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Stability And Vibrancy in Macon-Bibb County

Hospitality and economic vitality go hand in hand in the South. With the launch of the first new downtown hotel in more than half a century, that pairing in the center of Macon, in the heart of Georgia, shows new hope. The $39 million Hotel Forty Five will create more than 100 new jobs with its 11 floors, 94 rooms, and four restaurants and bars.

“Macon-Bibb County is particularly proud of its growing tourism sector,” says Alex Morrison, assistant manager at Macon-Bibb County Economic and Community Development and executive director of the Urban Development Authority. “The new hotel is helping to grow the restaurant, retail, and entertainment sectors in the downtown, sparking more interest in tourism and hospitality investment there and beyond.” “Direct investment by Macon-Bibb County has supported Hotel Forty Five, a new amphitheater at the Macon Mall, and the extension of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, lowering costs for developers and improving surrounding property prices.”

The Ocmulgee Mounds Park, a 2,000-acre woodland region in Macon, may be transformed into the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve this year. (Currently, Ocmulgee Mounds is a national historic park; becoming a national park, the highest level of the National Park Service, requires an act of Congress.) The Ocmulgee National Monument would be consolidated with additional public lands along the Ocmulgee River between Macon and Hawkinsville, less than 50 miles to the south, as part of a cooperative effort between Macon area NGOs and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It would be Georgia’s first national park.

“A lot of people locally and globally are extremely excited about this potential,” says Seth Clark, executive director of the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative and a member of the Macon-Bibb County Board of Commissioners and the county’s mayor pro tem. “Given the significant impact it would have here, I am optimistic that they will be successful in their request for a designation change.”

Clark refers to the proposed national park as Macon-Bibb County’s top economic priority for 2022, citing a study commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association and funded by the Knight Foundation that found that connecting existing public lands from downtown Macon to Hawkinsville with the creation of a national park and preserve would increase the current national historical park’s total economic impact by $206.7 million. According to him, the national park would bring an additional 1.1 million people to the region and earn about $30 million in tax income.

The purpose and operations at Georgia’s largest single-site industrial complex would be best served by such land usage around Robins Air Force Base.

With the completion of the $500 million I-16/I-75 Interchange Improvement project in 2024, those millions of more visitors may have a much smoother trip into Macon. The project, which is now in its sixth year of construction, will improve consumer safety and mobility while also benefiting Georgia’s burgeoning freight and logistics business. On I-16, the Port of Savannah, the United States’ largest single-terminal container facility (and fastest-growing), is about 2.5 hours distant from Macon.