Tag Archives: Advocacy

Albany Area Chamber Concludes Successful 2024 DC Fly In

Jay Houston

(229) 434-8700



April 19, 2024 




A delegation of nearly 40 business and community leaders represented Albany and Dougherty County in the nation’s capital as part of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s signature federal legislative program, the Washington, D.C., Fly In.


Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Concludes Successful 2024 DC Fly In


Albany – A delegation of nearly 40 business and community leaders represented Albany and Dougherty County in the nation’s capital as part of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s signature federal legislative program, the Washington, D.C., Fly In, April 16-17. The two-day, policy-intensive event advances the interests of Albany and Southwest Georgia on the national stage and includes meetings with the Albany Area Congressional Delegation and U.S. Marine Corps leadership.

The 2024 program marked the event’s 20th anniversary and its largest delegation, supported by local leaders including Albany Area Chamber Chair Jeretha Peters, Albany Mayor Bo Dorough and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Lorenzo Heard. Col. Matthew McKinney, commanding offer of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLBA), and Maj. Gen. Keith Reventlow, commanding general of Albany-based Headquarters Marine Corps Logistics Command, participated in the strategic discussions with key decision-makers.

“Engagement with federal policymakers via the Albany Area Chamber’s DC Fly In underscores our commitment to advocating for the needs of Albany and the Albany Area and driving sustainable development for the region,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, the region’s leading business advocacy organization. “We are committed to ensuring that Albany’s priorities are heard loud and clear in the corridors of power and that our federal relationships yield investments and advancements for Albany and Southwest Georgia.”

The itinerary was packed with policy briefings, receptions and meetings, highlighting the significance of Albany’s presence in the nation’s capital. Notable events included briefings with senior level policy advisors from U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Albany Federal Reception with representatives from the local and Congressional delegations and Pentagon-based Marine Corps leadership;  and meetings on Capitol Hill with Congressmen Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott, and U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff.

“The DC Fly In is a cornerstone of our community’s federal advocacy efforts,” said Dougherty County Chairman Lorenzo Heard, emphasizing the importance of the delegation’s united efforts in advancing Southwest Georgia’s interests. “By working together and articulating our priorities directly to federal leaders, we are paving the way for a brighter future for Albany and the surrounding communities.”

As a Military Community of Excellence, the Albany leaders’ discussions at the Pentagon with Marine Corps’ brass reinforces the community’s commitment to supporting installation readiness and resiliency and quality of life for the Albany Area’s military families and veterans. The Pentagon meeting fosters national-level relationships and strategic action between Marines, the Albany Area Chamber and the community in supporting the warfighter and the objectives of the Corps’ Force Design and Climate Action strategies. Those plans, along with Installation & Logistics 2030, define the forward action of the Marine Corps to advance its readiness and resiliency amid contested global logistics.

“We are partners, allies and comrades,” said Holmes of the Chamber, Albany and the United States Marine Corps. “We are proud of the local partnerships that play a role in the increasing innovation and relevance of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command. What we do in Albany directly supports national defense.”

As part of its defense advocacy strategy, the Chamber supports more than $150 million in mission-critical, Congressionally-directed investments at the installation to advance 5G-enabled smart logistics and data-centric processes and manufacturing efficiencies. As the nerve center of Marine Corps logistics and the DOD’s energy security initiative, Marine Corps Logistics Command ad MCLBA, respectively, play a critical role in ensuring that the nation’s expeditionary force is ready.

“The opportunity to directly engage with federal leaders and advocate for the needs of our community is invaluable,” said Albany Mayor Bo Dorough.

The local delegation will conduct post-event meetings to discuss actionable next steps for addressing community items. The Chamber-led meeting aims to further engage stakeholders in the ongoing advocacy efforts and ensure that the momentum generated during the Fly In translates into tangible benefits for Albany and Southwest Georgia.

The Chamber’s 2024 government affairs program is supported by the city of Albany, Dougherty County, Phoebe Putney Health System, AB&T, the Dougherty County School System, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, McLendon Acres, Albany Area Primary Health Care, the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy, Albany State University, Albany Technical College, Molson Coors, OmniTrax, the Albany Museum of Art, Turner Job Corps, Horizons Community Solution, LRA Constructors, AT&T, Georgia CEO and Adams Exterminators.

The Albany Area Chamber is represented in Washington, D.C., by Cornerstone Government Affairs.


About Albany Area Chamber of Commerce

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

Chamber’s Albany Bank Security Roundtable focuses on fraud, solutions

The Albany Area Chamber-led Albany Bank Security Roundtable convened Monday for a stakeholder discussion on check fraud issues impacting commerce, citizens and communities and estimated to have a $24 billion national economic impact. The Albany conversation with financial institutions, law enforcement and prosecutors at the local, state and federal levels focused on mitigation and solutions.


