Category Archives: Chamber News

Albany-Dougherty County Spring 2018 Site of Gamechangers Leadership Program

Albany, Ga. – Albany-Dougherty County leaders announced Tuesday the community’s selection as the host site for the spring 2018 class of GeorgiaForward’s Young Gamechangers, a leadership action program that makes a tangible impact in select communities by bringing young minds into the public sphere as respected idea-generators and problem-solvers.


The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, City of Albany, Dougherty County and GeorgiaForward shared the news during an event that brought together community leaders at the Albany Welcome Center in downtown Albany. The spring 2018 program begins in January and concludes in June, at which time participants of the 50-member spring class will present recommendations for areas of community challenge.


“Albany-Dougherty County has experienced the positive outcomes of meaningful analysis, cross-sector partnerships, cross-region relationships and a shared vision for creating a stronger and more economically vibrant community,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, and Justin Strickland, president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission. “We welcome Young Gamechangers to be a part of the solutions team for Albany-Dougherty County as we continue to create opportunities and leverage successes.”


“We have taken great strides within our community over the past several years to increase strategic collaboration, implement meaningful community partnerships and to better develop pathways from education to employment,” said Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard. “As part of our growth, we invite the fresh perspective, innovative ideas and creativity that Young Gamechangers has demonstrated.”


“Honest, unbiased self-examination of our community’s strengths and weaknesses is of critical value for Dougherty County at this time,” said Dougherty County Commission Chairman Christopher S. Cohilas. “Any community that wishes to succeed must be willing to build upon its existing assets and propose meaningful solutions to its problems. This partnership with Young Gamechangers provides that opportunity.”


GeorgiaForward is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working as a catalyst to improve Georgia through cross-sector, statewide conversations and partnerships by engaging young professionals and business, political, academic and civic leaders.


“We are looking forward to bringing Young Gamechangers to Albany-Dougherty County next year,” said Kris Vaughn, executive director of GeorgiaForward. “This program is creating tangible change in communities across our state by tapping into the wealth of creativity and energy of Georgia’s young leaders. We are proud that each of the six communities this program has worked in to date has implemented one – if not several – of the recommendations presented by the Young Gamechangers. It will be exciting to see what ideas come from the spring 2018 Young Gamechangers.”


Previous Young Gamechangers communities are Americus/Sumter County; Dublin/Laurens County; Douglasville/Douglas County; Augusta; LaGrange/Troup County; and Milledgeville/Baldwin County. The spring 2018 program is made possible in part by The Commerce Club Foundation, Central Atlanta Progress, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, Georgia CEO and GeorgiaTrend.


To be considered for the spring 2018 class, young professionals from across Georgia with a passion for uniting the state and strengthening its communities should apply online at Applicants must be between the ages of 24-40. Ambitious minds from any professional sector will be considered. Applications must be received by midnight on October 6, 2017.



Business Expo 2017

Join us for the 2017 Business Expo on September 28, 2017 at Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. FREE with a valid business card or pay a $5 entry fee. For information on reserving a booth for you business, call the Chamber at 229-434-8700, or fill out this form and return to Mary Bickerstaff by email at or by mail at 225 W. Broad Avenue, Albany, GA 31701. All forms much be received no later than September 15.

State of the Community: Work Force Development

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Community brings together community leaders for an insightful dialogue about trending topics and the issues that matter most. “Work Force Development” focuses on how the community’s educational partners are addressing 21st century needs and how multi-sector partnerships are creating opportunities for students, employers and the region.

The panelists will include Dr. Art Dunning, Albany State University; Dr. Anthony Parker, Albany Technical College; Chris Hatcher, Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy; Geoffrey Sudderth, Deerfield Windsor School; Ken Dyer, Dougherty County School System; David Clifton, Marine Corps Logistics Command.

Work Force Development is presented by Albany State University and further sponsored by Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission; Albany CEO; Albany Technical College; P&G; and LRA Constructors, Inc.

Ron Clark Draws Crowd to Albany Municipal Auditorium

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Innovative educator Ron Clark took the stage at the Albany Municipal Theater Thursday, drawing crowds from across the state.

