filled with historic charm and brimming with future potential
With history as a guide map and the future looking rosy, Covington, Georgia is the place to be
It is hard not to smile when thinking about the dynamic little city of Covington, Georgia. The city manages to beam with famous southern hospitality while skillfully keeping a finger on the pulse of everything modern. Remarkably, the city has not forgotten its historical roots as it has firmly become a city to watch.
Nestled on the outskirts of Atlanta, 26 miles from the metropolis, Covington is truly a world of its own despite being on the doorstep of one of America’s major urban areas.
Refusing to give up its old-world charm and small-town feel as it meets dynamic growth, the city is concentrating rather on balancing both, while keeping the needs of its residents at the very top of its list of priorities.
City of Covington Mayor, Steve Horton sums up the face of the city when he remarks that the city is “a community where good intentions become great opportunities.”
“Residents have an enthusiastic response to community events, spirited appearance at local city council meetings, and a commitment to collaboration with its staff and each other that reflect the Covington citizen’s deep passion for their town,” Tres Thomas, City Manager, adds.
After all, it is the people that create the real face of any community and the city has always recognized this truth, providing them the opportunity to bring their voices to the city agenda.
The city does not just embrace and welcome residents with open arms, it also provides a warm greeting to those who visit the city for its gracious southern hospitality.
“Whether your plans include visiting our downtown area to enjoy world-class cuisine and shopping, or you are more interested in diving into the rich film history of the area at the Covington Welcome Center, there is always something here for you,” Thomas describes.
For those that may just wander into the Covington Welcome Center, as Covington’s City Manager suggests, a little history of the city will await them.
Covington can trace its roots as far back as 1821 when it represented, at the time, the newly organized Newton County. The city can also trace its name back to United States Congressman, Leonard Covington who, in addition to his legislative duties was also a United States Army Brigadier and widely regarded hero of the War of 1812. With the railway addition, the city grew and was officially incorporated as a city in 1854.
Although a different version than what its origins represented, its deep roots still play a role in its evolution today-southern charm and community-first at its very heart.
Infrastructure on the southern horizon
Of all of the competing priorities the city is involved in, infrastructure remains at the top of the city’s overall master plan.
“Covington’s city staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the City’s infrastructure is capable of providing excellent service to our citizens and industry,” Mayor Horton comments.
“In January 2023, the city was a partial grantee of a $212.7 million Drinking Water Projects to Support Increased Population (DWPSIP) grant by the State of Georgia with funds received as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARPA),” the Mayor points out.
“The $400 million grant program provides financial support for projects that aim to improve water and sewer services, efficiency, and capacity in communities that are primed for significant population growth in the future.”
This DWPSIP grant represented a joint effort between the Newton County Water and Sewer Authority, Newton County Board of Commissioners, and the city of Covington, Thomas describes, as we sat down with Thomas, Mayor Horton, and Community Development Director, Ken Malcolm.
“We are proud and thankful for the community partners that have been part of this effort,” Malcolm emphasizes
Thomas is also extremely proud of the grant process relaying that “being awarded the grant was a major accomplishment and blessing for the city.” “City staff devoted significant resources to the grant application during the spring and summer of 2022 and its success serves as a great example of intergovernmental collaboration between three entities in Newton County.”
Other infrastructure projects are also noteworthy including the city’s ongoing upgrades to the Eastside Sanitary Sewer Basin, Eastside Lift Station, and the Water Reclamation Facility.
“This $60 million investment represents a promise to the prospective industry and citizens that Covington is committed to creating a thriving community of the future,” Mayor Horton declares.
When art imitates life
It may be the worst-kept secret, however, Covington can boast a long history in film and television tourism. Some of the most iconic shows produced for modern television can be traced to the Covington film and television scene.
“This legacy included classics including The Dukes of Hazzard, Cannonball Run, the TV adaptation of In the Heat of the Night, Vampire Diaries, and Sweet Magnolias.
Thomas points to the opening of the Three Rings Studio on the edge of the city as just another indication of the strength and commitment to Covington being a film and television regional hub.
Capitalizing on the draw of Covington’s filming reputation, the city works closely with Discover Covington. Substantial tax revenue stemming from tourism has led directly to residents putting money back in their pockets to the tune of roughly $200 dollars per household in 2022.
“It is expected that a quarter-million tourists come to the area per year, with a record 96,383 people from 57 countries checking in at the Covington Welcome Center in 2022,” Malcolm estimates, going so far as to predict 2023 exceeding these numbers.
“Covington has become home to cinema lovers across the world. Some know it as Hazzard County, others know it as Mystic Falls, but people are talking about us,” he notes.
“I just learned that the Mystic Falls hashtag has been viewed over 900 million times on one social media app alone, and I hope to see that continue.”
Although the film scene may be stealing a big portion of the community limelight, the city does work tirelessly to provide other community events of interest including monthly screenings of films on the Covington Square, weekly Farmer’s Markets, and several seasonal concerts for residents to enjoy.
Collaboration is the key to Southern success
It can be a fine line to walk for city governments, however, when it comes down to forming strong public-private partnerships to fuel the city’s economic engine, Covington has just the recipe for success.
“One of the City’s priorities is to attract new industrial partners and aid expansion for existing partners,” Thomas outlines. “This strategy has been a continuous success for us.”
Covington can boast an illustrious number of Large organizations that work hand in hand with city partners including Nissinbo Automotive, Three Ring Studios, Ascend Elements, General Mills, Absolics, and Archer Aviation. These companies are either moving into the area to set up operations or extending their operations in the area.
Beyond these productive collaborative public-private efforts, Covington can also lay claim to the utilization of an EPD-sponsored Land Application System (LAS) working with another partner, the Newton County Water & Sewage Authority.
“The LAS is 2000 acres of jointly-owned vegetated land that naturally filters wastewater while growing trees for timber, soybeans for livestock feed, and providing vegetation for local wildlife,” Malcolm summarizes.
On the sustainability side, Covington has gone the extra ‘green mile’ by partnering with a local nonprofit, Sustainable Newton to “integrate environmentally sustainable initiatives and programs intended to improve city operations and costs, while educating our citizenry on sustainable opportunities in their community,” Thomas describes.
Also noteworthy, Covington is among a minority of cities that can boast the inclusion of a public compressed natural gas-filling station, Green Fuels Facility, in the entire state of Georgia. The city has also ensured the inclusion of electric vehicle charging stations to offer its residents.
What lies down the southern path
If there is one thing that the city would like to project to both its residents and the broader public, it is its obvious civic pride.
“We recognize the importance of telling our story,” Thomas offers.
Covington has prioritized the methods of delivery to broadcast its story
“We tell this story through many avenues including community partnerships, media advertisements, and investing tourism revenue in larger marketing campaigns,” the Mayor details.
Something tells us that the word is already out about this little southern gem, and if it is not, it will be soon enough.
AT A GLANCE
What: A dynamic city is known for its historical charm and thriving film production
Where: On the outskirts of Atlanta in the state of Georgia
Covington, GA (City of) – www.cityofcovington.org
Known as Hollywood ofthe South™, Covington, Georgia’s film history started over 70 years ago. Yet
Covington is more than an idyllic landscape for a movie set. Covington is rich with industry, diversity,
history and a strong sense of community. It is a city where good intentions become great opportunities.