Bridges Jan 2020

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Powering Our Communities The Northwest region is home to some of the state’s most vibrant communities. In our continued efforts to help it thrive, we’ve partnered with local chambers, development authorities and elected officials across the state to stimulate growth and invest in its future. Our commitment to the communities we’ve served for more than 90 years has contributed to strategic partnerships that led to the addition of nearly 140,000 jobs and $30 billion in capital over the past decade alone.

© 2019 Georgia Power.

WELCOME Welcome to the premiere edition of Bridges! As you peruse our beautiful new publication, I hope you will join us as we journey in-depth to showcase the best and brightest about our community. We love the title, Bridges, as it becomes a powerful metaphor for this distinctive magazine. Strong and foundational, bridges elevate us with opportunity, lifting us above obstacles and connecting us with people and places. In addition to trade and economics, bridges reveal natural resources such as the Oostanaula, Etowah and Coosa rivers, all the while providing unique views for every traveler. Bridges enable us to experience the exchange of business ideas and commerce, delivering stunning perspective for the confluence of people and ideas, where dreams turn into reality. Bridges personifies the commitment of the Rome Floyd Chamber, for it is ours to disclose the best our community has to offer. Our obligation is to work to communicate and advocate for greater connectivity, and to provide the needed structural foundation to create progress. Thank you for reading our inaugural edition of Bridges. We hope it will serve as a constant reminder for Rome and Floyd County, resonating the voice of opportunity, growth, and endless possibility. Sincerely,

Jeanne Krueger Jeanne Krueger President and CEO


From the Publisher How thrilled we are to join with the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce in a collaboration that boasts the citizens who run our businesses, direct our industries and companies and guide our health care. We look forward to bringing you interesting articles and information each quarter.


We would especially like to thank Fred Taylor, Kenna Stock and MSP Attorneys for sharing their time and voices in this inaugural issue of Bridges. Also, congratulations to our first group of The Exceptional 7 Young Professional honorees. It is enthusing that young leaders such as these choose to work and volunteer for the sake of a better community.


Welcome to Bridges. Bridges magazine is created, written, and published by Advertising Dynamics, Inc. in collaboration with the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce. Bridges magazine reserves the right to edit all materials for clarity or space availability, and to determine the suitability of all materials submitted for publication. No reproduction of printed materials is permitted without the consent of the Publisher. ŠCopyright 2020 by ADI Georgia. All rights reserved. TM

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If You Want to Go Far, Go Together


People Caring for People

J.R. Davis and the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia

Kenna Stock and the Harbin Clinic

Contact Advertising Dynamics, Inc. for information and advertising. 706.290.0202 or

24 Integrity in Law & Leadership The History of McRae, Smith & Peek 28 Committed to Care John J. Beninato DDS, PC

12 East Bend Shopping Center Development R.H. Ledbetter Properties

31 State Senate Summary Representative Chuck Hufstetler

14 The Exceptional 7 Recognizing Young Professionals in Our Community

32 Chamber of Commerce Staff 36 Chamber of Commerce Board

20 Economic Development The Rome Floyd County Development Authority 22 Reinventing the Wheel Fred Taylor 2

1 Riverside Parkway Rome, GA 30161 706.291.7663

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Go Together

If You Want to Go Far,

If you want to see the impact that the Boys and Girls Club can have in a child’s life, look no further than


Raised by his grandmother, he became a member of a local club when his small family moved from Florida to the midwest. From middle school to high school, there were a lot of changes, but Davis had the Boys and Girls Club to lean on. Now as CEO of the Northwest Georgia branch since 2011, Davis gets to live out his passion for serving others. Eleven years prior to becoming CEO, Davis finished eight years in the Air Force and was in school getting a master’s degree and an executive MBA. During that time, a local Boys and Girls Club was hiring. “What drew me to it in the first place was that, well, I was a member,” Davis says, so he jumped for the opportunity. Just when he was about to graduate and pursue international business, a full-time club director position was offered to him. Davis figured he’d try it out for a couple of years. Since then, 4

he’s worked at Boys and Girls Clubs in California, Florida, and right here in Georgia. As of today, there are four clubs all across Rome and Floyd County, and one in Polk County, that offer after-school programming for 3000 kids a year, about 400 daily. On top of that, they do special activities and events on weekends, and they’re open all day, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. during summer and school breaks. “We’re just giving an opportunity for parents to go to work and make sure their kids are taken care of - give them a safe, structured place to be,” Davis says. “That’s our number one priority.” The staff and volunteers that take care of these kids are invaluable, and not just because they spend their time

caring for kids, but they also bring something incredible to the table: their passions. “A lot of times, volunteers will call and say ‘What do you need me to do?’ and I will turn the question on them and ask, ‘What do you like to do?’” Davis says. “What I have discovered in my career is that if you have something you’re passionate about, you’re going to excite kids just because you love it. It doesn’t matter what it is, I guarantee we’ll find kids who have that same passion.” These volunteers and more come together to encourage and support kids in three areas: academic success, healthy lifestyle choices, and good character and citizenship. The Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia has seen a 100% graduation rate for the past seven years, so their emphasis on academic (Continued on page 6)

What I have discovered in my career is that if you have something you’re passionate about, you’re going to excite kids just because you love it. -J.R. Davis 5

success is evident. Another main priority is living a healthy lifestyle, and that is both the nutrition side and the athletics side. There are also programs that teach children to simply be a good person. The clubs offer character building, drug and alcohol prevention, and programs meant to build leadership skills. “We provide so many different services that we can work with every child. We’re not the same for every child. Instead, we are who they need us to be,” Davis says. No matter what their needs, every child benefits from having strong role models to guide them as they grow. J.R. Davis experienced just that in middle school. “I was talking to a volunteer about how frustrated I was about not being the quarterback on the football team anymore,” Davis says. “He asked me if I’d ever think of wrestling.” Davis was talking to the high school wrestling coach. Wrestling was, until this point, something Davis only associated with Hulk Hogan. However, thanks to the coach’s suggestion, he tried out for the wrestling team once he got to high school. Davis excelled and eventually went on to be recruited to the Air Force Academy on a wrestling scholarship. “That’s the impact of the Boys and Girls Club. How does a conversation with a volunteer lead to college? What are the chances? That’s why I’m so passionate about what I do,” Davis says. “It’s not a myth. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it.” Community members like Davis’ high school wrestling coach have shaped the Boys and Girls Club for years. “It takes all of us, our board, our staff, our volunteers and our community at large, to change the lives of thousands of kids,” Davis says.