The way Clark does things is a little different, but that’s one reason he said it works so well.

“I looked at the kids and there was no passion,” Clark said. “I didn’t know what to do, but I said maybe I’ll be excited. If I’m excited, maybe they’ll be excited.”

Clark soon found out that passion would be contagious. Since that pivotal point at the beginning of his career, he’s been schooling other teachers on just how to tap into their students’ interest and help them improve academically.

“The school year is getting ready to start,” Matthew Sheets, a math teacher at Sherwood Christian Academy, said. “I’m hoping to get some new ideas, get excited and, maybe, find something I can use.”

That may very well be the exact reason educators from 85 different schools showed up for his inspirational speech and workshop at the Albany Municipal Theater Thursday.

But it wasn’t just teachers packing the room. Business professionals also took notes on Clark’s unique style of motivation and leadership.

“We’ve pretty much filled it up with business professionals and with educators,” Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Rivera Holmes said. “So, it’s an opportunity for our own residents of Dougherty County to experience this beautiful setting, and for all our friends visiting from throughout Southwest Georgia.”

All who are stopping into town to check out his style of getting out from behind a desk, being interactive and paying special attention to every student.

“I hope that teachers will go out and realize how important they are,” Clark said. “As an educator, if you have passion and you are excited, it’s going to bleed into the hearts of the kids.”

A word of advice that will be fresh in teachers minds as school gets underway. Chamber officials said the event was nearly sold out.

Motivational Speaker, Educator Ron Clark Plans Albany Address

Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Dougherty County School System sponsor event

ALBANY — As educators, government officials and business and community leaders struggle to find new ways to reach and have a positive impact on Albany-area youths, there is a growing realization that strong leadership, both in and out of the classroom, may be the answer.

This month, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Dougherty County School System, will offer a “Summer School” featuring a keynote address and a teachers-only work session with best-selling author and motivational speaker Ron Clark.

Known to many as “America’s Educator,” Ron Clark is the 2000 Disney American Teacher of the Year, a two-time New York Times Bestselling author, the subject of a television movie and the founder of The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. Clark is regularly featured on network and cable television (The Today Show, CNN, Oprah) and was dubbed by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey as her first “phenomenal man.”

“Ron Clark is an educator, but his leadership model and highly motivational message transcends all sectors and is of benefit to schools, businesses and organizations,” Barbara Rivera Holmes, president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “The chamber is proud to partner with the Dougherty County School System in presenting our “Summer School: An Evening with Ron Clark” program to Albany and Southwest Georgia. This is a highly motivational program that focuses on leadership development and emphasizes the important relationship between business, education and the community.”

In a statement released by the chamber, Clark wrote, “I couldn’t be more excited to come to Albany. Many leaders from the area have attended my sessions in Atlanta, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with them. Also, to have the opportunity to visit Southwest Georgia and be part of an event that is drawing educators from 10 counties across the region is a phenomenal opportunity. I can’t wait.”

Holmes said teachers and business leaders from throughout the region are expected to participate in the event,.

“I want to stress that this is a far-reaching regional event,” she said.

The event also is timely. “Summer School” is coming to Albany just as teachers are preparing to re-enter the classroom and at a time when business leaders struggle to find new ways to educate, empower and employ the next generation entering the work force.

“The Dougherty County School System is thrilled to welcome Ron Clark to Albany, and we hope educators all over Southwest Georgia will participate to learn how to take Ron’s style and success and replicate them in their own classrooms,” new Dougherty County School System Superintendent Ken Dyer said.

From humble beginnings in rural North Carolina to the heart of New York City’s Harlem District, Clark has overcome barriers and faced the challenge of reaching difficult, hard-to-reach youths. His story was deemed so inspiring, it became a made-for-TV movie.

“The Ron Clark Story” is a 2006 television film that premiered on TNT in August of 2006. Based on Clark’s real-life experiences, the movie centers on a teacher from a small town who moves to New York City to make a difference in the lives of his students. The film was sponsored by Johnson and Johnson and stars Matthew Perry as Clark. The film received largely positive reviews and was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards. Perry, for his portrayal of Clark, was also nominated for Screen Actors Guild Award and Golden Globe awards.

