Category Archives: Chamber News

Small Business of the Year Nominations

Small Biz of the Year Nom-01

Owning a small business takes perseverance, diligence and courage. Do you know a small business owner that is deserving of this recognition? Nominate that person and/or company that works daily to set high standards that successfully provides an exceptional product and/or service, and that represents the very best of business in the Albany Area.

Award-eligible businesses must be:
• Member of Albany Area Chamber of Commerce
• Member of Albany Area Chamber for minimum of 1 year
• Have fewer than 100 full-time employees

Nomination Deadline-March 24th

Click Here to complete a editable pdf form.


Storm Recovery: Federal Aid Programs for Georgia





Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Trump’s disaster declaration issued for the State of Georgia.

Note: may not immediately reflect federal disaster declaration.

Assistance for Affected Individuals and Families and  Small Businesses Can Include As Required:

  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable.  Initial assistance may be provided for up to threemonths for homeowners and at least one month for renters.  Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements. (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional. (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs. (Source: FEMA funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs; 25 percent funded by the state.)
  • Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals. (Source: FEMA funded; state administered.)
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance.  Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses.  Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact.  This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence. (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)
  • Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters.

How to Apply for Assistance:

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

Assistance for the State and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health.  Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
  • Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.  (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)

How to Apply for Assistance:

Application procedures for state and local governments will be explained at a series of federal/state applicant briefings with locations to be announced in the affected area by recovery officials. Approved public repair projects are paid through the state from funding provided by FEMA and other participating federal agencies.

Follow FEMA online at,, and Also, follow Acting Administrator Bob Fenton’s activities at

The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Storm recovery: Use caution when hiring business services

Download the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Consumer Protection Resource Guide for helpful tips and resources to protect yourself in the wake of natural disasters.

In the aftermath of this past weekend’s storms, the Better Business Bureau urges the public to exercise caution when hiring a contractor to repair damages. Natural disasters can bring out the best in people; unfortunately, it also brings out con artists looking to capitalize off other’s grief.

“Property owners will want to make repairs to their home or business as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors or scam artists may take advantage of the post-disaster chaos to scam unsuspecting property owners out of money, or provide shoddy materials or sub-standard work,” said Kelvin Collins, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor. “Make wise decisions and don’t let someone separate you from your hard-earned money.”

Some of the most common “after-disaster” scams involve your auto, home and yard repairs or clean-up. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer auto and property damage in the wake of a natural disaster:

  • Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.
  • Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a business and not reactive to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
  • For major permanent repairs, take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids, check out references, make sure the contractor is properly licensed and check out their business review with the Better Business Bureau at
  • Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door,check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
  • Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it.
  • Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number along with a start and end date for the work are included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and don’t sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract should be given to you at time of signature.
  • Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability.
  • Insist that the contractors pull all necessary permits. Unscrupulous contractors will ask the homeowner to pull the permits because the person acquiring the permit is responsible for ensuring that the work meets local and state codes.
  • Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash! While many businesses may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.
  • Be wary if a contractor asks you to sign an estimate. Many unscrupulous contractors have you sign what you think is an estimate but in reality, is a binding contract.
  • When seeking the services of a cleaning and restoration firm, remember that flood-soaked carpets can be saved but must be professionally sanitized at the cleaning firm’s plant. Any furniture that has been completely submerged in floodwater will need to be re-upholstered or refinished.
  • Thoroughly clean out mud and residual material from heating and cooling units and let the units dry out before determining whether the equipment is functional or needs repairs.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown business. Start with trust! For trustworthy information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews on local businesses, visit

Tips and information for debris removal

Debris is hazardous. It often has sharp or rough edges; it may cause falls; it may contain hazardous material such as asbestos, lead or fiberglass; and it may have been contaminated with chemicals or germs by the flood or storm.

