Category Archives: Chamber News

Georgia Chamber Georgia 2030 2.0 Tour

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to host the Georgia Chamber of Commerce as they continue their Georgia 2030 statewide conversation. Join us as Georgia Chamber President & CEO, Chris Clark, digs deeper into last year’s findings and discusses innovative solutions important to our community.

June 22, 2017
11:30 a.m. – noon | Networking & Lunch Registration
noon – 1 p.m. | Lunch Program
Albany State University, L. Orene Hall Building
504 College Drive, Albany, GA 31705

Register Here

Albany Area Chamber Hosts Annual State of the Community Luncheon

(Albany Herald) A large crowd gathered at Albany State University’s West Campus Wednesday as the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual State of the Community luncheon. The theme for this year’s event was “After the Storms: Commerce and Community.”

The meeting began with a powerful video narrated by Albany’s original Freedom Singer, Rutha Harris, who said the storms tested the community to its limits but ultimately brought the community together stronger than ever before. As images of storm damage and community cleanup efforts flashed across the screen, Harris spoke softly yet firmly of the tenacity, love, hope, perseverance and collaboration that helped the community cope with the trauma and inspired it to join forces with the common goal of rising above the ruins.

Highlighting the event was a panel discussion featuring officials with three local businesses hit hard by the storms that devastated Albany five months ago.

“We wanted to show how far our community has come,” said chamber Chairwoman Jenny Savelle.

Chamber President Barbara Rivera Holmes served as moderator for the panel discussion, which included David Castellano and Dixie Ziegler, representing Hamilton Relay; Werhner Washington, who serves as plant manager for Procter & Gamble Albany, and Karen Snyder, a board member representing the Albany Museum of Art.

“Hamilton Relay has rebuilt almost as quickly as the storms demolished their facility,” Holmes said while announcing that the company would hold a ribbon-cutting at its newly rebuilt Dawson Road facility later in the day.

“After the storms, we examined our facility and saw it was a total loss,” Castellano said. “We determined we would need everything brand new. Instead of leaving Albany, we decided to stay right here and expand.”

Hamilton Relay Corporate Office Representative Ziegler said the company began its plans to rebuild in Albany right away.

“The minute the storm hit, we had no doubt about staying in Albany,” she told the audience. “It was a no-brainer because we had been in Albany for 10 years. Albany has a good work force and a good labor pool. The community has been supportive, and we know we are in a good environment.”

P&G’s Washington said the company’s manufacturing plant was not heavily damaged, but the distribution center had significant structural damage. Washington also reported that much of the company’s inventory was destroyed.

Although the distribution plant had to be demolished, the company kept its supply lines open and filled its orders by partnering with other Procter & Gamble distribution centers. Five months after the storm, Washington now credits the tornado that hit his plant for helping the company to rethink its distribution process by finding better ways to fill orders.

“The storm could have destroyed us,” he said. “Instead, it forced us to to discover a new opportunity to rebuild and a new way to synchronize our supply chain. Those changes ultimately helped us to streamline operations around customer sales.

“Today, we are well on the road to recovery, and we are transforming our distribution plant into a lean, mean and highly synchronized machine.”

Meanwhile, the Albany Museum of Art remains in transition. After experiencing a great deal of damage from the storm, the museum, located next to Albany State University’s West Campus, had to be shut down. Since then, the museum has been actively searching for a permanent home.

“We had heavy damage from rain and high winds, which peeled back a significant portion of the roof,” Snyder said. “The good news is not one of our paintings or artifacts was a total loss, although many items had to be sent to Chicago for repairs and restoration. Just like family photos, none of these items can be replaced.”

As the artifact restoration efforts continue, the museum has remained in a state of transition. Snyder estimates it will take at least two years for the museum to fully recover. She noted, though, that plans are underway to move the museum permanently to downtown Albany.

“The storm gave us the opportunity to reconsider how we want to grow,” Snyder said. “We like the synergy of things that are happening in downtown Albany. We want to become the anchor of the cultural center in the downtown district.”

