Regional Commission conference focuses on shared needs of small businesses, agribusinesses

Southwest Georgia Strong initiative addresses concerns of 19 Southwest Georgia counties

ALBANY — Early registration is under way for the Rural Commerce Outreach Initiative conference planned at the University of Georgia’s Tifton Conference Center May 6 and 7.

The conference, which features a vendor showcase and seminars designed to help persons involved or interested in small or agribusiness ventures, is being presented by Southwest Georgia Strong, a multicounty Southwest Georgia Regional Commission initiative that seeks to empower entrepreneurs by providing specialized support, technical assistance and access to financial resources.

“Southwest Georgia Strong grew from a grant request that was awarded (through the Regional Commission) to give us an opportunity to look at issues that impact the entire 19-county area,” Albany-Dougherty Planning Services Senior Planner Rozanne Braswell said. “There are similarities in the counties of the region, but there are a lot of variances as well. The one thing that unites the entire region, though, is agriculture.

“Even Dougherty County, which is by far the largest (population wise) of the 19 counties, is an ag-based community. So Southwest Georgia Strong was created to focus on the strengths that bind us as a region.”

The 19 counties in the region include Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Macon, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Sumter, Terrell, Thomas, Tift and Worth.

The two-day outreach opportunity at the Tifton Conference Center is expected to draw invited dignitaries like Georgia Secretary of Agriculture Gary Black and U.S. House District 2 Congressman Sanford Bishop, as well as showcase vendors that focus on the needs of small and ag-related businesses.

Among the breakout session opportunities are programs entitled Agri-Women in the South, So You Want to Start Your Own Business, Helping Small Business Owners Win Loans, Tax Strategies for the Small Business, Make the Web Work for You Through Social Media, Tax Strategies for Nonprofits, Farm Credit/Farm Loans, and many more. Sessions are scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. May 6 and from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. May 7.

Early registration fee, which continues through March 31, is $50. After that date, the fee is $60.

“This is a great opportunities for anyone who owns a small business or nonprofit or anyone who’s ever thought about starting one,” Braswell said. “It’s also a great opportunity for vendors to connect with businesses. The conference is planned to bring people of similar interests together so they can share ideas and help our region grow stronger.”

Registration forms are available online at swgastrong.org. Registration fees may be mailed to Southwest Georgia Regional Commission c/o RCOI, P.O. Box 346, 181 E. Broad St., Camilla, GA 31730.

Additional information is available by calling Barbara Reddick of the Regional Commission at (229) 522-3552 or Braswell at (229) 438-3901.