“We can only provide those opportunities because of all the folks who are contributing. If there’s anything I’d like to share with anyone, it’s that the Boys and Girls Club is a community effort. It belongs to all of us, and it serves all of us as well,” Davis says.

Starting within the Boys and Girls Club itself, the 39 members of the Board of Directors cover multiple industries, from banking to real estate to politics, and some have sat on the board for up to 35 years. Their impact and influence have made it possible for kids to be exposed to all kinds of new opportunities, from seeing a plane in person for the first time to learning about financial literacy from bankers across Floyd county.

The volunteers, staff, and community in northwest Georgia have been generous with their time, money, efforts, and resources since 1953 when the original club in West Rome opened. Since then, thousands of children’s lives have been touched. The three tenents that the Boys and Girls Club stands on has helped form incredible people that, in turn, give back to Rome and the surrounding areas, creating a cycle of service.

Community partners include but are not limited to Berry College, Shorter University, Georgia Highlands, Darlington School, United Way of Rome/Floyd County, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club, and R.A.C.E. Rome. They have made so many experiences possible for kids who would otherwise have not had those opportunities.

“There’s an old African proverb that says ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,’” Davis says. “That has shown itself to be true here in Rome and Floyd County because we’ve accomplished wonderful, wonderful things as a community.”

For those interested in joining the cause, contact a club near you, speak to the director and share your passions so our community can further enrich the lives of our children. 6

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“You can’t ever go wrong with pearls. Perhaps pearls are a girl’s best friend after all.” - Ki Hackney

Serving Our Community Since 1948

328 Broad St. Rome, Ga. 30161 • 706-291-7236 •

PEOple Caring for People

Kenna Stock and the Harbin Clinic

Kenna Stock, the CEO of Harbin Clinic, grew up in a close-knit family that prioritized the meaning of hard work. Between junior and senior high, Stock’s first job was working in her father’s entrepreneurial venture: a donut shop. Growing up in and around her father’s business armed Stock with the tools and perspective that have carried her through her career, as well as through the first venture of her own: motherhood. Before Stock began her professional journey leading to her tenure as CEO, her first full-time job was being a wife and mother. She and her husband married young, right out of high school. They had their first child when she was 20, followed by three more within eight years. During that time, Stock was grateful to be a stay-at-home parent. 8

“My greatest blessing was having that experience, “ Stock says, but a change was coming. “When my youngest was two, I guess I looked up from laundry and children and housekeeping and said ‘Maybe I need some adult conversation’...I started thinking about my career.” At this point, Stock would stumble across a part-time job that would set up a future in healthcare and eventually, Harbin Clinic. For those unfamiliar, Harbin also has a foundation built by family. The Harbin Clinic has been around since 1948, but its roots were in Harbin Hospital, a 12-bed medical facility established in 1908 by the Harbin brothers. The siblings, both

doctors, introduced many technological and medical advancements in Floyd County, including the first Caesarean section, blood matching, and blood transfusion. Harbin Hospital also brought the first x-ray to Rome and made the first X-ray pictures. While a forward-thinking mindset was, and still is, a priority for Harbin, it’s most importantly rooted in a sacred covenant of trust between doctor and patient. Harbin is physician-owned and operated, but most of all, it’s made up of people caring for people. Stock first saw this concept balancing motherhood and a part-time job working with a group of mental health professionals. “I learned so much about human beings and human behavior and really gave me a thirst for taking care of people and being in the healthcare environment,” Stock says. “The organization I worked for was focused on mental health, not physical health, but it’s all connected.” Eventually, Stock was promoted to Office Manager, a full-time position, and she was faced with the knowledge that she might not get her eventual dream job without further education. So, working full-time and parenting four children, Stock went back to college and obtained her degree. “I did it the hard way,” Stock says. “Be that as it may, that was also a wonderful experience for me, but it then afforded me with the opportunity to pursue other positions, but always in healthcare. I really do believe that, whether you’re a physician or not, healthcare can truly be a place where you find your calling. You can find your place, a place of service.” Stock eventually found her place at Harbin Clinic. She joined in 1999 as the business office director, and in two years, became the Chief Operations Officer. During this time, she grew close with many members of the leadership, staff, and physicians, who came to value the drive and compassion Stock brings to every initiative. In 2015, Stock made the historic step up as Harbin Clinic’s first female and first non-doctor CEO. Harbin Clinic is, besides healthcare, in the business of making historic steps. It’s said that there are more doctors per capita in the Northwest Georgia area than anywhere else in the state, which is partially due to Harbin Clinic’s longtime standing in Rome. These doctors specialize in almost every medical need. This is because of Harbin’s dedication to serving the whole patient.

I really do believe healthcare can truly be a place where you find your calling. You can find your place, a place of service. - Kenna Stock

“A good 80% of what most folks would need can be served right here in the community, and not just served adequately, but extremely well,” Stock says. “We recruit physicians from some of the best programs in the country, and so we’re very proud to offer that level of healthcare.” Looking forward, Stock is excited to grow thoughtfully and responsibly in new communities. Harbin Clinic opened a 35,000-square-foot facility in Bartow County, and construction is underway for another 35,000-squarefoot facility in Rome which will serve as the home for Harbin Clinic Pediatrics. Healthcare, just like any industry in technology-forward age, is striving to keep up the pace: balancing innovation with personal care. (Continued on page 10)


We want Rome and Floyd County to flourish, and we think we can contribute to that... I think it’s going to take all of us. All of our organizations, all the industries, it’s all a part of the fabric of Northwest Georgia. - Kenna Stock

(Kenna Stock continued from page 9)

“I think we’re still trying to adapt to [technological advances] and keep that ‘people piece’ alive and well, and not let technology get in the way of that covenant of trust,” Stock says. “One thing that’s still the same is that people want to know they’re cared for, that there’s a human being on the other side of technology that cares about their health.” Outside of the healthcare that they provide within their walls, Harbin sees community service, not as an obligation, but as an opportunity to give back to the people who gave to them. Harbin Clinic is a strong supporter of organizations and events throughout Northwest Georgia that align with its mission of promoting health and wellness in the community. 10

“We want Rome and Floyd County to flourish, and we think we can contribute to that,” Stock says. “But, I think it’s going to take all of us. All of our organizations, all the industries, it’s all a part of the fabric of Northwest Georgia.” Harbin hopes to continue investing in the overall health and vitality of the Floyd County family and beyond. Although it’s hard to beat a bite of a donut, there’s a sweetness in serving your community well, which Harbin has been and will be trusted to do for many years to come.

