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Annual Conference 2017 Speakers
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James Blair

Managing Director, Navigator Consulting LLC

Mr. James Blair is the Founder and Managing Director of Navigator Consulting, a specialized consulting firm providing site selection services to international companies looking to set up or expand manufacturing operations in the United States. With particular experience working with European executives, Mr. Blair and NavCon have also worked with Chinese and Japanese companies as well. The ten projects located over the past two years announced 2,300 jobs and $1.2 billion in capital investment.

During his 25 years in site selection for the State of Georgia, Mr. Blair worked with over 175 companies whose U.S. subsidiaries currently employ more than 20,000 people. Client companies included global names like Porsche (Germany), UCB (Belgium), Randstad (Netherlands) and Saint Gobain (France), as well as mid-sized companies like ATEX (Italy), Balta (Belgium), Brugg (Switzerland), Glock (Austria), Hansgrohe (Germany), JCB (UK), Terma (Denmark) and WIKA (Germany).


Chris Clark

President & CEO, The Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Georgia native, Chris Clark, is the President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and his master’s degree in public administration from Georgia College and State University. Prior to joining the Georgia Chamber, Chris served as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and as Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Economic Development. Before his state service he was the President of the Fayette County Development Authority and CEO of the Hawkinsville-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. Chris and his wife, Tiffany, and their son, Christian, live in Peachtree City and attend Dogwood Church.


Brian Cooksey

Director of Operations Training, Shaw Industries Group, Inc.

Brian Cooksey Brian Cooksey is the Director of Operations Training for Shaw Industries Group, Inc., in Dalton, Georgia.  Shaw, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer and a leading floor covering provider (carpet, hardwood, laminate, ceramic, resilient & sports turf products) with over $5.0 billion in annual sales, more than 100 manufacturing and distribution locations and 23,000 associates across the globe.  Shaw’s corporate university, the Shaw Learning Academy, has annually been named one of the world’s top training organizations by both Training and ELearning magazines.  Through his role at Shaw, Brian has become a recognized leader across the state for workforce development. In June 2015, Brian was honored to be named as the “Face of Manufacturing” by the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech. In addition to working at Shaw, Brian serves on the board of directors for two public charter College & Career Academies in Whitfield County and Gordon Counties, is a member of the State of Georgia’s Charter Advisory Committee.


Aimee Copeland

Aimee Copeland is a 29-year-old who miraculously survived a near fatal case of necrotizing fasciitis in 2012 after falling from a zip line. Against all odds and medical knowledge, Aimee lived through the infection, although she coded twice during the process and lost her entire left leg, right foot, and both hands. Despite everything she has been through, Aimee continues to live life to the fullest and uses her story to inspire others who face similar struggles. She hopes to share how she made it through this tragic experience, what she has learned along the way, and how she is using it change the lives of others.


Michael Fennell

Dean of Academic Affairs, Georgia Northwestern Technical College

Dr. Michael Fennell serves as a Dean of Academic Affairs at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC). Dr. Fennell began his career with GNTC as a drafting technology instructor in 2003. He was promoted to assistant dean of Industrial Technology in 2007 and was also awarded the Rick Perkins Excellence in Teaching Award that year. He has served in his current role as a dean since 2012.

Dr. Fennell earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Georgia Southern University where he studied technology education. He then went on to participate in the Community and Technical College Leadership Initiative program at the University of Georgia where he earned his Doctor of Education Degree. Dr. Fennell is a recent graduate of the Leadership Dalton-Whitfield program, where he learned how important it is for communities to have strong partnerships that seek to improve the quality of life for its members.


Matthew Gambill

Executive Director, Georgia Association for Career & Technical Education

Matthew Gambill is a native of Cartersville, is Executive Director of the Georgia Association for Career & Technical Education. Mr. Gambill works working across party lines advocating for Career, Technical & Agricultural Education at the national, state, and local level. Gambill is a member of the Georgia Society of Association Executives, Georgia Chamber of Commerce where he serves on its Governmental Affairs Council, the Trade 5 Advisory Council, and the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce. Mr.  Gambill also serves on the board of directors for the National Association for Career and Technical Education, ACTE National Executive Directors Association, Indian Springs Camp meeting, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bartow County, the Boys and Girls Clubs Georgia Alliance, Past Chair of the Boys and Girls Clubs Georgia Area Council, and Past Chair of the Murphy-Harpst Children’s Home.  Gambill received his B.A. in Political Science from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.


Angie Gheesling

Executive Director, Development Authority of Houston County

Angie Gheesling has held the position of Executive Director for the Development Authority of Houston County since 2012. She has more than twenty years of economic development experience in both state and local government in both professional and volunteer roles. She previously served as the Executive Director for the Development Authority of the City of Milledgeville and Baldwin County and worked under two state administrations as Director of the Regional Economic Development Program for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. For 23 years, she also managed her family’s restaurant on Lake Sinclair, Choby’s Landing.  Angie is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and Georgia College & State University. She is an active member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA), recently serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors.


