Biz Magazine | Vol. 23, Issue 1

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CEO, Editor Bárbara
Chair Chandu
Chair-Elect Jeretha
Printing South
Printing Ad Sales Mary
Marketing Agency MADlab Marketing
President &
Rivera Holmes

Southern Ag Carrier rolled out from Athens this January driving cross country to Los Angeles to deliver some precious cargo. The carrier transported the University of Georgia equipment to and from the National Championship game at the SoFi Stadium, where the University of Georgia Bulldogs emerged victorious once again in a blowout against Texas Christian University to complete a perfect 15-0 season.




Comments from the Chairman

Building a strong future on the firm foundation of our past.

07 A Message from the Chamber President

Stepping confidently into 2023. 08 Hitting the Mark

Discover how Albany supports the food service industry across the U.S.


The Albany Area Chamber Foundation Restructure

Extending beyond the business community's normal reach.

17 Q&A with Laura Ross

Meet the strategic initiatives coordinator for the Albany Area Chamber Foundation.

18 The Table of Brotherhood

A celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Choosing Albany

Chloe Hinton’s mission to champion Albany one generation at a time.

26 Set to Build


The Albany Area Chamber introduces Chandu Kuntawala as its 2023 Chairman of the Board of Directors. Kuntawala is a long-time board member whose contributions include years-long leadership of the Chamber’s now Talent, Education & Leadership Division. Learn more about Kuntawala in his first interview as chairman, on page 44 of this issue.

An Albany Museum of Art update. 29 A Look Back at 2022

The year in review for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.

44 Welcome, Mr. Chairman

2023 Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Chandu Kuntawala.

48 Chamber Highlights

Celebrating the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and its members.

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Photo: GeorgiaFootball



I am honored and humbled to be your chairman for 2023. It is a great privilege to continue on the path laid by previous chairs and I am grateful to Perry Revell, Matt Reed, and Don Gray for “vectoring” our Chamber in a new, bold direction. I am thankful for their far-reaching vision in the development of our #ImpactABY2023 Strategic Plan and look forward to continuing its successful implementation.

Most of you know my passion for the education of our children and younger generations. They are not only the greatest asset for our community but indeed, any community. My passion is even stronger in 2023, as I believe education is the foundation on which all other pillars in our business community are built, and it becomes a platform from which to continue building. The wherewithal to seize future opportunities and build on the success of our community rests in our youth. In our #ImpactABY2023 strategic plan, we formed a new division — Talent, Education & Leadership — in which the mission and goals are to build a highly educated and skilled workforce and develop competent community leaders. The superb work with programs and events by all our divisions will continue in 2023. To that end, I have asked all division committee chairs and our treasurer to continue in their roles, to build on the momentum and successes garnered in the past year. I appreciate all the division chairs and our treasurer from 2022 accepting continuance in their roles in 2023.

These are exciting times for our Chamber, and we are extremely fortunate and thankful to have Barbara Rivera Holmes as our President and CEO. She and her staff have done incredible work in launching, executing and ensuring we stay on course with our #ImpactABY2023 mission and goals, and the supporting programs and events.

Happy New Year to all our membership.

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The Albany Area Chamber closed out 2022 with much for which to be proud – including an overhaul of our investment model that drives value and opportunities for our members; advocacy wins that make a big impact on our community’s development today and in the years to follow; launch of programs aimed at creating a new generation of entrepreneurs and at building the bench of Albany’s public servants; successfully executed programs and events that connect and convene the Albany Area business community and facilitate its development of employer-led solutions; and a programmatic alignment of the Chamber’s Foundation to extend the business community’s reach.

We entered 2022 with excitement and enthusiasm to continue implementing #ImpactABY2023, the Chamber’s future-focused strategic plan. We entered it, too, with the pandemic’s lingering impact on our community, our businesses and our organization. And we entered it knowing that the only certainty is uncertainty. Through that lens, among others, we navigated, responded and led, and ultimately delivered a strong programmatic year. You can read our Top 10 accomplishments on page 29 and delve deep into the details on page 32.

We step into 2023 confident in our abilities; confident in our team of staff, members, board and partners; and confident that Albany is succeeding and at risk for remarkability. Every day we work to earn, keep and grow your trust in the Albany Area Chamber. Your trust is reflected in your investment in the organization, our above average member renewal rate, the incredible partnerships we’ve forged with you and our role as a local and statewide leader. We also step into this year believing in better – believing that we can grow and deliver even more value and impact; that we can extend our reach to collaborate, partner and unify; and that during the next 12 months there will be new challenges and new opportunities, and that we will, through it all, adapt to deliver the results you expect. The Albany Area Chamber is a purpose-driven organization, and you – our membership and our community – are our purpose. Onward!


Serving America's Restaurants


When you go out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse or go through the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A, your meal is touched, prepared or served in products from a company with strong ties to Albany.

TriMark USA has two warehouse locations and an office in Albany that provides essential supplies to restaurants all over the country, including those owned by Bloomin’ Brands (which includes Outback Steakhouse) and Chickfil-A.

“We’re a kitchen equipment and supplies company,” said Mike Haney, TriMark’s vice president of warehouse operations. “We provide everything from disposables, like paper towels, and chemicals and things that a restaurant might use, to cutlery, dishware, all those kinds of things, up to commercial kitchen equipment. We also provide design services, installation, construction services, project management. Pretty much end-to-end what a restaurant might need to design, select, build, install and operate — we can pretty much handle any part of that.”

Haney oversees 10 warehouses in TriMark’s Southern region, including the two in Albany. He said Albany is an important part of TriMark’s operations, so much so that they moved even more operations to Albany.

“Albany is a really great location for us, stemming from days before it was owned by TriMark, until now,” said Haney. “It’s a real growth opportunity for us partly because of our customers but partly because of the transportation infrastructure there, the workforce, the experience that’s on the market.

“They handle probably at least half of two of our biggest customer accounts in addition to a whole array of other smaller accounts and smaller, individual, one-off jobs,” he said. “They’re handling new store openings for two of our biggest customers. In the last year, we moved one of those from another part of the country and moved 50 percent of one of our biggest customer accounts to Albany. We got an additional building there, that’s the Clark Avenue facility to support that. It’s really created growth opportunity in that operation for us.”

“Albanians may not be familiar with the scope of work that we are doing to serve some very large national accounts,” said Albany-based Amanda Murphy, TriMark’s director of national accounts. “I would say the Albany office makes up the Southern region, and we own a large segment of the national chain accounts. Many, many brands that most of us (eat at) on a weekly basis, TriMark is likely

involved in some way with converting those buildings into restaurants and serving all of us that are consumers.”

Between the two distribution centers and the corporate office, there are 117 TriMark employees in Albany. Per Haney, it’s the team in Albany that prompted the company to expand in Albany.

“We’ve got a great team,” he said. “We’ve got a great base to build from. There ae several Marine veterans in that operation that I believe have had some local connection there, so there’s a strong logistics workforce there to pull from. … There’s a lot of experience there with the Marine base, so we had a lot of success there with a high quality, available workforce.

While the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues affected nearly every business, Haney said that the hospitality industry and TriMark have still been able to grow.