Between the Rivers & the Hills, We are proud to be a part of all things local eBANK: Always Open at MAIN OFFICE: 501 Broad Street 706.378.5300 WEST ROME: 2211 Shorter Avenue 706.378.5305 ARMUCHEE: 2950 Martha Berry Blvd. 706.314.0560

Development East Bend Shopping Center

Shopping local during the 2020 Christmas season will be even easier thanks to the hometown dedication of R.H. Ledbetter Properties


The company, under the leadership of brothers, Bob, Jr. (CEO), Wright (COO), and David (EVP for Leasing) Ledbetter, is reviving the Hicks Drive location formerly anchored by the Super Kmart as a shopping destination for Rome and the surrounding areas. After a long negotiation and purchasing process, the transformation of the property became a reality in August of last year when demolition of the site began. The Kmart building, a gas station, and two other retail businesses, as well as the parking lot, were removed. In the process, more than 12,000 tons of building material, including block, brick, concrete, and asphalt, were crushed to be reincorporated into the site as the construction phase begins. Also, nearly 800 tons of structural steel was recycled. The company is always conscious of being as conservative-minded as possible during development to ensure as little debris as possible is destined for the landfill. With the construction of East Bend Shopping Center beginning in early 2020, our community can look forward to many new shopping choices when it opens later in the year. According to Joe Holmes, EVP for development, when selecting possible tenants regarding the project, the company utilized a method of void analysis. Through this process, they were able to identify retailers who were absent from the market within a 30-minute drive to Rome and the specific types of stores local consumers were looking to support. Fortunately, with over 35-years of experience, Bob Ledbetter, Jr. has an excellent vision for businesses that will thrive in our market. Currently, the project has over 88% of the space committed. It is projected the center will feature over 20 businesses in varying specialties. Based on plans for East Bend, the shopping center will feature more than 110,000 square feet of leasable space, three primary anchors, five out-parcels, and another 29,500 squarefeet of small shops. It is anticipated the center will feature at least two nationally known apparel retailers. As a company policy, Ledbetter Properties does not reveal the names of tenants. This allows companies to announce and schedule their own marketing strategies. One of the most exciting aspects of the project is the opportunities for job creation. When the center is at capacity, there could be as many as 400 jobs available. It will also have a dynamic economic impact through business licenses and sales tax collections.

We are excited about the opportunity to redevelop and repurpose this prime commercial site that will serve not only our local area but the region as well. East Bend will bring a wonderful selection of new goods and services to our community, allowing more revenue to remain in Rome and Floyd County, and the economic impact will be substantial, creating over 400 new jobs. - Wright Ledbetter 13

In partnership with Advertising Dynamics, Inc., we are excited to announce our new annual award to recognize young professionals in our community. These individuals, known as the Exceptional 7, exhibit a wide range of achievements and outstanding qualities both personally and professionally. Congratulations to our first class of honorees! We look forward to watching what you accomplish in the future.

Exceptional Young Professional of the year


Rome Floyd Chamber of Comme 14

Alma Roman

braden keith

In a country built on the achievements of immigrants, stories like Alma’s are an inspiration. Alma, her nine siblings, and her blue-collar mother and father are originally from Guanajuato, Mexico. They migrated in search of “The American Dream” and moved to Rome, where Alma has called home ever since. After graduating from Rome High and caring for her own kids, Alma was called into the workforce. She began at Harbin Clinic, interpreting for the growing Spanish-speaking population in Rome. From there, she worked in retail and customer service at Lowes Home Improvement and eventually moved to her current industry: insurance.

An entrepreneurial spirit can hit early, and that’s exactly what happened to Braden Keith. You might know him as the owner and CEO of Romega Digital, a digital marketing and custom software business located in downtown Rome. As early as middle school, Braden knew that business ownership was on the horizon, and he was itching to do any work that would get him there. He took the first job he could find cleaning toilets and organizing a warehouse - and learned how to make websites on the side. Over the next several years, he sharpened his skills and made a name for himself in the programming industry.

Alma began in customer service at Alfa Insurance in 2009. Since then, she became the only team member in the history of Alfa’s Georgia locations to work up from a customer service representative to a business owner and agent. Now, she operates Farmers Insurance, Alma Roman Agency, protecting what her clients care most about: their family, their assets, and their future.

Eventually, Braden made his way back to Rome, where he now lives with his wife, Adlynn, dog Winston, with a baby on the way! Their family’s focus on the community bleeds into every aspect of their lives. As a company, Romega Digital has volunteered at the soup kitchen, provided internships to people with disabilities, and sponsors a pro-bono community project twice a year for local non-profits. Braden teaches a programming class at Elm Street Elementary, he and Adlynn are foster parents, and even the pup is a certified service dog. Winston can make visits to the hospital or provide support for kids falling behind in school.

Owner/Agent at Farmers Insurance - Alma Roman Agency

As for her family, Alma is happily married to Joel Paul McCool and the proud mother of five kids, David, Savannah, Kassidy, Katelyn, and Javier. In the future, she plans to increase her participation in local events and charities, benefitting not just the Latino community, but the Rome/Floyd County community as a whole. Eventually, she’d like to become involved in government positions that can benefit the youth and citizens of not only Rome and Floyd County, but also throughout the State of Georgia. Alma proves that success isn’t just a dream, it’s the culmination of hard work and dedication that inspires people to build themselves up so they can support others.

Owner/CEO of Romega Digital

While he and Romega have earned a few accolades along the way, Small Business of the Year Finalist in 2019, for example, Braden’s greatest achievements are the relationships he has cultivated from all his years of work. In the future, he hopes to bring in more jobs to the community, continually invest in his employees and customers, and build more small businesses that will grow Rome and provide for his family. He hopes to invest in his community just as much as they have invested in him.

(Continued on page 16)


Courtnay Griffin

Dean of the Ledbetter College of Business at Shorter University

There are many things that make Rome great, but there is always more to be done to increase the quality of life for all. Courtnay Griffin is doing her part as the Grant and Housing Administrator for the City of Rome. She serves others and makes a meaningful impact on her community each day by managing grant funding and administering two programs: the Housing Rehabilitation Program and the New Construction Program. These programs focus on reducing blight and assisting some of the more financially vulnerable people in the Rome community.

