Albany Area Chamber’s 112th annual meeting celebrates wins, sets course for future

Albany, GA – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce tonight hosted its 112th annual meeting on the Bricks at Thronateeska in downtown Albany. The event is one of the most important of the year for the Albany Area Chamber and celebrates accomplishments, shares how the Chamber will continue to move businesses forward throughout the year ahead, and shines the light on the Chamber’s most engaged leaders and those who have worked to make a positive impact on Albany and the Albany Area.

The Albany Area Chamber was founded in 1910, when business leaders saw the need for an organization that would represent the interests of job-creating businesses, harness the assets of the community and bring partners together for the economic and social prosperity of Albany and the Albany Area. Its success through more than a century of work lies in the support of its members and investors, strategic partners, dedicated staff, visionary board of directors and the hundreds of volunteers whose commitment to a vibrant Albany is unwavering.

“For 112 years, the Albany Area Chamber has been at the forefront of Albany’s evolution as a regional leader for industry, commerce and connection,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the largest business advocacy organization, and its 501©3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. Through implementation of our future-focused strategic plan, #ImpactABY2023, we will continue to accelerate Albany’s economic advancement through promoting business investment and job growth by advocating for pro-business policies such as workplace diversity, modern infrastructure investments and work force development initiatives and partnerships.”

#ImpactABY2023 leans into impact, value and constant progress, and represents a range of programmatic and operational improvements across the organization to impact member, community and regional success, and to become a future-focused chamber with the talent, infrastructure and agility to execute, innovate and succeed. In short: To reach and sustain extraordinary impact and excellence. #ImpactABY2023 changes the how so that we may continue to achieve the why.

The strategic plan directs the Chamber’s focus to five key areas, each represented by a division with a strategic program of work, volunteer-led by a member of the Chamber’s Executive Committee.

Education, Talent and Leadership. Working to identify, engage, develop and advance talent and leaders in our community. This division connects employers and educators to ensure businesses have the work force they need, and students of all ages have opportunities right here in Albany; connects young professionals and immerses them in our community so they continue to choose Albany; has expanded our Albany Under 40 program; is working to increase third-grade literacy rates; and is playing a role in supporting the unique talent needs of our health care employers.

Government Affairs and Advocacy. The Chamber continues to work closely with our governmental partners and our elected officials to ensure the voices of our businesses and our community are heard, and continue to work to enhance job retention and job creation, and to protect, defend and advance the pro-business policies that support job-creating entities. Through this division, the Chamber is developing a non-partisan political leadership institute to “build the bench” of public servants who want to improve the community by serving in appointed positions or in elected offices.

To exponentially expand our voice, the 11 largest and most influential Chambers outside of Atlanta — the Albany Area Chamber among them — partnered to create a new public policy group to coordinate, identify common needs and develop strategy and recommendations that focus on anticipated long term economic and policy issues. Organized under the Georgia Chamber, the group this year led support of work force-related legislation and House Bill 1064, which eliminates the state income tax for military retirees, which was recently signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This program extends the full scope of our resources and leverages the power of partnerships to advance economic opportunities for all people. After much work throughout 2021 by our DE&I Working Group and adoption of recommendations by the Chamber’s Board of Directors, this year the Chamber is implementing the region’s first business-led DE&I initiative to facilitate a more inclusive economy and become a more attractive location for businesses to invest and thrive.

Military Affairs. The Albany Area Chamber and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany have been partners from the beginning, with the Chamber serving as a primary partner and advocate of the installation and command — from work force to military family friendliness to Congressional allocation of dollars and resources. Just this week, the Chamber submitted a $101 million appropriations request to Congress to fund two projects aboard the installation that directly support the Marines Corps’ readiness, and our national — and global — defense.

Business, Innovation & Entrepreneurship. This division strengthens the connective tissue that all businesses need, focusing on advancing innovation and providing new opportunities for peer-to-peer connection. This committee is helping build a resource guide and network for business start-ups and development, and is expanding the Albany Area Chamber Business Awards to capture and celebrate more of the unique talent, success, diversity and innovation of  member businesses.

It’s through this division through which the Chamber created a members-only task force to help create our new membership model, which will roll out this year. The newly-designed tiered benefits and investment structure allows member businesses to customize their partnership with the Albany Area Chamber though investment levels specifically designed to support unique business goals, at any stage in a company’s growth.

The 2022 event, presented by Colony Bank and Procter & Gamble, included the transfer of the chairman’s gavel; the announcement of the 2022 Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year; and honored the Chamber’s 2022 Lifetime Service Award recipient.

Matt Reed, 2021 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber Board of Directors, and owner of Georgia CEO and The UPS Stores at 2021 N. Slappey Blvd. and 2800 Old Dawson Road in Albany, formally presented City of Albany facilities director and retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Don Gray as the organization’s 2022 chairman. As is precedent, Reed assumes a new role as chair of the Board of Directors of the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. Chandu Kuntawalla, program manager at defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, assumes the role of chair-elect, and will take reigns in 2023.

“The annual meeting of the Albany Area Chamber represents the culmination of work completed throughout the last year, and the beginning of a new era of leadership and advocacy,” said Gray. “I have always taken pride in serving the Albany community; and now, through the chairmanship of the Albany Area Chamber, I will have the opportunity to maximize that passion for service, working side-by-side with other passionate business and non-profit leaders to advance our community’s most renowned advocacy organization.”

“Over the last year, the Albany Area Chamber, and through it, the Albany community, has continued to distinguish itself as innovative, effective and resilient,” Reed said. “It’s been an honor to serve as chairman during this unique and challenging time, and to have the opportunity to represent the community in this capacity.”

The Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year was announced as Dr. Koosh Desai, originally nominated for the awards in the “Youth & Education” category, for his work with the Medical College of Georgia’s Albany-based Southwest Campus.

The Albany Under 40 program is an initiative of the Chamber’s Talent Education and Leadership Committee, and honors the Albany Area’s emerging leaders and professionals in a variety of business sectors, each representing a component of the area’s diversified talent pool and economy. 

Category finalists were selected from within the applicant pool by a volunteer committee, and category winners were announced at the Albany Under 40 reception in December 2021. The AU40 Young Professional of the Year is selected from among category winners.

Sonny Deriso, 1990 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber, was honored with the Chamber’s prestigious Lifetime Service Award.

Deriso practiced law with Albany’s Divine, Wilkin, Deriso, Raulerson & Fields from 1972-1991 before assuming the role of president and CEO of Security Bank and Trust Co. of Albany, a role he held from 1991-1997, and subsequently served as the bank’s chairman until 2006.

Deriso is a staunch community advocate, having served on a vast variety of local and state boards, and has stood alongside the Chamber in its mission to foster and further the economic prosperity of the Albany Area. Deriso was most recently chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, a partner of the Albany Area Chamber and Georgia’s leading statewide business advocate.

The 112th annual meeting is further sponsored by the Artesian Alliance; the City of Albany; Turner Job Corps; Flint AG; Molson Coors; Draffin and Tucker; Georgia Power; Jim Boyd Construction; Marcus, Inman and Daniels; Mars Wrigley; Mitchell EMC; Southern Point Staffing; WebstaurantStore; Georgia CEO; the UPS Store and Albany Area Primary Healthcare.


About the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce

The Albany Area Chamber, founded in 1910, is leading a multi-year strategic effort to advance business success and economic opportunities in Albany and the Albany Area. Learn more at