Snyder said the museum board members are highly optimistic that the museum will find a new home and be settled enough to open a new downtown location by Labor Day.

While business leaders were happy to share their success, the representatives of all three companies agreed that the road to recovery isn’t over and more support will be needed in the days ahead.

After lunch, Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Christopher Cohilas continued the discussion on ways to keep Albany moving forward after the storms.

Holmes said the city is allocating SPLOST funds to initiate a variety of new and ongoing efforts to improve city infrastructure and to continue with disaster clean-up. Homeowners can still contact the city if they need help removing stumps and other debris left by the storms, the chamber president said.

Cohilas said housing initiatives and road improvements will also be a priority as Albany officials continue to evaluate storm recovery progress.

Hamilton Relay re-opens after storms, brings jobs to area

(WALB) An Albany business, severely damaged during the January 2 storm, is back open and could bring more jobs to Albany soon.

Albany city leaders and Hamilton Relay employees held a ribbon cutting for its grand re-opening Wednesday afternoon.

The center processes calls for people who are hearing or speech impaired.

Vice President Dixie Ziegler gave out several donations.

Grow Albany, New Hope Recovery Center and Run for Your Lungs each received a $250 check.

The Georgia School for the deaf and the blind received 5,000 dollars.

Officials also announced dozens of new jobs.

“Let’s take this opportunity to grow, let’s bring back jobs to Albany again,” said Hamilton Relay Center Manager David Castellano.

“There’s really no price tag that we can put on for the amount of support and the things that the individuals did in this community to support us,” explained Hamilton Relay Vice President Dixie Ziegler. “It’s simply priceless the type of energy, enthusiasm, and let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to work.”

Hamilton Relay said people looking to apply for jobs at the center should have good reading skills, great listening skills and type up to 60 words per minute.

Institute for Leadership Development Graduates Class of 2016-2017

Fourteen business professionals graduate Thursday, May 25,  from the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Institute for Leadership Development, a program that aims to create stronger leaders to serve Albany Area businesses and the community by effectively utilizing the resources of the chamber. The graduation ceremony will be hosted at Wynfield Plantation in Albany at 5:30 p.m.

“The Albany Area Chamber’s Institute for Leadership Development has been successful in molding future business leaders through personal and professional development. It is important to build upon the professional skills of our participants and realize that leaders can be developed from all levels within an organization,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.

A key element of the Institute for Leadership Development is the mentor-mentee program, which pairs current community leaders with young professionals, providing invaluable experience and knowledge to help fully develop the participants’ talents. Along with mentorship, the curriculum provides a genuine and detailed focus on several key leadership qualities including effective networking, delegation; understanding leadership style; visioning and strategic planning; political savvy; influence and negotiation; image and the media.


David Anderson       MCLB Albany

Kimberly Carter       Albany State University

Deborah Clemons    Renasant Bank

James T. Ealum        Campaign Manager

Lola Edwards            Albany Technical College

Erin Freeman            Albany Area Resource Center

Reedi Hawkins         Albany-Dougherty EDC

Tim Hunter                Tim Hunter, CPA

Haley Janousek         Mauldin & Jenkins

Michael Kennedy      Lee County Library

Whitney Passmore    AB&T

Latreesa Perryman   MCLB Albany

Daniel Stone              SB&T

Jason Wilson             Southern Point Staffing

On May 11, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Albany announced a merger of the two leadership programs. The merger allows for the blend of the Leadership Albany program, which places a strong emphasis on building community trustees, and curriculum programs of the chamber’s Leadership Institute, which focuses on developing traits such as political awareness, media savvy and business leadership.

Leadership Albany and Albany Area Chamber Leadership Institute Announce Merger

With a focus on developing effective business, community and elected leaders and recognizing the unique strengths of each program toward that goal, Leadership Albany and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership for Institute Development announced Thursday the merger of the two programs.