“I think, obviously, COVID had a pretty substantial impact on us,” he said. “Fortunately, a lot of the customers we serve are some of the businesses that fared better – quick serve, counter serve, fast food – a lot of our customers that fit in those are the ones that were less impacted, and some of them grew during that period. It’s shocking to see.


“We don’t have to move everything to Dallas or Atlanta,” he said. “There’s good highway accessibility. There's a good workforce, and it’s a good place for us to build.”
have a number of major chains
MIKE Warehouse Operations

that even if they were growing steadily or they maintained themselves during the last couple of years, they’re poised for explosive growth. We see a lot of future opportunity, and we’re probably at our highest position of inventory that we’ve ever been in right now. … We expect that a lot of our chain customers, our restaurant chains, are looking ahead and seeing [that] it’s time to get back out there and really chase that growth.”

Murphy agreed that TriMark is continuing to grow despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“We’re seeing aggressive development schedules from a lot of our customer base and a lot of our relationships and that includes legacy and emerging chains,” said Murphy. “We’re having the same challenges and those same roadblocks with inflation, but it really hasn’t slowed the food service industry. As consumers, we’re still eating out.

“I think one of the biggest things to note is the shift in

how we’re consuming and how we’re dining. A lot of it has gone to innovation and technology and this off-site premise dining. Especially in the heart of the pandemic, when we did have to retreat [to] home, what sustained a lot of our customer base was the fact that they could pioneer this off-premise dining. That’s true to what has accelerated their development schedule now going into 2023,” she said. “Again, we are seeing aggressive pipelines, and these are (a combination of) new builds and remodels. We’re seeing emerging brands wanting to get the real estate, wanting to get those buildings turned into restaurants and get customers back into those buildings. Then serving them with an off-premise dining (like) Uber Eats, DoorDash and their own independent delivery systems as well.”

With continued and expected growth, Haney and Murphy see a future for that growth in Albany.

“We are continually growing, and we’re growing in the Albany market,” said Murphy. “We are growing a lot of teams around this chain development. We want to do that and within the landscape of Albany, Georgia. We definitely can. There’s sustainability [in Albany].”

“We are creating opportunities there; we’re not just looking to major metro areas,” said Haney. “We’ve proven that there’s talent [in Albany], there’s opportunity to grow.”

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But as Albany has evolved and changed, so, too, has the Chamber, which meant the Chamber foundation was past due for some adjustments, too.

“Just as (with) the chamber, the ‘why’ has remained constant,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, the Chamber’s 501c3 affiliate. “The why we exist remains, (but) the what we do and how we do it has changed. We adapt what we do in order to continually meet our why or our purpose, and so what we have with the Foundation is an alignment with our

strategic goals to the environment.

“It’s a purpose-driven organization. As the chamber executes its #ImpactABY2023 strategy … one of the goals was to take a deep look at the Albany Area Chamber Foundation and redesign it in a way where it aligned to current community needs, business needs, and really operate it in a way that would extend beyond the business community’s normal reach. We’re talking deep societal challenges and opportunities.”

“Through a process working with our … Foundation Board of Directors and strategic consultants, learning from peers and really digging deep with our investors and stakeholders and understanding community issues, we restructured the foundation. We wrote a new strategic plan and we’re implementing it.”

“We have a really good board who really got in the weeds and tinkered with

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this Foundation for the last two years to make it as impactful an organization as it can be,” said Matt Reed, 2021 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber and current chairman of the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “As we kind of poke our heads up after being dormant for so long, we’ve got a board who believes in the organization, and all the board members are investing in the Foundation, individually and through their companies as well.”



“Some of these same titles are reflected

over on the Chamber’s strategy,” said Holmes. “The Foundation approaches it from a very different way, and in a way that synergizes with the Chamber and catalyzes some of that work. We have already identified, and are in various stages of implementation, with programs for each of those areas.”

Two of the programs the Foundation is taking on are the annual MLK Dinner and FLEX ABY, Albany’s first youth entrepreneurial competition.

“Marion Fedrick, the president of Albany


State University, and I, we co-chair the King Day Celebration Committee,” said Reed. “We have not been able to do a large-scale event due to COVID in the past several years, so as we thought about reinvigorating it and bringing more folks to the table, carrying the Chamber Foundation with the resources the Chamber has in executing events … it just seemed like a (good fit). “Then the work that (Chamber Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Division Chair Jeretha (Peters of Wells Fargo) and her DE&I committee have been doing and the relevance they’ve brought, it just seemed like a really good partnership to bring the two together. … The kicker with all of that was being able to get Venessa Harrison, the president of AT&T Coastal States, to come and (and be our honored speaker at the MLK Dinner). We’re looking forward to a fireside chat with her, which I think will just be awesome.

“We’re really excited about that, and it’s really just kind of a reset of that event. … That’s my goal: To bring in some really high-quality speakers to talk about Dr. King’s legacy and how they or their organizations are driving that legacy and how we can (in) Albany as well.”

FLEX ABY, or Foundational Leadership and Entrepreneurial Experience Albany, is a youth entrepreneurship competition.

“We launched that in partnership with the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy and the Albany-Dougherty Economic Commission, and the goal is quite simple,” said Holmes. “It’s to spark an entrepreneurial interest and drive in our students. The backbone of the American enterprise system, the backbone of America, is entrepreneurialism. Through FLEX ABY we are helping build ventures, livelihoods, dreams and community. This is an incredible program that we’re glad to be able to tap into and launch here in Albany.”

The program starts with students writing business plans, and the students


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are connected with business mentors. Students in Albany will go through three local rounds, which will conclude with one local winner in March. That winner will go on to compete at the state program in Fitzgerald, where the program originated.


“It’s a lot of competency and confidence and courage that students have or develop through this process, so there’s this ownership piece at the end of it.

“We want our students … to be able to understand and correlate the concepts in school or an educational setting to the real world, to business settings, and the competition does just that. The 4CA has a variety of different career and college pathways; if you’re in a marketing class at 4CA and you’re going through a program like FLEX ABY, you can see the correlation between what you’re learning, in terms of the curriculum, and then the applicability in real world situations. There’s that correlation and then that relevance that’s so important to anyone learning something new or experiencing something.

“Ultimately, we want to grow our own. We want to grow our talent. We want to grow our businesses as well, and so this is another way where not only are we supporting students, but we’re also supporting their entrepreneurial ideas and their

entrepreneurial dreams. Some of them will hold, and our hope certainly is that these students, through the support of their networks and the program and our community at large, will be successful business owners. We know that in today’s (time) many people who have traditional full-time work also have their own businesses. It’s not (like) you can only do one thing. This program expands the opportunities for our students, and, ultimately, the economic opportunities for Albany.”

Reed also talked about the desire and need to work through the Foundation to do more cohesive, community-wide branding in the same vein as the “Only One Albany” campaign.

“I think we need to also do a better job of talking (about the positive),” said Reed. “So many times we’re talking about the negative of Albany, but we have so many things that other communities would kill for. We need to talk about those things more. I hope that (with) the Chamber Foundation we can have some sort of marketing and branding and content piece that will help be the voice on that, too.”

Whether it’s through DE&I events such as the MLK Dinner, programs such as FLEX ABY, community branding campaigns, or other strategic initiatives, the restructured Foundation aims to better the city of Albany and meet community needs, according to Holmes and Reed.

