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News & Press: Chair's Column

2015 Year-End Review

Tuesday, December 8, 2015  
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2015 Year-End Review

By Tim Evans, CEcD

2015 Board Chair

With 2015 coming to a close, the 52nd year of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) also comes to an end, and what a year it has been!  Georgia and its communities have enjoyed great success this year earning the #1 ranking honors from Site Selection three years in a row, and Georgia’s Quick Start Training program has held the ranking of #1 customized training program in the nation for six years in a row.  These great achievements are the icing on the cake for what has been a great year and team effort among GEDA members to retain, grow and recruit new jobs and investment opportunities in Georgia.  The economy is on a roar, unemployment is declining and there are many corporate expansions in the pipeline.  In busy times, like this, teamwork and professionalism are important for maintaining long-term economic development success.

Professionalism and teamwork in Georgia’s economic development efforts are GEDA’s hallmarks that we encourage through our broad membership..  GEDA provides value and opportunities to its members through Networking, Public Policy Education and Professional Development, and these are a few highlights of 2015.



Networking is key to building a professional network, and I suspect if we were to unwrap the DNA of all successful economic developers we would find a networking gene that propels us to meetings, conferences and social networks to extend ourselves.  This year, GEDA members participated in:

·         An inspiring Spring Workshop at Callaway Gardens, organized by Missy Kendrick and her committee.

·         “Best Ever” Annual Membership Meeting in Savannah, organized by Anna Chafin and her committee.

·         “Sellout” GEDA Monthly Membership Meetings, chaired by Greg Wright and his committee, including:

o   Small Business Rock Stars Program, organized by Mary Ellen McClanahan aided by Donna Armstrong-Lackey, Chair of the Entrepreneurship Shared Interest Group

o   The Brokers and Consultants Program, organized by Wylly Harrison and his Business Recruitment Committee.

o   The Annual Awards Program, organized by Dorie Bacon and her Membership Services Committee.

o   End of the Year Program at the new Georgia Bioscience Training Center.


GEDA’s membership represent opinions from across Georgia and for that reason, GEDA provides Public Policy Education for Economic Development among our members, elected officials and the general public.  Niki Knox Vanderslice chaired GEDA’s Public Policy Committee in 2015, and among other issues, that committee addressed transportation, education partnerships with the University System and the Technical College System of Georgia, and continued support for the Savannah Harbor Expansion and Harbor-Deepening Project.  Jim Finch provided GEDA with eyes and ears during the legislative session and provided reports and organized GEDA members to provide expert testimony at legislative hearings on economic development issues, including those affecting development authorities.  GEDA’s Development Authority Committee, chaired by Chris Pumphrey, answered the call time and time again to provide understanding about the important and integral role that local development authorities play in Georgia’s economic development effort.  Chris and his committee also led GEDA’s educational efforts with the new GASB 77 reporting requirements with a breakfast seminar at the 2015 annual meeting. 

GEDA’s Public Policy Education efforts begin with engagement, and this year we continued the great relationship with the House Committee on Economic Development & Tourism, chaired by Rep. Ron Stephens and the Senate Committee on Economic Development, chaired by Sen. Frank Ginn.  We are grateful for their participation in the Spring Workshop and Annual Meeting.  And let’s all give our sincere thanks to Gov. Nathan Deal and his team under Commissioner Chris Carr, Commissioner Camila Knowles, Commissioner Gretchen Corbin, Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Commissioner Russell McMurray.  They are embracing their civic roles as economic development champions for this State.  After hearing from Gov. Deal at our Annual Meeting in September, I think we can expect more work ahead in the coming legislative session on performance and accountability for our local school systems.  Our investments in education and training are the best indicators for long-term economic wealth for Georgians. 




