The Austin Smith Center for Community Development was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from Community Foundation of Central Georgia to support workforce development in Pleasant Hill through the GDOT mitigation plan.
A local organization founded by Frank Austin in 2012, the Austin Center helps disadvantaged communities deal with economic drawbacks and navigate transition. They began working with the Village Green Shalom Zone and now work with 12 total neighborhoods in Macon-Bibb County.
According to the Community Foundation, the grant will be used to prepare residents of Pleasant Hill to take part in the redevelopment of their community, due to the expansion of Interstate-75, by training them for construction jobs.
“In Pleasant Hill, community leaders have identified that putting people to work is the most important thing in that community,” said Frank Austin, executive director of Austin Smith Center and coordinator for Macon-Bibb Shalom Zone. “Our goal is to work with the contractors and identify what is needed for skilled labor and to work with the people in the community to raise their skill level so they can be employable.”
The grant will enable the Center to have a person on staff dedicated to that task.
“We’ll have a person working every day to bring up the skill levels of the community, to help bridge the gap and build a program,” Austin said.
The end goal of the project is to build community pride as the number of available jobs in Pleasant Hill increases.
“We want to empower the community with skills, strategy, methods and education. We believe that the people who live here, work here, go to church here, are the experts and they should be at the table leading the efforts of improvement in their community,” Austin said. “Investing in a community is a worthy investment, and whenever you get residents involved in the process it has a better chance to succeed.”