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Albany Area Chamber graduates inaugural class of Political Leadership Institute

Albany, GA – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce this month celebrated the graduation of the inaugural class of the Albany Area Political Leadership Institute (PLI), a nonpartisan political leadership program aimed at equipping participants for leadership on local boards and in elected office.

The cohort included 14 participants from Albany and the surrounding area, who through the program received basic knowledge on governmental leadership and foundational skills needed to serve in elected or appointed capacities.

“The Political Leadership Institute was designed as an innovative approach to developing local talent, specifically for the purpose of governmental leadership, which often comes with nuanced challenges that can be difficult to navigate without prior experience,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. “PLI helps bridge that gap for political newcomers, providing them with a primer on issues and on what to expect prior to engaging as a political candidate or accepting a position on a governmental board.”

Through PLI, the Albany Area Chamber hopes to engage more people in public service, and to connect with and develop business-minded leaders who have an interest in exploring leadership opportunities.

The program consisted of three half or full-day sessions covering information on local governmental structure, division of responsibilities and services, candidate requirements and the priorities of various governmental and agency boards. Each class day featured unique networking opportunities for class members to build relationships with each other and with business and community leaders.

The Political Leadership Institute is an initiative of the Albany Area Chamber’s #ImpactABY2023 strategy and implemented through its Government Affairs Division, chaired by Bridges Sinyard, vice president of Adams Exterminators. Applications for the 2023-24 class of the Political Leadership Institute will open early summer.

Albany ‘lives the dream’ through MLK Dinner, hosted in partnership by the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, Albany State university and the King Day Celebration Committee

Partner organizations celebrate legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 2023 MLK Dinner at Albany State University.

Albany, GA  – Albany lived the dream on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the community came together for the annual MLK Dinner, newly re-imagined and hosted in partnership for the first time by the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, Albany State University and the King Day Celebration Committee.

A much-loved and widely attended event in the Albany community for more than 25 years, this year’s program featured a diverse collaboration of partners with modern and fresh formatting.

The 2023 event featured keynote speaker Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Southeast Coastal States, recently named as one of GeorgiaTrend magazine’s “100 Most Influential Georgians.”

Harrison participated in a fireside chat-style discussion with Albany State University President Dr. Marion Fedrick and recapped her personal experience working her way up the corporate ladder in the telecommunications industry, a sector that she said didn’t always reflect favorable chances of success for those of her demographic as a woman of color.

“Growing up as one of 10 in low-income housing headed by a single mother, we had no idea it was a negative thing to be considered ‘at-risk’,” explained Harrison in her discussion with Fedrick, co-chair of the King Day Celebration Committee. “We always knew we were going to do something great when we grew up, because my mother would always tell us we were ‘at-risk’ of doing great things.”

Harrison began her telecommunications career three decades ago as a telephone operator. She subsequently pursued a career-development opportunity in the network organization, quickly rising through the ranks of management within AT&T with increasing responsibility in the network, business, regulatory and external affairs departments. Prior to her current position, Harrison served for three years as president of AT&T Georgia and six years as president of AT&T North Carolina.

Dr. Fedrick noted Harrison’s story as an inspiration to ASU students, some of which were in attendance at the celebration.

The event, back for the first time since a COVID-induced hiatus, was presented by Colony Bank and further supported by corporate table sponsors Albany Community Together, AT&T, City of Albany, Dougherty County Board of Education, Dougherty County Commission, Food Lion, Georgia CEO and The UPS Store, Horizons Community Solutions, Leadership Albany, Phoebe Putney Health System, Piggly Wiggly – Food for Less and The Church of Christ, among many other attendants from businesses and organizations throughout the community.

In addition to a postponement of the event, the pandemic also disrupted the King Day Celebration Committee with the loss of committee member Femi Anderson, who was the driving force behind the “Children of the Dream” art competition, typically on display at the MLK Dinner in years past.

King Day Celebration Committee Chair Matt Reed announced the 2023 continuation of the art competition, newly titled in honor of Anderson’s memory as the “Femi Anderson Children of the Dream Art Competition”.

Reed also serves as co-chair of the Albany Area Chamber Foundation and delivered remarks on behalf of the organization.