The announcement took place Thursday at Leadership Albany’s 2016-2017 class graduation ceremony at L. Orene Hall at Albany State University.

“It is with great anticipation that we announce the merger of Leadership Albany and the Albany Area Chamber’s Institute for Leadership Development. Both programs have relatively similar missions: to create stronger leaders to serve our businesses and our community. By joining forces, we will only strengthen our commitment to that mission and ensure the longevity of a local leadership development program for years to come,” said Carroll Weaver, chair of the Leadership Albany Board of Directors.

Leadership Albany was established in 1984 for the purpose of identifying and developing leaders in the Albany Area. With more than 800 alumni, the organization’s roster reads like a who’s who of area business, nonprofit and city/county leaders. The Leadership Institute started in 2015 at the urging of area businesses that saw the need for new skill sets in their workforce.
The merger allows for the blend of the Leadership Albany program, which places a strong emphasis on building community trustees, and curriculum programs of the chamber’s Leadership Institute, which focuses on developing traits such as political awareness, media savvy and business leadership.

“The Albany Area Chamber believes in results-oriented partnerships and in the effective use of resources. Blending the strong business leadership program of the chamber’s Institute for Leadership Development with Leadership Albany’s mission to develop leaders for the common good will provide a well-rounded experience for participants who have demonstrated a willingness and capacity to lead,” said Jenny Savelle, chair of the board of directors of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.

Active planning of the merger began earlier this year when the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter of intent to the Leadership Albany Board of Directors. A committee was then formed to discuss the feasibility of the merger and evaluate the benefits to the community and the organization.

During the next few months, the Leadership Albany Board of Directors will be releasing more information on the specifics of the merger and updated programming.

State of the Community: After the Storms

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. After The Storms: Commerce and Community focuses on how storm-impacted government and businesses are rethinking, retooling and reinvesting in ways that drive innovation, efficiency and a competitive edge.

The panelists will include Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, City of Albany; Chairman Christopher S. Cohilas, Dougherty County; David Castellano, Georgia Center Manager, Hamilton Relay; and Werhner Washington, Plant Manager, Procter & Gamble.

Albany Area Chamber Plants Trees at Habitat for Humanity Event

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce was able to help revitalize and grow the community Thursday night when the organization gave a boost to the Grow Albany campaign while also supporting the latest Flint River Habitat for Humanity project at the special Backyard BBQ Business After Hours.

“I just really, really am glad that the chamber decided to partner with us on this Business After Hours event,” said Flint River Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Scooter Courtney. “It allows us to showcase what Habitat does.”

In addition to showing off the newly rehabilitated Habitat home at 817 16th Avenue, the after-hours event also featured the home’s new owners joining Habitat and chamber officials to plant one of 20 live oak trees being given to Habitat by the chamber as part of the Grow Albany initiative to revitalize Albany’s signature tree canopy. That natural community landmark was devastated during January’s brutal storms.

“Habitat is committed to providing opportunities for people, and Grow Albany is about restoring our habitat, so there’s a synergy there; it was natural for us to donate these live oaks to Habitat,” said Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Rivera Holmes. “We’re donating 20 trees to Habitat, and we’re going to plant one today. This will be the first.”

The chamber’s support of the Grow Albany campaign aims to help restore the community’s tree canopy. From announcing the campaign at its annual dinner in January to generating the campaign’s first proceeds through the sale of a one-of-a-kind oil painting done by Albany-born Rob Matre through the Plaid Columns collective, the chamber has fully embraced the mission of replanting trees.

“From the get-go, we’ve been committed to helping our community recover, not just from an economic perspective and not just from a people recovery standpoint, but also from a landscape recovery perspective,” said Holmes. “I think this is a step toward re-engaging, of reminding people that we still have a long way to go.

“The campaign is still ongoing. We’ve been promoting Grow Albany in a variety of different ways, so this will hopefully serve as a kick-start again for Grow Albany. We’ve seen the damage and we’ve seen the destruction, but we can only recover, from a landscape perspective, by planting trees.”

