Author Archives: Reedi Mabrey

Chelise Ethridge, owner/operator of animation art business Lovelise named FLEX ABY Champion

FLEX ABY Champion Chelise Ethridge (right) poses with second place winner Andrew Dawson (center) and third place winner Zaria Davenport (left) alongside round three judges and event organizers.

FLEX ABY Champion Chelise Ethridge (right) poses with second place winner Andrew Dawson (center) and third place winner Zaria Davenport (left) alongside round three judges and event organizers.

Albany, GA – Chelise Ethridge, owner and operator of animation art business Lovelise, was named the 2023 FLEX ABY champion at the third and final round of local competition held on March 16 at Albany State University West Student Center. The inaugural local competition is produced in partnership by the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and 4C Academy.

As the first-place winner, Ethridge is the recipient of $5,000 in prize money, which she will use to scale her animation business. She will go on to represent Albany-Dougherty County in the state FLEX competition in Fitzgerald on April 13.

Ethridge is a senior at the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4C Academy), who through animation, uses art as a storytelling medium, primarily positioned on social media.

“My goal is to use my life experience and my status as a young entrepreneur as an inspiration to others, encouraging all people, but particularly young women, to pursue their passions and celebrate their individuality. Animation art allows me to share my stories with the world and encourage others to find the confidence to share theirs as well,” said Ethridge.

Ethridge says she plans to use the $5,000 in seed money to invest in design equipment and software for her business.

FLEX ABY is a preliminary competition in a statewide program, designed to encourage innovation, create prosperity and revitalize rural entrepreneurial ecosystems by exposing students to the rewards, challenges and processes associated with starting a business.

Originally founded in Fitzgerald, FLEX – which stands for “Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneur X-perience” – benefits students by not only providing them with real-world business experience, but also by enhancing employability skills such as accountability, collaboration and creative thinking.

“FLEX ABY is an effective and fun tool for inspiring innovation among our young people and showing them that their ideas can come to life and can be profitable while helping them develop the employability skills needed in the marketplace,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany area Chamber and Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “Through the generous support of our business community, we have been able to provide these student businesses with the financial support and direction they need to start and grow their businesses. The vision is that one day, these students come back to Albany as fully developed business owners and become the business leaders of tomorrow.”

Over the 2023 season, the FLEX ABY field gradually narrowed from 20 students in round one, to 10 students in round two, to ultimately three finalists who competed in the March 16 finals.

Other finalists included 9th grader Andrew Dawson of Plug’s Kitchen, a specialty catering business which received second place; and 12th grader Zaria Davenport who operates Zari D Artistry, a custom, hand-painted shoe design company.

FLEX ABY kicked off its inaugural year in September 2022 with students from 4C Academy, which encompasses students from throughout the Dougherty County School System, as well as districts from surrounding counties. Organizers plan to scale FLEX ABY to include more area schools in future years.

Star Business of the Week: Albany Community Together

Congratulations to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Star Business of the Week, Albany Community Together!

Albany Community Together is a non-traditional lender offering business development services and affordable access to capital to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. ACT started as a revolving loan fund in the late 90’s and rebranded as Albany Community Together in 2001 becoming fully certified community development financial institution in 2007. ACT provides services and loan programs to 38 counties in Southwest Georgia.

Star Business of the Week: King Family Dental Care

Congratulations to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Star Business of the Week, King Family Dental Care!

King Family Dental Care is a locally owned cosmetic dentistry practice, run by father and son duo Charles C. King, Sr., DMD and C. Clinton King, Jr., DMD – both proud Albany State University graduates. Serving Albany for more than 40 years, they provide preventive dental care, root canal therapy and prosthodontic care. As a member of the National Dental Association, King Family Dental Care’s preventive and curative consideration stays contemporary and up to date.

Albany Area Chamber leads local delegation in “Albany-Dougherty Day” at state capitol

Albany, Ga. – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce this week led a robust delegation of local leaders from the public and private sectors to Atlanta for “Albany-Dougherty Day” at the state capitol, an Albany Area Chamber legislative advocacy program that emphasizes the community’s priorities and opportunities and showcases the impact of its leadership and collaboration.

The advocacy event included Thursday meetings at the capitol with the Office of Gov. Brian Kemp; Lt. Gov. Burt Jones; Commissioner of Agriculture Tyler Harper; Commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia Greg Dozier; Speaker Jon Burns; Minority Leader James Beverly; representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Transportation Alliance; and a variety of committee chairs from the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives, along with members of the Albany Area Legislative Delegation.

“Albany-Dougherty County is well-recognized as the hub of Southwest Georgia and a statewide leader in exemplifying the power of partnership, which was demonstrated this week through the diverse delegation of local leaders engaged in discussions,,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. “The Albany Area Chamber is the region’s largest business advocacy organization, connecting and convening more than 700 area businesses and community partners, and facilitating the representation of their legislative priorities on the local, state and federal levels. The Albany-Dougherty Day legislative event is our annual opportunity to present a collective front to state lawmakers and key influencers, demonstrating shared vision and community support on priorities most vital to the long-term success of Albany and its surrounding counties.”

