Category Archives: Chamber News

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

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 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.


Albany Area Chamber Announces 2022 Business Award Winners

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce honored local organizations Wednesday, November 30 when it recognized the finalists and announced the winners of its 2022 Albany Area Chamber Business Awards, which celebrates member organizations that are making strides, demonstrating a unique vision and establishing best practices.

The business awards include the small business of the year award, the nonprofit of the year award, the “Uniquely Albany” award and the new women-owned business of the year award.

“The Albany Area Chamber Business Awards celebrates excellence and shines the spotlight on our community and our member organizations — on their success, their innovation, their talent, their contributions, their impact,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the region’s largest business advocacy organization. “We’re honored to recognize these outstanding organizations and honored that they’ve chosen and continue to choose Albany.”


The 2022 Small Business of the Year award was presented to Flint Community Bank.

Flint Community Bank serves as the foundational catalyst that allows individuals in the community to make purchases, start, grow, and maintain other community businesses, and to facilitate higher quality of life through saving for the future. Flint Community Bank processes an estimated $80 million dollars in personal and business loans annually, as well as an estimated $22 million dollars in mortgage loans. These loans not only allow individuals and families in our community to secure housing and other necessities, but they also provide capital to many small businesses to pay operating expenses and to flourish and grow. Most importantly, included in those operating expenses are salaries and benefits for existing jobs and those to be created, as businesses grow.

 “Community” is literally the bank’s middle name. As a community bank, they make it a priority to give back to its neighbors. Each year, they give more than $100,000 in the form of donations, sponsorships and support to community events. One of Flint Community Bank’s core values is “Investing in the Future.” Based on this principle, the bank has implemented a “Junior Board of Directors” through which the bank mentors a group of high school juniors and seniors from around the community as they develop leadership skills, financial literacy, and most importantly, form lasting relationships with one another, teaching them that there truly is no better “investment” than that in your community and its people.


The 2022 Nonprofit of the Year award was presented to Flint River Fresh.

Flint River Fresh is a community advocate for equitable access to fresh, healthy, locally sourced food in response to the extraordinarily high incidents of food insecurity, persistent poverty, and vulnerable populations living in food deserts across Southwest Georgia. Executive director Fredando Jackson and the Flint River Fresh Board of Directors have devoted five years to championing food equity and developing sustainable connections to fresh produce among local, state and federal governing bodies while cultivating relationships with area community health care and wellness partners, small or beginning food producers, food policy makers, and stakeholders with agricultural interests. Advocacy work includes presentations to the Georgia Senate Committee Study Committee on Ending Food Deserts and participation with the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge Policy Institute with the American Public Health Association. Results and impact include influencing significant funding to communities in food deserts throughout Southwest Georgia.

The work of Flint River Fresh provides resources in a wide variety of capacities that elevate urban farming and agriculture initiatives focused on improving sustainable access to fresh fruit and vegetables produced by community and local producers.


The 2022 Uniquely Albany Award was a tie, presented to The Flint and Pretoria Fields.

The Flint is a restaurant, a gathering place and a celebration of community that belongs as much to the people of Albany as it does to its owners – the Singfield family, which has been a part of Albany’s business community for more than 50 years. The Flint represents a connection to the past and a springboard into the future. Located in downtown – just across the street from where we are now – the restaurant is situated in an old cotton warehouse, built in the 1800s. The Flint is an anchor tenant on Pine Avenue and has been instrumental in the rebirth of downtown. Everything about the decor is “Albany,” from the floors that contain river rock that was taken from the river itself, to the animals mounted on the walls that were harvested from the Flint River Basin. Wood in the restaurant was saved from Hurricane Michael and installed by a local company. The glass from the original skylights were repurposed and installed in the private dining room’s barndoors. All of the work was completed by local vendors, truly embracing the spirit of collaboration, and pride in Albany’s artisans as the very best around.

