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

Donna Armstrong-Lackey is the Senior Vice President for Carroll Tomorrow and the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. In this role, she directs programs in business, workforce and community development, and government relations. She is also the coordinator of the Carroll County Junior Chamber of Commerce. Prior to joining Carroll Tomorrow in 2007, Donna spent a 25 year career in community and economic development, across Georgia and east Alabama. She holds a BA in Communications from Shorter University, and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of West Georgia.  In addition, she is a graduate of Leadership Georgia, Economic Development Institute (EDI) and a certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP). Donna has a passion for expanding educational and career opportunities for all residents of Carroll County. She works closely with domestic and international companies locating to the community in providing soft landing options and recruiting top local talent. She actively serves on several boards impacting area leadership and skills development, including, Carroll/Carrollton Education Collaborative, Communities in Schools of Carrollton/Carroll County, West Georgia Youth Science & Technology Center, West Georgia Tech Busness/Marketing Advisory Council and the Georgia Region 4 Workforce Development Board. She is also a past president and Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club of Carrollton. Donna and her husband live in south Carroll County, and have two grown children. 

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.

Alton Brown

 Alton Brown, Jr. is a Savannah, Georgia native and graduate of the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forest Resources.  His professional career over the past 19.5 years has focused on environmental consulting.  From 1997 thru 2007, he served as project manager and principal for two environmental consulting firms and managed projects in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.  In 2007, Alton co-founded Resource & Land Consultants (RLC) which is a natural resources consulting firm focusing on wetland regulation compliance and permitting.  Alton has and continues to participate in the development and management of both freshwater and tidal mitigation banks in Georgia and South Carolina.  He has participated in a wide variety of private and public projects and has served clients in the private residential, commercial, industrial, mining, and forest industries as well as governmental clients from local municipalities to state agencies.  As co-owner and operator of RLC, Alton focuses on project procurement and management, client management, and marketing.   Alton is a Society of Wetland Scientists certified Professional Wetland Scientist (PWS), a member of the Georgia Environmental Restoration Association, a Board of Directors member for the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership, a member of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Advisory Committee, a member of the Council Executives Association of Savannah, and Savannah Chamber of Commerce Board Member.

Carl Campbell

Carl provides assistance to companies considering the Dalton-Whitfield County area for their next investment location. This can be in the form of a new business or the expansion of an existing business. Growing the economy and supporting education initiatives to improve the Northwest Georgia workforce are the goals of Carl’s daily activities. Prior to this role Carl worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development as a Senior Project manager and served a 15-county area in Northwest Georgia. In his role with the state he assisted numerous companies expand their business or locate a new business operation in the Northwest Georgia region.

Carl grew up in Dalton and enjoys helping his hometown grow and prosper. His wife Kristy is an Instructional Coach in the Murray County, GA school system. They have 2 boys ages 14 and 12, & a 9-year-old daughter. His free time is spent at his kid’s ball games, playing golf, mountain biking, and going to Georgia football games.

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.

Ralph ForbesRalph Forbes

Ralph is a Vice President and Principal and serves as a Savannah Regional Director for engineering, planning, and design of large tract development and industrial/commercial sites. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, began his career in the construction field, and later joined Thomas & Hutton in 1991.  A licensed Professional Engineer, Ralph has expertise in site selection, land analysis, infrastructure in developing industrial parks and community development. Ralph sits on various professional and community organizations, including Government Affairs Chair for Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber Board, Board Member and head of Environmental and Natural Resource Committee for Georgia Economic Development Authority, Past President for Georgia Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Past Board Member of Georgia Southern Construction Management, Past President of Georgia Tech Savannah Alumni Club, Advisory Council for Bryan County Schools, and Richmond Hill High School Booster Clubs.

Kimberly Garvey

Kimberly Garvey currently serves as the Deputy Chief, Regulatory Branch, Operations Division, in Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  Kimberly has been working in the environmental field for over 19 years, including 8 years of supervisory experience.  She has also worked for both the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation.  Kimberly is dedicated to open and transparent communication and passionate about training and education.  She also serves as a National instructor for Regulatory I class, teaching new regulators about the program.  

