze two days of discussion in a blog. I have already ran long as it is. If you would like to continue the discussion on housing, or if you are a developer and want to come to Hartwell, give me a call.

Vote Hartwell for Top Main Street Program!

Hartwell Main Street is Vying for $25K Cash Prize in National Contest Recognizing America’s Main Streets

 Vote now to advance MAIN STREET NAME to the next round

Hartwell, Georgia. – On February 25, Independent We Stand, a national small business movement, kicked-off its fourth annual America’s Main Streets contest to help consumers, small business owners and Main Street organizations reward a deserving Main Street with $25,000 in cash and sponsor-related prizes.Hartwell Main Streetin Hartwell, Georgia is among this year’s nominees.

“Our Independent We Stand America’s Main Streets contest shines a light on the pride business owners and communities take in their Main Streets,” says Independent We Stand co-founder Bill Brunelle. “We know small businesses on these Main Streets help them thrive and have a measurable economic impact. This contest is a chance to share those stories with people from coast-to-coast.”

Hartwell Main Street has worked to promote the historic culture of our community and help to develop economic opportunities for years now. If we win the cash prize, Hartwell Main Street will finish Constitution Alley and address other opportunities that are needed.

Our community has an incredible spirit of volunteerism. Everyone works hand in hand to make this a great place to live, work, and play. This prize will certainly help us Live well, Play well, Hartwell!

The first round of voting in the contest began as soon as Hartwell Main Street was nominated and runs through April 21. All nominations and voting take place on

Important dates:

  • February 25 to April 21: “America’s Main Streets” nominations and quarterfinalist voting
  • March 4-8: “Great American Red, White & Q” road trip
  • April 29 to May 26: “America’s Main Streets” semifinalist voting
  • June 3: “America’s Main Streets” winner announced
  • July 4: “Main Streets Make Us Better” event; “America’s Main Streets” winner announces plans for $25,000 grand prize

Additional contest prizes include:

  • STIHL Equipment Certificate for $1,000 worth of STIHL equipment good at any STIHL dealer in the U.S.
  • Do it Best Corp. $500 shopping spree
  • Free One Day Downtown Assessment from Flip This Town
  • Nationwide Marketing Group $500 shopping spree
  • PPG Paints $500 shopping spree
  • Public relations and social media recognition
  • A special plaque for the winner to proudly display

For more information on Hartwell Main Street, visit: or contact Jason Ford at 706-376-0188.

Presenting Sponsor:

STIHL Inc., America’s number-one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment, is the founding sponsor of Independent We Stand and the presenting sponsor of America’s Main Streets contest. The company follows a unique distribution strategy in the handheld outdoor power equipment industry, choosing never to sell products at big box stores, but instead remaining loyal to its 9,000+ authorized local STIHL dealers nationwide.

Supporting Sponsors:

About Independent We Stand

Independent We Stand is a nationwide movement of independent small business owners whose mission is to inspire other small business owners to better understand and celebrate their locally-owned status while educating consumers about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting them. The Independent We Stand movement is sponsored by STIHL Inc. STIHL products are sold through more than 9,000 authorized local STIHL dealers from coast to coast – not big box stores. Associate sponsors include Nationwide Marketing Group, PPG and Do it Best Corp.

#KeepHartClean #LovingWhereYouLive #LeadershipHart

Please join Leadership Hart and Leadership Hart Youth on April 27th to support Economic Development, Community Pride, and Earth Day (a few days late) by helping to clean litter up from our roads and in our own yards. When new business comes to town to potentially pick Hartwell as a new home, little things like litter on the road could be what crosses us off the list. Remember site selection is really site elimination. Let’s work together, through the community pride that is already here in Hartwell, to make a good impression when these job creators come to town!

The Main Street Approach


A vision of success alone is not enough. Communities must work together to identify key strategies, known as Community Transformation Strategies that will provide a clear sense of priorities and direction for the revitalization efforts. Typically communities will find two to three Community Transformation Strategies are needed to help reach a community vision. These strategies will focus on both long and short-term actions that will move a community closer to achieving its goals.

Implementation of these strategies is carried out through work that aligns with the four key areas Main Streets have been using as a guiding framework for over 35 years: Economic Vitality, Organization, Design, and Promotions, known collectively as the Main Street Four Points.

Economic Vitality

Revitalizing a downtown or neighborhood commercial district requires focusing on the underlying Economic Vitality of the district. This work is rooted in a commitment to making the most of a community’s unique sense of place and existing historic assets, harnessing local economic development opportunities and creating a supportive business environment for small business owners and the growing scores of entrepreneurs, innovators, and localists alike. With the nation-wide growing interest in living downtown, supporting downtown housing is also a key element of building Economic Vitality.