The film also was translated for television in Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Philippines.

As a young teacher in the 1990s, Clark pioneered innovative projects in rural North Carolina while working with minority students in a low-wealth area. His highly effective programs garnered national attention and led to a White House invitation to be honored by the president of the United States.

Upon watching a television piece chronicling low test scores and the lack of teachers in inner-city New York, Clark packed his car and moved to Harlem. After being warned by the principal that his class was the least disciplined group she had seen in years, Clark prepared himself by visiting the home of each student before the first day of school. Clark also involved his students in projects in the city and state, and his “low achievers” soon began to excel.

By the end of his first year teaching in Harlem, Clark’s students’ test scores were higher than the “gifted” classes in his district.

In 2003, Clark released the New York Times Bestselling book “The Essential 55” which includes his 55 expectations of students — as well as all individuals, young and old. Clark’s second book, “The Excellent 11,” was released in August 2004 and further captured the attention of parents, educators and students alike.

In 2007, he founded the Ron Clark Academy. To date Clark has trained more than 25,000 educators from 42 states and 22 countries at the school’s home base in Atlanta.

The academy is a privately-funded institution known nationwide for its innovative teaching methods and curriculum based on worldwide travel. Each year students in grades 5-8 apply their in-class lessons to international adventures. And, by the time of graduation, each child will have visited six of the seven continents. Teachers from around the world visit the academy to observe the innovative and “out-of-the-box” methods for achieving student success.

Clark has continued to publish in spite of a busy teaching and travel schedule.

”The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck — 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers” was published by Clark in 2011. This New York Times bestseller brought to light 101 innovative and classroom-tested ways for improving America’s schools and leading children to greatness.

In another best-seller, called “Move Your Bus,” Clark challenges readers to imagine their company as a bus filled with people who either help or hinder the team’s ability to move it forward. His book identifies “runners,” who consistently go above and beyond for the good of the company; “joggers,” who do their jobs without pushing them­selves; “walkers,” who are just getting pulled along, and “riders,” who hinder success and drag the team down. And as the boss, it’s the “driver’s” job to steer the organization, encourage the workers to keep the “bus” moving, and sometimes kick off those who aren’t pulling their weight.

In “Move Your Bus,” Clark teaches strategies and techniques to inspire employees and team leaders alike to work harder and smarter, to maximize team performance, and to take organizations wherever leadership wants them to go.

“Ron’s illustration of ‘Move Your Bus’ has impacted schools across the nation, and to have the opportunity to sit under his teaching could drastically impact education in our own community,” Dyer said.

Clark said his lessons apply to people from all walks of life.

“Anyone who has attended our training sessions in Atlanta knows that my philosophies apply to anyone, not just educators,” he said. “How great is it that the Albany Area Chamber and Dougherty County School System are partnering to create a business and education collaboration? I think it is a wonderful idea, and I am thrilled to a part of it.

“I think it is refreshing and truly terrific to see businesses wanting to work together with the school system. This collaboration could be transformational for Albany and the surrounding areas, and I’m hopeful that the leadership practices that I’m going to share will help fuel the partnership even more.”

The event is scheduled for July 20 at the Albany Municipal Auditorium. A business cocktail hour will precede Clark’s session at 4 p.m., followed by Clark’s keynote address at 5:30 p.m. Teacher-only breakout sessions begin at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $25 for teachers, $35 for chamber members and $45 for general audience, and may be purchased at the Albany Area Chamber by calling (229) 434-8700.

For more information on “Summer School,” contact Mary Beth Hobby at (229) 567-5100 or To learn more about the Ron Clark Academy, visit

(Albany Herald)

July Business After Hours

Join us for Business After Hours on Tuesday, July 25 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at 636 Fussel Road, Leesburg. Join us for a backyard BBQ, wine tasting from Wolfcreek Winery in Americus and tasty desserts provided by Edible Arrangements of Albany! Those in attendance will be entered to win a backyard BBQ prize package. $100 cash drawing for Chamber members.

Luncheon Celebrates 40 Under Forty

For the past 10 years, The Albany Herald has recognized Southwest Georgia’s most promising young leaders through an annual event called 40 Under Forty.

