Douglas - Homegrown Tools

Douglas, GA

Updated: 2022

Douglas cultivates economic development from three angles— by intensifying entrepreneurship and small business efforts, by diversifying industrial recruitment and employers, and by preparing a cadre of new leaders to move the community’s vision forward.

Median Household Income2020$34,112
Poverty Rate 202028.6%
Proximity to Urban Center 120 miles to Jacksonville, Fla.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 45 miles
Case Study Time Frame 2000-2007
Municipal Budget FY201918.1 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case StudyUpdated: Douglas, 2022

Douglas is a self-proclaimed “progressive community where you can find an exceptional quality of life and a progressive business climate.” In 2005, Douglas was the first rural community in Georgia to meet the state’s rigorous standards as an Entrepreneur Friendly Community. Through a balanced economic development strategy – which includes supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, industrial development and leadership training – Douglas enjoys a 20 percent growth rate and has become a regional hub for jobs, retail, entertainment and medical services. In the last 10 years, at least 800 jobs have been created and more than 345,000 square feet of previously vacant space has been occupied by small business expansions and start-ups. Several major employers also have been recruited into town.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Celebrate success. “Success comes from talking about it,” JoAnne Lewis said. “If you don’t tell your community what you are doing, then they won’t know what you are doing. When an article comes out that mentions your town, you give that to everyone.”106 Douglas works hard to keep local papers informed about various economic development projects and publicizes even the most modest success, including stories of local entrepreneurial successes. “If we announced a new industry was coming to town creating 240 new jobs, it would be very exciting,” said Lidell Greenway. “Our small entrepreneurial businesses in Douglas-Coffee Georgia also created that number of jobs in one year, and they are more often than not locally owned and less likely to relocate. So we need to celebrate those successes, too.”

Respond quickly to local industry. Douglas is quick to respond when local businesses ask for assistance. Several years ago, the EDA started hearing complaints from local industry regarding the lack of trained commercial truck drivers. In response, EDA partnered with the local technical college to develop a facility to train new commercial drivers. “Students, instructors and 18- wheelers hit the pavement in 2006, and we couldn’t be more excited,” Lewis said. This sector of workforce development responds to specific needs from local employers, and it fits well in terms of Douglas’ growing importance in distribution and warehousing and proximity to regional seaports.

Grow young leaders with a passion for economic development. One of Douglas’s biggest challenges relates to the generational void of young leaders to take over key public positions as the baby boomers retire. In response, the town created the New Century Leadership program and is working to implement a new program – the Young Professionals Network – to bring a greater number of young people into the fold. Douglas working to fill the leadership void before it becomes a major problem.

Cultivate relationships with state-level developers, bankers and power companies. Last year, the Town of Douglas hosted 17 state-level economic development partners. “Getting these folks from Atlanta to plant their feet on local soil allows for a better understanding of our regional assets and amenities,” Lewis said. Frances Lott, the real estate developer and local philanthropist, likewise insisted that “cultivating these relationships is the most important thing that small communities can do to lure new industries to their towns.”