When cleaning up debris, one of the first steps is to assess the types of waste you are dealing with, and what the disposal procedures should be. They usually fall into four main categories and can be disposed of in the following ways:

  • Branches, trees and vegetative wastes can be separated from the other debris and later can be sent to a community burn pile. These wastes can also be sent to a permitted disposal site.
  • Construction debris – the structural materials from houses and buildings, such as concrete, boards, shingles, windows, siding, pipes, etc. – can be taken to the closest construction and demolition (C&D) landfill or a permitted municipal solid waste landfill. After a disaster, many municipalities may establish pick up schedules.
  • Other household wastes, such as trash and furniture, should be sent to a permitted municipal landfill.
  • Hazardous wastes – If you believe the waste contains regulated hazardous materials, more care and caution is needed. These wastes should be containerized, labeled, and ultimately sent to a facility that is permitted to store, treat or dispose of hazardous wastes. In these instances, it is important to contact the landfill to discuss proper disposal procedures.

Items Requiring Special Disposal

  • Pool chemicals
  • Tires
  • Bicycles
  • PVC pipe
  • Explosives (ammunition, re-loading equipment, black powder, military ordinance, fireworks)
  • Fuel containers, metal or plastic
  • Pressurized gas cylinders/tanks (propane tanks, acetylene tanks, refrigerant containers)
  • Containers of petroleum based liquids, solvents, chemicals, etc.
  • Large household appliances (refrigerators, freezers, stoves, washers, dryers, etc.)
  • Off-road, gas-powered equipment (lawn mowers, tractors, edgers, leaf blowers and other lawn equipment, chainsaws, 4-wheelers, etc.
  • Lawn and garden supplies (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.)
  • Radioactive waste
  • Industrial/commercial hazardous waste
  • Medical waste
  • Automobiles
  • Electrical transformers

Any appliances that could potentially contain Freon or other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) cannot be disposed of until they have been certified as being free of Freon or CFCs.

Contact the BBB at (800) 768-4222.

ADEDC and Chamber partner in business assistance efforts

The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Albany Area Chamber of Commerce have partnered to develop and distribute a business assistance and damage assessment survey to better gauge the needs of the local business community in light of the recent storms.

The survey, which can be accessed online here, will serve to help direct the ADEDC and Chamber in securing resources to aid in businesses’ recovery from the effects of the January 2 and January 21-22 severe weather events.

Survey participants are asked to report information such as the location of their business, type of loss suffered, duration and extent of loss and the event after which the loss occurred.

“In our community’s great time of need, we want to be sure our organizations are providing the assistance necessary to ensure the continued prosperity of our business community,” says Chamber President and CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes. “This survey will provide the information we need in order to adequately source the needed resources.”

The survey goes live beginning today and will remain active through noon on February 1, 2017.





The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission is a public-private partnership whose mission is to foster new investment and job creation through the recruitment, retention and expansion of industry for Albany-Dougherty County.

Since 1910, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce has been the voice of business and professional community. The Chamber is the only membership organization that is totally involved in the growth and development of the community with a pro business emphasis.

Storm Relief Update for Residents and Businesses – January 5, 2017

The City is continuing its efforts to provide relief and restore power after the widespread devastation.
Updates on those efforts are as follows:
  •  Power has been restored to approximately 1,500 homes as of yesterday.
  •  Linemen from the Jacksonville Electric Authority joined crews today.
  •  Six (6) additional crews have joined the 14 crews already working with debris clean up throughout the impacted areas.
  •  The City has partnered with the Red Cross and they are providing the following shelters.
o Albany Civic Center (100 W. Oglethorpe)
o Avalon United Methodist Church (3018 Gillionville)
  •  11 Good Samaritan shelters have also opened.
The Church at the Groves (25)
130 McIntosh Farms Rd., Leesburg
Contact: 229-439-7056
East Albany Church of God (75-100)
216 Pine Bluff Rd., Albany
Contact: 706-566-3450
Raleigh White/New Seasons (40-60)
2804 Philips Dr., Albany
Contact: 229-432-0222
(Partner Churches: FBC, Albany & FBC, Leesburg)
First Baptist Church of Albany (100-130)
145 Oakland Pkwy., Leesburg
Contact: 229-883-8000
Amazing Grace Baptist Church (150)
(Partner Churches: Forrester, Greenbriar & The Refuge)
2117 Ledo Rd., Albany
Contact: 229-886-4745
Byne Baptist Church (150)
2832 Ledo Rd., Albany
Contact: 229-436-5700
First Baptist Church of Leesburg (30-35)
(Partner Church: FUMC, Leesburg)
135 Main St., Leesburg
Contact: 229-759-6576
Sherwood Baptist Church (100)
2201 Whispering Pines Rd., Albany
Contact: 229-883-1910
Mt Zion Baptist Church (60)
1905 MLK Dr., Albany
Contact: 229-432-6837
Albany Family Worship Center
3024 Kensington Ct., Albany
Contact: Bobby Paul 434-0324
Albany Christian Church
1501 Whispering Pines Rd., Albany
Contact: 436-0416
Victory Tabernacle
32520 Sylvester Rd., Albany
Contact: 344-4630
Cutliff Grove Baptist Church
839 W. Broad Ave., Albany
Contact: 229-344-3199
Trumpet of God Ministries
600 Pine Ave., Albany
Contact: 229-395-6413
The City appreciates the community’s patience during this time. We will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.