Kimberly L. Garvey was born in Syracuse, New York. She attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York and graduated in 1997 with a B.S. in Biology.  She currently lives in Bluffton, SC with her husband Chris and two daughters.  

Angie Gheesling

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.  

Jeff Hamling

15 years of government affairs experience in Georgia and Washington, D.C.
Effective leader on transportation, health care and tax policy
Key advisor to numerous legislative and executive leaders in Georgia and D.C.





Brittany Holtzclaw

Brittany Holtzclaw serves as Director, Global Commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). In this role, her focus is to increase jobs and investment through locating and expanding businesses in the Life Sciences and Corporate Solutions sectors. 
Holtzclaw joined the department in 2012. Prior to joining GDEcD, Holtzclaw worked in the economic development divisions of Georgia EMC and Partnership Gwinnett. She has also worked for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce as well as the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber of Commerce. Holtzclaw and her team located 4,654 jobs and $800 million of investment in FY17. She holds a degree in Business Administration from University of North Georgia.

Amy Hudnall

Amy Kohler Hudnall is the Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace and is responsible for a wide-ranging program to accelerate Georgia aerospace companies’ growth by helping them commercialize new products, services and business models, connecting them with university research and industry expertise as well as other Georgia resources for the aerospace industry.  She serves as the secretary for the Aerospace States Association, and sits on the boards of directors for the Atlanta Aero Club, the Atlanta Section of AIAA, and the Georgia-Alabama Chapter of Society of Automotive Engineers.  She previously served as a Program Coordinator at the National Aerospace Development Center, and as a U.S. Air Force officer for ten years.   

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.

Camila Knowles

Camila Knowles joins Cornerstone’s Atlanta, Georgia office on October 1, 2017 as senior vice president and counsel. She comes to the firm after serving in Governor Nathan Deal’s cabinet as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) since 2015. In this role, she led the agency’s work for community development, ensuring that communities are prepared for creating jobs across the state through workforce housing, community infrastructure, downtown development, and economic development financing.


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.

Mark Lytle

Mark Lytle

Mark Lytle has more than 40 years of combined industry and economic development experience building relationships at global, state and company levels. While at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, he served in various economic roles including Sr. Project Manager, Leader of the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Supplier Initiative, Director of International Investment/ Global Business Recruiting, and Program Director of the Georgia Centers of Innovation. In 2013 Mark joined the Board of Regents- University System of Georgia (USG). as the Vice Chancellor for Economic Development, Mark serves on the board of Fin Tech Atlanta, the IgniteHQ (a business incubator accelerator) and was recognized with the 2016 Transaction Alley Citizen Award by the American Transaction Processors Coalition. Mark is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

Mary Ellen McClanahan

As Director of Entrepreneur & Small Business Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Mary Ellen helps find solutions and effective ways to build an entrepreneurial environment to support small business through mentoring, professional development, strategic planning and resource awareness.  She also connects with Georgia’s business and community associations so that thousands of businesses, local leaders and practitioners are aware of resources and opportunities.  She also directs any size businesses to the specific resources they need.  Mary Ellen is also an Existing Industry Project Manager within the Metro Atlanta region.  She calls on expanding companies making them aware of state resources and incentives and provides assistance with their growth plans and decision-making process.  She also works closely with the local economic developers with their existing industry support efforts.  During her 20 years with the department, she helped develop and grow its regional economic development program, the “Entrepreneur Friendly” Initiative and acted as legislative liaison.  Prior to that, Mary Ellen was the economic developer and president of two rural South Georgia chambers of commerce in Dodge and Sumter Counties. Originally from Erie, PA and in Georgia since 1973, Mary Ellen serves on the boards of GEDA (Georgia Economic Developers Association), GACCE (GA Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives), Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection, the DeKalb Workforce Investment Board and Sandy Springs Economic Development Advisory Council. She is a 1997 graduate of Institute for Organization Management, Leadership Georgia and a 2000 graduate of EDI (Economic Development Institute).