From a Grow Albany campaign perspective, Judy Bowles, executive director of Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful, which is managing the joint city/county initiative, said the donation of trees to Habitat for Humanity will help reinvigorate the campaign, which stalled a bit after the Jan. 22 tornado.

The campaign had just been announced when the EF3-strength storm roared through Albany, and Bowles said everyone’s focus shifted immediately to helping that area of the community with immediate needs.

“It’s like we’re starting over,” Bowles said. “We were set to go, and then the tornado came and I spent most of my weekends out with volunteers cutting trees and dragging trees curbside so they could be picked up. Now we’re poised to reintroduce our project to the community.”

Right now, Bowles said the project is in its infancy, with most of the focus going toward spreading the word about the campaign and trying to raise the funds that will be needed to plant trees. Unfortunately, Bowles said, it’s difficult to share more information simply because of the fact that an assessment of that total amount of damage created by the two storms has not been completed.

“We’ve had eight arborists from around the state come in and assess our trees, and until we get a report on how many trees need to come down, how many we lost, I don’t know how to put a long-range plan together,” she said. “I know we’re bad, but I don’t know how bad we are.

“We have a lot to do everywhere. I haven’t even pulled a committee together yet because I’m still waiting to see where I am. When I know how bad the damage is, and I’ve got my maps on where the storm went through and where the tornado went through, and when I feel comfortable about how bad we are, then I can bring a committee together and we can talk about where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.”

Despite not having a fully developed plan, Bowles said there’s already been a groundswell of support for the project with several organizations making commitments to help. Already KADB has announced the names of three corporate supporters, and Bowles said she expects more to follow.

“We have announced Phoebe; they would like to be involved in Tift Park,” Bowles said. “SB&T, we’ve announced that one, and they would like to be involved in the Radium Springs area. And, of course, we had the donation from Metro Power. They bought the oil painting. Those are our pacesetters.”

Additionally, Bowles said she’s gotten support and donations from individuals in the community as well, with many donating money to have trees planted in someone’s honor.

“I had a check come in last week and it’s a citizen,” she said. “We received that check, and that check is designated for four memorial trees. We’re certainly encouraging other citizens to donate funds in honor of or in memory of special people in their lives.

“We have a great project lined up, and I know the community’s going to get behind it and support it.”

Although that support is evident, Bowles said she thinks it will take some time for the project to truly gain momentum because so many citizens are still in a personal recovery phase.

“I think the support has been overwhelming, and our citizens want to be engaged in Grow Albany,” she said. “But we have to remember that they’re still in shock and in pain over what they’ve been through.

“I was with someone yesterday, and there’s not a tree left in her yard. And she had trees in her yard that were 75 to 100 years old. So where you live looks real different, and you’re not happy with it. I think we have to go through the shock and the mourning phase before we get to the phase where we’re ready to move ahead with a plan to replant. Our tree canopy has been heavily damaged, and it’s going to take the commitment of our entire community to bring it back.”

Fortunately, Bowles said, the prime tree planting time for this area is November-February, which means there’s ample time to raise awareness and funds and put a plan together in time for planting season.

“Because of where we live, we’re not in an area where we plant trees in March and April, and so we’re in the fundraising phase so that we’ll be poised in November to really go then and to go into Tift Park and to go into Radium Springs to offer trees to residents,” she said. “I want to always push that it’s a multiyear, multiphase project.”

To learn more about the Grow Albany project, visit the KADB homepage or

Albany-Dougherty EDC Awards Several Area Industries

The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission (EDC) presented several area industries awards during its annual Rise N Shine Breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“We were proud to recognize, this morning, four great winners and existing industries in our community,” EDC President Justin Strickland said.

During the breakfast, four industries received awards in several different categories.

Thrush Aircraft received the Global Commerce Award with 86% of its sales coming from exports.

