The Union Recorder

July 13, 2011

CSH reuse plan worth community taking notice

The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The landscape of Milledgeville’s southside, out and around Central State Hospital, was once far different than it is today. Businesses thrived and residents went about their daily lives bustling with activity, alive and thriving. Today, few would argue against the fact that the area’s once glory has faded, as businesses have dwindled, and so too have job opportunities, as CSH has shuttered. But a new proposal, put forth by local economic development and education leaders from the city of Milledgeville and Georgia College, could be the catalyst for something big for the southside and for Baldwin County at-large.

Officials are expected to meet this week with Ga. Gov. Nathan Deal to discuss a re-use plan for the CSH campus, a plan that will take the bulk of the campus and redevelop it as an incubator for a rural health care project, a plan that would be led by Georgia College and concentrate on technology as a base for training programs, consulting services, distance education, resource clearinghouse and research programs.

This plan was touted by former Georgia College president, Dr. Dorothy Leland. The goal is to have the health care initiative be a portion of the historic CSH campus’s 1,900 acres and allow for further redevelopment all around in the remaining portions. The health care field is one of the fastest growing career fields in the country, and Georgia College recently got approval for a new doctorate degree program in nursing, which has the potential to compliment this plan even further.

This project could not only have job ramifications for the local community, but impact health care as well. As jobs have decreased in Central Georgia, so too has the number of residents who can afford health care in Baldwin and the surrounding communities. This has placed an added burden on local hospitals, including Oconee Regional Medical, which officials just recently indicated, as the number of indigent cases has increased. In many respects, Milledgeville is already ahead of the field with regards to technology, as only a small handful of communities in the state have the level of wireless connectivity and enhancements as Baldwin County, not to mention the Digital Bridges project.

The potential for the number of jobs, not to mention the possible new development impact from this project and the ancillary businesses it could create, are reason enough for local leaders to get behind this effort as representatives prepare to make their pitch in Atlanta.

This plan, which has also garnered support from state Sen. Johnny Grant, state Rep. Rusty Kidd and Congressman John Barrow, has a wealth of possibilities.

Baldwin County will only re-emerge and develop to its fullest potential if the southside develops and prospers as a viable part of the local economy alongside it.