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Sunbelt buys Ford Town

Sunbelt Automotive Group is finalizing legal documents to take ownership of Ford Town of Albany.

Pete Pines, general manager and partner of Sunbelt, said the final papers are expected to be signed as early as this week,

In the meantime, Sunbelt is operating the metro Albany Ford dealership under a management agreement.

Walt Coward of Albany is president of the company. Pines, a resident of Lee County, is general manager of the Albany operation.

Sunbelt already operates Ford dealerships in Sylvester, Americus and Cordele. The company also sells Mercury and Lincoln products in some of its other stores.

Additionally, Sunbelt has two Chrysler dealerships and a Honda dealership in the Lake City, Fla., and Live Oak, Fla., markets.

Pines said all the existing dealerships will remain open.

Coward started the company in Sylvester in 1984. Pines joined the group 14 years ago. Although he had responsibilities in the other locations, Pines was primarily general manager of the Sunbelt Sylvester dealership before taking over the Albany operation.

With more than 50 employees, Pines said Sunbelt Ford Town of Albany is the largest store in the group.

Pines said his goal is to offer the same low prices and good customer service provided by the other Sunbelt properties.

RETIREMENT: One of the nicest folks I know was honored with a retirement reception this past Friday afternoon.

Brenda Bryant is stepping down after almost nine years with the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. She is the executive assistant and valuable aide to Chamber President Catherine Glover.

Brenda has about 20 years experience overall working with chambers of commerce, including service in Jacksonville, Fla., and Jacksonville, N.C.

The Dougherty County native met her husband, John, when he was a Marine stationed in Albany.

"I met John here and moved away for 30 years and came back in 1999," Brenda said. "That's what happens when you're married to a military person."

John is now affiliated with a government contractor at MCLB. Brenda Bryant said the couple plans to remain in Albany.

Brenda was the ninth of 10 children in her family. I know several of them, and their parents raised them right. They are good folks.

CLOSING: Officials with Grainger Industrial Supply confirmed they will be closing their store at 1710 E. Oglethorpe Blvd. on March 26.

Sarah Granack, a spokesperson for Grainger, said the company will continue to serve customers in the Albany area but will do so in a different format.

Instead of operating the facility on Oglethorpe, Granack said Grainger will serve customers through their account managers and are looking at bringing vehicles with Grainger products on site.

"We'll come to them rather than them coming to us," she said.

Granack said the local store had fewer than five employees and some of those would be moving into new roles consistent with their change in marketing strategy.

HOUSING HELP: The Fuller Center for Housing, based in Americus, is gearing up to help people in Haiti with their housing needs following the devastating earthquake.

David Snell, president of the Fuller Center, said his organization is making plans to travel to Haiti.

Snell said it is not practical to travel to Haiti until order is restored and the first responders have done their work to stabilize the country.

Snell says the Fuller Center will work with partners to erect Styrofoam block homes partially filled with concrete that can be constructed there for about $3,000.

The homes can be completed in about a week.

Snell said the Fuller Center is appealing to donors and religious congregations to help build the homes in Haiti.

The $3,000 price tag on a new home is within the reach of many congregations in the area, Snell said.

Anyone interested in helping can contact the Fuller Center at (229) 924-2900 or visit their Web page at fullercenter.org.

Danny Carter can be reached at (229) 888-9346 or emailed at danny.carter@albanyherald.com.