Camila Knowles

Commissioner, Georgia Department of Community Affairs

Camila Knowles was appointed as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) by Governor Nathan Deal in 2015. Knowles leads DCA’s work for community development, ensuring that through workforce housing, community infrastructure, downtown development and economic development financing, communities are prepared for opportunities to meet Governor Deal’s top priority: creating jobs across the state. DCA provides funding and technical assistance throughout Georgia, partnering with local communities to create a climate of success for Georgia’s families and businesses. DCA manages millions of state and federal dollars through its 65 programs, 24 of them funding programs.Commissioner Knowles joined DCA after serving as Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. She began her career with Senator Chambliss in 2003 as one of the Senator’s designees on the Senate Judiciary Committee focusing on immigration law and policy.


Griffin V. Lynch

Executive Director, Georgia Ports Authority

Griffith V. Lynch is the Executive Director of the Georgia Ports Authority, an 1,100- person strong state port authority that owns and operates strategic gateways serving the U.S. Southeast.

As Executive Director, Lynch oversees all port activity involving the deepwater ports of Savannah and Brunswick, as well as inland terminal operations in Bainbridge and Columbus.  Directing one of Georgia’s largest economic engines, he administers a $280 million annual budget.

Before becoming executive director, Lynch served as GPA chief operating officer for five years. As COO of the single largest container terminal in North America and second busiest U.S. auto port, he was responsible for sustaining the profitable growth and development of all operations, and maintaining world-class operating standards. His duties included overseeing ambitious capital improvement and development programs for five deep water ports and two inland terminals while maintaining strong relationships with numerous customers, labor officials and supply chain partners.


Misti Martin

President, Cherokee Office of Economic Development

Misti Martin is a native of Georgia and has been in the Chamber & Economic Development field for over 25 years, serving as President of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development since 2004.

In the 90s, Martin worked for the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce & Development Authority and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. She was President & CEO of the Covington-Newton County Chamber from 1998-2004 before returning to Cherokee.

Martin graduated from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and earned her MBA from Troy University. Misti is a Certified Economic Developer and a graduate of EDI as well as the Institute for Organization Management.

Misti has been featured as one of Georgia Trend’s “40 Under 40” and as a “Notable Georgian.”  Martin served as Chair of GEDA in 2012 and was recognized as one of the “Top 50 Economic Developers in North America” in 2016.


Dr. Mark Scott

Superintendent if Schools, Houston County Board of Education

Dr. Mark Scott has been Superintendent of Schools for Houston County since June 2014. Prior to becoming Superintendent, Dr. Scott served as Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources from 2011 to 2014 and as Principal of Northside High School from 2008 to 2011.  An educator for 29 years, he spent 10 years in the classroom before becoming an Assistant Principal at Baldwin High School in Milledgeville, Georgia. In 2000, Dr. Scott was named Principal at Oak Hill Middle School, also in Milledgeville, where he served 8 years.  Dr. Scott is a native of Milledgeville and earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Mercer University, a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia College & State University, a Master’s Degree in Technological Studies and a Bachelor Degree in Trade and Industrial Education both from the University of Georgia. 


Kevin Shea, CEcD

President, Georgia Economic Developers Association

Kevin Shea, CEcD, is President of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA), which has more than 700 members and is in its 53rd year of existence. Shea was hired for the position in July 2014. Previously, Kevin worked at the Augusta Chamber of Commerce and the Savannah Economic Development Authority. Also, he served for five years at the state level both as an International Representative and the Managing Director of the Canadian Office of Georgia in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Jason Stein

Vice President, Publisher of Automotive News

Jason Stein directs the editorial and commercial operations for one of the world’s largest automotive business‐to‐business media organizations.Mr. Stein joined Automotive News as a Detroit‐based reporter in October 2003 before transferring to Automotive News Europe’s Munich, Germany, headquarters in 2005. Two years later, he was named publisher of Automotive News Europe, a responsibility that included the management of the news and commercial operations, covering 32 European countries as well as marketing, digital, audience and event activities. In 2009, Mr. Stein moved back to Detroit to oversee the editorial operations of Automotive News. In 2012 he added the responsibility of associate publisher, then publisher in 2013.In 2016, he oversaw the launch of two new media products: Automotive News Canada, a digital media outlet and a monthly print magazine; and Fixed Ops Journal, a semi‐monthly print magazine focused on auto retail operations.


Justin Strickland

President, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission

Justin Strickland, President of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, works every day to bring new jobs and investment to his hometown of Albany, Georgia.  He has been employed since 2007 by the public-private partnership of the City of Albany, Dougherty County, and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.  Justin came to the EDC from the private sector, where he was a bank marketing executive for a multi-state bank holding company.

Justin was recently recognized by the International Economic Development Council as a Certified Economic Developer.  He is a graduate of Albany High School, The University of Georgia, Leadership Albany, and the Georgia Academy for Economic Development.  Honors include being named one of Southwest Georgia’s 40 under 40 and the Marketer the Year by The Community Bankers’ Association of Georgia.  Justin presently serves as Chairman of Locate South Georgia, a regional economic development marketing alliance for South Georgia. He has served as Chairman of the Professional Development Committee and on the Young Professionals Committee for the Georgia Economic Developers Association.


