For Immediate Release
May 3, 2023
Bárbara Rivera Holmes
Albany Area Chamber celebrates 113th anniversary, accomplishments; points toward future
Albany, GA – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce on May 3 hosted its 113th annual meeting on the Bricks at Thronateeska in downtown Albany under a canopy of celebration, camaraderie and leadership. The event is one of the most important of the year for the Albany Area Chamber and recognizes 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 113 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 region’s leading business advocacy organization, and its 501©3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “Through implementation of our future-focused strategic plan, #ImpactABY2023, we continue to accelerate Albany’s economic advancement through promoting business investment and job growth and advocating for pro-business policies such as smart fiscal policy and regulations, workplace diversity, modern infrastructure investments and talent development initiatives and partnerships.”
#ImpactABY2023 leans into impact, value and continuous progress. The plan represents initiatives to drive 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 Chamber’s how so it continues to achieve its why.The plan directs the organization’s focus to five key areas, each with a program of work and volunteer committee.
Business Development, 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 in 2022 helped build a resource guide and network for business start-ups and development; connected to existing and prospective members of the Chamber through the popular Morning, Mix & Mingle; is growing the Ambassador program to increase the Chamber’s boots-on-the-ground presence; and continues to expand the Albany Area Chamber Business Awards to capture and celebrate more of the successes, diversity and innovation of our member organizations.
It’s through this division that the Chamber created a members-only task force to help create its new membership model, which was rolled out in 2022. The new tiered benefits and investment structure allows member businesses to customize their partnership with the Albany Area Chamber though six investment levels specifically designed to support unique business goals, at any stage in a company’s growth. The Business Development, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee is chaired by Taylor Jenkins of Flint Community Bank.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We believe we are stronger together. We believe that diversity is our strength, good business and a business imperative. We believe in inclusivity and in the equality of opportunity. We believe that together we thrive. – Albany Area Chamber DE&I Impact Statement
This program extends the full scope of the Chamber’s resources and leverages the power of partnerships to advance economic opportunities for all people, to facilitate a more inclusive economy and become a more attractive location for businesses to invest and thrive. Born at this table is a partnership between The ARC of Southwest Georgia and Phoebe Putney Health System that is creating life-changing solutions for people with disabilities. In 2023 the Chamber will release a resource toolkit for employers; help facilitate greater supplier diversity; and curate a directory of diverse-owned Chamber member businesses, from woman- and minority-owned to veteran- and disabled-owned. The DE&I Committee is chaired by Jeretha Peters, chair-elect of the Albany Area Chamber and Wells Fargo’s regional branch manager.
Government Affairs. The Chamber continues to work closely with governmental partners and elected officials to ensure the voices of businesses and the community are heard, and continues 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 developed the non-partisan Albany Area Political Leadership Institute to “build the bench” of public servants equipped to lead in appointed positions or in elected offices. Albany-Dougherty Day in Atlanta and the Washington, DC, Fly In, are signature legislative initiatives of the committee. In 2023, the Chamber led a successful advocacy campaign that resulted in overwhelming voter approval of the eighth special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) and supported development of the Living & Learning Community, a health professionals work force partnership between Phoebe Putney Health System and Albany Technical College.
To exponentially amplify its voice, the Albany Area Chamber banded with the other 10 largest and most influential Chambers outside of Atlanta 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, Hub Chamber Council during the 2023 state legislative session led support of housing, licensure and work force-related legislation. The Albany Area Chamber’s Holmes chairs the council through May 2024. The Government Affairs Committee is chaired by Bridges Sinyard, vice president of Adams Exterminators.
Military Affairs. The Albany Area Chamber and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany have been allies 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. The Chamber is advocating for $101 million in Congressional appropriations to fund two projects aboard the installation that directly support the Marines Corps’ readiness, and our national — and global — defense. The committee’s initiatives include connecting and celebrating veterans, military personnel and families. The Salty Sandbagger Golf Tournament, established by the committee in 1974 as a camaraderie-building event between the Marines and the Chamber, continues to grow. The Military Affairs Committee is chaired by Col. Dan Gillan (USMC Retired), CEO of the Albany Area YMCA.
