By David Burton
Facilities Manager, Jackson County Ag Facility
A vision that has existed for decades has finally been realized in Jackson County. The construction of the Jackson County Agricultural Facility appears to be providentially “right on time.” With the recent exponential growth of our area, the facility has begun to serve not simply as a location to exhibit youth livestock projects, but a Northeast Georgia community center.
To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, the construction of the Jackson County Agricultural Facility was performed “by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” County agricultural leaders, school board members and county commissioners have heralded the need for such a facility for nearly a century. Indeed, our school systems have constructed buildings to afford Jackson County youth a location to show their livestock. Finally, however, the county visionaries realized that to achieve the goal of fashioning a multi-purpose facility suitable for myriad purposes other than livestock exhibition, it would have to be a county government endeavor.
Charged by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Kevin Poe and his staff began to study the feasibility of an agricultural facility for Jackson County. A study and steering committee was formed, and a Jackson County citizen was chosen to chair this committee. This decision proved to be a watershed moment in the success of the project.
While maybe not a “giant” in physical stature, Chairman Marty Clark established himself as a veritable titan with his laser vision and dogged determination to see this project through to fruition. His first order of business to gain the approval and blessings of local opinion leaders was to spearhead a private fundraising effort to secure capital investments from businesses and individuals nationwide. Marty worked with the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association to organize a consignment cattle auction and the facility gained some financial support from the generosity of Jackson County cattle producers. Marty and members of his committee presented the concept and vision to poultry and livestock companies, agricultural equipment dealers, and other donors to generate tremendous private funding, demonstrating the corporate community’s shared vision for this venue. These many benefactors of the Jackson County Agricultural Facility are prominently recognized on the walls of the facility with their logos and their designation as “Believers When it was Just a Dream.” Suffice it to say, the culmination of the Ag Center project was a successful marriage of county, state and private funding.
During the construction and upon the completion of the Jackson County Agricultural Facility, some questioned how much utilization there might be of this facility. This was often due to the perception that the complex was simply a venue for livestock shows. County Manager Kevin Poe and I discussed in the interview process my vision of the Ag Facility not simply as a nice show ring, but rather a community center which would serve as a hub of activity not only for Jackson County but for all of Northeast Georgia. Since our first event on July 18, 2020, the facility has been rented to organizations representing at least fourteen counties. Our facility has been the point of administration of over 7,600 COVID vaccines to individuals throughout North Georgia. We have hosted an average of two livestock events per month where over 4,200 animals have been exhibited. Indeed the Jackson County Ag Facility is a livestock venue, but it has also been used for banquets, parties, health fairs, vaccines, wrestling, wellness and exercise classes, public safety training, Chamber of Commerce functions, baby showers, a circus and a multitude of meetings resulting in around 15,450 visitors in the 10 months of the facility’s existence.
For a recent presentation for the Jefferson Rotary Club (held at the Jackson County Agricultural Facility, of course), we utilized the Economic Impact Formula devised by the Georgia Hospitality and Travel Association. The subjectivity of the variables in the formula prevent one from wishing to cite a specific dollar amount, it is safe to assume that from July 18, 2020, until December 31, 2020, hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed into the Jackson County economy. If this can be achieved in one-half of a pandemic-wracked year, it bodes quite well for the future of the Jackson County Agricultural Facility as an economic and tourism engine.
“Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why’?” I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not’?” These famous words of Robert Kennedy represent well the vision and mindset of the community leaders who set in motion and saw to completion the creation of the multi-purpose community center known as the Jackson County Agricultural Facility. These individuals know that this is only the beginning as they embrace the credo, “Excellence has no finish line.” We invite you out to your Ag Facility at any time, and we hope to see each of you using and enjoying it for many years to come.