Chamber Hosts Annual Partners in Excellence Breakfast


The Lake Park Show Chorus delighted the audience with their performance at the Chamber’s Partners In Excellence Rise N Shine Breakfast. More photos.

More than 300 business and community leaders and Dougherty County School System representatives crowded into the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center Thursday morning as the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the school system recognized their Partners in Excellence at a Rise N Shine Breakfast.

Security Bank and Trust was honored as the program’s Partner of the Year for 2016.

The Partners in Excellence Program, celebrating its 30th year, is the school system’s premier school/business partnership program. It pairs businesses, community organizations and civic organizations with individual schools to promote excellence in education.

 Chandu Kuntawala, the chamber’s Education Committee chair, is also the chair of the new Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy. He discussed two new programs that will have chamber, community, partners in excellence and DCSS involvement.

“The first program is called ‘Priority One.’ Recognizing that the education of the children in our community is the no. 1 priority. Priority 1 is a volunteer mentoring program between the business communities and our schools,” Kuntawala said. “It will be based on needs requirements from the school system.

“The second program is called ‘Go See.’ It’s a school touring program where our business community will have an opportunity to see, tour and visit with all of the schools in our community and experience all of the great things that are happening in our schools.”

Mosely then addressed the crowd.

“What a great way to begin a morning,” Mosley said. “I had a lady in the food line thank me for doing a wonderful job. I thanked her and said that I’d like to think I had a little bit to do with it, but the truth is we’ve surrounded ourselves with the right people.

The Partners in Excellence Program also ushered in 48 new partners Thursday, pushing the total number of participating organizations to more than 260 businesses.

The primary goal of the Partners in Excellence Program is to strengthen and enrich the instructional programs in schools, thereby ensuring that all students graduate with the skills, knowledge and attitudes required for lifelong learning and successful functioning as members of the work force, community and society.

Courtesy of The Albany Herald
By Terry Lewis

Albany Area Chamber Touts Successful Business Expo


David Hicks with Fast Copy and Blueprint discusses what Fast Copy has to offer to visitors at his booth. More photos from Business Expo 2016.

The lobby of downtown Albany’s Hilton Garden Inn was once again buzzing with activity as hundreds of visitors learned about local businesses at the annual Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

The expo has become increasingly popular since chamber leadership brought the event back and started hosting it each year, and this year was no exception. More than 50 vendors rented booth space in order to show potential customers what their business had to offer clientele.

Several of the vendors, including CTSI Inc., Pfizer, Southern Point Staffing, Deerfield Windsor School, Albany Technical College and others, make it a point to attend the expo as a way to connect with other chamber member businesses, customers and the community in general.

“We come to the expo every year basically because it gives us exposure to other businesses that may or may not know us, or may or may not know about all the services we offer,” said Dennis Moore of Bishop Clean Care Inc. “And it also allows us to see them and what services we might need.

“And then, of course, it’s an opportunity for newer businesses to be recognized in the community. Take Invision for example. They bought Atlantic Tel-Com, which was a big contributor to the community, and now they’ve got Atlantic Tel-com’s business, their business and ADT security systems. So I didn’t know that until they called me about a bid. It’s a big community business event.”