Contact: Jay Houston
(229) 343- 3667

Chamber-led Albany Bank Security Roundtable focuses on fraud challenges, solutions

The roundtable featured stakeholders including financial institutions and local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors

Albany – The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Monday hosted a roundtable discussion with financial institutions and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors on the check fraud security challenges that impact commerce and citizens and which in 2023 are estimated to have a $24 billion national economic impact. Locally, losses are estimated to be in the millions.

According to the Financial Crime Enforcement Network, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department, reports of check fraud filed by banks nearly doubled to 680,000, from 350,000 in 2021. This compares to 96,786 suspicious activity check fraud cases reported in 2014.

“The banking sector is crucial to the modern economy. As the primary supplier of credit, banks support business development through access to capital; facilitate personal growth through smart lending; and are a key partner in community development initiatives,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber and its 501©3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “The fraud and security challenges faced today by financial institutions touch every segment of commerce, every organization and every citizen; these are not victimless crimes. The Albany Area Chamber is committed to working with banks, law enforcement, prosecutors and policy makers to elevate the conversation, educate the public and advance solutions.”

Monday’s Albany Bank Security Roundtable included Chamber-member financial institutions, the Georgia Bankers Association and the Community Bankers Association along with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Attorney General for the Middle District of Georgia; the United States Postal Inspector Service; the Office of the Georgia Attorney General; and the Albany Police Department.

“Today marks a significant stride forward as the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, local banks and law enforcement join forces to tackle the growing specter of check and mail fraud. Our Albany Area Chamber, representing the backbone of our local economy, recognizes our challenges require innovative and unified solutions and fostering partnerships based on trust and resilience,” said Perry Revell, chairman of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and CEO of AB&T. “Today’s collaborative gathering holds a promise that extends beyond mitigation, encompassing prevention, economic stability and advocacy. I thank each participant for their willingness to engage and be part of the solution.”

Among other challenges, the increase in suspected fraud cases is creating many check fraud processing challenges such as backlogs in check warranty claims, availability of funds and the average check value doubling over the last decade. Further, reports indicate that mail theft has been on the rise since 2017. A recent survey of Chamber-member financial institutions revealed that mail-related check fraud is their number one security concern, followed by general check fraud and physical security.

“Albany’s bank leaders shared fraud losses estimated to be in the millions annually, a disturbing trend seen nationwide. Bank fraud is not a victimless crime; far from it,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary for the Middle District of Georgia, who participated in Monday’s roundtable. “These losses are rarely recouped, and these criminals steal legitimate opportunities for positive investment in the community, costing citizens new home mortgages and businesses the means for new development. Law enforcement at every level is dedicated to effectively combating these scams that harm the entire community.”

According to the Association for Financial Professionals, 42 percent of all business2business transactions are still paper.

“Check fraud is old fashioned, but it is what is causing so many problems in our community. It’s affecting young people, senior citizens, merchants, the banking industry and beyond,” noted Joe Brannen, CEO of Georgia Banker’s Association. “Finding ways to solve that is going to be complicated but we won’t ever be able to do that if we don’t work together through organizations like the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce at discussions like this one.”

In February, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the post office, issued an alert on the matter. The service said it received more than 299,000 complaints of mail theft from March 2020 through February 2021, a 161 percent increase from a year earlier.

Justin Warner with the United States Postal Service Inspection Service said, “This community roundtable is a great example of partnerships between multiple agencies which includes banks, law enforcement, local organizations and prosecutors that have come together for vital

information sharing for investigations and provide resources to local citizens. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service mission is to ensure public trust in the mail and postal inspectors will aggressively investigate individuals that seek to take advantage of our customers. We also work with the Postal Service to harden security measures against criminal attacks.”

Monday’s discussion provided an opportunity for local banking institutions to share best practices and to share their challenges with law enforcement at all levels. Participants also noted the need for increased merchant and consumer education.

“Check fraud is very rampant in our banks right now,” said Kelly Wilson, Anti-Money Laundering Fraud Officer with Colony Bank. “We are needing to do a lot more communication with our customers about how important it is to not mail checks so that we can avoid the risk of them being stolen. We also want to provide more scam education. Not only that, we want to make sure that we are working with our law enforcement. I feel like this is the new way that people are making money illegally and it’s important that we make sure that our lines of communication with law enforcement are open so that we can work together to stop this.”

Detective Darryl Jones with the Albany Police Department said that “conversations like this are important because we get to connect with people from different fields. It’s imperative that we have banks, law enforcement, prosecutors and more all in one room so that there can be a collaborative effort on how to combat fraud in our city. Conversations like [Monday’s] allow us to have questions answered that we would not have the opportunity to anywhere else. It’s great to get to come together and think of ways to resolve this problem.”

