Category Archives: Chamber News

Chamber’s Laura Russ Graduates from Talent Pipeline Management Academy®   

June 23, 2023 

 

Albany Area Chamber Foundation’s Laura Russ Graduates from Elite U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation TPM Academy® 

72 participants join a network of more than 850 professionals committed to building high-performing talent pipelines  

 

Albany, Ga. – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation announced that Laura Russ, strategic initiatives coordinator at the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, graduated from Cohort XXIII of the national organizations’ premie

r workforce development program, the TPM Academy®. This program is facilitated by the U.S. Chamber Foundation based on its Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) framework and was funded by the Lumina Foundation.  

Russ was selected to participate in this cohort along with 71 other leaders from across the United States representing the business community, economic development agencies, community colleges and community-based org-

Laura Russ, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at the Albany Area Chamber Foundation

anizations. Individuals were selected by a panel of their peers based on their understanding of the skills gap challenges in the community they serve, a demonstrated understanding of the TPM approach and a track record of putting plans into action.   

“TPM is a nationally-recognized framework that seeks to unlock employer leadership and orchestrate talent supply chains aligned to industry demand,” says Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber Foundation. “We congratulate the graduates of the TPM Academy and look forward to seeing how these leaders will apply what they have learned to improve career pathways for opportunity populations in their communities.” 

The Albany Area Chamber Foundation, the 501©3 affiliate of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, leads talent, economic, entrepreneurial and innovation initiatives that provide impact beyond the business community’s normal reach. Programming includes the Albany-Dougherty County Works! Talent Development Strategy 2.0; FLEX ABY, Albany’s first youth entrepreneurship competition; and Propel+, a youth talent development initiative that through connection nurtures, provides for and empowers Albany’s female youth to design their paths.  

 “A talented work force with the knowledge and skills to meet evolving employer needs is driving business success, economic development and community success,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber and the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “We are proud that Laura has completed the TPM Academy and that, working with our employers and partners, will apply the experience to advance the Albany Area Chamber Foundation’s efforts to build a modern and adaptive work force.” 

 Upon completion of the training, TPM Academy graduates join the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s dedicated network of more than 850 workforce and economic development professionals from 44 U.S. states, Washington D.C. and Canada to build dynamic, sustainable talent pipelines and close the skills gap for their industry.  

“I am passionate about helping build Albany’s talent pipeline,” said Russ, who holds a PhD from the University of South Carolina. “The TPM approach is data driven, employer led and will catapult Albany’s efforts to align talent pipeline to local business needs.” 

To learn more about Talent Pipeline Management and the TPM Academy, visit the U.S. Chamber Foundation website.  


The Albany Area Chamber Foundation, founded in 1991, leads talent, economic, innovation and entrepreneurial initiatives that provide impact beyond the business community’s normal reach. The Albany Area Chamber Foundation is the 501(c)3 affiliate of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at www.albanyga.com. 

 The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1910, is leading a multi-year strategic effort to advance economic opportunities and a thriving community. With a diverse business community in our corner, the Albany Area Chamber works diligently to serve area businesses, develop strategies that help our community prosper and design the path of Albany’s future. Learn more at www.albanyga.com.  

 

Morning Mix & Mingle

Join the Albany Area Chamber June 13 for its quarterly Morning Mix & Mingle, presented by Doublegate Country Club, for Chamber 101, coffee and breakfast and networking. The event is an opportunity to meet others and learn more about how your business can benefit from membership in the Albany Area Chamber. The event is free to members and prospective members of the Albany Area Chamber.

Doublegate Country Club
3800 Old Dawson Road | Albany, Georgia

Tuesday, June 13, 2023
8 a.m. — Check In & Networking
8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. — Program

Propel+ program builds business connections for female students

The room was electric May 15 as students and adults made connections during the Albany Area Chamber Foundation’s Propel+ program, which aims to build a web that through connection nurtures, provides and empowers Albany’s female youth to design their paths. More than 50 female students at the Commodore Conyers College & Career Academy participated in professional development exercises, built relationships with adult women in the work force, and were inspired by stories of entrepreneurship shared by panelists Quinetta Hall of Q’s Cakes, Sherrer Hester of Indusa Investments and peer students that participated in the FLEX ABY youth entrepreneurial competition.

