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Local leaders graduate economic development training program

ATLANTA — The Board of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development recently announced a list of Dougherty County graduates from its 2019 Region 10 MultiDay Training Program. Class participants represented a number of professional and non-professional economic development fields, including elected officials, public servants, business leaders, educators, and social service providers from 10 counties in southwest Georgia.

The academy provided each of the graduates an opportunity to gain a unique understanding of the complexities of economic and community development on the local, regional, and state levels.

Dougherty County graduates at the November ceremony included Scott Addison, Barbara Francis, Ryan Garnto, Cynthia George, Don Gray, Chris Hatcher and Chad Warbington.

Created in 1993, the academy assembles a cross-section of economic development professionals and resources to provide this training in all 12 service delivery regions in Georgia. The board of directors of the academy represent public and private economic development organizations and agencies from across Georgia. Since its organization, the academy has provided training for thousands of professional and non-professional economic developers around the state, and since 1998 the academy has been offered annually in all 12 regions of the state. Georgia EMC and Georgia Power provide facilitators for the program, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs provides staff support to this important program.

“Our Community Development team is proud to partner with and provide facilitation and presentation services on behalf of Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives,” Georgia EMC Vice President for Community and Economic Development Pat B. Merritt said in a news release. “Involved since its inception, the team’s work with the academy graduates has enhanced levels of leadership capacity and community development preparedness for continued economic development progress throughout the region.”

In Region 10, CED cooperative members are Colquitt EMC, Diverse Power — Patuala District, Mitchell EMC and Sumter EMC.

“Georgia Power has historically played — and continues to play — a major role in the state’s economic development,” Georgia Power Community Development Manager Johnna Robinson, chair of the Georgia Academy board, said. “The academy participants build relationships, share best practices, and learn about important issues and challenges facing our communities. We’re proud to be a partner in this important effort, preparing our leaders for continued economic growth throughout the state.

“The academy has formalized the opportunity to bring together stakeholders to share best practices, leverage expertise, and build relationships among our communities with the same goal in mind: ensuring economic growth and prosperity for our state. We are proud of the strong partnership that delivers this program in each of our regions every year.”

The academy, officials say, helps spur cooperation among counties within a specified region.

“One of the goals for the multiday regional academies is to encourage multicounty cooperation,” Kelly Lane, director of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development said. “Many times the participants discover the issues facing their community are the same as those facing other communities in their region, and can then combine limited resources to address the issue.”

The academy’s multiday program, taught one day a month over a four-month period, includes training in the basics of economic and community development, plus specialized segments on business recruitment and retention, tourism product development, downtown development, planning, and other essentials for community success. In addition, the curriculum features specific leadership skills such as consensus-building, ethics in public service, collaborative leadership and other segments needed for effective community leadership in economic development.

Local elected officials may receive certification training credits through the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association for completion of this program.

The next Region 10 Georgia Academy for Economic Development will begin in August. For more information, contact Gina Webb at (404) 387-1429 or by email at gina.webb@dca.ga.gov.

Southwest Georgia ties record low unemployment

ATLANTA — Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said recently that the southwest Georgia region’s unemployment rate fell in October and tied its all-time low.

At the same time, monthly numbers were up for labor force and employed residents in October for the 14-county area, preliminary numbers show.

“October was a great month for Georgia and our local communities,” Butler said. “We continued to create jobs and people gained employment – often at record numbers.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate climbed in October to 3.6 percent, an increase of 0.1 percentage points. The nation also grew its labor force by 325,000, increased employment by 241,000 and added more than 125,000 jobs.

Georgia’s unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell in October by 0.1 percentage point to 3.4 percent. That tied Georgia’s all-time low set in December of 2000. Rates fell or held steady across nine of Georgia’s 12 planning regions. Seven set or tied a record for lowest rate ever.

In southwest Georgia, the unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage point in October, settling at 3.5 percent. A year ago, the rate was 4.3 percent. The labor force in southwest Georgia increased by 746 in October, bringing the total to 148,443. The number has decreased by 1,443 when compared to the same month a year ago.

Southwest Georgia added 844 employed residents in October, bringing the total to 143,256. The number is down 148 for the year. Claims for unemployment insurance were up by about 16 percent in October. They were down by about 78 percent when compared to the same month a year ago.

Employ Georgia, the GDOL’s online job listing service at employgeorgia.com, showed 1,486 active job postings in southwest Georgia for October. The southwest Georgia region includes Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas and Worth counties.

Visit dol.georgia.gov to learn more about career opportunities, Employ Georgia and other GDOL services for job seekers and employers, and to connect with the department on social media.