This year’s luncheon, in partnership with the Albany area Chamber of Commerce, was conducted Wedensday at Doublegate Country Club. The banquet room was filled to capacity with award recipients, family and friends, Albany government officials and other community leaders.

“Today’s honorees are growing, capable and impressive representatives of the leadership here in Albany,” Jenny Savelle, chairman of the board for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

Albany Herald General Manager Ken Boler said it was hard to select just 40 because so many good recommendations and impressive resumes were submitted for consideration.

“I would like to recognize more,” Boler said.

To qualify for consideration, an individual must be younger than 40. Forty men and women are chosen from the nominees.

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard gave an encouraging greeting to Southwest Georgia’s rising leaders.

“It’s good for you to be here as an example for others. You represent the vision and the potential to impact our city and our state,” Hubbard said. “We encourage you to share your ideas and to listen to the ideas of others.

“You have the ability and the opportunity to truly make a difference.”

The 40 recipients represent a wide spectrum of industries and occupations, including representatives from the military, medical professionals and local educators. This year, 15 of the honorees are employed by the Dougherty County School System. A spokesperson for the school district said 15 teachers were submitted for consideration and all 15 were chosen for the honor.

“This year we recognize all 40 from all fields but especially a large number of school teachers who have the opportunity to shape young minds and to mold the future of our local workforce,” Barbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

Sonya Spillers, public information officer for Dougherty Public Schools, said she personally nominated the 15 school district employees for their hard work and exceptional service in the classroom.

“These are just a sample of the classroom leaders we have here in the Dougherty County School System,” she said. “Because of these and others like them, our district has been able to improve our schools and provide new opportunities for our students.”

One of the honorees, Ashley Morris, who serves as dean of general education and oversees the Learning Support Department at Albany Technical College, is new to the Albany aeea, moving here two years ago. She was previously employed by Savannah Tech and also ran a tutoring business in Central Georgia.

“I think I was nominated because of my service to students and to people in general,” Morris said.

Morris is an ordained minister currently attending Bethel AME in Albany under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Kevin Moore.

“I do ministry whenever I have the time and much of what I do in ministry is related to education,” she said.

As for her work at Albany Tech, Morris said she oversees all of the general education core classes every student is required to take before entering into a specific area of vocational training.

“We are the gateway to the vocational courses. The core classes set the foundation,” Morris said.

Also representing Albany Tech, Mobley is an author, a transformational speaker and a certified life coach. She is the owner of Success and Wealth Institute LLC. A native of Miami, Fla., Mobley earned her doctorate in pharmacy from the Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

Many of the 40 leaders came from the health profession, including five with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Others included business leaders, attorneys, officials with non-profits and other professionals.

“We recognize leadership from all walks of life, all occupations and all across our community,” said Savelle.

Dougherty County Commissioner Christopher Cohilas said the 40 Under Forty leaders have a greater opportunity to impact others far beyond Albany and South Georgia, mostly because of technology. The window of opportunity is wide open, Cohilas said.

“There is a big generation gap in how we communicate as leaders. This younger generation is more engaged due to social media technology. They can reach a much broader spectrum of people. Essentially, y’all are the future of this community,” Cohilas said while addressing the 2017 honorees.

Cohilas commended Albany for recognizing its young leaders when many other communities do not. He also offered those leaders some wisdom and advice.

“Be willing to step out of your comfort zones. Look at ideas and issues — especially those that have gone by the wayside. Share your ideas. Do research so when you are discussing your concerns and ideas you have measured reasoning,” Cohilas said.

After brief greetings and a bountiful buffet, each recipient was called to the podium to accept a plaque presented by The Herald and the Chamber. Throughout the ceremony, banquet attendees looked on sharing applause, supportive nods and whispering private words of encouragement.

“This is how you change a city,” Boler said. “What each of you do for the workforce and the community is huge.”

Sponsors for the 10th annual 40 Under Forty leadership recognition ceremony include Procter & Gamble; Albany Technical College; WALB; Phoebe Health; Moore, Clarke, DuValle & Rogers Attorneys at Law, and the Dougherty County School System.

(The Albany Herald)