The delegation kicked off the visit with a Wednesday night reception which was attended by featured guests such as University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue; Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr; Georgia Insurance Commissioner John King; State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods; and Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Ken Hodges; among other prominent state officials and department figures. Reception fare highlighted Albany-made products by Sunnyland Farms, Molson Coors and Pretoria Fields as well as locally-sourced peanuts.

State leaders provided updates on priority initiatives for Albany-Dougherty County and Southwest Georgia and noted the region’s role in keeping Georgia the No. 1 state for business, commending Albany-Dougherty County’s spirit of collaboration and innovation, particularly in the areas of work force, health care and industry.

The Albany Area Chamber’s 2023 pro-business legislative priorities include expansion of the health care professional pipeline to ensure Georgia has the work force to provide the care and services citizens need, and supporting telemedicine to increase access to care for rural Georgians; investing in rural broadband and rural innovation, which is critical to supporting educational attainment, economic growth and utilization of telehealth services; supporting incentives and initiatives that remove barriers for small businesses and expand access to resources; fiscal policies and a regulatory environment that facilitates job creation and business investment; and increased investment in transportation infrastructure to support Georgia’s distribution and logistics industries.

Additionally, the Chamber is advocating for $15.6 million in state appropriations for the construction of the Criminal Justice Demonstration Center at Albany Technical College to support enrollment growth in criminal justice programs and support law enforcement training needs; $900,000 in design funding for the renovation of Albany State University’s Billy C. Black Building, which will improve operational efficiencies and support student success; and $892,000 to double the capacity of pre-K slots in the Dougherty County School System to enhance early learning and increase literacy rates.

The local leadership delegation included representatives from AB&T; Adams Exterminators; Albany Area Primary Health Care; Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau; Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission; Albany State University; Albany Technical College; AT&T; City of Albany; Dougherty County; Dougherty County School System; Georgia CEO; Horizons Community Solutions; Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany; McLendon Acres; Molson Coors and Phoebe Putney Health System.

Albany-Dougherty Day is a component of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Division, comprised of member business representatives and chaired by Bridges Sinyard, vice president of Adam’s Exterminators.

Star Business of the Week: Albany Auto Glass

Congratulations to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Star Business of the Week, Albany Auto Glass!

Albany Auto Glass is a complete auto glass repair and replacement shop offering recalibration of advanced driver assistance systems preformed after a windshield replacement. They offer in-shop and mobile services for all of Southwest Georgia and are now offering residential and commercial glass services such as shower enclosures and storefront glass replacement. With more than 40 years of experience in the glass industry, Albany Auto Glass is the only glass shop in Albany that provides recalibration services for ADAS equipped vehicles.

Sherwood Christian Academy’s Eric Bergrab named 2023 Dougherty County STAR Student

Albany, GA – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce today announced Sherwood Christian Academy senior Eric Bergrab as the 2023 Dougherty County STAR Student, earning the recognition for academic achievement and performance on the SAT. Bergrab recognized Vicki Davis as his STAR teacher.

Bergrab will represent Dougherty County at the March 23 regional competition.

The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program is sponsored and managed by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation. Since its inception in 1958, the STAR program has honored nearly 27,000 students and the teachers selected as the most influential to their academic achievement. High school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average to qualify for STAR nomination.  The Albany Area Chamber serves as the local program sponsor and host of the luncheon recognition event.

“The Albany Area Chamber has identified talent development and retention as a top priority for the long-term success of Albany and Southwest Georgia, and leads this impactful work through its Talent, Education and Leadership Division,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of Albany Area Chamber, the local STAR program sponsor. “Today, we have recognized incredible talent right here in the Albany community and have celebrated them alongside many of our business partners. As corporate citizens, we should be encouraged to continue supporting and investing in all our students, each of whom holds promise today and in the future.”

PAGE and the PAGE Foundation honor outstanding students and educators and encourage academic excellence through competitive academic programs such as PAGE STAR, the PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Grades and the PAGE Georgia Academic Decathlon.

Honored at today’s recognition luncheon were the school-specific STAR students from throughout Dougherty County, and from among which the countywide STAR student was selected. Each student selected his or her STAR teacher.