The Marine Depot Maintenance Command won the Excellence in Innovation Award after its challenging restoration of a WWII Prime Mover, 4×4 Cargo Truck.

MillerCoors received the Economic Impact Award. According to the EDC, MillerCoors Albany spends more than $400 million in Georgia-based goods and services each year.

Procter and Gamble won the Only One Albany Award for Corporate Community Citizenship. Despite seeing its own damage after the January storms, the company sent 100 employee volunteers into the community to help with storm cleanup.

Strickland said area industries have an incredible impact not only on Southwest Georgia but throughout the world.

The Annual Rise N Shine Breakfast takes place during the EDC’s Industry Celebration Week and is hosted by the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.

Albany Area Businesses Recognized at Celebrate Small Business Ceremony

Pool Brothers Cabinets + Flooring + Lighting named Albany Area Chamber Small Business of the Year

Just a nomination for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award was reward enough for Keith and David Pool, owners of Pool Brothers Cabinets+Flooring+Lighting.

Winning the award? Wasn’t even on the brothers’ radar.

But the Pools and their staff got a pleasant surprise Tuesday when Pool Brothers Cabinets+Flooring+Lighting was named the winner of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Award.

“This has just been a humbling experience,” Keith Pool said Wednesday. “Albany has so many great businesses, I am just blown away that we were selected, and we will do our best to serve this community and hopefully make the chamber proud.”

The Pool Brothers provide full-service consultation, design and installation of custom cabinets, flooring and lighting, and recently opened a 2,200-square-foot showroom at 182 Oakland Parkway in Lee County.

“The whole reason our business model is the way it is, is to provide our customers with the best possible service,” Pool said on the day after receiving the chamber honor. “I’ve been in this business for 17 years and have heard the stories of people being taken for a ride by contractors. We make sure that never happens to our customers.

“When you save up hard-earned money to invest into your home, that should be an enjoyable process. It should be fun. We help take the stress out of it, and the customer can rest assured that whatever their need, we are there to take care of it.”

The award ceremony took place during a “Spring Carnival” reception held at Chehaw park. All nine of the year’s finalists were recognized for the roles they play in growing the Albany area economy.

The chamber also honored 229 Yoga with its 2017 Rising Star Award, which recognizes a high-performing young business, and Southern Point Staffing with the 2017 #AlbanyStrong Award, which recognizes a business that went above and beyond to assist others during the disastrous storms that hit the community in January.

At the ceremony, Albany Area Chamber President Barbara Rivera Holmes pointed out that 78 percent of businesses in Georgia have fewer than 10 employees, and 95 percent have fewer than 50 employees.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American free enterprise system,” said Holmes. “Their opportunities for prosperity set the tone of communities and determine the strength of economies. The growth, products and services of the Albany Area Chamber 2017 Small Business of the Year, Pool Brothers Cabinets+Flooring+Lighting, and other finalists are indicative of the innovation, resilience and determination of the Albany area.”

According to Keith Pool, being nominated was flattering. Winning, he said, was a real honor. But he also noted that Pool Brothers is built around providing great service, with or without an award.

“We really appreciate being nominated, and, of course, I hoped that we would win. That’s a real honor,” said Pool. “But we are not in business to win awards. We are in business to provide our customers with the best service possible for any of their cabinet, flooring or lighting needs. That’s what we believe in, and that’s what we do.”

The other eight finalists nominated included 229 Yoga, Southern Point Staffing, Araamda Inn, Country Financial, Custom Interiors, Gieryic’s Automotive Repair, Shutters Plus, and Troy University Albany Support Center.

Celebrate Small Business Week in Albany continues today with a Lunch and Learn that includes the program “Branding Small Business,” That event will begin at 11:30 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. On Friday, the webinar “You’re Social, Now What?” will be available for viewing all day.

For more information on the Small Business of the Year awards and remaining Celebrate Small Business Week events, visit, or contact Deidra Langstaff at (229) 343-1366.