“In the true spirit of unity and brotherhood, the planning and development of this program has been a team effort, and one that has made me proud to call Albany home,” said Reed. “As chair of the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, the 501c3 affiliate of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, we are here to support Albany in any way we can, with the MLK Dinner as a perfect example of our mission to move Albany forward through strategic partnerships and initiatives.”

In 2022, the Albany Area Chamber stood up the community’s first business-lead focus group on diversity, equity and inclusion through its new DE&I division which increases economic opportunities for businesses and people and engages more members of the citizenry into the work force.

Leading the Chamber’s initiative to expand access to opportunity and inclusivity across the community is Jeretha Peters, branch manager and first vice president of investments at WellsFargo Advisors, who serves as chair of the organization’s DE&I committee.

 “The Albany Area Chamber and its foundation, through the DE&I committee, is leading the effort to manifest Dr. King’s dream of a truly inclusive and unified Albany. We believe communities and businesses are more effective, innovative and successful when all people feel welcome to contribute, and believe in their ability to effect change,” said Peters.

The partners plan to bring the MLK Dinner back in January 2024.

Albany Area Chamber Foundation to host 2023 MLK Dinner in partnership with Albany State university and the King Day Celebration Committee

Albany, GA  – The Albany Area Chamber Foundation will host the 2023 MLK Dinner on Monday, January 16, in partnership with Albany State University and the King Day Celebration Committee. Presented by Colony Bank, the MLK Dinner is a celebration of the ideals of unity inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The Albany Area Chamber and Albany Area Chamber Foundation champion the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion in our community, reiterating the benefits of being intentional in attracting a diverse and dynamic work force where all are welcome and encouraged to contribute,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, President & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber and its 501©3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “This initiative is in line with and inspired by the beliefs of Dr. Martin Luther King and we are honored to celebrate his legacy through the MLK Dinner.”

The event features honored guest and speaker Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Southeast Coastal States, recently named as one of GeorgiaTrend magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians.

“Albany State University is proud to partner in hosting this event which commemorates the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as we, as an institution and a community, continue striving to manifest Dr. King’s dream of unity,” said ASU President Dr. Marion Fedrick. “This event and the opportunity to host it on our campus is particularly special in that it demonstrates Dr. King’s lasting impact on our community, even more than 60 years after his time in Albany.”

The event will take place at ASU’s West Campus Student Center at 2400 Gillionville Road. Dinner and networking begin at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m. To register for the January 16 event, click here or visit

2023 OSHA Recordkeeping Compliance Update

March 2nd Is an Important Deadline for Employers.
Are You Prepared to Submit Your Data by March 2nd? The vast majority of employers MUST submit their injury data directly to the OSHA annually. Those who don’t comply face extensive fines this year, along with comprehensive OSHA inspections.

Topics Addressed During the Webinar:

Are you preparing your data now?

Are you aware of the changes to this year’s submission rules?

Are you submitting for the correct locations?

Could you be over-reporting?

Do you know your DART rate and why it matters?

Do you know what “red flag” data may trigger an inspection?

Are you aware this data will be going public?

Are you aware of sweeping changes in store for 2023?

Dustin Boss, creator of, will explain these rules in detail and how to best prepare your organization for this year’s submission. We will also provide an overview of, a dynamic OSHA recordkeeping and injury intelligence platform to help you comply with these new requirements. Best of all, those who attend will receive free access to this software!

When: February 7, 2023 11:00 AM to Noon

Who Should Attend:

• Business Owners
• HR Professionals
• Safety Managers
Visit Link Below

The MLK Dinner

The 2023 MLK Dinner, presented by Colony Bank, is a celebration of the ideals of unity inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and is hosted by the Albany Area Chamber Foundation and Albany State University, in partnership with the King Day Celebration Committee, and features honored guest and speaker Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Southeast Coastal States.

FLEX ABY entrepreneurship program names top 10 businesses, awards seed loans

Albany, GA – FLEX ABY – a youth entrepreneurship program produced in partnership by the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4C Academy) – has named the top 10 businesses for the 2022-23 competition season.

After round one of competition, which included business plan evaluations conducted by business partners from the Albany business community, 10 student businesses will be moving on to round two:

A.R.A. Resin – Owned and operated by partners Mya Jackson and Zakaiya Ash, A.R.A. Resin produces resin-based products that are customizable to a client’s individual style.

Ariez – A handmade children and women’s clothing company in which owner Ariel Jackson seals each item with an encouraging message.