David Tanner

Associate Director, Carl Vinson Institute of Government

Mr. David Tanner is the Associate Director the State Services and Decision Support Division at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government.   As part of the public service and outreach mission of the University of Georgia, Mr. Tanner focuses on helping governments address some of the state’s most pressing issues such as Juvenile Justice Reform, Workforce Development, Economic Development and improving decision making through data analytics.  At the Institute of Government, David leads the Institute’s survey research, program evaluation, state services, and demographic and economic analysis units. Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Tanner served as the deputy director at the Georgia Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB), where he worked with three different Governor’s in addressing key budget and policy issues more than 12 years.


William Tate

Industrial Development Manager, Norfolk Southern Railway

Graduate of University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Transportation (Logistics).

My current position is Industrial Development Manager for Norfolk Southern Railway responsible for the states of Georgia and Florida headquartered in Atlanta, GA.

I am a 35 year veteran with Norfolk Southern having worked in different departments. Prior to joining the NS Industrial Development department I was an Account Manager in Automotive Marketing in Los Angeles, CA.  I served as a Logistics Manager in Daimler Chrysler headquarters Auburn Hills, MI for Norfolk Southern and Manager of Rail Services inside the General Motors plant in Wentzville, MO.  I began my career with Norfolk Southern as a Management Trainee in Birmingham, AL and was later assigned to the position of Track Supervisor in Albany, GA.

My current responsibilities include project management for new customers looking to locate on Norfolk Southern lines and work with existing customers that would like to expand their facilities and rail service.      


Matt Trice

Vice President of Economic Development Programs, Albany Technical College

Matt has been with Albany Technical College since 2002.  Prior to taking this position, he was Sr. Vice President for Economic Development with the Gainesville-Hall County Chamber of Commerce, President of the Toombs County Chamber of Commerce, President of the Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce & Development Authority, Director of Government Services for the Middle Georgia Regional Commission and was one of the first three Regional Economic Development Officers/Project Managers for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.  He has been part of teams that has resulted in the location and expansion of over $500 million in capital investment for the State of Georgia.

Since coming to Albany Technical College, he has been responsible for re-tooling the Economic Development Division.  Now called The Center for Business Solutions, the Division seeks ways to impact the human capital available in the Region by providing the resources of the College to business and industry in the areas of credit programs, customized contract training and continuing education offerings.


Barbara Wall

Director of Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education, Georgia Department of Education

Dr. Barbara Wall is the Director of Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) at the Georgia Department of Education.  In her role at the Department of Education she has oversight of the 130 different career paths offered through the CTAE program.  Under Dr. Wall’s leadership school systems are working to enhance partnerships between CTAE programs, local employers, and economic developers. Dr. Wall has been leading the state’s CTAE programs since April 2015.  Prior to working for the state, Dr. Wall worked as CTAE director in Houston County.  She has also worked in small, medium and large school districts.  Dr. Wall has a doctorate from the University of Georgia in Workforce Education Development.


Greg Wilson

Public Service Assistant, Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia

Greg Wilson leads the Workforce Development Technical Assistance Program at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. He assists state agencies, local workforce development boards, economic development organizations, and educational institutions with workforce development and economic development projects. He focuses on data analysis, program implementation, meeting facilitation, decision support, and strategic planning.

Mr. Wilson served as the lead analyst and author of the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative report, which detailed high-demand occupations and skills in key Georgia industries. He has taught workforce development at state, regional, and national conferences. He has a BA in political science and international affairs and a master’s in public administration, both from the University of Georgia.


Pat Wilson

Commissioner, Georgia Department of Economic Development

Pat Wilson was appointed Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) by Governor Nathan Deal in November 2016. As Commissioner, he leads the state agency responsible for creating jobs and investment opportunities in Georgia through business recruitment and expansion, international trade and tourism, as well as the arts, film and music industries. 

Mr. Wilson previously served as Chief Operating Officer of GDEcD from January 2011 until his appointment as Commissioner. As COO, he managed the daily operations of the agency, directed long-term strategy, managed the agency’s legislative priorities and served as the department’s liaison with the Georgia Congressional delegation and federal government partners. In this role, Mr. Wilson served as GDEcD’s intergovernmental liaison, working with other state government departments and agencies to streamline and navigate regulations for major project locations, expansions and film productions.


Carter Wood

Senior Manager - Location Investment Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Carter Wood is a Senior Manager in the Southeast Location Investment Services Practice for Ernst & Young, LLP.  With a focus on incentives and site selection advisory, Carter has worked with a variety of clients ranging in size from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies both domestically and globally.  In addition, Carter also leads EY’s Climate and Sustainability efforts for the Southeast region, including energy efficiency implantation, green ROI analysis and advisory on federal incentive programs.  Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Carter worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) as a Statewide Project Manager focusing on manufacturing, aerospace, chemical processing and defense industries.  In his role with GDEcD, Carter served as the project lead for numerous engagements, representing the State of Georgia in the recruitment of companies by providing site selection services and state statutory and discretionary incentives.  

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