Category Archives: Chamber News

Nominations Open for Albany Area Chamber’s ‘Albany Under 40’ Awards

Albany, GA  –  The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce today announced the opening of nominations for “Albany Under 40,” an awards program that honors and celebrates the Albany Area’s emerging leaders and professionals. The program recognizes professionals in a variety of industries, each representing a component of the Albany 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. “Albany Under 40 celebrates these professionals and promotes the breadth and scope of the talent that helps make the Albany Area a regional leader.”

Individuals may be recognized in 12 categories: Arts and Entertainment, Culinary Arts, Events, Tourism and Hospitality; Civics, Defense, Government and Public Affairs; Financial and Insurance Services; Innovation and Start-up; Journalism, Marketing and Public Relations; Legal; Manufacturing, Service Industries, Energy and Architecture; Medicine and Health Care; Nonprofit Service; Sports, Wellness and Fitness; Technology; and Youth and Education.

Finalists will be considered from among those professionals who are nominated. The Chamber encourages the community to submit nominations at Nominations must be received by Friday, October 21, 2022. Nominees will be subsequently notified of their nomination and will receive the application materials.

Award category winners, selected from among the award category finalists, will be announced at the Albany Under 40 awards reception on December 15, 2022. One Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year, selected from among the category winners, will be announced at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s 113thth Annual Dinner in April 2023.

Candidates must be under the age of 40 at the time of the December 15 award ceremony.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for this program and can be downloaded at Please Contact Albany Area Chamber Membership Director Mary Bickerstaff at to secure your spot.

Albany Area Chamber, Albany-Dougherty EDC and 4C Academy partner to bring FLEX ABY youth entrepreneurship program to Albany

Albany, GA – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4C Academy) have partnered to bring FLEX (Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneur X-perience) to Albany in local program “FLEX ABY.”

FLEX 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.

“Studies show that Gen Z is more entrepreneurial than generations preceding them, with 60 percent of teens reporting serious interest in starting their own business,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany area Chamber. “To capitalize on this, it is important for the Albany community to demonstrate support for aspiring entrepreneurs, to help foster innovation, retain talent and spur local investment and business partnerships in the long run.”

FLEX was founded in nearby Fitzgerald through a partnership between the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce, Fitzgerald High School College and Career Academy and Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Development Authority. The program has recently expanded statewide.

FLEX ABY will kick off with students from 4C Academy, which encompasses students from throughout the Dougherty County School System as well as districts from surrounding counties.

“FLEX is an exciting opportunity for our students. So many of our young team members are interested in entrepreneurship and many have already started their own businesses,” said Chris Hatcher, CEO of 4C Academy. “This competition will help them by providing seminars, mentors and even a cash prize for the three finalists.  Most importantly, it will expose them to a formalized business planning process as well as to members of our business community who are looking to help.”

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.

Finalists are awarded seed money to help fund and expand their business. Locally, a total of $9,500 will be given in cash awards, with $5,000 going to the local winner.

“Our goal through FLEX ABY is to encourage interest in entrepreneurship and to chart a path towards business ownership for our young people,” said Jana Dyke, president & CEO of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission. “Investing in our students now will better enable them to invest back into our community later on.”

Student interest is currently being vetted for the competition, which will kick off with round one of local competition in November 2022.

FLEX ABY is seeking community support though tax-deductible financial investment and volunteers to serve as competition judges, one-on-one student mentors and subject matter workshop hosts.

To get involved with FLEX ABY, fill out the commitment pledge form here.

Albany Area Chamber leads local delegation to Washington, D.C. in federal advocacy event

Albany Area Chamber President & CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes engages in discussion with U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop on critical needs of Albany and Southwest Georgia.

Albany, Ga. – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce last week led a delegation of local leaders to Washington, D.C., for the annual “DC Fly In,” the organization’s long-standing annual federal advocacy event. The delegation, representing the public and private sectors, met with national leaders and lawmakers on issues most vital to Albany and Southwest Georgia.

The two-day event included meetings with the Albany Area Congressional delegation — U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop; the office of U.S. Rep. Austin Scott; U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff; and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock — and the Pentagon-based leadership of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLB Albany) and Marine Corps Logistics Command (Logcom), including Meredith Berger, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment, and Lt. Gen. Edward Banta, deputy commandant of Marine Corps Installations & Logistics. Col. Michael Fitzgerald, commanding officer of MCLB Albany, and Maj. Gen. Keith Reventlow, commanding general of Logcom, participated in the Pentagon discussions.