The school-specific STAR students and teachers are:

  • Anna Claire Kimsey, student, and Ashley Reynolds, teacher – Byne Christian School
  • Harshil Joshi, student, and Alee Miller, teacher – Deerfield-Windsor School
  • Jayden Keaton, student, and Jill Dervan, teacher – Dougherty Comprehensive High School
  • Jalen Wimberly, student, and Alethia Samuels, teacher – Monroe Comprehensive High School
  • Eric Bergrab, student, and Vicki Davis, teacher – Sherwood Christian Academy
  • Kelsey Woods, student, and Jacqueline Floyd, teacher – Westover Comprehensive High School

STAR begins each year in participating Georgia high schools when the STAR Student is named and chooses a STAR Teacher to share in this recognition. The students and their teachers are honored by their schools and receive special recognition in their communities from one of the more than 165 statewide civic organizations and businesses that serve as local sponsors of the STAR program. Students then compete for school system recognition as the top STAR Student, and those winners compete for region honors. Region winners contend for the honor of being named State PAGE STAR Student. STAR Teachers continue on with their STAR Students at every level of the program.

Georgia Chamber hosts business prospects for annual ‘Georgia Quail Hunt’ in Albany

Albany, Ga. – This week, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Georgia Quail Hunt in Albany, as business leaders representing state recruitment and expansion prospects joined local and state economic development officials, including Lt. Governor Burt Jones and University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue, to learn about the benefits of doing business in Georgia.

Now in its 34th year, the Georgia Quail Hunt is the state’s premier economic development recruitment event.

The Albany Area is recognized as one of the world’s premier destinations for quail hunting, with the industry producing an estimated annual economic impact of more than $145 million. This week’s recruitment event utilizes various hunting preserves throughout Southwest Georgia and is based out of Albany.

“The Georgia Quail Hunt allows us to host business prospects and statewide decision-makers over a three-day period, where they can experience first-hand the high quality of life and available business opportunities here in Albany and Southwest Georgia,” said Jana Dyke, president and CEO of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission. “The event provides unique opportunities for relationship building, which has proven to be a successful factor in project recruitment over the hunt’s 34-year history.”

Since 1994 alone, business guests of the Georgia Quail Hunt have invested upwards of $2.5 billion and created more than 10,000 jobs in the state as a result of corporate locations or expansions.

Industry locations in Albany-Dougherty County facilitated through the hunt include Outdoor Network, PowerSports Plus and WebstaurantStore.

“Georgia has established itself as the nation’s top state for business, and this event allows us the opportunity to showcase Georgia’s people and business friendly environment,” said 2023 Georgia Quail Hunt Chairman Daryl Ingram, chief external officer and senior vice president of Electric Cities of Georgia. “Economic success, to a large part, is due to collaboration between public and private entities coming together to create opportunities for businesses to thrive, and therefore creating thriving communities along with them. This event is a perfect example of the collaborative atmosphere businesses can expect when they choose to locate or expand in Georgia.”

Georgia’s competitive advantages in site location include tax environment, availability of talent and access to training, and quality transportation infrastructure. Area Development magazine has recognized these assets – along with many others – and for an unprecedented nine years running, has named Georgia the nation’s “Top state for doing business.”

Event organizers say the hunt has been successful in promoting these assets and recruiting businesses to the state.

“For more than 30 years, the Georgia Quail Hunt has helped facilitate the creation of thousands of jobs and tens of billions in investment in Georgia’s economy,” said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber. “Hosting the event in Albany provides an incredible opportunity to showcase Southwest Georgia as a premier destination for business, giving guests a first-hand look at the region’s high quality of life and exposing them to local and state leaders who are eager to help them take their business to the next level.”

Clark attributed the event’s long-standing success largely to the partnership and hospitality of local groups Locate South Georgia, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the many local volunteers that support the hunt.

The hunt is sponsored by the Georgia Allies, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Locate South Georgia, along with corporate sponsors Bergara, BPI Outdoors, Glock, Kia Georgia, Inc., Molson Coors, PowerSports Plus, Remington Firearms, Taurus Holdings and Trulock Choke Tubes.

Star Business of the Week: Wells Fargo Advisors

Congratulations to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Star Business of the Week, Wells Fargo Advisors!

Wells Fargo Financial Advisors provide advice and guidance on a full range of products and services to help maximize the elements of your financial life. Services include College Savings Plans, Insurance, Individual Retirement Accounts, Credit and Lending, Business Services and Investment Advisory Services. Wells Fargo Advisors allows clients to choose their own investment path based upon the relationship that works well for them. Clients can work with a dedicated advisor or engage through the organization’s digital platform. Membership in the Albany Area Chamber allows Wells Fargo Advisors to engage in the community and support causes that are most impactful to the clients they serve.

Star Business of the Week: Villager Cleaners

Congratulations to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Star Business of the Week, Villager Cleaners!

In business since 1970, Villager Cleaners offers full-scale laundry service from dry cleaning of clothes and linens to expert tailoring and alterations. Villager Cleaners takes care of all your dry cleaning and alterations services while keeping customer satisfaction top priority. Today, Villager Cleaners has six different locations and remains a family-owned business dedicated to serving its customers all across Southwest Georgia.