David Nuckolls

David Nuckolls is the Global Account Manager for Marketing and Operations with the Centers of Innovation, an exclusive to Georgia division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

In his current position, David is responsible for the marketing management, strategic communications, and divisional operations for the six industry teams within the Centers of Innovation. In this role, he also directly manages the Centers of Innovation Operations team which includes the Marketing Coordinator and Program Analyst positions.

Since joining the Department in August 2012, David has successfully led the Centers of Innovation through a rebranding and messaging initiative, produced three award winning videos (15 total), and has helped the Centers earn more than 900 million media impressions through more than 500 different outlets including many of the nation’s top tier media. He has also earned 7 different industry awards during this time.

David previously served the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce as their communications coordinator where he expanded their capabilities across social media, journalism, and marketing, including the launch of their monthly publication, Momentum. He is a third-generation graduate of Berry College in Rome, Georgia where he currently serves as a mentor in the Young Alumni Partnership Program and a frequent participant in other programs.

David completed GeorgiaForward’s Young Gamechangers program in the Fall of 2017, and is midway through his IEDC Certified Economic Development Courses which he anticipates completing by 2020. David is a member of Newnan First United Methodist Church where he also serves as a Sunday School teacher, Co-Chair of the Stewardship Committee, and a member of the Church Council, Finance Committee, and the Worship Committee. David, his wife Anna, son Henley, and on-the-way daughter Adalynn Grace reside in Newnan, Georgia. 

Lynn Pitts

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








Scott Poag

Scott serves as the Director of Business Development for W&A Engineering, a multi-disciplinary engineering firm with offices in Athens, GA and Nashville, TN. In this role, he leads the overall business development and marketing efforts of the firm as well as providing economic development consulting services to clients. Scott served on the local side of economic development for almost a decade in both Georgia and North Carolina, announcing over $800,000,000 in new capital investments and over 6,500 net new jobs. He has successfully worked with a full range of companies from startup to Fortune 500. His leadership has also successfully supported various workforce development, entrepreneurial, and legislative initiatives.
Recently, Scott was named to Augusta, Georgia’s “Top 10 Young Professionals to Watch” list, a “Distinguished Young AFCEAN” by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, named as a “40 under 40 Rising Star in Economic Development” by New York based Development Counselors International, and received “Top 40 Under 40 Alumni” honors from East Carolina University.

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.

Benjy Thompson

Benjy Thompson presently serves as Chief Executive Officer for the Development Authority of Bulloch County.  Before assuming his present position, Mr. Thompson served in the following positions:
Vice President for Economic Development, Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, Georgia;
Director of the Coastal Rivers Water Planning and Policy Center at Georgia Southern University;
Acting Assistant Dean of External Relations for the College of Business Administration, Georgia Southern University;
Associate Professor of Legal Studies in Business, School of Accountancy, COBA/Georgia Southern University;
Founding Director, School of Economic Development, Georgia Southern University.

Benjy was born in Millen, GA.  He received a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgia Southern College in 1990; a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1994; and a Master of Business Administration from Georgia Southern University in 2002.  He is married to Delaine Thompson (works for AgSouth Farm Credit, Information Systems Coordinator); one son, Lucas; one daughter, Sarah Kate; two Golden Retrievers, and one “hybrid” dog.  Benjy has been a member of the “Downright Brothers Band” since 1989, and recently joined the “Dark Desert Highway Band,” an Eagles tribute band.

Trip Tollison

Trip Tollison serves as the President and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) which includes World Trade Center Savannah (WTC Savannah), Film Savannah and an EB-5 Investment Center. Before joining SEDA in October 2012, Trip served as the Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Savannah. He received his degree from the School of Public and International Affairs from the University of Georgia. Upon graduation, he served as an aide in Washington and Georgia for the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives and a Washington-based governmental affairs consulting firm. Trip serves on the board of directors for the Jekyll Island State Authority, the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center Authority, the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of the Coastal Empire. Trip is a former chairman of the Second Harvest Food Bank and is one of Georgia’s 100 Most Influential Leaders as recognized by Georgia Trend magazine. He is a graduate of Leadership Savannah, Leadership Georgia and currently serves as a Trustee for the Leadership Georgia Foundation.