Meetings allowed the Albany group to provide updates on a variety of fronts including economic development and Albany as a premier industry location; health care delivery and expansion of services to meet regional needs; work force development initiatives aimed at expanding the classroom-to-career pipeline in high-demand fields; infrastructure investment as a component of community and economic development, with a priority focus on broadband expansion; and MCLB Albany as a global leader in innovation and mission readiness.

“Albany-Dougherty County has, through vision and action, positioned itself as a statewide leader in collaborative partnerships, and the distinction is well recognized among state and federal leadership,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. “The DC Fly In is our community’s opportunity to secure face time in our nation’s capital and two-way communication with national leaders who can bolster and advance our local initiatives through federal policy and funding.”

The advocacy event is aimed at informing leaders on local priorities, as well as requesting support for critical components of the community’s overall framework for development. Calls for Congressional support include:

  • Continued Investment in broadband expansion, which impacts education, health care, commerce and national defense
  • Smart immigration policy reforms to support work force demands, boost economic growth, create jobs, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship
  • $39 million for advancing completion of a mission-critical consolidated communications center at MCLBA
  • $56 million for an operational readiness facility at Albany-based U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Command as a required component of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 strategy

The local delegation also met with senior leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discussing immigration policy; work force and talent; tort reform; and other federal policies and regulations that impact businesses.

“The Albany Area Chamber spearheads our community’s advocacy initiatives and is the conduit through which businesses and people connect and collaborate, and make their voices heard,” said Don Gray, 2022 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber. “The Chamber’s Government Affairs Division – along with the full spectrum of its five member-led committees that help inform the organization’s overall policy positions – embodies the mission of the Chamber as a center point through which the community is empowered to take action and create change.”

The DC Fly In is a component of the Albany Area Chamber’s Government Affairs Division, which advocates for policies conducive to business and community growth. The program is sponsored by Adams Exterminators; Albany Area Primary Health Care; the Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau; the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission; Albany State University; Albany Technical College; AT&T; the City of Albany; Dougherty County; the Dougherty County School System; Georgia CEO; Georgia Power; Horizons Community Solutions; McLendon Acres; and Phoebe Putney Health System.

Visit to view the Albany Area Chamber’s 2022 legislative agenda, and take the policy survey at to provide input as the organization develops its 2023 priorities.

Albany Area Chamber Position Letter: Proposed Living and Learning Center

August 31, 2022

Re: Appeal of decision allowing progress of health professionals Living and Learning Center


Chairman Bryant Harden and members of the Albany-Dougherty Historic Preservation Commission —

Albany is often presented with opportunities and sets of circumstances that make it possible to do something impactful that benefit its citizens and its economy. In more recent years, there have been limited home-grown opportunities of the transformative magnitude represented by the Living and Learning Center proposed by Phoebe Putney Hospital System in partnership with Albany Technical College.

As were many throughout the community, we were disappointed by the Albany-Dougherty Historic Preservation Commission’s July 12 opposition to the proposed center, a $40 million project that would create an innovative health professions education and training facility and resurrect life, interest and purpose to the long-since closed former Albany Middle School.

We applaud the Albany City Commission’s unanimous overruling on August 16 of the HPC’s 4-3 opposition to the project and concur with Albany Mayor Bo Dorough that the HPC has not demonstrated “that the proposed material changes in appearance would have substantial adverse impacts on the aesthetic, historic or architectural significance and value of the historic property or the historic district.”

That the HPC would then immediately file an intent to pursue legal action in Dougherty County Superior Court to appeal the city’s decision raises question as to the appointed group’s discernment.

It may not be within the HPC’s limited purview to weigh the benefits of the center, which is expected to allow Albany Tech to increase its number of nursing graduates from a projected 233 this year to 350 in 2023 and 470 in 2024, and raise the educational attainment of the community while acting as a local slow-release valve for the nursing shortage crisis that is impacting care and costs. Nursing graduates would then begin filling the more than 500 locally available, high-wage nursing jobs.

It is, however, per the commission’s page at, the “overall goal of the local district and the design guidelines to retain the distinctive and historic character of Albany without placing undue financial burdens or time delays on building owners.” It is here where the Historic Preservation Commission has failed. And now, as it prepares to square off in court with its parent commission, the HPC places undue financial burdens on the citizens and community itself.