“What we’re working on and doing is a very strategic and well thought out plan off how we can continue to drive positive change in Albany,” said Reed.

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I’ve got experience in higher education, economic development, program development and management and I think these intersect nicely to move the Foundation initiatives forward. My background uniquely positions me to contribute to talent development. My experience in higher education preparing teachers is an example of talent development which transfers nicely to the foundation and what we see in the workforce development strategic plan. I also have experience engaging youth populations. The Foundation is working on a program called Propel at 4C which is taking the Chamber's women at work program and tailoring it to engage young women. I think my background positions me to contribute to fostering entrepreneurship as well. We are working on the FLEX ABY program, and I have entrepreneurial experience. Of course, working in economic development helps as well. I think I have a variety of pieces in my background that provide this nice package to the initiatives at the Chamber Foundation.



the FLEX ABY program. We have business partners reviewing student business plans, and they are coming into the school and providing workshops on a variety of content from business finances to marketing to customer service. By being able to connect business partners with the high school students through the Foundation’s role in the implementation of FLEX, we’re able to provide an impact beyond the normal reach of the business community. As an entrepreneur myself, I absolutely love engaging with the students in the FLEX ABY program.

Another example is the communitywide workforce strategy. We’re currently working with a consultant team from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to bring together local business partners and employers to discuss the progress of work from the phase one plan and then revisit and revise the targets and tactics for phase two. In that program, we’re serving as a convener. We’re bringing together the business community across sectors to collaborate on solutions for our community’s greatest needs and common workforce challenges.

What excites you about working with the Foundation?

The Foundation is really focused on leading workforce, economic and entrepreneurial initiatives that really provide impact beyond the normal reach of the business community. For example, we’re connecting business partners with local high school student entrepreneurs through

I’m really excited about working with the Foundation. I love that the Foundation's program of work aligns with the Chamber’s goals. It aligns with the needs and opportunities in the community and really serves as a catalyst to move the chamber’s program of work forward. There’s a need in our community for employees to have

certain job-related and employability skills, and through the workforce strategic planning process, we’re helping employers identify and target solutions for the most urgent workforce needs. To me, that is huge, and I love getting to be a part of that.

I’m going through an academy called TPM (Talent Pipeline Management) with the U.S. Chamber Foundation and I’m excited about bringing those resources and strategies to our community to really target our workforce strategic plan.

I’m excited about working directly with the business community and partners. I love learning how they’re innovating and adapting to challenges and what their most urgent needs are. I think just reiterating the Foundation as being a connector — how best do we connect our business community with solutions for those needs or even being a catalyst to initiate greater collaboration among business partners, not just to meet those needs but to be leaders in our region. I think that’s what’s really exciting to me.

Can you tell us about the experience you’re bringing to this role?
Can you give us a snapshot of the goals of the Foundation?


The Albany Area Chamber Foundation hosted the 2023 MLK Dinner on Monday, January 16, in partnership with Albany State University and the King Day Celebration Committee. Presented by Colony Bank, the MLK Dinner is a celebration of the ideals of unity inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"The Albany Area Chamber and Albany Area Chamber Foundation champion the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion in our community, reiterating the benefits of being intentional in attracting a diverse and dynamic work force where all are welcome and encouraged to contribute,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, President & CEO of the Albany Area Chamber and its 501©3 affiliate, the Albany Area Chamber Foundation. “This initiative is in line with and inspired by the beliefs of Dr. Martin Luther King and we were honored to celebrate his legacy through the MLK Dinner.”

The event featured honored guest and speaker Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Southeast Coastal States, recently named as one of GeorgiaTrend magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians. The dinner was hosted at ASU’s West Campus Student Center at 2400 Gillionville Road.

“Albany State University is a proud partner in this event, which commemorates the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as we, as an institution and a community, continue striving to manifest Dr. King’s dream of unity,” said ASU President Dr. Marion Fedrick.

“This event and the opportunity to host it on our campus was particularly special in that it demonstrates Dr. King’s lasting impact on our community, even more than 60 years after his time in Albany.”


presented by


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Living legend and Freedom Singer Rutha Harris joined the Monroe Comprehensive High School Choir for a moving performance of “We Shall Overcome,” which at its conclusion received a standing ovation. Dr. Marion Fedrick, left, president of Albany State University, and Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Southeast Coastal States engaged the MLK Dinner audience with a powerful fireside chat-style conversation about hard work, resiliency, hope and determination.
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Chloe Hinton was born and raised in Albany, but when she left for college in Charleston, S.C., she never anticipated coming back.

After Charleston, life took Hinton to Macon for a while. In fact, she lived in Macon from 2006 to 2015. When her niece was born with a heart condition that required open heart surgery at three months old, life took Hinton to Auburn to watch her niece, who couldn’t go to daycare because she was immunocompromised.

And then the Albany Museum of Art (AMA) was looking for a director of education position that brought Hinton back to her hometown.

“You go where life takes you, and I am glad it’s


landed me back here,” said Hinton. “I’ve loved being back here. It’s provided me a lot of time to be with my family. My daddy died in February of 2021. He’d gotten diagnosed with cancer five years before. If I hadn’t been back here, I wouldn’t have gotten to spend that time with him. I’m grateful for that.”

Being back home has allowed Hinton to relive some of her childhood memories through her daughter, Francie. Like House of China on Friday nights, (although the magician and cards on the ceiling from Hinton’s childhood are gone), attending Deerfield-Windsor School and being outdoors.

“Francie goes to the same school that my husband and I went to, and that is just such a joy to get to


be a part of that,” said Hinton. “I didn't anticipate when I moved back here that would bring me so much happiness, but watching her enjoy the same elementary school that I did is pretty precious. … If my teacher hangs in there one more year, she can be Francie’s first grade teacher.

“I also love that she gets a little bit of everything here. She can be outdoors in five minutes and up to her elbows in mud or watching deer in the backyard or bunnies or foxes, and we live in town,” she said. “She can also come to the museum, Chehaw (Park), the Flint RiverQuarium, all these places. There are things here for her to do. She has a community that loves her in school, and Albany is centrally located to a lot of stuff.”

In her initial role at the AMA as the director of education and public programming, Hinton was responsible for all the museum’s programming for community members — everything from classes for babies to octogenarians. Hinton said she especially loved working with the kids in the different children’s programs.

“Working with kids is fun,” she said. “Some of my favorite collections are during summer camp. We run an extensive summer camp for six to eight weeks, and the kids would draw pictures of you. … One little girl found a picture of me and my husband online and had somebody print it out, and she gave us like dog bodies.

“It’s hilarious and precious, but I really believe in the power art has with kids. I think every kid should enter a museum by the time they’re in second grade,” she said. “You don’t have to be an artist to go to a museum. That’s not the point. There are so many other things that happen in a museum. Exposing them at a young age teaches them to have a broader worldview, exposes them to different places, and that’s just a good thing.

“There’s nothing wrong with exposing kids to more stuff, especially if they’re not naturally interested in it,” she added. “I really love the value of art education and programming, and I’m a strong proponent of it.”

And so when a position for the museum’s director of development and membership became necessary, Hinton said it was easy for her to transition to that role because of her strong advocacy for the museum’s programming.

“I already love the programming, so I am more than happy to tell anybody about it anytime,” she said. “It was a natural fit for me to get to do that and hopefully encourage others to come and join us to make (the museum) as accessible as possible for Albany and the community.”

