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Spring Workshop 2018 Speakers
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Donna Armstrong-Lackey, EDFP, MPA









Bert Brantley

Bert Brantley serves as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Brantley was appointed to this role by Gov. Nathan Deal in January 2017. As COO, Brantley manages the daily operations of the agency, handles budgetary and personnel issues for all department divisions, is the principal point of contact for external partners and serves as Executive Director of the Georgia Allies. Most recently, Brantley served as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Brantley’s state government career includes four years as director of communications and press secretary during Gov. Sonny Perdue’s second term, and stints in leadership and communications roles at the State Road and Tollway Authority, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Georgia Department of Economic Development. He also spent more than two years in private practice, leading communications efforts on campaigns such as the statewide 2012 Charter School Constitutional Amendment and advising corporate clients. Brantley is originally from Valdosta. He and his wife, Tonya, have two children and reside in McDonough.

Christine Chmura

Christine Chmura

A thought-leader on labor market data, Chris is a nationally recognized speaker among site selectors, economic developers, private firms, workforce practitioners, and educators. She served as a keynote speaker for national and international conferences, and is a quoted source on regional and national economic trends in the media throughout the nation. Chris's forecasts are included in the Blue Chip Financial Forecasts, which is synonymous with the latest in expert opinion on the future performance of the American economy. She is a former board member of the National Association of Business Economists.

Since founding Chmura Economics & Analytics in 1998, Chris and her team of experts have continued to innovate data solutions, such as JobsEQ, LaborEQ, Zonyx, and FedSpendTOP, that help answer critical client questions across the public and private sectors.

R. Steven Justice

R. Steven Justice is the Executive Director of the Georgia Centers of Innovation responsible for a wide ranging program to provide the technical industry expertise, collaborative research and partnerships to help Georgia’s key industries connect, compete and grow. Exclusive to Georgia, the Centers of Innovation provide over 1,000 businesses each year the technical industry expertise, collaborative research, and partnerships to help the State’s strategic industries connect, compete and grow globally. The program consists of Centers of Innovation in six key industries - Aerospace, Agribusiness, Energy, Information Technology, Logistics, and Manufacturing.


Ron Kitchens

Ron’s focus is to lift up leaders by accelerating their impact, influence and well-being in career, family and community. Ron is the senior partner and chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First, an economic consulting firm, which has grown 20% annually under his leadership. In addition, Ron leads Consultant Connect, is the publisher of 269 MAGAZINE™, board member of Impact Athletic, chairman of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and a Trustee of Western Michigan University. Ron is the founder of the leadership conference Catalyst University and the co-founder of NEXT, an invitation-only leadership symposium for global economic development leaders. Ron and his teams have been extensively featured in over 100 national and international media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, CBS, NBC, Fox, USA Today, Forbes, Fortune, The Economist and National Public Radio. Southwest Michigan First is recognized as one of the Top 5 Best Places to Work in America by Outside Magazine, as well as a National Best & Brightest Company. Ron is author/co-author of 3 books, including the bestseller Community Capitalism and speaks globally on leadership, creating thriving multi-generational teams and community capitalism. He blogs and podcasts at and can be found on Twitter @ronkitchens.

Brad Lofton

Brad began his tenure in Dublin as the President of the Dublin-Laurens Co Development Authority in August 2014. He has eighteen years of experience in community and economic development, and his background and experience includes success stories in energy, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, food, logistics, back office, technology and defense.

Prior to Dublin and Laurens County, Brad served as the President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation. Announced projects included the relocation of one of America’s premier gun manufacturing companies, a 700-job publicly traded call center, the relocation of BauschLinnemann’s U.S. headquarters, the North American location of a large Canadian stainless steel manufacturer, and multiple industry expansions. He also served as the Executive Director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority. During his tenure in Valdosta, Georgia, and despite a national recession, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority created over 3,000 new jobs with capital investment exceeding $500 million. During that time, Site Selection Magazine listed Valdosta as the number 3 location in the United States for new job creation based on communities with populations of 200,000 or less.

Brad is a native of Moultrie, Georgia. He has an undergraduate degree in Economics from Mercer University and a Masters of Business Administration degree from Georgia Southwestern State University. He has served on the board of directors for the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA). In 2004, he was named one of the top 40 most influential Georgians under the age of 40 by Georgia Trend Magazine. He is the proud father of three children-Emma, Eli, and Carter.

Lynn Pitts

30+ experience in economic development at both the corporate and local level.








Jeff Shinabarger

Jeff Shinabarger, Founder and Executive Director, Plywood People, is a social entrepreneur, the best-selling author of More or Less and Yes or No and creator of Path by Plywood, a six-week community driven, learning experience that challenges ideas and brings them into reality. Jeff has a vision to make Atlanta a center for social innovation, while personally engaging in over 240 problem solving start-ups. His work has been featured by CNN, USA Weekend, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Huffington Post, Christianity Today, Coca-Cola, Relevant Magazine, and the Chicago Sun Times. He is the cofounder of Q and creatively led Catalyst for eight years. Jeff and his wife, André, live in East Atlanta Village and exploring how to raise a family while striving to change the world with their two kids, Jada and Neko.

Tommy Talley

Tommy knew he wanted to be a filmmaker when he saw Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” in 1998. He immersed himself in film in the early 2000s and moved to Los Angeles to learn the trade. After six years producing television, he came home to Baton Rouge in 2009. In 2011 he opened tommysTV. Since then, he’s won multiple ADDY awards for his work and has produced content for Raising Cane’s, Louisiana Economic Development, Dow Chemical, Louisiana Culinary Institute, Louisiana Travel, Baton Rouge Airport, and Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area. He has directed over 50 commercials for Walmart as part of an award-winning national campaign and has produced content for MTV, NBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, A&E and Nickelodeon.


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