A more than one-year-old bond among five counties linked to Clarks Hill Lake remains strong and continues to work for the betterment of the area, county officials say.
The Clarks Hill Partnership of Georgia was formed in October 2005 as an engine of economic development and tourism promotion among Columbia, McDuffie, Lincoln, Wilkes and Warren counties. The partnership comprises two members from each county who discuss and develop ways to help solve regional issues together.
The principle draw of the partnership was the lake, and in its first 14 months, the group has been active, said Columbia County Administrator and partnership member Steve Szablewski.
"We have established and accomplished what we set out to do in the first year," Szablewski said.
Previously, the partnership was among organizations who successfully lobbied the Georgia Department of Transportation to set aside funds to lengthen and resurface the runway at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport. The project, set to begin in July, will lengthen the runway from 5,200 feet to 5,500 feet to accommodate most corporate jets. Szablewski said business travelers and Masters Tournament guests often choose Thomson as a place to land instead of Augusta Regional Airport.
He said the convenience of the airport and improvements to it would benefit the entire partnership.
Szablewski said the partnership will continue to meet to lobby the DOT for funding, citing the announced plans to widen Washington Road to Pollards Corner as an example of the group's cooperation.
In its efforts to promote tourism and trade, Szablewski said Lincoln and Columbia counties worked together this year on several fishing tournaments and other events held at Wildwood Park in Appling. Columbia County, he said, is also supportive of the Lincoln County Commission's efforts to obtain funding for a convention center and hotel on the lake.
Also on the economic development front, the counties in the partnership took part in a regional Business Retention and Expansion Program. The program included a survey of the opinions of industry leaders about the responsiveness of county and state government, amenities and infrastructure in their communities, the available workforce and their respective needs.
Kristopher Wells, staff writer for the McDuffie Mirror, contributed to this article.
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