As Hinton explains, her parents were very involved and engaged in Albany when she was growing up, and that was something they instilled in her as well.

“We watched our parents give back, and it was just something you did. It was just something we participated in,” she said. “That's a big reason I enjoy

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nonprofit work, and a big reason any work like that is something I will enjoy because my parents instilled that in me.

“I feel like I have repeated this a lot to other people, but my mom used to say ‘Leave things better than you found them.’ All you can do is try and notice something, and if you see something, try to make it better. I think my parents definitely did that, and I’m hoping that I’m doing that as well.”

Through her community engagement, Hinton has been able to see the many ways that many people are championing Albany, and discern just how vibrant the community truly is.

“Once I became engaged here and being back here … (I saw) how many people are working really hard to make Albany vibrant and keep it vibrant,” said Hinton. “I think we have a lot of great cheerleaders here in Albany, in so many different sectors, too. I think we’re really fortunate to have those voices, like the (Albany Area) Chamber’s and like so many other people that are cheerleading for Albany constantly. And I’m proud that I get to cheerlead for Albany constantly.”

And despite the struggles that Albany has faced over the years, Hinton sees a bright future for the city.

“Albany keeps facing some pretty fantastic struggles, but what we keep finding is we keep overcoming. Everybody seems to come together and work through it, come together and work through it every time we do that,” she said. “You’re going to get stronger and come out better for it. It makes us unique in those struggles. They don’t define you, but they help give you character. I think that Albany just proves that we’re strong. We’re going to keep going. We’re definitely resilient.

“I know that there are so many things on the horizon for Albany, a lot of really great opportunities, and these groups are working really hard to make things happen here,” she said.


As the new year begins, the Albany Museum of Art (AMA) will be moving onto a new phase of its relocation to the former Belk department store building. When the $34 million project is completed, the AMA will be an anchor for arts in downtown Albany.

“We are concluding our design development stage now,” said AMA Executive Director Andrew J. Wulf. “We shall be entering the construction document phase of the project in January.”

Work has already begun at the site. The former dance studio adjacent to the building has been razed for a future sculpture garden. Asbestos in the mid-1970s building

and underground contamination from a previous gas station have been mitigated. The interior of the building has been cleared for future construction of exhibition galleries, educational and hands-on art programming, event space, collection storage, a cafe and museum offices. At 53,000 square feet, its usable space is more than double that of the current museum building.

The building also is in use. In February, Art Ball, the AMA’s major fundraiser, will again take place in the space that Wulf describes as “industrial chic.” In late January, there are plans for a community concert to take place in the building.

“We conducted Art Ball in the Belk building last February, and it was a rousing success,” Wulf said. “It was the first opportunity for many of our patrons and supporters to go inside the new museum, and we received tremendous positive feedback about the experience. Once you are inside the building, you get a better

sense and feel for its enormous potential of being a state-of-the-art cultural hub for a reinvigorated downtown Albany.”

Fundraising for the move is underway, and Wulf notes significant donations have been received. A higher-profile capital campaign will get underway in the coming months. While much of the work so far has been behind the scenes, those passing by the future museum site will see more progress being made.

“We anticipate construction work at the site will get underway this summer,” Wulf said. “It will generate excitement about the project moving forward and visually reinforce our commitment to this community.”

That commitment is also evident in the museum’s annual fall art festival, AMA ChalkFest, conducted in downtown Albany. The 5th annual festival, hosted November 19, drew about 2,000 people to the 200 block of South Front Street and Veterans Park Amphitheatre.

“We work diligently to remove all barriers to accessing art in our community. We offer free admission to ChalkFest,” Wulf said. “Likewise, we offer everyone free admission to the AMA, including school field trips. The majority of our programming is free, thanks to our generous members and donors who see the tremendous value in what the museum has to offer.”

As the downtown project progresses, Wulf said, it is important to note that the AMA is continuing its full schedule of exhibitions, programming, and events at its current home at 311 Meadowlark Drive.

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ALBANY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE 29 TOP10HIGHLIGHTS 1 Implementation of new investment model aligns member benefits to business goals TIERED BENEFITS 2 Above industry average rate demonstrates value and trust 88% MEMBER RENEWAL RATE Chamber advocacy campaign for $105.5 million in capital projects facilitates 70 percent approval rating SPLOST 8 3 SOCIAL MEDIA AUDIENCE REACH OF 250,000 4 Expansive reach drives exposure for members, sponsors, community 5 New strategic direction catalyzes work that extends business community’s impact ALBANY AREA CHAMBER FOUNDATION New series targets women at work, expands to reach high school audience PROPEL 6 7 29 MEMBER EVENTS WITH TOTAL ATTENDANCE OF NEARLY 2,000 DRIVE ENGAGEMENT Plus 28 ribbon cuttings, 4 groundbreakings, 45 Star Business of the week recognitions, dozens of committee meetings and special events Albany’s first youth entrepreneurial competition sparks spirit, targets talent development FLEX ABY 8 9 ALBANY AREA POLITICAL LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE New academy helps build bench for public office CHAMBER HUB COUNCIL 10 Founding member of first statewide policy group comprised of Georgia’s 11 largest chambers outside Atlanta elevates Albany’s voice and position ALBANY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Greetings, Team Albany!

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

– Proverbs 4:25,26 NIV

YEAR IN REVIEW DON GRAY 2022 Chairman 2022

Looking back over the past year, it has been an extremely busy year full of successfully executed events and successfully advocated issues which are sure to have lasting positive impacts for years to come. The strong and active engagement of the Albany Area Chamber side-by-side with Albany Area Chamber members and community partners and leaders has shown that when there is unity of purpose with a pragmatic mindset, situations can be addressed for the advancement, promotion, and protection of our community and our resources.

No doubt that there is still work to be done, and as in any community there are different opinions and perspectives based on the varied economic, cultural, and political contexts associated with various issues. However, when we think positively recognizing the inherent value in our diversity and mutually respect differing opinions and views there is definitely a pathway to constantly strive for improvement in the ways in which we are more the same despite those differences. In short, with hard work and a can-do spirit we can achieve anything in the number one state to do business – Georgia!

I would like to thank our entire Chamber Staff; Board of Directors; Board of Director’s Division and Committee Chairs; 800+ Chamber business and individual members; our Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command; Phoebe Putney Health System; our unsinkable Albany State University family and mighty Albany Technical College Titans; the Dougherty County School System and all of our private educational institutions; our faithful serving state legislative delegation members as well as all sponsors, partners and stakeholders for your dedication to the betterment of Albany and our business community. It has been an honor and a privilege to attempt to represent the best of us in the City of Albany and Dougherty County (and surrounding Southwest Georgia region neighbors) while working with you all during this past year. You have all done an exemplary job in moving many initiatives forward in the execution of our legislative priorities in parallel with our Chamber’s strategic plan (#ImpactABY2023).

As always, I would like to encourage all to keep the faith, stay in the fight, and mentor someone else to join in the effort of moving forward with a positive vision for greatness. Welcome to our 2023 Chairman, Chandrakant D. Kuntawala, whom many know as Chandu. Again, I thank you all for your friendship as well as the opportunity you have allowed to try to be a part of the best of us. I look forward to continuing to labor in the vineyard. May God continue to bless you and yours always.