Albany cannot move forward with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. The Albany Area Chamber, representing nearly 800-member businesses and community organizations, respectfully requests that the HPC withdraw its appeal. Further, we encourage the commission to re-examine its perspective and to wield its authority in such a way that utilizes historic preservation as a pragmatic tool that helps Albany build a bright future.


cc: Board of Directors of the Albany Area Chamber

cc: Albany City Commission

cc: Dougherty County Commission

Albany Area Chamber Business Expo to return, expand at Albany Civic Center

Albany, GA  – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Business Expo is back by popular demand and set to return on Thursday, September 29, in an expanded space at the Albany Civic Center.

The network marketing event is designed to connect businesses to prospective partners and customers through the ultimate “schmooze-a-palooza,” allowing participants to market their business to more than 500 people at this fun-filled bash in the name of business.

Participating businesses will generate quality business-to-business and business-to-consumer leads and improve opportunities to achieve sales goals and business outcomes.

“Business Expo has long been one of the Albany Area Chamber’s most in-demand events, with the unique ability to bring together a broad group prospective partners in one space, providing our businesses facetime with each other, and with clients and customers,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the regional leading business advocacy organization.

Booth spaces begin at $395 for a standard-sized booth with special pricing available for Albany Area Chamber members. Enhanced booth spaces are available at limited quantities. Booth information and online registration are available on the Chamber’s website,, here.

Exclusive business-to-business networking for participating exhibitors begins at 3:30 p.m., with doors opening to the public at 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Participating businesses include the following:


Albany Area Primary Health Care

Albany State University

Flint Equipment Company

Flint River Entertainment Complex

Georgia Pacific

Molson Coors

Turner Job Corps


Albany Area Chamber of Commerce

Albany Community Together

Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau

Albany Herald Publishing Company

Albany Area YMCA

Albany Young Marines

American Health Imaging

Bishop Clean Care, Inc.

Buffalo Rock Vending

Central Monitoring – A Preventia Company

Chehaw – Artesian Alliance


City of Albany

Cleaned with Love Cleaning, LLC

Coldwell Banker Walden & Kirkland


Draffin & Tucker, LLP

Englewood Healthcare

First Media Services

Fleming & Riles

Fox 31 WFXL – TV

Gardner, Willis, Plaire & Wilson

Hughston Clinic

Integra Business Alternatives, LLC

Innovative Senior Solutions

Invision Technologies

Labor Finders

Mars Wrigley

Mediacom Business


Microbusiness Enterprise Center

Navy Federal Credit Union

Oaks at Oakland Plantation

Phoebe Corporate Health

Re/Max of Albany

Renasant Bank


Safeguard Espy Branding

Southern Point Staffing

The ARC of Southwest Georgia

The Flint Restaurant

Troy University

Turner Job Corps Catering

Unifirst Corporation

UPS Stores



Business Expo is open to all businesses and organizations. To get your business on this list, contact Albany Area Chamber Membership Director Mary Bickerstaff at

Business Expo 2022

Market your business to more than 500 people at this fun-filled bash in the name of business. Generate quality business to business leads, improve your opportunities to achieve and sustain success. All in one place, at one time.

Lunch & Learn: Finance & Budgeting

The September 22 Lunch & Learn will feature information presented by Merit Financial on how to plan for and achieve your business goals through smart financial planning and budgeting. 

[The Albany Area Chamber’s Lunch & Learns are casual educational programs that foster community and support the growth and development of businesses and their teams. The 2022 Lunch & Learn series is presented by Merit Financial Advisors and Webb Properties.]

URGENT CALL TO ACTION: Albany Area Chamber, partners urge adoption of SPLOST VIII agreement

August 5, 2022

An open letter re: SPLOST VIII intergovernmental agreement

Commissioners of the City of Albany and of Dougherty County —

The Albany Area Chamber represents the unified interests of the business community.  The Chamber, in concert with strategic partners and community organizations, urgently encourages the city of Albany and Dougherty County to adopt an intergovernmental agreement so as to fully leverage the collections potential of the eighth special-purpose local-option sales tax, a 1 percent levy that is anticipated to generate $100 million in six years.

Without such an accord reached by August 8, the governments risk diminishing the special tax’s collection lifespan and proceeds at great burden to the businesses and citizens of Albany and Dougherty County.

The Albany Area Chamber has historically supported SPLOST, ESPLOST and TSPLOST, and successfully led the voter advocacy efforts that helped get these projects across the finish line.  That’s because we recognize the impact of the projects on our community.  These taxes are indeed special because of their project lists; because they must be approved by the voters; and because they allow for maximum local impact with limited burden on the local taxpayer.  We estimate that nearly 50 percent of the tax collection is from visitors, in essence alleviating residents of Albany and Dougherty County through a significant discount on its investment of much-needed projects and improvements.