When you approach every job and every person with enthusiasm, growth is sure to follow. Dr. Heath Hooper, the Dean of the Ledbetter College of Business, has proven that concept during his time at Shorter University.

In Courtnay’s own words, redevelopment is not an overnight process. It takes time, partnerships with like-minded people, and community buy-in to effect change. Outside of work, Courtnay has invested her time into the community, graduating from Leadership Rome in 2018 and being listed in Rome Life’s Top 20 Under 40. This year, she received a recommendation from a city commissioner for the inaugural class of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation’s Leadership Development Program for Women. These efforts started early, though. She credits her parents for keeping her active and engaged at a young age, which has extended to her current memberships in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc, Theta Omicron Omega chapter, and the Junior Service League. She’s also been coaching and mentoring 6th-grade girls for the last five years, guiding young women through a small part of their journey to becoming strong members of our community and effecting their own change. People notice when work is done with integrity and passion, especially when it’s for the betterment of an entire community. Ultimately, Courtnay wants to have a larger seat at the table in regards to redeveloping and reshaping Rome, lifting those up who need a boost along the way. 16

Heath Hooper

Grant and Housing Administrator at the City of Rome

In 2012, Heath began his time at Shorter as Assistant Professor of Sport Management. At that time, the business school was growing and the sports management major was relatively new. His colleagues were impressed by his professionalism, poise, and knowledge base, but even more so of his caring attitude. At a school that places a priority on Christ-like characteristics, Heath’s openness and genuine interest in his students were incredibly valuable. Under Heath’s leadership, the School of Business has grown to represent one-third of the student body. This is partially due to his love of athletics. Shorter University needed someone who could lead the quickly growing business department & identify with the athletic world, as most of the business students are athletes. Since 2013, he has published and presented research about social media policies in NCAA division 1 schools, learning disabilities amongst today’s NCAA student-athletes, and sports management curriculum. Every day, the work he does further helps him connect with his students. Outside of these duties, Heath also developed Professional Program Series as an opportunity for individuals in the Rome Floyd area to continue their educational development through 6-sessions. He also assembled a School of Business Advisory Board made up of local business representatives and leaders. This commitment to the community has offered more opportunities for his students, as well as opportunities for people outside of Shorter to benefit from great leadership.

Katie Price

Fourth Grade Math Teacher/West Central Elementary School

2020 Exceptional 7 Young Professional of the Year Teaching is in the heart of everything Katie Price does. This, of course, starts in her role as a 4th-grade math teacher at West Central Elementary School. Deemed a “ray of sunshine” by her colleagues, Katie is the definition of a go-getter, building a strong rapport with her students, their parents, and her fellow teachers. She sets high standards for everyone in her class and raises the bar in her own life by being a strong team leader as well as a member of the school-wide leadership team. An emphasis on teamwork was placed on Katie during her time at Berry College where she was on the varsity volleyball team. High expectations were met here as well as she earned SAA Academic Honor Roll between the years of 2012 and 2015, and was a two-time All American player. Katie stayed involved with the sport and now serves as the head volleyball coach for Rome High School as well as the Director of Tsunami Rome Volleyball, a local travel volleyball club. When she isn’t teaching or coaching young students, Katie works at AR Workshop in Downtown Rome leading classes on DIY wood or canvas projects, where she was a frequent customer before joining the team in 2016. When it comes to helping the community, Katie is making an early impact as an exceptional educator. She also runs free volleyball clinics for younger athletes and runs Art Club for students after school, encouraging children through education, athletics, and creativity, and hopes to continue doing so for many years to come.

(Continued on page 18)

hardy realty congratulates our own michele rikard

2020 Exceptional Young Professional of the Year Rome Floyd Chamber

Kevin Van Der Horn

Michele Rikard

To say Kevin Van Der Horn has made an impact at F&P Georgia (FPG), a local automotive parts supplier, is an understatement. As a process engineer, Kevin collects and analyzes data to further improve efficiency at FPG. He has played an integral role in increasing overall equipment effectiveness as well as reducing the plant’s process cycle times through both production worker and machine improvement. Some of this can be seen through the now standardized work for employees as well as new training videos showing best practices, which he developed.

Growing up as the daughter of a small business owner, Broad Street was the setting for many of Michele Rikard’s formative years. A love for Rome and Floyd County was planted at an early age, and now her passion for the community flourishes.

Process Engineer at F&P Georgia

These skillsets have managed to cross over to other parts of the business where he was able to improve hiring and onboarding programs for management, as well as work on more creative endeavors. Kevin is a member of FPG’s safety committee, a venture his co-workers and superiors highly commend. Thanks to his thorough safety checks, he is able to find and address issues that otherwise would have been left unnoticed. He also had the opportunity to produce and direct training videos. He taught himself how to use video editing software to better communicate safety procedures. Not only does he try to bring novel ideas to his company, but Kevin also likes to immerse himself in new experiences through volunteer work. He has cleaned rivers with CRBI, renovated rooms at the Ruth and Naomi House, and assisted patrons at Rome Little Theatre during the 2019 run of “Mamma Mia”. Kevin wants to continue bringing innovation to his company, ideally as a senior engineer and eventually, a teacher and mentor for future engineers.


Realtor at Hardy Realty

Michele began her professional journey in marketing, but worked in many capacities, including sales team manager, executive assistant, marketing director, and anything else needed of her. She also found time to step away from work to be a mother to her daughter, Avery. But still, her entrepreneurial spirit could not be dampened. Before her time at Hardy Realty, Michele and Avery found themselves elbow-deep in rolled oats and sweet potatoes, handmaking organic dog treats for their company, Fetch. Michele is now a realtor and since the fall of 2016 has excelled. Receiving 11 Agent of the Month recognitions over 35 months, making the Circle of Excellence in 2017 and 2018 and landing among the top 10 Hardy agents in 2018, Michele has found the perfect avenue to blend her passion for serving others and her entrepreneur spirit. When she’s not working, she finds other ways to serve through donating her time through the Junior Service League, Good Neighbor Ministries and SoleSisters of Rome. Her focus on family goes even further, as her own family fosters children in the Floyd County area. In the future, she hopes to continue pursuing active leadership roles in Rome and Floyd County and its incredible organizations. She also hopes to be a role model for new Hardy agents, and more importantly, her daughter. Michele’s love for Rome is evident through her hard work, kindness, generosity, patience, and determination.