A strong organizational foundation is key for a sustainable Main Street revitalization effort. This can take many forms, from a standalone nonprofit organization, to a program housed in a municipality or existing community development entity. Regardless of the organizational type, the focus is on ensuring that all organizational resources (partners, funding, volunteers, etc.) are mobilized to effectively implement the Community Transformative Strategies.


A focus on Design supports a community’s transformation by enhancing the physical elements of downtown while capitalizing on the unique assets that set the commercial district apart. Main Streets enhance their appeal to residents and visitors alike with attention to public space through the creation of pedestrian friendly streets, inclusion of public art in unexpected areas, visual merchandising, adaptive reuse of older and historic buildings, more efficiently-designed buildings, transit oriented development, and much more.

Keep Hart Clean

Leadership Hart and Leadership Hart Youth are partnering together for this year’s community project. As an economic development goal, LH and LHY are organizing a community clean up event. Often times, when economic development professionals bring potential businesses in to look at sites, they will want to see the community. If the roads are littered with trash, it can be enough to remove any community from the potential list. It is with that in mind that #LoveWhereYouLive and #KeepHartClean was developed. On April 27th, we invite the community to come together for a few hours in the morning to clean up our roads. We hope to see you there!

The Importance of Green Space

I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the importance of Greenspaces in the community. I think we can all say anecdotally that spending a day in the park, either at play, at a picnic, or just lounging about is a great way to spend time. I have a strong belief that the addition of a greenspace in or near our downtown area will go far to achieving our mission to Live Well, Play Well, Hartwell! That said, a greenspace is not just a place to catch a few hours of fun; greenspaces are an economic driver in the community. Let me share with you some economic realities. The following data comes from Project Evergreen, a nonprofit organization that has a goal of a greener, cooler earth and happy, healthier people.

Fast growth, major economic impact. According to a USDA-funded research report, the environmental horticulture industry [Green Industry], “is one of the fastest growing segments of the nation’s agricultural economy.”5 Its economic impact was estimated to include: * $147.8 billion in output * $64.3 billion in labor income * $6.9 billion in indirect business taxes * 1,964,339 jobs * $95.1 billion in value added

Businesses benefit. Roadside Studies by the University of Washington stated that drivers indicated it was easier to locate roadside businesses when they were framed by trees and vegetation, rather than having this green material removed.6

Parks improve property value. There is a significant link between the value of a property and its proximity to parks, greenbelts and other green spaces. Studies of three neighborhoods in Boulder, Colo. indicated that property values decreased by $4.20 for each foot away from a greenbelt.7

Green space helps decrease air conditioning costs. Here are some useful references: * According to the California Energy Commission: “Planting the correct trees, shrubs, vines and groundcover can make your home both warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In fact, the right type of tree can reduce your summer cooling costs by 20 to 40 percent!”8 * Computer models devised by the U.S. Department of Energy predict that the proper placement of only three trees will save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy costs annually.9 * The cooling effect of an average size lawn is equal to about 9 tons of air conditioning.10

Views of plants increase job satisfaction. Employees with an outside view of plants experience less job pressure and greater job satisfaction than workers viewing man-made objects or having no outside view. They also report fewer headaches and other ailments than workers without the view.11

Nature increases worker productivity. Psychologists have found that access to plants and green spaces provides a sense of rest and allows workers to be more productive.12

Landscaping renews business districts. Greening of business districts increases community pride and positive perception of an area, drawing customers to the businesses.13

Quality landscaping means quality goods. A recent study found that consumers would be willing to pay, on average, a 12% premium for goods purchased in retail establishments that are accompanied by quality landscaping.14

Employment and tourism boost. Employment opportunities are associated with the creation and long term maintenance of urban open space, as well as tourism dollars of visitors from parks, gardens and civic areas (Woolley 2003).15

Increases retail activity. Studies have proven that greenery and flowers attract shoppers and residents to urban areas…spurring economic growth.16

Business growth. Small businesses choosing a new business location rank the amount of open space and proximity to parks and recreation as the number-one priority in site selection.17

Protects drainage systems. The crown of a large tree is a freestanding anti-flood reservoir, in some cases intercepting so much rainfall that more than 1,500 gallons a year evaporates instead of hitting the ground. Chop down the tree, and you increase the volume of storm water a city must manage— something that especially affects older cities with aging drainage systems.18