Experts emphasized the urgency of citizens and businesses reporting suspected fraud to their banking institutions as soon as possible to potentially stop a fraudulent payment and prevent theft. Beyond curbing the initial crime, rapid reporting is the fastest way to make a dent in these significant loss numbers, they said.

The Albany Area Chamber will continue working with these partners on the alarming issue.


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 of Commerce 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.

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.

Chamber CEO: TSPLOST supports critical transportation improvements

Lagging investment crippling local and national transportation infrastructure. TSPLOST provides local funding mechanism.


By Bárbara Rivera Holmes

Barbara Rivera Holmes

President & CEO

Albany Area Chamber of Commerce


When it comes to moving people or goods, transportation is key.


Transportation is simply defined as transporting someone or something, or the process of being transported. That action or process is facilitated by many factors, including quality roads, roadway signage, efficient intersections and sidewalks. Without maintenance of these factors, the “someone or something” can’t be transported or the efficiency of the transport is significantly diminished. This hurts commerce, and when commerce suffers, so do people and economies.



Now during early voting and on March 19, voters in Albany and Dougherty County can vote to invest in safe and efficient transportation, enhancing the health of our economy and the quality of life for our residents. From roadway improvements to sidewalks, the project list for the $80 million Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) addresses needs that are critical to economic growth.


TSPLOST allows voters to dedicate a 1 percent sales tax for special transportation projects. That 1 percent sales tax would be applied to all goods and services that are taxable; it is an equitable consumption tax shared by all who make purchases in Albany and Dougherty County. TSPLOST is estimated to generate $80 million in revenue during its five-year life cycle. Of that $80 million, nearly half could be generated by out-of-town visitors to the community, diminishing by nearly 50 percent the contribution to be made by local residents and business owners. Full benefit at nearly half the cost.


Areas of needed improvements that are supported by TSPLOST include:



The single largest allocation of TSPLOST funds includes road resurfacing and associated infrastructure for roads in poor/very poor condition, preventing the continued structural deterioration of more than 250 miles of roads in Albany and Dougherty County.



TSPLOST allocates funds to intersection upgrades and road improvements to ease traffic congestion and improve safety. Funds are also dedicated to roadway widenings that impact traffic congestion and safety.



Sidewalk installation and improvements are included in TSPLOST project list. This includes installation of concrete sidewalks to enhance pedestrian safety near schools and other heavily traveled areas where sidewalks are lacking.


Years ago, “All Roads Lead to Albany” was a popular Chamber campaign touting the roadway infrastructure of Albany and Dougherty County. The campaign was effective; the community’s four-lane highway connectivity, interior road grid, quality of roads and accessibility to interstates has proved a selling point for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies that have relocated or expanded locations to Albany and Dougherty County.


Today, the narrative behind “All Roads Lead to Albany” remains a relevant selling point. But those roads, through years and years of increasing wear and tear, are in need of maintenance that far exceeds the available funding.


Nationally, the situation is alarmingly similar. The American Association of Civil Engineers (AACE) gave the American transportation infrastructure a grade of D+ and estimated a $2 trillion infrastructure gap, including investments for surface transportation such as bridges and roadways. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, AACE estimates that four in 10 American roads are in poor to mediocre condition and that by 2025, our nation’s failing infrastructure systems will have cost American businesses $7 trillion.


“Moreover,” the article stated, “roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately a third of traffic fatalities, according to national transportation research group TRIP, while motor vehicle crashes in which roadways were a likely contributing factor cost American motorists $101.1 billion per year


“In large part,” the U.S. Chamber concluded, “our country’s failing infrastructure is due to lagging investment. While population, road congestion and maintenance backlogs have ballooned, investment into maintaining, repairing and upgrading our critical infrastructure systems has slipped.


“You don’t have to be a civil engineer to know that our nation’s infrastructure is falling apart,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue. “All you have to do is leave your house. The evidence is everywhere – and affects everyone.”


Communities close to Albany and Dougherty County, and cities and counties throughout Georgia, are addressing chronic transportation funding gaps through the passage of TSPLOST. If voters in Albany and Dougherty County do not pass the referendum, the needs will continue to go unmet, creating a more challenging and costlier situation for local residents and business owners. These challenges will ultimately need a solution, and without other funding mechanisms that help offset the local investment, residents and business owners in Albany and Dougherty County will, at some point and in some way, likely assume the full expense of updating the community’s transportation infrastructure and assets.


Understanding the need for adequate transportation infrastructure for the economic health of our community and the quality of life of our citizens, the Albany Area Chamber supports passage of TSPLOST and encourages residents of Albany and Dougherty County to “VOTE YES TO TSPLOST” now during early voting or on March 19.


Bárbara Rivera Holmes is president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for business success through leadership and economic development.