Art Stop – Owner Nylia Thompson uses her business as an outlet to share her digital and canvas art with the world.

Creed Productions – A video production company operated by Caleb Himes specializing in creating and editing sales videos for livestock.

Lovelise  – A social media-based business owned by Chelise Ethridge uses art as a story-telling medium, aiming to inspire women to pursue their passions.

Messy Treats – Specializing in brownies and other baked treats, owner A’liyha Haskins’ motto is to, “Make it a sweet mess for everyone.”

Plug’s Kitchen – A specialty catering business operated by Andrew Dawson aims to enhance special events.

Prayer Buddiez – Kennede Miller hand-crochets animals that help children learn about Bible verses in a fun, simplified way.

Vintage Photography – Diamond Mims’ mission is to capture life’s important moments as families experience joy and create memories.

Zari D Artistry – Zaria Davenport’s multi-purpose business is currently focused on custom shoe designs.

The top 10 businesses will compete in round two of the local FLEX ABY competition on February 21 at Albany Technical College, where they will pitch their ideas to a second panel of local business leaders.

To help them scale their businesses, each of the top 10 were given the opportunity to apply for seed loans made possible by investors from the business community. To obtain loans, students met with Albany Area Chamber Foundation President & CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes and 4C CEO Chris Hatcher to give an overview of their business plans and outline specific ways they plan to invest the funds.

“The goal of FLEX ABY is to expose students to the process of starting and scaling a business through realistic, firsthand experience,” said Holmes. “Securing capital is a critical step for any business. Furthermore, it will be the responsibility of the students to manage their funds wisely to achieve maximum return on investment and be able to repay the loans as agreed.”

FLEX (Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneur X-perience) is a statewide youth entrepreneurship competition 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.

A total of $9,500 will be given in cash awards throughout the competition, with $5,000 going to the local winner.

The local competition is comprised of three phases, with one winner advancing on to the state finals, to be held in Fitzgerald in April 2023.

Albany Accounting Firm Gives a Big Boost to Hunger Eradication Efforts

ALBANY, December 19, 2022- This month, the Albany office of Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC, provided over 200 meals worth of food that will support efforts to eradicate hunger in the local Albany community this December. The firm donated all of the canned goods and other foods collected during this food drive to Feeding the Valley Food Bank, which serves Dougherty and nearby Georgia counties.

Mauldin & Jenkins is a national CPA and business advisory firm with offices throughout the Southeast. The Albany office is just one of the Firm’s 14 locations, and each office supports a wide variety of community service and engagement activities.

James Langston, Community Service Chair of M&J’s Albany office, is used to high participation rates and enthusiasm for the firm’s numerous charitable initiatives and volunteer efforts. Even so, he was a bit surprised by the level of engagement he witnessed during the food drive. “The response and efforts we received from the Albany office were amazing,” Langston reports.

Feeding the Valley greatly appreciates the donation, as do those who will enjoy the meals. The canned goods M&J collected included lots of peanut butter and jelly; in a happy coincidence, a local church was having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich event on the night of the donation. Feeding the Valley told those who dropped off the donation that M&J’s contribution would almost — or entirely — cover the needs for that event.

“Dropping off the donations, and hearing that just our donation alone would supply over 200 meals to the local community was definitely something to be proud of,” says Langston. “It was a great reminder of how blessed most of us are — and more importantly, how important it is to share those blessings as much as we can with those in need.”

Headquartered in Columbus, GA, Feeding the Valley Food Bank is one of eight regional food banks in Georgia. The organization serves as a centralized source to collect, store and distribute a wide variety of donated foods to families and individuals who are experiencing food insecurity.

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About Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC

Mauldin & Jenkins is annually recognized as a Top 100 Certified Public Accounting firm by Accounting Today and Inside Public Accounting and provides assurance, tax and advisory services to clients. Founded in 1918 in Albany, Georgia, the Firm serves clients in a range of industries including agribusiness, governmental, banking, health care, construction, not-for-profit, manufacturing, and higher education. For additional information, please visit

For more information, contact:
Katie Funderburk, 229-446-3631

Albany Area Chamber honors ‘Albany Under 40’ finalists and announces category winners  

2022 Albany Under 40 Category Winners from L to R: Morgan Burnette: Arts, Entertainment, Culinary Arts, Events, Tourism & Hospitality; Perry Ford: Civics, Defense, Government & Public Affairs; Ashley Wells-Sharpe: Innovation & Start-Ups; Clifford Johnson: Sports, Wellness & Fitness.