Development economic

The Rome Floyd County Development Authority (RFCDA) serves as an economic development organization for Rome and Floyd County

Led by Missy Kendrick, President/CEO, and Project Manager Heather Seckman, the authority markets the community to industry prospects, representing public and privately-owned industrial property and buildings. Rome and Floyd County have several industrial parks and sites available, including the North Floyd Industrial Rail Site located at the northwest intersection of Highway 140 and Highway 53. This site is 110-acres zoned heavy industrial and is served by Norfolk Southern Railway. This prime property is only 7 miles to Interstate 75 and has access to all utilities. Certified by the Georgia Department of Economic Development as a Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development (GRAD) property, this site is guaranteed ready for fast-track construction projects based on proactive due diligence done by the Authority to prepare the site for development. Another area ready for development is the Berry Corporate Center on Technology Parkway, with hundreds of acres available. Zoning on this property ranges from Office Institutional (O-I) to Heavy Industrial (H-I). Years ago, Berry College reserved this property for industrial development, and


Suzuki Manufacturing of America and Neaton Rome, among others, have made this parkway their home. This corridor also has all utilities in place and has rail service available. The RFCDA works with Berry College to further develop sites to meet specific needs and prepare for GRAD certification. The Authority works closely with local and statewide stakeholders such as the City of Rome and Floyd County, local department heads, project managers from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Power Company, Georgia EMC, Norfolk Southern, and other utilities. It takes a team approach to develop, market and sell these sites to create jobs for the community and increase the tax base through capital investment. The Authority also relies on Rome City Schools and Floyd County Schools to develop the next generation of employees for the companies being recruited. The available workforce is one of the most important location factors for new and expanding industries. Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia, Berry College, Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Shorter University all

work with the RFCDA to ensure companies can hire skilled workers. It is extremely unusual for a community the size of Rome to have four colleges. Rome and Floyd County do an outstanding job of maintaining the quality of place that is so attractive to prospective industries. When site selection consultants look for a place for their clients, they analyze the community based on quality of life factors such as rivers, trails, parks and other recreational activities. Attractions such as the Rome Braves and Rome Tennis Center are key to providing an inviting community. Missy and Heather stand ready to represent Rome and Floyd County and to help the community grow and succeed.

It takes a team approach to develop, market and sell these sites to create jobs for the community and increase the tax base through capital investment - Missy Kendrick


reinventing the wheel


Fred Taylor In popular culture, inventors are either hunched over desks in harried silence or loudly explaining the many incredible functions of their latest “-inator”. Either way, there’s a lab coat and goggles involved. In real life, sometimes an inventor leads his life more simply, starting their day with an apple, hot water, and exercise, before heading into work. Fred Taylor considers himself an inventor, a creator of things, and he’s made an impact the size of three businesses, 1,300+ employees, and a $315 million in sales a year for just his parent business: OTR, an international leader in wheel engineering. OTR specializes in delivering off-the-road tires, wheels, rubber tracks, and assembly components to equipment manufacturers around the world. “The main business is OTR, and then there’s Blacksmith OTR, they specialize in aerial work platforms, and then the third business I have is Green Carbon, where we recycle tires back into their original components,” Taylor says. Each of these ventures was born from someone asking the question: “How do I do this?”. In the case of Green Carbon, 12 years ago, Taylor had customers who were having difficulty disposing of industrialtype tires. This led Taylor and his team to research, develop, and build a process to break down these tires in an environmentally conscious way. Green Carbon has since transformed that process into four generations of reactor systems, each performing better than the one before. This creative mind, driven by questions, was first fed during Taylor’s time at Michigan Tech, where he majored in engineering. After graduating, he worked in his father’s manufacturing plant, which is where he got a lot of his education in understanding manufacturing and running operations. However, after 10 years, he wanted more.

“I worked for my father, but I had a very good customer in Trion, Georgia,” Taylor says. “I wanted to go out on my own and he said, ‘Why don’t you come down here?’” This invitation led to Taylor, his wife, and their four kids moving to Rome in the summer of 1982, but the road to his future endeavors still held many twists and turns. In the years to follow, Rome would recover from the effect of the GE Plant closing, and the changing market led to a few pivots. Within a few years, Taylor became involved in the wheel business. In 1985, he and his business partner, Charles Jackson, started representing and selling parts for the construction industry. In the 35 years since then, Jackson and Taylor’s partnership has turned into what we now know as OTR, which has plants all over the world. Despite his international impact, Taylor credits some of his success to the relationships he made in Rome early on. Russ Jennings, Jack McGee, JL Todd, and more all left impressions on his career, as well as the location and culture of Rome, Georgia as a whole. “Rome is...a little gem that hasn’t been found.,” Taylor says. “You have so many things, a nice downtown, restaurants, or all these other things that people of sophistication would love in their own community.” When it comes to building something like Taylor has, business and community go hand-in-hand. “It’s a lot of hard work but I’ve got a lot of good team members, a lot of good staff. So, I’ve been blessed that way,” Taylor says. Starting a day with an apple and hot water can help, but it’s the drive to answer any question with, “I don’t know, but let’s find out”, as well as surrounding yourself with a team of hardworking people, that makes someone an inventor.

Rome is...a little gem that hasn’t been found. You have so many things, a nice downtown, restaurants, or all these other things that people of sophistication would love in their own community. - Fred Taylor


integrity in law and leadership The History of McRae, Smith & Peek attorneys Over 120 years have since passed since a twenty-two-year-old fresh out of the University of Georgia Law School established a law partnership with a Civil War veteran, Col. William S. McHenry. The pairing of the two men was the beginning of a legacy, and the commencement of an impressive lineage for the prestigious law firm, McRae, Smith & Peek Attorneys, whose offices today occupy Bridgepoint Plaza, located in downtown Rome and the Polk county offices in Cedartown on South College Street. 24

The foundation for the firm was laid by George Edmondson Maddox, in 1899. It was a time when the only air conditioning in the courthouse came from ceiling fans that stirred just enough air to crank out an imaginary breeze. Phone service was minimal, at best, and downtown floodwaters would continually leave Broad Street in a sea of mud. But the law firm was an attractive idea. Soon George Maddox’s father, John W. Maddox, would add to the development of

Front Row: Michael McRae, Scott Smith, Jule Peek, Jr., Virginia Harman Back Row: Benjamin Stell, Lee Niedrach, C. Andrew Garner III, Chris Jackson, Brian Bojo, Carey Pilgrim, Jason Sanker, Linton Johnson, Robert Monroe, Jordan Knight

the firm. Receiving his law degree in 1877, John Maddox was a seasoned attorney with a storied reputation and an impressive resume. He was the mayor of Summerville, county commissioner, and in 1890 he was elected to the Georgia Senate to serve six terms. He was a judge of the Superior Court in the Rome Judicial Circuit in 1886 and would serve as a U.S. Representative of the Seventh District. Not choosing to run for congress again, he returned to Rome and his son’s law firm. He stepped into public service as a judge in the Rome Judicial Circuit and, for a short period, he sampled the position of President of State Mutual Life Insurance Company before resuming the family law practice for a final time. It was known as Maddox & Maddox until his death in 1922. The name Maddox would be synonymous with the firm throughout the century. As the firm grew over the years, it has partnered and associated itself with outstanding men and women who have left indelible footprints.