The Propel+ Career Closet, unveiled at the event, is a resource that provides students with access to professional wardrobe items.

One hundred percent of participating students reported feeling better equipped to communicate with adults in a business setting. All adult participants said they were more likely to hire someone who has participated in Propel+ compared to someone who has not.

Building community looks like a lot of things and it requires a lot of hands. Through Propel+, the business community is helping build Albany’s talent and by doing so, building a stronger Albany.

Propel+ is the youth development component of the Albany Area Chamber’s women at work program, Propel.

Albany Area Chamber-led delegation advocates in DC on funding, policy, defense

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 15, 2023

 

Contact:

Barbara Rivera Holmes

(229) 434-8700

bholmes@albanyga.com

 

Albany Area Chamber-led delegation advocates in DC on funding, policy, defense

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

The two-day, policy-intensive event included meetings with the Albany Area Congressional Delegation — U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, 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, 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, participated in the Pentagon discussions.

During meetings the delegation provided updates on a variety of fronts including Albany as a military community of excellence and MCLB Albany as a defense leader in energy security and logistics innovation; economic development and Albany as a premier industry location; health care delivery and expansion of services to meet regional needs; education and employer-led initiatives aimed at developing the talent pipeline in high-demand fields; and infrastructure investment as a component of community and economic development.

“Albany-Dougherty County has, through vision, action and results positioned itself as a leader in innovative partnerships that have local, state and national impact, and this distinction is well recognized among federal leadership,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the region’s leading business organization, and its 501c3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “Through the Albany Area Chamber’s DC Fly In our community demonstrates a united front in our nation’s capital, shares views on federal issues that impact businesses and the community, builds allies with national leaders and advocates for funding and policies that advance and bolster our talent, development and defense initiatives.”

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

  • DEFENSE: $46 million for mission-critical consolidated communications center at MCLBA that enables full utilization of the base’s 5G capabilities and strengthens communications resiliency and readiness; and $56 million for operational readiness facility at Albany-based Headquarters Marine Corps Logistics Command as a required component of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 strategy.
  • TALENT & HEALTH CARE: Investments in talent initiatives and projects that amplify the employer-led work force pipeline and in health care projects that address critical-need areas; and smart immigration policy reforms to support work force demands, boost economic growth, create jobs, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship,
  • INFRASTRUCTURE: Investments in federally-mandated infrastructure improvements including the city of Albany’s combined sewer separation project.

“The Albany Area Chamber spearheads our community’s advocacy initiatives with audiences including the Albany Area Congressional Delegation and U.S. Marine Corps leadership, and is the conduit through which the business community connects, convenes and collaborates,” said Chandu Kuntawala, 2023 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber and a program manager at Booz Allen Hamilton “The Chamber’s Government Affairs Division – along with its four other member-led committees that help drive organization’s overall objectives – embodies the mission of the Chamber as a center point through which the business community is empowered to take action and design the path.”

The local delegation also met with senior leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, discussing work force and talent; federal policies and regulations that impact businesses; and national economic forecast.

“A strong, united voice is central to the Chamber’s mission and to its role as the region’s leading business organization,” said Bridges Sinyard, chairman of the Chamber’s Government Affairs division and vice president of Adam’s Exterminators. “We further advance business and community success by building strong relationships between business leaders, elected officials and decision makers, and, with Albany’s role as a leading military community, build the community-Corps relationships that advance the nation’s defense efforts.”

The DC Fly In is a component of the Albany Area Chamber’s Government Affairs division. The program is program is supported by AB&T; 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; Molson Coors; and Phoebe Putney Health System.

Visit bit.ly/AACCLegislativeAgenda2023 to view the Albany Area Chamber’s 2023 legislative agenda.


 

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1910, is leading a multi-year strategic effort to advance the business success and economic opportunities in Albany and the Albany Area. Learn more at www.albanyga.com. 

 

A delegation of business and community leaders traveled to the nation’s capital this week as part of the Albany Area Chamber’s policy-intensive DC Fly In to meet with defense officials and federal lawmakers on the issues most vital to Albany and Southwest Georgia. The delegation is pictured here with U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D, GA).

