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Emily Murray
Georgia Department of Economic Development

Dublin Awarded Funding for MLK Monument Park Sculpture 

ATLANTA, September 21, 2017 – The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s (GDEcD) Tourism division announced today that it has awarded more than $111,624 in product development resource team grants to 14 new and expanding tourism projects across the state.

“Georgia’s tourism industry continues to be one of the state’s leading industries with an economic impact of $60 billion,” said Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner for tourism at the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “Tourism has a positive impact across the state, by spurring job creation, attracting investment and providing residents with an improved quality of life. The success of our industry relies on creation of new tourism product and the resource team grant helps activate these new developments.”

In an effort to further tourism product development within the state, Georgia Tourism offers this grant to communities who participated in the department’s Tourism Product Development Resource Team program as a way to build product outlined in the resource team’s reports. The Tourism Product Development Resource Team program works to evaluate a community’s potential for tourism growth and development through innovative and unique experiences based on a community’s local culture and heritage.

“One of our main obstacles in spurring new tourism product is funding in the communities that receive a Tourism Product Development Resource Team,” said Cindy Eidson, Director of Tourism Product Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “By providing grants for projects that we recommend, we help to jump-start tourism development, not only expanding Georgia’s tourism offerings, but also creating jobs and sustainable economic development in these communities.”

Georgia Tourism’s Product Development team has served 46 counties, cities, private for-profits and non-profits throughout the state in areas ranging from agritourism to downtown development.

The Tourism Product Development Resource Team Community Funding Program allows the communities served to build new product from the recommendations made by the Tourism Product Development Resource Team members or supports projects the community has developed as an expansion of the resource team’s recommendations. The recommendations and financial support provided through this funding program is designed to spur tourism development activities at the local level that maintain and create jobs, attract tourists, and enhance the visitor experience.

Recipients of the 2017 Tourism Product Development Funding Program include:

  • Bartow County Government – George Washington Carver Park Improvement Project
  • Chattooga County – Paradise Gardens Foundation, Inc. Office Renovation for Airbnb
  • City of Clarkesville – The Old Clarkesville Cemetery Master Plan
  • City of Clarkesville – Mauldin House Visitors Center Interpretative Exhibit
  • City of Colquitt – Storytelling Murals
  • City of Darien DDA – Historic Restoration Historic Vessel, Kit Jones
  • City of Dublin – MLK Monument Lleras Sculpture, Landscaping & Lighting
  • City of Forsyth – Wayfinding Signs for Forsyth
  • City of Hawkinsville – Flicks on the Bricks
  • City of Shellman – Shellman Grain Bin Murals
  • City of Zebulon – Southside Photo Walk
  • Meriwether County Industrial Development Authority – Meriwether County Murals Trail
  • Randolph County Board of Commissioners – Randolph County Welcome Center Interactive Tourism Project
  • Sandersville Downtown Development Authority – Sandersville Downtown PA/Speaker System

The Georgia Tourism review panel consists of members from the public and private sector as well as fellow professionals who are experienced in the tourism industry or the type of grant being reviewed.

 Sculpture by Local Artist Juan Lleras Funded

This grant will fund Phase 4 of Dublin’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park, an original steel sculpture by Dublin artist Juan Lleras, lighting, and landscaping elements on the property of First African Baptist Church. Phase 4 will complete the construction of the Park. Completion is scheduled for June, 2018.

“This construction will be the realization of a dream to create an artistic and interactive public space for tourists on the church side property and truly mark First African Baptist Church as THE place where King first spoke and for visitors to experience the first step in Dr. King’s rise to greatness as a leader of the Civil Rights movement,” said Rebecca McWilliam, executive director, Visit Dublin GA. “Mr. Lleras developed the very first concepts for the monument which earned Dublin its first TPD grant for the project. Including an original sculpture of Lleras’ brings the project full circle. Even better, we love highlighting the local talent of Dublin’s artists. GDEcD made this dream a reality for Dublin.

Rise to the Mountaintop

In 2010, it became locally known that Dr. King’s first speech was given in Dublin as a result of the Tourism Resource Team visit. To more fully commemorate this nationally important historic site and create an experience with international tourism draw, a committee with key representatives from across Laurens County was formed to plan for the installation of an interactive monument to commemorate Dr. King’s speech. TPD grants were funded by GDEcD for the installation of Phases 1 and 2 of the monument site, which have been completed. Phase 3 will be an original steel and painted sculpture by Corey Barksdale at the MLK Monument Park. Phase 4 will include the installation of an original podium sculpture by Juan Lleras, lighting, and landscaping on First AB Church grounds, connecting the church property to the Monument Park visually and artistically.

This 7’ tall steel sculpture will embody King’s legacy of equality and unity with an imaginative image of Dr. King and three young characters at a podium representing not only Martin Luther King delivering his first speech, but future generations touched by his legacy. Project partners, YKK AP America, Community Foundation of Central Georgia, and Curry Companies have stepped up as part of Visit Dublin GA’s 5 For 5 Challenge, contributing cash donations to ensure this project is completed.

For more information on Dublin’s MLK Monument Park Project, contact Rebecca McWilliam with Visit Dublin GA at

About GDEcD

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is the state’s sales and marketing arm, the lead agency for attracting new business investment, encouraging the expansion of existing industry and small businesses, aligning workforce education and training with in-demand jobs, locating new markets for Georgia products, attracting tourists to Georgia, and promoting the state as a destination for arts and location for film, music and digital entertainment projects, as well as planning and mobilizing state resources for economic development.