Ashley Varnum

Ashley Varnum is a Senior Project Manager on the Advanced Manufacturing and Durable Goods team at the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). Varnum primarily focuses on manufacturing projects, plus business recruitment and expansion efforts for targeted innovative industries. During her time at GDEcD, Varnum has supported many companies including GE Digital, Honeywell International, Boston Consulting Group, Flexport and Coyote Logistics. Varnum also works to support GDEcD’s overall efforts to attract jobs and investment to the state.

Prior to GDEcD, Varnum served as the Executive Director of Fitzgerald - Ben Hill County Development Authority and Project Manager for the Liberty County Development Authority. Throughout her career, she has assisted domestic and international businesses in both industrial and office investments.

Varnum is an active member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association serving on various committees working to better the organization. In her spare time, Varnum participates in a variety of community service outreaches and serves on the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Alumni Board.

Varnum earned a bachelor’s of science degree in Business and Economic Development from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC). Varnum and her husband, Ben, reside in Newnan, Georgia.

Ryan Waldrep

As the Assistant Director of Entrepreneur and Small Business and Regional Project Manager with the Department of Economic Development, Ryan provides assistance to companies considering Georgia as a business destination and identifying and pursuing prospective companies with expansion and or relocation potential. He also assists local Chambers of Commerce and Development Authorities in their economic development activities and development of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Ryan earned his Certification in Economic Development through the International Economic Development Council in 2006 and Economic Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council in 2012.  His membership affiliations include the Georgia Economic Development Association and the International Economic Development Council. Ryan is a member of several local organizations as well as a graduate of Leadership Georgia and Leadership Telfair. Prior to joining the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Ryan served as President of the Telfair County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority and as an Economic Development Planner at the Heart of Georgia Altamaha Regional Commission.  A native of McRae, Ryan holds a BFA in Speech Communication (Public Relations) and an MPA in Public Management, both from Valdosta State University. Ryan continues to reside in Telfair County with his wife, Amanda, and two sons, Adam and Ethan.

Cal Wray

Cal Wray began serving as the President of the Augusta Economic Development Authority in January 2018.  Prior to arriving in Richmond County, Cal served as the Executive Director of the Clarksville‐Montgomery County Economic Development Council (EDC) and the Aspire Clarksville Foundation (Aspire) from March 2014 until January 2018 During his tenure, the team recruited more than $960 million in capital investment and more than 1,000 jobs. Cal has also served as Vice‐President of the Dublin‐Laurens County Development Authority (DLCDA) from June 2007 until he was named President in July 2010. During his time as President, they announced more than $291 million in capital investment by industry, 43 new and expanding industries, and 1,200 new jobs for the community. Cal received a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Russian, European Studies, and Economics from Vanderbilt University, a Master’s of Science degree in International Affairs from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) by the National Development Council (NDC). In January 2015, he was named one of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers by Consultant Connect.  Cal and his wife, Leigh, have three sons, Garrett, Camden, and Weston, and three daughters, Eliza, Rynne, and Whitney. Inspiring their children’s imagination and desire for learning has become their passion. Cal is also a member of the Clarksville Sunrise Rotary Club.

Shelley Zorn

Shelley Zorn joined the Thomasville Payroll Development Authority as Executive Director in January of 2014. She is responsible for new industry recruitment, retail recruitment and existing industry support.  She has eighteen years of experience in economic development.  Previously she was President of the Ashburn Tuner County Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority where she recruited new industries, retail and restaurant establishments as well as directing tourism efforts and downtown development. Previous to her time in economic development, she was in banking for fifteen years, specializing in commercial lending and marketing. She majored in Finance at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Her husband Gerald has worked for Coveris in management for 38 years and they have one daughter Madelyn, who is currently attending her third year of college. Shelley has served on the board of GACCE, Committee Chair twice for GEDA, Rotary Club President, board of directors for her regional WIOI, graduated from the Chamber Institute of Organizational Management and the Economic Development Training Course.  

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