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Kim Gilliam Administrative Coordinator Laura Russ Strategic Initiatives Coordinator (Foundation)
Bárbara Rivera Holmes President & CEO Mary Bickerstaff Director of Membership Reedi Mabrey Director of Communications and Investor Experience



Purpose was at the core of the development of the Chamber’s 2021-23 strategic plan, #ImpactABY2023. It was at the core of identifying priorities; at the core of strategy development; and at the core of aligning resources and creating a supportive infrastructure to carry out the work. Purpose has been our lens. In this second year of implementation, the purpose-driven strategy has guided the priorities and investments of the organization, yielding accomplishments across the program of work and the community.

During the last year, the community, nation and world continued to adjust to a post-pandemic environment. Business and work are evolving at historic rates, labor is in short supply and uncertainty has become certain. Throughout 2022, the Albany Area Chamber lived out its purpose, accomplished it goals and achieved targeted organizational improvements. Work remains — as it should. We know we will continue to align, adapt and innovate in order to continue fulfilling our purpose. We will continue assessing and fine tuning; learning and growing. We will continue to change the how to achieve the why. As we enter our 113th year, we look ahead to continuing to carry out a new purpose-driven strategy designed for impact.

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#ImpactABY2023 is the Albany Area Chamber's purpose-driven and future-focused strategic plan.


• Do what’s right

• Be boundlessly curious

• Have fun

• Believe in better

• Be of service

• Learn by doing • Progress over perfection

• Invite others to the table

• Best team, ever • Champion the mission

• Process creates outcomes

• Offense vs. Defense

• Empower and entrust

• Design the path



• We are conveners, connectors and collaborators

• We are advocates and believers

• We are nurturers and providers

• We are activators and accelerators

• We future-focused builders

• We are impact

• Advance increased opportunities for people

• Impact and strengthen the education-to-work force pipeline and cultivate the leadership pipeline

• Be an effective voice for business

• Engage the military and business community, and support Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

• Support and connect small businesses and entrepreneurs to advance their growth and success

• Ensure the AACC is the best association it can be for its members




An inclusive and diverse perspective should be given to every aspect of our operations.


We’re stronger together and recognize that the Albany Area Chamber can lead efforts to facilitate member-tomember and member-tocommunity connections, and lead collaboration among peer organizations and communities that better positions the Albany Area and Southwest Georgia.


Economic development improves the economic well-being of a community. The Albany Area Chamber supports new and established businesses with the resources and services needed to propel growth.

are three pillars that comprise the plan: 1. Lenses 2. Divisions 3. Organizational Excellence

Think Flint First. Tell us what you have to accomplish; we’ll point you toward the exact right equipment for getting it done. And, we’ll make sure you get the best price, with the least hassle. The Flint team will help you navigate the whole process - including set-up, delivery, and training, because we’re in the business of supporting your business. Plus, we have the parts, service and product support you need to keep your operation running strong all year long. It’s as easy as it sounds!

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Be an effective voice for business.

Vice Chair for Government Affairs: Bridges Sinyars, Adams Exterminators

Staff liaison to committee: Bárbara Rivera Holmes

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce led a delegation of local leaders to Washington, D.C., for the annual “DC Fly In,” the organization’s long-standing annual federal advocacy event. The delegation, representing the public and private sectors, met with national leaders and lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, to provide insight on current priorities of the Albany Area.


• Led successful advocacy campaign for the $105.5 million eighth special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST), with passed with more than 70 percent voter approval

• Launched the Albany Area Political Leadership Institute, which aims to create pipeline of candidates for local board appointments and elected office

• Successfully worked with state legislative delegation and partners to secure nearly $10 million for the regional health professions simulation lab at Albany State University and the Diesel Equipment & Auto Collision Demonstration Center at Albany Technical College

• Advocated for $111 million for mission- and command-critical capital projects at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. Worked with Congress to provide appropriations for project designs

• Supported the launch of the “Georgia Hub Chamber Council,” a public policy group for Georgia’s largest metros outside of Atlanta to order to coordinate on strategy and policies and influence government decisions

• Hosted the Government Affairs Rise N Shine breakfast for an in-depth discussion with the state legislative delegation about the 2023 session, the business community’s priorities and the issues most impact Albany and the Albany Area

• Built on successful Chamber programs that advance the Chamber’s advocacy efforts:

• Hosted Albany-Dougherty Day in Atlanta, which strengthens Albany’s position as a statewide leader, builds relationships with statewide decision makers, and advances the Albany Area Chamber’s legislative agenda

• Hosted the Washington, DC, Fly In in the nation’s capitol, advancing awareness of the issues and opportunities facing Albany; convened and connected members of Congress and the Pentagon-based leadership of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLBA); supported investments in readiness and capabilities at MCLBA and Marine Corps Logistics Command

• Supported advancement of the Living & Learning Center, an innovative education center that will build the area’s nursing and health professions pipeline while helping revitalize North Jefferson Street corridor in downtown Albany

• Supported successful adoption of HB 1064, which provides state income tax relief to veteran and military retirees in Georgia

• Promoted opportunities for service on boards and elected bodies

• Encouraged voter participation through social media engagement and information to members

• Provided membership with information on state and federal issues

• Shared Georgia Chamber and U.S. Chamber resources with members

• Published annual legislative priorities agenda for 2022 session and 2023 session

• Informed U.S. Chamber on issues of importance to Albany and the Albany Area

• Participated in and assisted with community meetings with members of the Albany Area Congressional delegation

• Influenced local, state and federal government decisions:

• Worked with Georgia Chamber of Commerce to influence state legislation

• Worked with U.S. Chamber of Commerce to influence federal legislation

• Updated local, state and federal elected leaders on business needs



Actively engage the Albany Area military and business community to ensure symbiotic and strategic relationships and support. Dedicated to the long-term viability and sustainability of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.

Vice Chair for Military Affairs: Dan Gillan, Albany Area YMCA

Lead staff liaison: Reedi Mabrey


• Increased awareness of needs relative to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLBA):

• Advocated with Albany Area Congressional Delegation for $111 million in mission- and command-critical investments at the installation

• Worked with Congress to provide appropriations for project designs

• Coordinated with AACC Government Affairs Committee to address legislative needs related to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLBA) and Marine Corps Logistics Command, including broadband expansion, work force development and capital investments

• Included U.S. Department of Defense speakers and programming during Chamber‘s Washington, DC Fly In

• Hosted in Albany the Governor’s Georgia Joint Defense Commission’s two-day meeting in May 2022

• Strengthened position as a resource for Albany Area military families and veterans:

• Continued support of Adopt-A-Marine program, in coordination with MCLBA

• Coordinated with Government Affairs Committee to support successful adoption of HB 1064, which provides state income tax relief for veterans and military retirees

• Connected with military personnel support organizations such as Marine Corps League, VFW and American Legion to reinforce

Bárbara Rivera Holmes, right, engages, from left, Col. Michael Fitzgerald, commanding officer of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, and Col. Kirk Spangenberg, commanding officer of Marine Depot Maintenance Command, Marine Corps Logistics Command in a panel discussion.

partnerships and enhance support for men and women in uniform

• Promoted economic, operational and community impact of installation

• Supported the Albany Young Marines program

• Presented Military Affairs Committee (MAC) member plaques and implemented recognition program to add value to committee membership, promote members and increase prestige of participation

• Participated in programming to commemorate Veteran’s Day

• Continued tradition of strong and sustained partnership and relationship between Chamber, Marine Corps Logistics Base and the community

• Grew Salty Sandbagger Golf Tournament, whose proceeds benefit MAC programming

• Built on committee events that strengthen relationships and increase awareness, such as the Salty Sandbagger Golf Tournament, committee membership meetings and programs, and other social opportunities, and programs such as Veteran’s Day recognitions

• Hosted traditional year-end MAC Holiday Social

Left: The Military Affairs Committee's Salty Sandbagger golf tournament is a time-honored tradition of the Albany Area Chamber and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. The tournament has been hosted twice per year since its inception in 1976. For the first time in tournament history, the Spring 2022 match resulted in a tie between Chamber and Corps..