 

Albany Area Chamber celebrates 113th anniversary, accomplishments; points toward future

For Immediate Release

 May 3, 2023

Contact:

Bárbara Rivera Holmes

bholmes@albanyga.com

(229) 434-8700

 

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.

XXX

 

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.

Albany Area Chamber’s 113th Annual Meeting

The 113th Annual Meeting celebrates 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.

Albany Area Chamber Foundation shares strategy to boost work force

Business and education leaders discuss trends, opportunities and challenges during the Albany Area Chamber and Albany Area Chamber Foundation’s April 12 Talent Summit Rise N Shine at which the comprehensive Albany-Dougherty County Works! Talent Strategy 2.0 was shared.

 

April 17, 2023

Albany Area Chamber Foundation presents talent development strategy to boost work force

 

Albany — The Albany Area Chamber Foundation recently presented the Albany-Dougherty County Works! Talent Strategy 2.0, developed through a steering committee collaborative of private- and public-sector partners to boost the local work force pipeline and create more opportunities for youth, adult citizens and employers. The strategy presents an update to the work plan designed in 2019 and released in 2020 in partnership with the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission.

“The Albany Area Chamber and Albany Area Chamber Foundation, educational institutions, strategic partners, employers and the Albany community have placed priority emphasis, advocacy and action on creating, developing and expanding talent through innovative education, business partnerships and experiential learning,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and its 501©3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “These efforts have produced significant results for our community. The Albany-Dougherty County Works! Talent Strategy 2.0 is a continued and coordinated focus on programs and initiatives that build Albany’s work force.”

The strategy was shared at the April 12 Talent Summit Rise N Shine hosted by the Albany Area Chamber at Albany State University’s West Campus.

The 18-month work plan focuses on three priorities: Community Coordination & Communication; Youth Pipeline Development; and Continued Adult Preparation. Priorities in these categories include development a campaign focused on career path stories and an informative and interactive jobs and work force development platform; expansion of career exposure and awareness for Dougherty County students; assessment of job market needs to build a business-aligned work force; and coordination with area employers to codevelop industry pipeline training programs and certifications.

“Talent is the new infrastructure. A talented, qualified and available work force drives decisions – and success – for our existing businesses and new businesses,” said Holmes said.

Initiatives implemented as a result of the first talent strategy include learning tours that allow educators to tour local employers and learn first-hand more about the skills students need to be successful in the work place; helping students connection and mentorships with the business community; upskilling programs for parents and adults in the work force; youth entrepreneurial development, initiated through FLEX ABY, Albany’s first youth entrepreneurship competition; and development of a network of partners communicating on work force development initiatives

The Albany-Dougherty County Works! Talent Strategy 2.0 was facilitated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. The road map can be viewed at bit.ly/AlbanyDoughertyWorks2023. Community partners interested in serving on the implementation teams for the strategy may do so at bit.ly/TeamADCWorks2023 or by calling the Albany Area Chamber at (229) 434-8700.

The Albany Area Chamber’s Rise N Shine series is presented by Webb Properties. The Talent Summit Rise N Shine was sponsored by ReEnergy – Albany Green Energy, Albany Technical College, Albany State University and the Albany Area Chamber Foundation.


The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1910 and is leading a multi-year strategic effort to advance the business and economic success, and economic opportunities in Albany and the Albany Area. Through membership and its ambassador program, the Albany Area Chamber reaches citizens and businesses throughout Southwest Georgia. 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. The Albany Area Chamber Foundation provides research and insight that educates and empowers business and community leaders.

Lunch & Learn – Grow Your Small Business with SBA Loans

The April 19 Lunch & Learn sponsored by Synovus will feature information on how to obtain a Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loan through your local lender.  SBA loans can be used for business purposes from business startup to expansion, including the purchase of long-term fixed assets, operating capital and business acquisitions.  Benefits of SBA guaranteed loans include lower down payments and longer amortizations with no renewals.

The program will be facilitated by Lisa Morgan, vice president, SBA lender, Synovus.

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.

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.