Talent, Education and Leadership. Talent and leadership are pillars of strong, thriving communities. This division connects employers, educators and students to help build an aligned and relevant youth and adult work force pipeline that creates opportunities for citizens and employers. The committee connects young professionals to community so they continue choosing Albany, and is expanding the Albany Under 40 program; getting businesses in schools via the Chamber’s Go See Tours; helping educators connect the classroom and the workplace via learning tours at area businesses; and cultivating talent ambassadors who are leading the community in creating a culture of getting involved in the educational network. The Talent Education and Leadership Committee is chaired by Brianna Wilson, owner and CEO of Southern Point Staffing.
At the annual meeting, Holmes shared the Albany Area Chamber Foundation’s strategic direction, which builds on the work of the Chamber’s #ImpactABY2023 strategy. The Chamber Foundation houses new programs and initiatives including the recently released Albany-Dougherty County Works! Talent Development Strategy 2.0; the FLEX ABY youth entrepreneurship program, a partnership between the Chamber Foundation, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy; and Propel+, the youth development extension of Propel, the Albany Area Chamber’s women at work program. Propel+ aims to build a web that through connection nurtures, provides for and empowers Albany’s female students. The Albany Area Chamber Foundation is chaired by Matt Reed, owner of Georgia CEO and UPS Stores of Albany.
The 2023 event, presented by the city of Albany and Albany Community Together, included the transfer of the chairman’s gavel; the announcement of the 2022 Ambassador of the Year and the 2022 Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year; and honored the Chamber’s 2023 Lifetime Service Award recipient.
Lt. Col. Don Gray (USMC Retired), 2022 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber Board of Directors and facilitates director for the City of Albany, formally presented Chandu Kuntawala, program manager at defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, as the 2023 Chamber chairman. Wells Fargo wealth advisor and branch manager Jeretha Peters assumes the role of Chamber chair-elect and will take reigns in 2024.
“The annual meeting of the Albany Area Chamber represents the culmination of work completed throughout the last year, and the celebrates the new leadership that will guide the organization throughout the year, said Gray. “I have always taken pride in serving the Albany community and through the chairmanship of the Albany Area Chamber had the opportunity to maximize that passion for service, working side-by-side with other passionate business and community leaders to advance our Albany’s most renowned advocacy organization.”
“The Albany Area Chamber’s work supports one of my passions – education and building our community’s talent,” said Kuntawala, who represents the Chamber on the board of the Commodore Conyers College & Career Academy, which he chairs. “It is an honor and a privilege to work with the Chamber’s Board of Directors, staff and members to strategically move the needle forward on the issues that impact Albany most.”
Patsy Martin, 1991 chair of the Albany Area Chamber, was honored with the Chamber’s prestigious Lifetime Service Award. Martin, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Walden & Kirkland in Albany, ushered in a new era of leadership and vision as the Chamber’s first female chair. She has served this community’s most giving and prestigious organizations; she’s recognized locally and statewide as one of the top performing Realtors, earning award after award; and she created one of Albany’s first female professional networks at a time when women in business leadership was still somewhat novel.
Martez Favis was recognized as the Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year for his work in youth development and community leadership. Favis is assistant principal at Albany Middle School and the 2023 chair of the Leadership Albany Board of Directors.
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 2022. The AU40 Young Professional of the Year is selected from among category winners.
Amanda Nichols, assistant director of financial aid at Albany State University, was recognized as the 2022 Ambassador of the Year for her volunteer service to the Chamber. Chamber Ambassadors support the organization through event execution, connecting with new and existing Chamber members, and being an ambassador of the Chamber as a leading business advocacy organization. The Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year award recognizes the Ambassador who has earned the most points for service throughout the previous calendar year, and is an outstanding representative of the Chamber.
The 113th annual meeting is presented by the City of Albany and Albany Community Together, and further sponsored by Albany Area Primary Health Care, Colony Bank, Feeding the Valley Albany, Fleming & Riles Insurance, Flint Equipment – Ag & Turf, Flint River Entertainment Complex, Invision Technologies, McLendon Acres, MetroPower, Mitchell EMC, MolsonCoors, OneSouth Bank, Pellicano Construction Co., Preventia Security of Albany, The Artesian Alliance and WALB News 10.
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 www.albanyga.com.
The Albany Area Chamber Foundation, founded in 1991, is the 501(c)3 affiliate of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and advances the Albany Area through leadership, research and action, and leads work force, economic and entrepreneurial initiatives that provide impact beyond the business community’s normal reach.