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The 2022 Military Affairs Rise N Shine breakfast recognized the partnership and impact of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany and Marine Corps Logistics Command and highlighted key operations and successes of the instillation. During the event, Marines and Sailors were honored for outstanding achievement. Here, Albany Area Chamber President & CEO


Support and connect businesses and entrepreneurs to advance their growth and success.

Vice Chair for Small Business Development & Investor Engagement: Brianna Wilson, Southern Point Staffing

Staff liaison: Mary Bickerstaff

Above: The Chamber's Biz Expo was back by popular demand this fall after a two year hiatus, in an expanded space at the Albany Civic Center. The network marketing event is designed to connect businesses to prospective partners and customers through the ultimate “schmooze-a-palooza,” allowing participants to market their business to more than 500 people at a fun-filled bash in the name of business. Exhibitors benefitted from an exclusive business-to-business networking hour prior to public access. More than 50 member and prospective-member businesses participated in the event, with organizations represented across a wide variety of industry sectors.


Small Business, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Subcommittee

Led by Taylor Jenkins, Flint Community Bank

Connect, serve and advance small businesses and entrepreneurs

• Shared stories of members’ innovation and success through various methods and platforms

• Hosted 28 ribbon cuttings celebrating member businesses grand openings, expansions and anniversaries. Hosted four groundbreakings

• Recognized 45 members with our “Star Business of the Week” designation

• Expanded the Albany Area Chamber Business Awards to include new “WomenOwned Business” award category

• Invited Chamber members to participate in traditional “Welcome Wagons” presentation for new residents of Phoebe Family Medicine Residency program

• Connected businesses with the resources, services and network needed to propel growth:

• Connected small businesses to resources from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and other agencies

• Launched revitalized “Lunch n Learn” series

Investor Engagement Subcommittee

Led by Chloe Hinton, Albany Museum of Art

Maximize investor value, drive revenue and increase engagement with existing and potential members

• Supported development of the Chamber’s new tiered benefits investment model, developed by members for members

• Welcomed 67 new Chamber members

• Supported existing member engagement, which facilitated year-end membership renewal rate of 88 percent, which is well above the industry average

• Launched redesigned Chamber Ambassador program and welcomed the largest class of new Ambassadors in the program’s history

• Built on success of the Morning Mix & Mingle quarterly breakfast to engage existing members and connect with potential members

Right: The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 112th annual meeting on the Bricks at Thronateeska in downtown Albany. The event is one of the most important of the year for the Albany Area Chamber and celebrates accomplishments, shares how the Chamber will continue to move businesses forward throughout the year ahead, and shines the light on the Chamber’s most engaged leaders and those who have worked to make a positive impact on Albany and the Albany Area.



Impact and strengthen the education-to-workforce pipeline and cultivate the leadership pipeline.



• Supported youth component of Chamber’s Propel program, which is targeted at women in the work force

• Relaunched popular Go See! Tour program that connects the business community to local schools

• Strengthened talent pipeline to supports needs of the Albany Area employers

• Facilitated connection between business industry and educational partners as a means of building the right talent pipeline

• Supported and participated in programs including teaching-industry learning tours that foster teacher understanding of the needs of industry and relevancy of programming

• In collaboration with Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, identified and supported policies and programs that advance regional talent development

• Committee members participated in Albany Technical College’s GOAL program by serving on the selections committee and participating in recognition presentation

• Recognized the community’s STAR students and teachers through awards luncheon, social media highlights and profiles in the Chamber’s Biz magazine

The top 10 businesses in the FLEX ABY youth entrepreneurship program meet with Albany Area Chamber Foundation CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes and Commodore Conyers College & Career Academy CEO Chris Hatcher to apply for seed loans to help scale their businesses. FLEX ABY is produced in partnership by the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission and Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy.


• Cultivated leadership pipeline to support Albany and the Albany Area

• Built on affiliate relationship between Albany Area Chamber and Leadership Albany through joint programming such as Leadercast; “fireside chat” with Leadership Albany; and support of organization

• Continued to cultivate the next generation of community leaders through affiliate relationship and support of Leadership Albany

• Chamber CEO Barbara Rivera Holmes served as commencement speaker at Leadership Albany’s class of 2022 graduation

• Identified, recognized, connected and engaged young leaders

• Built on Chamber’s Albany Under 40 program to recognize the area’s outstanding diverse talent pool and engage individuals in community work

• Hosted 2022 Albany Under 40 awards reception in December 2022, recognizing young professionals

The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce announced Deerfield-Windsor School senior Harrison Young Smith, center, as the 2022 Dougherty County STAR Student, earning the recognition for academic achievement and performance on the SAT. Smith recognized Dr. Jake Clawson of DeerfieldWindsor, second from left, as his STAR teacher at the STAR Student Luncheon held on February 16.

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Vice Chair for Talent, Education & Leadership: Brian Dougherty, Sherwood Christian Academy Staff liaison: Reedi Mabrey


More than 100 women were in attendance at the Albany Area Chamber’s first PROPEL: Women at Work event, aimed at equipping women with the tools needed to excel and progress through the lifecycle of their careers. Here, participants engage in a prompted table discussion, sharing personal perspectives on women’s issues such as gender pay gap and access to childcare for working mothers.


• Elevated business case for diversity, equity and inclusion

• Developed toolkit to help members begin or advance their DE&I workplace journey

• Hosted Lunch & Learn: Diversity Works educational seminar

Works to increase economic opportunities for businesses and people; engage more members of the citizenry into the work force; and connect diverse audiences in the community in a way that builds connection.

Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Jeretha Peters, Wells Fargo Advisors Staff liaison: Bárbara Rivera Holmes

• Connected members for DE&I partnerships and opportunities

• Promoted diversity of membership throughout year

• Deployed DE&I survey to benchmark, align services to needs

• Partnered with Business Development & Investor Engagement Committee to develop “Women-Owned Business” category in the Albany Area Chamber Business Awards

• Partnered with Business Development & Investor Engagement Committee to develop PROPEL, the Albany Area Chamber’s women at work series, which includes a youth component



Ensure the AACC is the best association it can be for its staff and members.


