Macon is trending.
In August alone, Forbes published a detailed weekend guide of the city, concluding that Macon is “one of the South’s best kept secrets,” and after spotlighting great local sites and initiatives, Axios determined that Macon is “actually cool.” Earlier in the year, USA Today and The Washington Post respectively covered expansion of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park boundary and potential upgrade of the Park’s designation to a national park and preserve (Georgia’s first). Kudos to the journalists and local partners like Visit Macon who are helping shed more light on Macon’s story — as a long term Macon Believer, I can’t even begin to express just how exciting this is!
Knight Foundation has believed in Macon for decades. I’m humbled to work alongside Beverly Knight Olson, daughter of Knight co-founder James L. Knight, while continuing the good work of my predecessor Beverly Blake, and see firsthand, the power of putting residents at the center of the decision-making process for their community. That’s why we’re so delighted about the well-deserved recognition of our community’s progress. Here’s just a snippet of why we believe Macon is so special:
An unmatched spirit of collaboration and planning
In Macon, we take pride in working together to achieve big things. Knight has been strategically working with philanthropies, organizations, residents and other community partners on a long-term plan to boost economic development, bring life to downtown and improve public spaces and parks that are welcoming for all.
- Our investments are centered around the implementation of the Macon Action Plan (MAP), a community-informed roadmap for guiding the development of Macon’s urban core. The Plan also receives generous support from the Peyton Anderson Foundation, and is made possible by the hard work of the Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority, Macon-Bibb County, NewTown Macon, Community Foundation of Central Georgia and many other partners. It has helped draw over $260 million private and public investment to the urban core.
- Knight is particularly proud of the $87M state-of-the-art Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital, opened in February 2019, and serves as an anchor of downtown’s medical corridor.
- Since 2000, Knight has invested over $6 million to revitalize Beall’s Hill. Most recently, through a $1.6M collaboration with Macon Bibb, we’ve committed to increase affordable housing in the neighborhood.
- In addition to all-things-downtown, NewTown Macon is also responsible for the Knight-supported Downtown Diversity Initiative. The program trains entrepreneurs on everything from developing business plans to marketing tools with the ultimate goal of diversifying downtown business ownership. The organization also leverages Knight support for its Godsey Initiatives Fund – providing access to capital alongside robust coaching expertise.
- Mercer University has been a long term, invaluable partner in our community. In addition to our original collaboration in College Hill, we have more recently teamed up for the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University, Mercer Music At Capricorn and A Night of Georgia Music.
Tapping in to a rich culture
In Macon, we leverage our rich cultural heritage as a launchpad for a new generation with new ideas.
- The Otis Redding Foundation, run by Queen Zelma, Karla and other members of the family, is all about equipping the next generation of Macon musicians. (Check out this spotlight from The New York Times earlier this year.)
- Mercer University revitalized the historic Capricorn Studios, now serving not only as a museum but as an incubator for new, emerging and established talent.
- Knight has been a steadfast supporter of the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative and specifically invested in an expert analysis to raise awareness on the regional economic benefits of an upgrade to National Park and Preserve status.
There are so many other stories of how organizations and individuals are building a better Macon. I’m thrilled to see local and national interest about what’s happening in our community and I anticipate even more of it. To learn a bit more about our support for what’s happening on the ground, I invite you to check out Knight’s strategy in Macon here, and to sign up to our newsletter here.
Macon is trending, but our city’s story is not just a trend. What is taking place here is a testament to cross-sector community collaboration, citizen engagement, an optimistic view for tomorrow….and I believe we’re just getting started.
I extend a hearty, personal open invitation for you to #VisitMacon and see what all of the hype is about! My bet is that you will leave with Macon on YOUR mind.
Lynn Murphey is program director for Knight Foundation’s Macon program.
Image (top): Poplar St., activated by MacParty, a Downtown Challenge grant. Photo by: NewTown Macon.