Invision Technologies is also a repeat vendor that set up a display for the second year in a row, based on its past expo experience.

“It’s a network opportunity for us,” said Invision co-owner Jay Carpenter. “The expo allows us to get out there and talk with people and other businesses about what they do and what we do. It’s a great event.”

The popularity of the expo was not lost on first-time businesses as well, many of which were eager to take part in the event despite having plenty of “regular” work that needed to be done. One such business was Crown Networking, whose Kyle Boyd was at the hotel and convention center to set up early Thursday morning.

“This is our first time here and I’m super excited,” said Boyd. “I’ve always wanted to do this. We feel it’s a vital part of our business to be seen.”

Despite having a full plate of projects lined up, including work for one of the tech company’s newest clients, the Randolph County School System, Boyd said it was imperative to be at the expo to network and let other companies know what Crown Networking has to offer.

“We want to let businesses know that the tech they need is in Albany and that we can provide it,” Boyd said. “We can meet business needs and help those business grow. We’ve got big hearts and big goals to help these companies. If Albany is prosperous, then we’re all prosperous.”

The business expo is also an exciting event for the community as a whole and for patrons that weren’t able to get a booth at the event, such as Horizons Community Solutions, formerly the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia.

“I come every year religiously because it is an excellent opportunity for our organization to learn about local businesses, number one, so we can support them because we are a local business, and so we can let them know about opportunities to support a local nonprofit organization,” said Horizons Executive Director Diane Fletcher. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I look at when it is and I work my calendar around it every year.”Fletcher also had high praise for the chamber and the other sponsors’ efforts to make it a great event, saying, “They do an excellent job.”

That kind of reaction from the business community is indicative of what the chamber hopes to achieve with the event, as chamber leadership believes the expo is at the heart of the organization’s mission to support local businesses and help them grow.

“These types of events serve a great purpose for chamber membership and we work to almost act as an extension of them in terms of promoting their businesses,” said Chamber President Barbara Rivera Holmes. “This really gives an opportunity for people throughout the community to come and learn about the services and products that are made locally or available locally. That’s a pretty big thing when you think about how much the economy improves when we spend more of our dollars at home. This really provides the knowledge base for people to be able to do that.”

Courtesy of The Albany Herald
By Brad McEwen

Albany Area Chamber holds State of Community Luncheon



The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of the Community luncheon Thursday at Darton State College.

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Dougherty Commission Chair Chris Cohilas, Darton Interim President Richard Carvajal, Albany State University President Art Dunning, Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker, Dougherty School Superintendent Butch Mosely and Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy CEO Chris Hatcher headlined the well-attended event.

The luncheon revolved around three topics: Government, work force development and education.

Hubbard and Cohilas led off the speakers.

The mayor was asked the benefits of approving the upcoming SPLOST referendum, which will be on November’s general election ballot.

“Our designated plans for SPLOST are making much-needed improvement to our city’s infrastructure,” Hubbard said. The mayor noted that a lack of hotel space had stymied efforts to bring more convention traffic into the city. But she added there are plans to possibly redevelop the Albany Civic Center into a 180-bed hotel and conference center.

Hubbard said work is also under way to create more development downtown and on the Flint Riverfront.

“I have to admit there are not many ‘sexy’ items involving our SPLOST,” Cohilas said, noting the county will spend its funds on storm drains and sewer infrastructure projects. However, he added, he’d like to see the county make a solid push on a trails project which would link Albany to Sasser.

The panel of educational leaders then mounted the stage, and Parker went immediately into a discussion of the Move on When Ready program.

“Move on When Ready is the most far-reaching piece of educational reform that I’ve seen in my 33 years in higher education,” the Albany Tech president said. “It gives high school students an opportunity to attend college while they are still in high school, along with the possibility of graduating high school with an associate’s degree.

“Certainly there will be a benefit to the parents, because their children could receive the first two years of their education while still living at home. So we are poised to be a leader in economic and work force development.”

Dunning was asked for an update in the process of the ongoing consolidation of Albany State and Darton.

“I feel, at this point, we have gotten phenomenal support from the students at Darton and the students at Albany State . As with any consolidation, you will have successes and you will have challenges. We have people in positions to meet those challenges and fix the problems. So I feel very good about where we are right now.”