• Adopted and began implementation of strategic plan for Albany Area Chamber Foundation, which will extend impact beyond the business community’s normal reach

• Designed, adopted and implemented Chamber’s new tiered benefits investment model, the first such overhaul in decades

• Produced new membership collateral that aligns with tiered benefits

• Redesigned event and program sponsorships to align with business trends and goals

• Staff engaged in professional development opportunities through local programming, webinars and trade association programs

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• Reduced inventory tax liability at 225 West Broad Avenue

• Continued updating guiding documents and operating manuals

• Provided Chamber gift bags for officials, member requests, visitors and prospects throughout year

• Continued to capture and improve processes, streamlining operations and increasing efficiencies

• Increased visibility, relevancy, demand and sophistication of Chamber publications:

• Launched rebranded The Ray (formerly the Quality of Life magazine), the Chamber’s biannual lifestyle publication

• Expanded distribution and placement of Biz magazine and The Ray

• Developed bundled benefits and savings for advertisers

• Expanded promotion of advertisers

• Cultivated new advertisers in Quality of Life and in Biz

• Produced six issues of award-winning Biz

• Developed strategy and collateral to promote Biz articles on social media

• Increased utilization, engagement and reach of digital assets:

• Social media audience reach of 250,000 drives exposure for

members, sponsors, community

• Chamber Facebook 230% more engagement than comparable business accounts

• Facebook reach up 17 percent from prior year

• Instagram reach 2,200 percent from prior year

• Increased use of technology and digital programs to streamline operations and improve customer experience; explored strategies and programs to become more paperless

• Expanded opportunities for storytelling that advance the Chamber’s mission, strategy and brand, and that improves the image of Albany and the Albany area

• Expanded outreach and output to position the Chamber as a thought leader, a voice of reason and a business, member and community advocate

Guiding you home 229-436-8811 601 N. Slappey Blvd. Albany, GA 31701
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It doesn’t take long spending time with local businessman and Albany Area advocate Chandu Kuntawala to understand what subject lies nearest and dearest to his heart.

Whether chatting with him about the goings on in the community, or listening to him wax philosophical as the chairman of Albany’s leading-edge Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4CA), to whose board the Chamber appointed Kuntawala shortly after the academy’s formation, it’s clear that few things are as important to the new incoming chairman of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce as education.

As he prepares to receive the gavel as the 2023 chairman of the Albany Area Chamber Board of Directors, the former Chamber Talent, Education & Leadership Committee chair, recently took some time to discuss his thoughts on community, his expectations for the coming year and why he thinks education should be the number one focus, not just for chambers, but for society as a whole.

The following has been lightly edited for length and clarity: Albany Area Chamber of Commerce (AACC): You’ve been an involved, vocal champion of the Chamber for a number of years. What makes that involvement so fulfilling to you personally?

Chandu: From a personal perspective there’s always been a passion for education, so there is the opportunity to be engaged and be an instrument to help support the value of education for the kids. And I guess part of that, or most of my perspective on that, is because I grew up in a different environment, K-12 — first in Zambia, which was a British colony so we had the British standard, and then I went to boarding school in England. Seeing the level of education in our country I found that it was imperative that there was this engagement to help support that in every form and fashion.

AACC: As chairman of the board of the Commodore Conyers College & Career Academy (4CA), and former chair of the Chamber’s education committee, it makes sense that you’d correlate the Chamber with education. What is the genesis of that Chamber/education symbiosis?

Chandu: I decided to stay in the United States after graduating (college) and was fortunate to get an offer from a family business here in town, called Kosola and Associates. And of

course, they sponsored me (with the Chamber). When I joined I was an engineer, then I got promoted to manage the company. As managing director, we started to look at what we wanted to give back to the community, and so, we became members of the Chamber in ‘86. In looking at all the committees I decided I wanted to be a part of the education committee.

AACC: Looking back, what were those earliest experience like?

Chandu: It was different back then. There were a lot of academia folks on the committee, so they were just reporting what was going on in the schools. We were like, “Wait, how does that connect with the kids?” Because that was the whole focus (for us).

Our focus was very simple. Tell us how we can help where it connects with the kids. We had folks on the team that mentored kids who didn’t have any fatherly support at home.

AACC: It seems clear that approaching education as a foundational principle has proven beneficial to both you and the Chamber and you are now guiding the 4CA and helping to keep education the focus among multiple stakeholders. One could argue that Chandu and area education are inextricably linked. What do you think?

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Chandu: My thrust in education through the years, and especially now, is the fact that having education as a foundation is what’s going to bring the rest of our community, the rest of our country up, because it is a foundation. As a great example, you see all these debates going on (around the most recent election) and not one time does anybody mention education. It’s social security, Medicare, taxes, inflation this time around, all of those. And all of those pillars actually stand on education.

I’m not being negative, but when kids cannot do basic math, do not understand where Miami, Fla., is on a map, we’ve lost. And they’re going to be the where-with-alls to manage the Medicare, the social security, the taxes. How are they going to do that? The critical thinking component is a huge part.

I’ve said it many times … unless we as a society say, ‘Hey education’s got to be number one,’ we’ll never force it upwards, or force our government to make any changes, if we need them to make changes.

When I became division chair, we really looked at the mission of the Chamber's (then titled) Education Committee. We started looking at ‘What do we do to make an impact based on the mission?’ And that’s when we came up with the two programs called Priority One and Go See!

AACC: While education is critical to our community, and beyond, there will be those who question why the Chamber should prioritize that. What would you say to those with concerns?

Chandu: Businesses have a mission and their goal is, ‘how do we profit from this?’ And one of the ways they look to do that is having the right talent and the right skillsets to match the labor that’s required. So, they’re looking for the highest caliber talent and expertise. It’s a huge challenge.

It is education, but at the same time, you know, and obviously I’ve been brainstorming myself, it’s how do you communicate the reason education should be important? It is a foundation. But at the same time, in the short term, how do we make sure that the rest of the mission that the Chamber has (is effectively managed), and that the business members (see the value)? Members of the Chamber, they’re looking for, ‘How will it that impact us? How will it help us in the short term, not only the long term?’ So, we have to look at all the other programs too, to say, ‘How do we continuously improve?’

AACC: And as you ponder those things and let your mind wander through 2023, what comes to the forefront?

Chandu: First off, personally, we’ve been very fortunate in the community to have Bárbara (Rivera Holmes) being in the president & CEO position. If it wasn’t for her, in my opinion, the strategic planning that we did three years ago that completely vectored the Chamber into a new direction, would not have happened. It’s no longer your father’s Chamber.

At the same time, I’m not naïve enough to think I can bite off the whole apple. You’ve got to take it one step at a time.

Fortunately, the platform has already been set up at the Chamber, thanks to the Perrys [Revell, CEO of AB&T and 2020 chairman of the Chamber], the Matt Reeds [owner/CEO of Georgia CEO and 2021 chairman of the Chamber] and the Don Grays of the world [2022 chairman of the Chamber and director of facilities management for the city of Albany]. So, I’m excited.

I’m also selfish to the point where I’m thinking, ‘How will it give me an opportunity to lead 4CA and the Chamber and how can we (further) collaborate?’ I don’t know if you know this, but the moons have just lined up for us. Chris (Hatcher) [CEO of 4CA] is now the chairman of the (Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission), so it’s like, ‘How do we bring the three organizations even closer?’ It’s a window of opportunity, you know, because all of the missions line up. 4CA is about education and workforce development. EDC is about bringing new development and the Chamber is about current business and how to develop that business (and building the community).

