The Economic Development Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to announce the winner and honorable mention of the 2014 Donald E. Hunter Excellence in Economic Development Planning Award. The awards committee consisted of members of the Economic Development Division: Julie Herlands, AICP; Lance Harris, AICP; and Dustin Akers.

2014 Donald E. Hunter Excellence in Economic Development Winner

Uptown Columbus (Georgia) for "Chattahoochee River Whitewater Park"

Chattahoochee River Park is a 2.5 mile urban whitewater park, located in Columbus, Georgia. The project has been 10-plus years in the making and is a public/private partnership between local communities, state, and national agencies. Whitewater Columbus is a 2.5-mile course that opened May 2013 and was recently named one of USA Today's "Top 12 Greatest Man-made Adventures on the Planet."

What started out as one man's unique vision of making the Chattahoochee River a sustainable force in economic development for the Columbus community became a reality over a decade later. This economic development project did not just achieve its original goals of reenergizing the Chattahoochee River, it reenergized an entire community. Relying on the natural fall line of the Chattahoochee River, two damns were breached and additional construction in the river allowed the rapids to take shape. In May of 2013, the Chattahoochee River Park — the world's longest urban whitewater course — was open to the public with thunderous support.

The Chattahoochee River Park benefits the entire region by increasing revenue, restoring the river to its natural state, creating jobs, growing tourism and improving the quality of life by creating a unique sense of place. The Chattahoochee River Park was funded through a public/private initiative and reached across state lines where both Alabama and Georgia meet on the east. The project's $26 million investment was paid through the collaborative efforts of individuals, businesses, and foundations, as well as local, state (Georgia and Alabama), and federal government.

Now, just one year since its opening, over 16,000 rafters have experienced whitewater in the heart of Uptown Columbus, Georgia. When the park reaches its full potential, an economic impact study by Columbus State University projects 188,000 visitors, creating a $44 million economic impact. (Local contact and Division member: Verona Campbell, Transportation Planner, Columbus-Phenix City MPO; 706-225-3920;


Honorable Mention

Royal Commission at Yanbu, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for "Yanbu Economic Vision 2030"

Situated along the Red Sea coastline, the Royal Commission at Yanbu's history dates from 1975 when the city was established as an industrial hub in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Now the world's third largest oil refining hub, Yanbu's refining capacity exceeds 1 million barrels per day with a total investment of over $53 billion dollars. The Royal Commission at Yanbu is a significant contributor to the Kingdom's economic growth and a leading choice for investors in petrochemical and energy-intensive industries.

Building on the city's success, the "Yanbu Economic Vision 2030" seeks to identify future areas of opportunity and support diversification of the city's and regional economy. The plan introduces 12 new initiatives and 43 projects organized by three over-arching components: Industry, Community, and Leadership. Taking advantage of Yanbu's location alongside the world's foremost shipping lane (the Red Sea through the Suez Canal), major industrial initiatives include establishment of a multi-modal logistics hub, a minerals processing hub, as well as the nation's first automotive cluster. The plan's implementation is expected to enhance job growth by 31 percent, creating up to 33,000 new jobs beyond the city's projected 63,000 jobs by 2030. (Local contact and Division member: Ryan Hughes, Community Economic Planning Specialist, Royal Commission at Yanbu,