In the early to mid-1900s, the name above the door has been Maddox & Doyle; Maddox, Lipscomb & Matthew; then, Maddox, Matthews, and Owens In 1952, new names appeared, such as Matthews, Maddox & Bell. Before his death in 2009, Griffin Bell recalled his time with the Rome law firm: “It has been a great law firm, and it has played a leading role in that part of Georgia...the firm has always had many good lawyers who were people of integrity.” He recalled that getting to the “old” offices meant using an outside steel staircase of a building just off Broad. Among his many honors and accolades, President Kennedy would appoint him as Judge of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1977, Bell would be tapped by President Jimmy Carter to serve as the 72nd Attorney General of the United States. His peers often referred to Griffin Bell as the Dean of Georgia Lawyers. By 1960, new names emerged to fulfill the active list of services and demands of a busy and growing commercial area. Stokes Walton moved to Rome after serving as District Attorney in Troup County and the partners were Matthews, Walton, Smith, Shaw & Maddox, becoming a highly sought after legal team.

Oscar Smith, originally from Valdosta, had been working with a New York-Atlanta firm that represented Eastern Airlines. He was highly regarded by his peers and had graduated number one in his class from UGA. His fellow partners remember him as extremely intelligent, unselfish, and dedicated to work and community. Today, he is regarded as their ‘father of the modern firm.’ Another name, the renowned Jimmy Dick Maddox, joined the firm in the 1960s. He had attended law school at the acclaimed University of Michigan but returned to the south to practice law. He was a judge of Rome city court and was with the firm for 30 years. According to attorney John Graham, Maddox was the model of integrity. They began working together in 1968 when John came home after fulfilling military duties. Graham related that Judge Maddox was (Continued on page 26)


Today, the modern firm of MSP Attorneys provides a full scale of practices to meet the legal needs of every client.

a mentor and a gentleman in the way he practiced law and ethics. Among his many accomplishments was his success in generating the 3.2 million bond to create Floyd College.

Lawyers, and by CEO Monthly as “Leading Business Women of the Year” in 2018. Her colleagues regard her as the firm’s ‘go-to’ person for ethical discussions and questions.

Smith, Shaw, Maddox, Davidson & Graham would progress into Shaw, Maddox, Graham, Monk & Harris in 1989. Jackson (Jack) Harris later became the chief operating officer for Zartic, Inc. After his retirement, he now considers himself a “client” of the firm and works on special projects. Wade Monk left the firm to become general counsel for Floyd Medical Center. After retiring, he returned to MSP in an “of counsel” position.

In 1999, the 100th anniversary of the law firm was celebrated by the addition of Cedartown lawyers, Mike McRae and Rob Monroe. The combination of Shaw, Maddox, Graham, Monk & Boling with the Polk County attorneys delivered a variety of legal specialties for both Floyd and Polk Counties. Mike McRae had been the attorney for the City of Cedartown and Rockmart, legal counsel for Haralson County Water Authority and other area authorities. Rob Monroe’s expertise is in real estate closings, workers’ compensation, personal injury, wrongful death, mediation, and appellate practice. The addition proved a perfect fit for both groups allowing clients a full scale of services for any legal situations in which they might need counsel.

Jule Peek joined the firm in 1988 and has become one of the preeminent domestic relations attorneys in the State of Georgia. Jule has extensive jury and non-jury trial experience in high asset, divorce actions. He is adept in complex business, asset valuations and the division of allocations. For twenty-seven years, Jule has served as counsel for Floyd Medical Center. He is very active with Darlington School as the former president of the alumni council and the athletic booster club. He is also an active member of the Planned Gifts Committee of Darlington. Scott Smith has practiced in the areas of real estate and business law. Scott believes in ‘giving back’ to the community and serves as an adjunct professor at Berry College where he teaches Business Law and Ethics. In 1993, Virginia Harman became the first woman named as a partner to the firm. An outstanding intellect, Virginia attended LaGrange College and chose to attend law school at the University of Georgia, graduating with honors. Virginia has handled complex civil litigation in most United States District Court Divisions, both state and federal. In addition to her many professional associations, she is a member of the Bar of U.S. Tax Court, a board member of the legal Counsel Section of the Georgia Bankers Association, and was elected to vice-chair of the Legal Counsel Section for two years. She was named as one of the first of the Southeast’s Leading Women 26

Today, the modern firm of MSP Attorneys provides a full scale of practices to meet the legal needs of every client. Andy Garner, a partner since 2006, says that the history of MSP is filled with names of accomplished attorneys—two have been members of the state board of bar examiners and chairmen, a congressman, and a U.S. Attorney General to name a few. Andy reflects that change over the last decade has come with the ability to process messaging and documents through email, with so-called “snail” mail a thing of the past. The cell phone gives access and resource, and the availability of lawyer and client is not relegated to specific hours. Garner says the firm will continue to build its client base and strive for excellence in all the areas of practice. While law firms in major cities are continually merging, the goal of MSP is to represent their chosen geographical area to the fullest.

Committed to Care

John J. Beninato, DDS PC In the diverse medical community of Rome, Georgia, there is a specialized practice determined to utilize the most current technological advances while maintaining the personalized care patients deserve. John J. Beninato, DDS, PC, an oral and maxillofacial surgery center, is that practice. Established in 1990, Dr. Beninato’s mission was to place emphasis on the overall health, safety, and comfort of his patients. This is a standard of excellence the practice continues today. The services provided are extensive, such as dental implants, extractions, wisdom teeth removal, orthodontic related procedures, biopsies, and other patient needs.


the past two decades, Dr. Beninato has introduced essential technology and state of the art equipment in his practice. For example, x-rays are taken through a digital system that allows immediate viewing with the option for the x-ray to be enlarged and enhanced on a computer screen. 3-D and panoramic technology are optimized in the diagnosis process. Boardcertified in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Dr. Beninato utilizes his skill and experience along with these significant advancements, thus providing more comfort and efficiency for the patient’s desired result.