It’s a window of opportunity but it’s also a window of challenge. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of great people helping me.

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SCOTT STEINER At-Large Phoebe Putney Health System EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE CHANDU KUNTAWALA, CHAIR Booz, Allen, Hamilton DON GRAY, PAST CHAIR City of Albany JEFF WRIGHT, TREASURER Draffin & Tucker JERETHA PETERS, CHAIR ELECT Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Division Chair Wells Fargo Advisors BRIANNA WILSON Business, Development & Investor Engagement Division Chair Southern Point Staffing Government Affairs Division Chair Adams Exterminators BRIAN DOUGHERTY Talent, Education & Leadership Division Chair Sherwood Christian Academy



At-Large Mars Wrigley Confectionary SHERI BARLOW Englewood Health Care KEN BEVEL Sherwood Baptist Church ELYSE BOWER Horizons Community Center TERRI CHRISTIAN AB&T CALEB CLUGSTON WebstaurantStore CHRISTIE CANNON COLE Flint Equipment Co. STEPHEN DEW Pellicano Construction Co. ROD GARNER Eagles Cleaners SHERRER HESTER Indusa Investments / Bottoms Up / Newks CHLOE HINTON Albany Museum of Art THELMA JOHNSON Albany Community Together CHERYL MADDOX Feeding the Valley BEN MAILLETTE Molson Coors SCOT MORRISEY The Albany Herald WILLIAM MYLES Albany Housing Authority CLINT NEWSOME Albany Air Conditioning & Heating JONATHAN SISKEY SafeAire KEMBLE TEAGUE Edward Jones BOARD
At-Large Gardner, Willis, Sweat, Plair & Prickett



Chamber cheer was in the air as the Albany Area Chamber closed out an active and exciting 2021 with the last Business After Hours of the year on December 20, hosted at Flint Ag & Turf in partnership with Fleming & Riles Insurance. Attendants enjoyed socializing and shopping the seasonal inventory at Flint Ag & Turf, which included a wide selection of John Deere children’s toys, as Flint is the area’s leading John Deere retailer. Christmas came early for several party-goers who won raffle items donated by members Honey Baked Ham and Flint Ag & Turf. Rick Lambert from First Media Services got a boost to his holiday shopping budget as the winner of the Chamber’s monthly $100 cash drawing.

Business After Hours is a casual networking event, hosted each month by a member business. For information on the rest of this year’s event series, and to learn how you can be a sponsor, give us a call at (229) 434-8700.

THE DECEMBER 13 MORNING MIX & MINGLE was all aglow with presenting sponsor Doublegate Country Club’s beautiful Christmas decorations and signature hospitality as we welcomed both existing and prospective Albany Area Chamber members for a morning of casual networking and information sharing on how to make the most of Chamber membership. The program was led by Chloe Hinton, director of development at the Albany Museum of Art and member of the Chamber’s Business Development & Investor Engagement Committee. Attendants had the opportunity to hear from incoming Albany Area Chamber Chairman Chandu Kuntawala, program manager at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Above: Attendants of the December 20 Business After Hours enjoyed socializing and sharing holiday plans.

Left: Rick Lambert with First Media Services, center, was the lucky winner of the Chamber’s monthly $100 cash drawing.

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Chamber Chair Chandu Kuntawala (right) visits with Eric Crump, unit commander of the Albany Young Marines. Right: Albany Area Chamber Membership Director Mary Bickerstaff and Chamber Ambassador Cheryl Vinson welcome guests at the event.

THE ALBANY AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RECOGNIZED THE FINALISTS AND ANNOUNCED THE CATEGORY WINNERS OF THE 2022 ALBANY UNDER 40 AWARDS at a reception held on Wednesday, December 14, 2022. Albany Under 40 is a program that celebrates the Albany Area’s emerging leaders and professionals in a variety of business sectors, each representing a component of the area’s diversified talent pool and economy.

“The Albany Area is home to young leaders who are making their mark through excellence in their professions, through their innovation and through their commitment to building a stronger region,” said Bárbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber, the region’s leading business advocacy organization. “We’re honored to recognize these diverse, outstanding professionals and proud they’ve chosen to live, work and invest in the Albany Area.”

Albany Under 40 2022 was presented by Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center and Express Disposal: Part of the CE Family, and further supported by Albany Area Primary Health Care, Albany State University and Eagle Cleaners.

The 2022 Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year, selected from among the category winners, will be announced at the Albany Area Chamber 113th Annual Meeting on April 27, 2023.


From left: Morgan Burnette: Arts, Entertainment, Culinary Arts, Events, Tourism & Hospitality; Perry Ford: Civics, Defense, Government & Public Affairs; Ashley Wells-Sharpe: Innovation & Start-Ups; Clifford Johnson: Sports, Wellness & Fitness. See page 51 for the full list of category winners.

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CIVICS, DEFENSE, GOVERNMENT & PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Perry V. Ford – Associate, City of Albany Engineering

FINANCIAL & INSURANCE SERVICES: Mark Johnson – Business Development Relationship Officer, Georgia's Own Credit Union


Ashley Wells-Sharpe – CEO, Picture Perfect by Ashley


Mallorie Smith – RN/Talent Acquisition Partner/Nurse Recruitment Liaison, Phoebe Putney Health System

MANUFACTURING, SERVICE INDUSTRIES, ENERGY & ARCHITECTURE: Nicole Jones – Site Support Lead, Mars Wrigley Confectionery

MEDICINE & HEALTH CARE: Victoria Davidson – Epidemiologist, Georgia Department of Public Health


Andrea Kromminga – Youth and Young Adults Coordinator, Aspire Behavioral Health


Clifford B. Johnson – Customer Solutions Specialist, WebstaurantStore


Latasha Edwards – Project Manager, Microsoft + Nuance


Martez Gerard Favis – Assistant Principal, Albany Middle School

52 VOL. 23 | ISSUE 1 DECEMBER RENEWALS Advent Business Albany Community Together Albany Police Department Albany Word Processing Andrew College Brimberry Kaplan & Brimberry Buffalo Rock Pepsi ChemNut Core Distributors Debt Busters Dougherty County Department of Family & Children Services Dougherty Glass Company Family Wellness Outreach Center of Georgia Georgia Federal State Inspection Hanger HTC Construction John Culbreath Lifelink Foundation LMC Ag Lone Star Merry Acres Inn NEOS Technologies Nilo Plantation Ortho Sport P.J.'s Fabrics Sellers Tile Sherwood Christian Academy Shiver Lumber Company Strategic Roofing The Door and Window Company Villager Cleaners Winsupply of Albany RENEWING MEMBERS NOT A MEMBER? Explore the benefits of what joining the Chamber can offer to your business. Visit us online at or call 229-434-8700. NEW MEMBERS CTSI Outsourcing P.O. Box 71 | Westpoint 229-446-9641 | Stinger Media 127 Brookfair Lane | Leesburg 682-309-4180 Med + Immediate Care 2822 Nottingham Way, Suite 4 Albany | 229-304-5261 J Lane Theater 313 Pine Ave. | Albany 229-436-1228 Family Wellness Outreach Center of GA 345 W. Broad Ave., Suite 306 Albany | 229-854-3631 | One Digital Health & Benefits P.O. Box 1334 | Americus 229-347-6289 |

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