December 14, 2022

Albany, GA – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday recognized the finalists and announced the category winners of the 2022 Albany Under 40 Awards, a program that celebrates 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.

“The Albany Area is home to young leaders who are making their mark through excellence in their professions, through their innovation and through their commitment to building a stronger region,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the region’s leading business advocacy organization. “We’re honored to recognize these diverse, outstanding professionals and proud they’ve chosen to live, work and invest in the Albany Area.”

Category finalists were announced earlier this month and honored at Wednesday’s awards reception at the Riverfront Resource Center in downtown Albany. Category winners, selected from among the finalists, were announced at the event:

  • Arts, Entertainment, Culinary Arts, Events, Tourism & Hospitality: Morgan Burnette – Director, Chehaw Park & Zoo.
  • Civics, Defense, Government & Public Affairs: Perry V. Ford – Associate, City of Albany Engineering
  • Financial & Insurance Services: Mark Johnson – Business Development Relationship Officer, Georgia’s Own Credit Union
  • Innovation & Start-Ups: Ashley Wells-Sharpe – CEO, Picture Perfect by Ashley
  • Journalism, Marketing & Public Relations: Mallorie Smith – RN/Talent Acquisition Partner/Nurse Recruitment Liaison, Phoebe Putney Health System
  • Manufacturing, Service Industries, Energy & Architecture: Nicole Jones – Site Support Lead, Mars Wrigley Confectionery
  • Medicine & Health Care: Victoria Davidson – Epidemiologist, Georgia Department of Public Health
  • Nonprofit Services: Andrea Kromminga – Youth and Young Adults Coordinator, Aspire Behavioral Health
  • Sports, Wellness & Fitness: Clifford B. Johnson – Customer Solutions Specialist, WebstaurantStore
  • Technology: Latasha Edwards – Project Manager, Microsoft + Nuance
  • Youth & Education: Martez Gerard Favis – Assistant Principal, Albany Middle School

Additional finalists were announced earlier this month and also recognized at the event:

Arts, Entertainment, Culinary Arts, Events, Tourism & Hospitality

Keshia Glass – Sales Assistant, iHeartMedia

Kiersten Rome – Leisure & Group Tourism Marketing Manager, Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau

Civics, Defense, Government & Public Affairs

Kimberly T. Bodiford – Supervisor, Management & Program Analyst, MCLB Albany

Kisawanda R. James – Corporal, Albany State University Police Department

Financial & Insurance Services

Ryan A. Garnto – Financial Advisor, Garnto Financial Group

Journalism, Marketing & Public Relations

Heather Harrison – Sales Manager, The Albany Herald Multimedia

 Manufacturing, Service Industries, Energy & Architecture

Clint Eudy – General Manager, Express Disposal

McClane Newsome – VP of Retail Sales, Modern Gas Company

Medicine & Health Care

Josh Pearson – Team Leader, Non-invasive Cardiology – Phoebe Putney Health System

Nonprofit Service

Samantha Helton – Membership & Marketing Director, Albany Area YMCA

Ashley Nestale – Deputy Director, Family Literacy Connection

Sports, Wellness & Fitness

Jakori M. Edwards – Director, Cam Sports South Inc.

Youth & Education

Anna Fazio Gibbs – Instructor, Department of Health and Human Performance – Albany State University

Anthony Mackey – Supervisor, Bill Miller Community Center

Albany Under 40 2022 is presented by Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center and Express Disposal: Part of the CE Family, and further supported by Albany Area Primary Health Care, Albany State University and Eagle Cleaners.

The 2022 Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year, selected from among the category winners, will be announced at the Albany Area Chamber 113th annual meeting next spring.


Wonder at Sherwood – Family Christmas Event & Concert

Come experience WONDER at Sherwood! Join us Saturday, December 10 or Sunday, December 11 for a festive evening for the entire family! This is a free event.

Family activities including a cake walk, photo booth, crafts and games begin at 4:30 pm. An interactive pre-show with games and prizes starts at 5:30 pm when the Worship Center doors open. The concert performance is at 6 pm.

Sherwood Church is located at 2201 Whispering Pines Road, Albany, GA 31707. Childcare available for birth-3 years old. Visit for event details.