Without SPLOST, Albany and Dougherty County could not endure the capital expense of the proposed project list that supports economic development initiatives; infrastructure improvements; downtown revitalization; tourism development; talent development and work force training; and quality of life through arts and culture. Many projects are critical; some, mandatory.  Without SPLOST, taxpayers would be forced to fund these improvements by other means, such as increased property taxes or service rates, a move that no doubt poorly positions the community to attract business investment and work force talent.

This places excessive pressure on a community recovering from COVID losses. On consumers absorbing soaring inflation rates and businesses hampered by historic labor and supply shortages.  On employers and employees positioning themselves to withstand a looming recession.  On a community that, meanwhile, is working swiftly, collaboratively and innovatively to move forward, prosper economically and provide greater opportunities for its residents and its businesses.

We are further extremely concerned that the ongoing disagreements on SPLOST will disillusion voters and create an environment for further low-voter turnout at the November elections and risk the required voter approval of the proposed tax.

Albany and Dougherty County is a strong and vibrant community.  It is one in which people want to live and businesses want to invest.  These should be safeguarded at all costs; they form the foundation for community prosperity.  To protect these and to maximize the power of this special tax, the Albany Area Chamber and partners strongly support the immediate adoption of an intergovernmental agreement that maximizes the potential of SPLOST VIII.




*The Albany Area Chamber encourages Chamber and community members to express their support for an intergovernmental agreement on SPLOST VIII to be reached by August 8.*


Click here to download the template advocacy letter that you can sign and send to your city and county commissioners.


Albany Area Chamber to kick off DE&I programming with PROPEL: A Women in Business Program

Albany, GA  – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, as a component of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, will host an August 24 women in business forum, PROPEL: A Women in Business Program.

PROPEL is designed to connect, engage and inspire women in our community, and provide them with the tools they need to design their future. The August 24 luncheon will feature a moderated Q&A panel with local women in business, and facilitated table conversation for participant connection.

Featured discussion panelists are Brianna Wilson, CEO of Southern Point Staffing; Karen Cohilas, of Karen Cohilas State Farm; Sheri Barlow, CEO of Englewood Health Care; and Staci Willson, creative director at Sunnyland Farms.

“At the Albany Area Chamber, we connect, convene and collaborate; we nurture and provide; and we design the path,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. “PROPEL is aimed at designing a path for women in the work force, to better empower them to excel professionally and to be engaged as business leaders.”

The Albany Area Chamber spearheaded a business-led focus group on Diversity Equity and Inclusion beginning in 2020, and has since developed an organizational division based on the initiatives identified by the task force.

The division is represented by the Chamber’s DE&I Committee, chaired by Jeretha Peters, branch manager and first vice president of investments at WellsFargo Advisors in Albany.

“The Chamber’s DE&I Committee increases economic opportunities for businesses and people, and engages more members of the citizenry into the work force,” said Peters. “Women represent an important segment of that citizenry, and the DE&I committee and the new PROPEL program will serve to target this specific sector of the local work force, providing them with the tools needed to advance through the lifecycle of their careers, and ultimately become more effective members of the business community as a whole.”

The DE&I Committee is comprised of Albany Area Chamber members who are invested in advancing Albany as a regional leader for industry and business by expanding access and inclusion in the business community through intentional efforts that ensure the best utilization of the regional labor pool.

Southern Point Staffing CEO Brianna Wilson is an active member of the committee and will also serve as a panelist at the upcoming PROPEL event. Wilson leads the Chamber’s Business Development & Investor Engagement Committee, which is also supporting PROPEL.

“As a professional in the staffing and recruitment industry, I can speak to the importance of empowering women to be successful in their careers,” Wilson said. “COVID has resulted in a significant portion of women exiting the work force, and it’s vital that we take steps to re-introduce and re-equip women to contribute and succeed professionally.”

The PROPEL program kicks off with the August 24 event at the Dougherty County Northwest Library Event Space and is open to members and prospects of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.

See here for registration details.

PROPEL: A Women in Business program

PROPEL is an Albany Area Chamber Women in Business program that connects, engages and inspires women in our community, and provides them with the tools they need to design their future.

Our August 24 luncheon will feature a moderated Q&A panel with local women in business, and facilitated table conversation for connection.
Pack value into your Chamber investment and extend your marketing reach through sponsorship and spotlight branding. Opportunities for this event are available at