Blakely plans business boom - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Blakely plans business boom

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February 24, 2006

Blakely -- A small town is taking a big step toward a fifty-year revitalization plan. The city of Blakely recieved a grant to begin the Early County 2055 project. It all started with a Blakely native who wanted to help his hometown grow.

Blakely is the kind of place where people know most everybody in town. That's why Blakely native Stanley Houston remembers his high school friend Charles Rice so well.

"He's the kind of guy that has a lot of love and compassion and he appreciates where he came from," Houston explained.

Rice grew up in Blakely, a town that Charles Rice Jr. says his dad wants to see grow. "I know that my father thinks all his successes in life is because he grew up in a community like this which may not have a lot economically but is still very rich."

So Rice is giving the city a grant through the Charles and Catherine B. Rice Foundation. It will go toward a 50-year project called Early County 2055, a project the city hopes will bring growth to the area and improve the lives of the people here. But the plan has left some in the community wondering one big question.

What's going to happen after the 2055 project?

"There are some opportunities to put up a community center. We're working with some churches for that. They don't have one here. Maybe some new hotels, we need to put in some amenities to attract new families to come and live here," the Rice Family Foundation director Rice Jr. explained.

It's a change community leaders welcome.

"I don't think any of the hometown feel is going to be destroyed. I think it will still be Blakely," the new Chamber of Commerce chair Janet Payton said.

"We don't want it to become too big," Charles Rice Jr. said with a laugh.

Stanley Houston says it's the small town feel that he has loved about Blakely his whole life, but he's ready to see improvements. "I think this would be one of the most positive things to happen to Blakely and Early County and I certainly feel we will benefit from it."

A project to help a community grow for fifty years to come.

Charles Rice, Senior lives in Atlanta now. He founded Barton Protective Services... an international security company. Early County 2055 leaders hope the project will bring jobs, better schools, and more homeowners to the area.

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