Being an economic development professional today requires constant learning.   GEDA’s Professional Development Committee is chaired by Saralyn Stafford, who works diligently to ensure members have access to affordable professional development opportunities that are appropriate to Georgia.   This year, GEDA awarded nearly $10,000 in professional development grants for its members to participate in the Basic Economic Development Course, IEDC training, preparing and taking the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) exam, and participating in the Spring Workshop and Annual meetings.   A GEDA Team supported The Basic Economic Development Course at Georgia Tech with a series of “Ignite” presentations, and GEDA members will support the program again in the program’s 49th year in 2016.  For the first time in five years, the CEcD exam will be offered in Atlanta on December 12 and 13, 2015.  Discussions are ongoing with the National Development Council to offer the Economic Development Finance Professional program in Georgia again in 2016.  And throughout 2015, GEDA’s Professional Development Committee sought solutions to address Georgia’s own looming workforce development needs for economic development professionals.

Saralyn and her committee, as well as others from GEDA’s board, were very involved with Jennifer Nelson and her team from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a public service and outreach unit,  to advise and provide input on the new Economic Development courses and Economic Development Certificate.  Thank you to the GEDA members who have graciously provided their time and insight as well in serving on curriculum design teams.  These courses are “Georgia-focused” and will allow more people to participate in additional educational opportunities for the profession in our state.  We’ll hear more about this effort in coming months. 

GEDA got back in the groove again with the re-establishment of its monthly newsletter, thanks to the help and advice of the Marketing and Communications Committee, headed by Kevin Johnson, now with Kajima Building and Design Group (formerly with Georgia Power Company) and John Riddle of the Wayne County Industrial Development Authority.  Greg Torre and his team at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, were extremely helpful, particularly in the fall due to employment changes for both Kevin and John.  The committee also assisted with GEDA’s website design and improvements, logo design and preparation for the Spring Workshop and Annual Conference.


And speaking of our major meetings, and monthly luncheons as well, Ricky McGee, Chair of the Sponsorship Committee, and Manager, Technical Analysis at Georgia EMC, and his committee members did a fantastic job in raising funds for the year.  Due to his heroic efforts, whose record amounts were instrumental in our profitable year, Ricky was presented with the Committee Chair of the Year award.

Last, but not least, we celebrated professional excellence by honoring Bill Mitchell at our Annual Awards program with the Rip Wiley Award for Professional Excellence, our highest commendation, for his many years of professionalism at the Vidalia-Toombs County Chamber and Development Authority.  And at our annual meeting, we recognized four leaders with Honorary Life Membership for their involvement in GEDA and achievements in economic development: Peggy Chapman, Jane Fryer, Willy Paulk and Nancy Kinsey (posthumously). 

Other awards given at November luncheon included Charles “Chuck” Copeland, Chairman of the Griffin-Spalding County Development Authority as the Volunteer of the Year for his many years of great and tireless service; and Andrea Schruijer, Executive Director of the Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority, as Committee Member of the Year for her excellent work on the Annual Conference Committee.



In the course of carrying out the business of GEDA in 2015, we grew our membership from just over 600 members to its current level of 719.  It is a testament to the volunteers and the fine staff of GEDA that after 52 years the organization is growing strong.  Kevin Shea, President, and Karen Ewing, Manager, Member Services, have done an excellent job coordinating the day to day business of GEDA members and participating with the Executive Officers, Board, Committee Chairs and SIG Chairs in carrying out the organization’s programs.  

GEDA is in great shape moving forward and our best days remain ahead.  I’m excited about the plans our Chair-Elect, Greg Wright, and the team have for the organization in 2016.  As one of the GEDA Board’s final acts of 2015, the board approved a new public policy agenda for the organization.  I hope you will take a moment to review and consider your support for these issues, and then invite your own legislative delegation to join us for “GEDA Day” at the Capitol on Thursday, January 28.  The 2016 event will be in the Gold Dome and catered by The Varsity food truck.  “What'll ya have?, What'll ya have?”  It’ll be a productive day, and it promises to be fun too.  In the interim, on behalf of the GEDA Board, I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.

Click here to view all the 2015 Photo Galleries. 

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