Pretoria Fields plans weeklong anniversary celebration

ALBANY — Pretoria Fields Brewery will celebrate its second anniversary this week with the release of seven specially brewed beers and a number of cost-saving specials each day at the downtown establishment.

Brewmaster Kevin Hilton said the anniversary beers include “Americus,” a coffee barrel-aged stout that will be available in draft and bottles; “Sowega,” a tequila barrel-aged Gose with prickly pear cactus and lime zest, which will be available in draft and bottle; “Georgia Breakfast Stout,” a barrel-aged stout with peaches and roasted pecan praline syrup, in bottles and draft; “Prunus Persica,” a peach Berliner weisse, in draft only; “Pretoria Fields Forever,” a strawberry Berliner weisse, in bottle only; “Slappey,” a session IPA in draft only, and “Hexadeca,” an anniversary ale, quad-barrel-aged, in draft only.

“This market was wide open five years ago when we first had the idea to build a brewery,” Pretoria Fields Collective principal Dr. Tripp Morgan said. “The doorway was wide open, and I’m pleased now two years into this that we walked through that door.

“A lot of good things have happened in our first two years, and we’ve got a lot of things planned for the next year, from new beers to expansion of our farming operation to getting involved in the hemp business with possible CBD beer and CBD water — depending on state regulation — on the horizon. Plus we have the radio station (WNUQ, 102.1 FM — The Queen Bee) getting ready to go on the air, our hemp operation, expanding our (beer) territory and getting our products into the Atlanta area and throughout Georgia.”

The weeklong anniversary celebration will kick off Monday with a sale on Pretoria Fields merchandise, which is marked at 25% off. On Tuesday, patrons who buy a growler will get a free growler, and on Wednesday all beer to go will be $2 off.

On Thursday, which is National Repeal Day, pints will be on sale for half-price, and special Friday Night Flights will feature $2 off all Flights. On Saturday, the first 250 patrons in the brewery will receive a free anniversary pint glass with a beer purchase.

“There’s a lot to be proud of in our first two years,” Morgan said. “A lot of thought went into this, and I’m really glad we made the decision to move forward with this project. We’re proud to be a part of Albany.”

For other special events planned for the week, contact Dona Lyn Goodpasture at dgoodpasture@pretoriafields.com.

Albany Ward VI voters to return to the polls on Tuesday

ALBANY — The Tuesday mayoral runoff isn’t the only unsettled race in Albany’s city government.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel John Hawthorne and Demetrius Young are both seeking a four-year term in Ward VI, with the winner taking office next year as the replacement for Commissioner Tommie Postell, who did not seek re-election.

A graduate of Albany State University, Hawthorne retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He has worked with Procter & Gamble, Ford Motor Co. and as Albany’s deputy director for community and economic development following the Flood of 1994.

As part of his campaign platform, he has developed a declaration for the citizens in Ward VI. Focusing heavily on the concept of community engagement, the theme is “Together We Can!”

The challenge Hawthorne issues to citizens is to maintain what they value, better advocate for needed improvements, keep their properties and streets safe and clean, better educate youths for the future, hold city staff and elected officials accountable, and be more vigilant about holding each other accountable.

“That is my message to the people of Ward VI. If we want better, we must be better,” Hawthorne said during an interview with a Herald reporter earlier this year.

Hawthorne could not be reached for comment for this story.

Young, who has been pounding the streets and knocking on doors to reach voters he missed earlier, said during an interview this week that he doesn’t think “trickle down” is working for the largest and most poverty-stricken of the city’s political territories.

Instead of an attitude of “What’s good for all of Albany is good for Ward VI,” he said he thinks the formula should be turned around to “What’s good for Ward VI is good for all of Albany.”

That means addressing specific needs in the ward that encompasses south Albany and, Young said, that primarily is the issue of crime. While enhanced police action can be positive, blanket policies such as having a task force arrest everyone with outstanding probation warrants for minor offenses can be overreach, he said.

“Ward VI is probably the battleground of the fight on crime,” Young said. “Where the battleground lies, you don’t want casualties, casualties in terms of injustice. We don’t want this to be like South Central L.A. What we need is for the community police force — the Albany Police Department — to be empowered to solve crimes.

“If it’s a matter of gangs, we need to get the gang members off the streets. Any assaults, murders, we need to get those crimes solved.”

Another issue important to the residents of Ward VI is utilities, Young said. After crime, it comes up near the top of citizens’ concerns.

The issue of utilities has been raised by nearly every candidate who entered the race for the November general election. The consensus has been that utilities should be returned to an independent agency instead of being under the purview of the city manager’s office.

“We know the utility is owned by the city, which means it is owned by the citizens,” Young said. “I want to approach it from the standpoint that Ward VI voters want utilities lowered. It’s almost a mandate at this point.”