Patients range in age from as young as eight-years-old to over 100 years, and each receives an individualized plan of treatment. Either through referral or direct contact, patients come to Dr. Beninato to alleviate their discomfort and to restore their smiles lost to oral disease.

Dr. Beninato reflects that one of the most important innovations impacting the overall health of his patients is in the area of dental implants. Unlike dentures and bridges, dental implants offer a more permanent replacement for missing teeth and can be cared for just like natural teeth. While implants enhance a patient’s appearance, they can also improve overall health.

With the many advancements in the field of dentistry over

When asked about the advantages of practicing in Rome,

There have been many advancements in the field of dentistry over the past two decades. Dr. Beninato has remained on the cutting edge to bring them to his patients.

(Front, left to right) Summer Elam, Marketing; Lisa Faircloth, Team Leader (Back) Ashley Bennett, New Patient Coordinator; Liz Hilburn, Clinical Assistant; Kathy Cagle, Clinical Assistant; Ashley Chambers, Insurance Consultant

he relates to the proximity to quality medical centers. While 95% of patients receive treatment at his 21 John Maddox Drive office, he appreciates those facilities for patients who have compromised health conditions. He also enjoys the relationships and trust he has built with the general dentistry practices in the area. Dr. Beninato attended Creighton University in his native Nebraska. He received degrees from the School of Pharmacy and the School of Dentistry. Upon completion of his dentistry degree, Dr. Beninato fulfilled his general practice residency at the Western Massachusetts Hospital and Baystate Medical Center. Becoming an oral surgeon had always been his vision, and that was accomplished when he completed his residency at Emory University and affiliated hospitals. He has been married to his high school sweetheart Barbara (Barb), since 1976. When the practice was first opened, her experience in the field of laboratory medicine and medical administration was exceptionally valuable. Additionally, she

Dr. John Beninato, Barb Beninato

served as his chair-side assistant, and occasionally she does now as needed. Barb says, about him, “He is a “learner” at heart. He enjoys reading especially medical journals and history. He loves spending time with his family. He also enjoys traveling and photography when time allows.” He is active in community service and volunteers at various other organizations. Dr. John Beninato is a member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the National Board of Dental Anesthesiology, the American Dental Society of Dental Anesthesiology, the American Dental Association, the Georgia Dental Association, the Georgia Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Southeastern Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Northwestern District Dental Society, and the Floyd County Dental Society.




State Senate



District 52

It is certainly an honor to represent Northwest Georgia in the State Senate. This is the beginning of my eighth year in the Georgia Senate and I am pleased to represent four counties in NW Georgia. It has been a good time to be a part of Georgia’s leadership and my fourth year as Chair of finance. For the first time, we have seen three straight years of fully funding the QBE formula for our schools. With schools fully funded, teacher pay raises maintain our educators as the best paid in the Southeast. We have also enjoyed having Georgia named as a ‘best state to do business with’ for six consecutive years. We have seen our port of Savannah, which is the second busiest port on the East Coast, continue at a record-breaking level. Since Northwest Georgia gets and ships more goods through the port than any other area of the state, it is vital to our economic growth. We have been able to double our investments in transportation while increasing our rainy-day fund balance to three billion dollars, its highest level. And, in my first 2-year term as Finance Chair, I was pleased to sponsor legislation which doubled the personal exemptions and reduce the top income tax rate of 6% down to 5.75%, as of one year ago. This is the first income tax rate reduction since the income tax was implemented in 1934.

We have also sent a plan to the Federal government to use our share of the federal dollars to provide (through Medicaid waivers) health insurance and subsidies to working families who make up to 400% of the poverty level, and I have pushed for these as early as five years ago. A healthy, educated workforce is vital to our continued growth. Preventative care to those who don’t receive it can keep families heathy—much better than showing up in the emergency room when health issues are out of control and much more expensive. We have all heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is best to pay for the ounce instead of the whole pound and, as a result, have a healthier more productive population. This session will be one of our more challenging from a budget standpoint, but long-term, the State of Georgia is the envy of the business nation. I am proud to be a small part of it, and it is certainly an honor to represent Northwest Georgia in the State Senate. 31


chamber of commerce

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. - Andrew Carnegie 32

Jeanne Krueger President/CEO 706.291.7663 Ext. 306

Jeanne Krueger was promoted to President and CEO of the Rome Floyd Chamber in July of 2019. In January 2019, Jeanne stepped into the leadership role of Interim Director for the Rome Floyd Chamber. With determination and focus to serve fellow colleagues in their excellent Chamber work and to consistently advance the Chamber’s pro-business message while communicating a confident and constructive image throughout the community, member engagement and investment has been significant. Her professional career began in 1987 when she began working for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. She spent most of her career managing membership sales and retention, and business development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber prior to starting work at the Rome Floyd Chamber. Jeanne works to put best sales and marketing practices in place through establishing quantifiable goals and developing strategies along with cultivating long-lasting relationships. A native of Rome, Jeanne has been married to Mark Krueger, Managing Partner, Morehouse Group, CPAs, for 32 years. They have two children: Shelby, their daughter and is a Spanish teacher who is also a millennial living in downtown Rome, and Anderson, their 22-year-old son who is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and is working toward a medical degree. PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS American Chamber of Commerce Executives Georgia Academy for Economic Development Georgia Chamber of Commerce Executives Association of Donor Relations Professionals Leadership Rome Graduate XXXV Rome Rotary PERSONAL ORGANIZATIONS Rome Leadership Prayer Breakfast West Rome Baptist Church

The Chamber’s number one priority is to continue to provide muscular support to our existing businesses. Expansion and investment outcomes have been strong in 2019 and with the Chamber continuing its vital work with existing businesses and Greater Rome Existing Industries Association, the economic growth forecast is positive for 2020. - Jeanne Krueger