Hatcher was asked about the structure of the CCCCA and how it is supposed to function.

“The definition of a college and career academy is a specialized charter school established in partnership with business, industry and the community to advance work force development,” Hatcher said. “With respect to the CCCCA, we’ve had a lot of good folks in this community working for a long time to make this a reality. In the interest of our partnership, our board of directors is a reflection of that (definition). We have an 11-member board, six of whom come from business and industry. The other five are from our education partners.

“With respect to how our students are selected, the CCCCA is actually a program so students will belong to their zoned schools, but they will come to the college and career academy in either the morning or afternoon sessions to participate in our programs. What we will do is market our programs to the high schools so the students can understand what we offer.”

More photos >

Article courtesy of the Albany Herald
by Terry Lewis


Chamber Hosts Luncheon Educating Community on Small Business Resources


Ryan Waldrep with the Georgia Economic Development Commission explains how the GA EDC can help small businesses.  More photos

Small businesses are a significant part of the Georgia economy, making a luncheon Wednesday on the subject for those interested in learning more about how to develop them a helpful one.

The luncheon took place at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Topics of discussion included a definition of small business, business opportunities created by tourism and entertainment, financial resources available to small businesses, how “makers space” is improving collaboration between entrepreneurs and the 2017 Small Business Week and Rock Star awards.

Ryan Waldrep, assistant director of entrepreneur and small business and regional project manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, served as the event’s facilitator.

The state of Georgia is divided into 12 economic development regions. The metro Albany area is in Region 10, which includes 14 surrounding Southwest Georgia counties. Waldrep said that, as of last month, 690,000 different entities located within those regions were registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Of those 690,000, 296,000 had employment information. Broken down by number of employees, 99.8 percent had less than 500, 97.6 percent had less than 100 and 94.6 percent had less than 50.

Waldrep said that even those businesses with less than 10 employees still make up a large portion of the number of companies in the state, coming in at 77.7 percent, with many of those within Georgia’s downtown and retail areas. While those companies continue to do business, thousands more are contacting economic development officials over the course of a year to establish roots in Georgia, he said.

“We are talking to people every day,” Waldrep said.

Individuals looking to establish a small business may be able to take advantage of some things, including tax credits, that they may not know they are eligible for.

“There is a lot we can do to connect (people) to resources we may have,” Waldrep said. “Some think they are only for big companies.”

The television industry has developed a number of business opportunities in Georgia thanks to shows such as “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries” filming in cities throughout the state. Fans of these shows bring tourist dollars into the filming locations, in turn bringing chances to build on marketing opportunities.

“(These cities) are using tourism as business opportunities,” Waldrep said.

Companies are constantly looking for new states to relocate to, providing an incentive for Georgia to compete for more business. One of the elements to growing a business is exporting, something small businesses can also profit from as long as there is potential for a product to sell overseas.

“When a lot of people think of exporting, (they think of that) happening with just big businesses,” Waldrep said. “There is assistance available to finance export opportunities.”

Waldrep said that, for exporting, 11 offices around the globe are dedicated to promoting Georgia and the products the state produces. If there is demand for a product in another country, the market for it is found.

“We can find areas of the globe buying that type of product,” he said.

Waldrep added that innovation centers exist to connect researchers and small businesses to determine the potential for new products. He further noted that the work force is getting older, but that programs are in place for seasoned employees who want to help entrepreneurs get their start.

A new trend in economic development is “makers space,” which often includes establishments — such as coffee shops — where those without an office space can collaborate with other individuals. The ultimate idea is that helpful methods can eventually be established through such meetings in moving a concept forward.

Waldrep said that 2017 Small Business Week will be taking place in February of next year, and that a small business blog will soon offer weekly highlights of one company with less than 100 employees from each Georgia county.

The Rock Star program, which recognizes significant developments in small businesses, is going into its fourth year. The nomination period for the 2017 cycle is ongoing through the end of October, Waldrep said.

For more information on business programs and resources, visit

Article Courtesy of The Albany Herald
By Jennifer Parks