Located in downtown Albany, with a farm just outside of town, Pretoria Fields is known as the only “farm to pint” brewery in Georgia, and is endorsed by Georgia Grown. Besides the taproom and brewery, their beer is distributed statewide in Georgia and Alabama. They have product in all 200-plus Publix stores, 120 Krogers, 35 Ingles supermarkets, and other prominent grocery chain accounts across the country. They are proud to be served in those grocery stores, and some of the best bars and restaurants in the Southeastern United States – allowing those from all over to experience a little bit of Albany.

Waving the flag for Albany and the region is something Pretoria Fields prioritizes every day. Always collaborating with local and statewide organizations in an effort to demonstrate the beauty of partnership and to elevate exposure for the brand and the community, Pretoria Fields is constantly working to take the organization, and with it, Albany, to the next level.


The 2022 Women-Owned Business of the Year was presented to MADlab Marketing.

MADlab Marketing is a full-service marketing agency that proudly serves clients in Southwest Georgia, across the United States and even internationally. The agency has more than 62 active clients. MADLab has worked hard to maintain an upward trajectory in revenue while adhering to its commitment to reliable customer service. These efforts have resulted in nearly 30 percent growth in revenue in the last three years.

At MADlab , the pace is fast, the energy addictive, and the environment embracing. The agency seeks high-performing account representatives who are committed to customer service. They are driven professionals who are highly organized and can juggle multiple projects at once. Their sweet spot for hiring these “marketing aces” tends to be found in young mothers. Which makes sense, because, hey – who lives a life of service and juggles better than mothers?

MADlab intentionally works to create an atmosphere of giving back to the community. Generosity is not only modeled by the owners, but is seen in the actions of the agency to support non-profit missions and objectives in the community. The agency and owners have played an instrumental part in projects such as turtle statues to Albany, the development of Turtle Grove Play Park, the replanting of trees lost from storm damage with Grow Albany, coordination of the Albany Area Chamber’s Ron Clark workforce event, the restructuring of Leadership Albany and the recent opening of the new Feeding the Valley food bank.

The 2022 Albany Area Chamber Business Awards were presented by ComNet1 and sponsored by Albany Area Primary Health Care; ServPro of Albany and Americus; Coldwell Banker Walden & Kirkland; and Webstaurant Store.

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany victorious in Albany Area Chamber’s Fall 2022 Salty Sandbagger Golf Tournament

Albany, GA – Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany walked away victorious in the Albany Area Chamber’s Fall 2022 Salty Sandbagger Golf Tournament, an initiative of the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, chaired by Dan Gillan, CEO of the Albany Area YMCA, and co-chaired by Don Gray, facilities manager for the city of Albany. The tournament was hosted Wednesday at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Albany.

The tournament is a semi-annual contest between the membership of the Albany Area Chamber and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. A celebrated tradition since 1976, the event is designed to encourage partnership between the business community and MLCB Albany.

“The Salty Sandbagger is a storied tradition of the Albany Area Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee and continues to grow each year in popularity and competitiveness,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber. “Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany is a national defense asset, one of area’s largest employers and a critical partner in Albany’s development and prosperity. This event builds camaraderie and helps ensure important relationships are in place in order to move Albany and our military initiatives forward.”

A close contest, MCLB Albany edged the Chamber team by nine strokes with a composite score of 668. The Base will retain the trophy until challenged again in the spring 2023 tournament.

Numerous awards were presented: Best overall pair went to David Holmes and Bob Smith, playing for the Chamber team, with a score of 67. Closest to the pin on hole four was Clint Gilchrest, with Closest to the pin on hole 16 going to Paul Erikson (Chamber). Longest drive was taken by Mike Matson (MCLB) on hole one, and by Mike Williamson (MCLB) on hole 10.

During the tournament, Bridges Sinyard, vice president of Adams Exterminators, and Tim Holley, location manager of The Staffing People, were recognized for their continued service on the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee.

The event was presented by Turner Job Corps, and further sponsored by Albany Technical College; Albany Area Primary Health Care; Southern Point Staffing; Buffalo Rock; Adams Exterminators; Coldwell Banker; ComNet1; Shiver Outdoor & Archery; Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission; Southern AG Carriers; and WALB News 10.