(Continued on page 34)


scotty clark Director of Finance 706.291.7663 Ext. 311 Scotty is a native Roman and is a graduate of West Rome High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Shorter University. He came to work at the chamber in 2002 and currently serves as Director of Finance, where he oversees accounting and human resources. He is an active member of Fellowship Baptist Church.

amber west Communications Coordinator 706.291.7663 Ext. 307 In this role with the Chamber since September 2016, Amber West manages www.romega. com, social media for the Chamber, Young Professionals of Rome, Momentum Magazine, and Technology SquareTable, among other duties. Amber earned her associate’s degree from Georgia Highlands College and her bachelor’s degree from Kennesaw State University. She is a graduate of Leadership Rome XXXVI. Amber began her career in Public Relations and Communications as an Account Manager at a boutique public relations firm in Atlanta, Georgia, before moving into Chamber work.

taylor richie Programs Coordinator 706.291.7663 Ext. 302 A native Roman, Taylor graduated from Rome High School in 2007 and earned her bachelor’s degree from Auburn University in 2012. She moved to Nashville to coach for the Youth Rowing team for one year before moving back to Auburn to be an assistant coach with the Auburn University Rowing Team. In 2017, she and her husband of four years, Corey Ritchie, moved back to Rome, and she began work with the Rome Floyd Chamber as a receptionist. In June 2019, Taylor was appointed Programs Coordinator, and she now manages the Leadership Rome and High School Leadership Rome Programs, the Business Expo, the Annual Meeting, PAGE STAR Student program, and other duties. Taylor enjoys serving Rome and supporting the local art community as she continues work to make Rome and Floyd County a better place to live, work and play. 34

mary grace davis Receptionist 706.291.7663 Mary Grace Davis studied Marketing at Kennesaw State University. During her senior year of college, she worked for the Foundation at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she gained experience with event planning and corporate donor relations with Aflac Corporate. She grew up in Rome and moved back since obtaining her degree and has such an appreciation for this beautiful and unique community. In her free time, she likes to spend time outdoors and with friends and family.

chamber of commerce

scott preston 2020 Chair Rome Floyd Chamber Synovus

Board of directors

As President of the Synovus Northwest Georgia Division, Scott Preston leads 90 team members with approximately $1 billion in assets. The NWGA division encompasses Rome, Cartersville, Calhoun, Dalton, Chickamauga, and Lafayette. Scott began his banking career during graduate school in 1991. After receiving his MBA, he began working at a small bank in Southwest Georgia as a lender, then made one more stop at another financial institution in Columbus, Georgia before beginning his career at Synovus Financial Corp in 1997. Upon joining Synovus at the corporate office in Columbus, he worked in various capacities, including credit administration, loan review, product development and treasury management. While he was in Columbus, Synovus was named the #1 company to work for in the United States by Forbes magazine in 1998. It was there that Scott learned about applying a mindset of Servant Leadership in the workplace. In 2004, after Synovus attempted on multiple occasions to buy a bank in Jacksonville, Florida, Synovus decided to start a bank from scratch for the first time. Scott was assigned to join a team in Jacksonville which became the Synovus Bank of Jacksonville. The team started the bank with zero assets, funded by a $10 million capital infusion by Synovus, and grew the bank to over $600 million in assets in a 12-year period. While in Jacksonville, Scott served as Executive Vice President and COO before moving to Rome in 2016 to assume the role of President of the Synovus NWGA division. Scott graduated from Valdosta State University with his Bachelor of Business Administration, from Troy State University with his MBA, and received his graduate banking school degree from Indiana/Purdue University. In addition to serving as Chair of the Rome/Floyd Chamber for 2020, he is also a Board Member of the Rome Floyd Development Authority, Free Clinic of Rome, Network Day Center, and the Shorter University Ledbetter College of Business. He previously served as a Board Member of the Florida Bankers Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the International Learning Center of Jacksonville, and a United Way loaned Executive. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children: Emily, a senior at the University of Georgia, and Jackson, a 6th grader at Darlington School. Scott and his family reside in Rome and are members of the First Baptist Church.

elaine abercrombie Greene’s Jewelers, Inc. A lifelong Roman, Elaine Manning Abercrombie, has demonstrated her commitment to Rome and especially Downtown Rome through years of service to the local community. She served as Chair of the Rome Floyd Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2019. Her family has owned Greene’s Jewelers in Downtown Rome since 1948. After graduating from Auburn University in 1981, Elaine married Tony Abercrombie, also a lifelong Roman. They have one son, Jackson; a daughter-in-law, Heather Ratliff Abercrombie; and one grandson, Tucker. The Abercrombies attend First Baptist Church of Lindale.


lee carter Brinson, Askew, Berry, Seigler, Richardson & Davis, LLP A partner at Brinson, Askew, and Berry, Lee Carter practices law focusing primarily on representing businesses and business owners in their complex commercial disputes. Lee is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubble and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers Rising Star in Business Litigation. Prior to joining Brinson, Askew, and Berry, Lee practiced in Atlanta at King and Spalding LLP in its Business Litigation Practice Group. There, he represented clients in significant business disputes filed across the country. Lee is a cum laude graduate of The University of Georgia School of Law and a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, Phi Beta Kappa. Lee and his wife, Cassidy Carter, have two children: Ann and Barrett; they are members of Second Avenue Baptist Church in Rome.

j.r. davis Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Georgia Including his current service as Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia, J.R. Davis has developed and led youth programs in California, Florida, and Georgia over the past 19 years and estimates his programs have successfully served more than 30,000 youth. Immediately after high school, J.R. joined the U.S. military and served for eight years, including service during the Persian Gulf War. He is married to Gini Davis, a local RN, and they have two adult children and one in high school. J.R. plays an active role in the community through his service with the Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club and as a Board Member for the Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy and the Rome-Floyd Chamber of Commerce.

david early Floyd Medical Center Promoted to Vice President of Support Services and Operations in 2018, David Early has responsibility for Floyd Cherokee Medical Center; Imaging Services at The Breast Center at Floyd; Respiratory Therapy for Neurodiagnostics, Non-Invasive Vascular Labs, Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Sleep Lab; and a number of support services. He became part of Floyd’s executive team in 2015, having joined Floyd in 2004 as Project Manager for the supply chain. He was named Director of Materials Management in 2005, and in 2011, was promoted to Director of Support Services. David holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management from Covenant College and the Master of Business Administration and Master of Health Administration from Georgia State University. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Association for Health Care Resource & Materials Management and serves on the Board of Directors of Floyd Cherokee Medical Center. He is Chairman of the Board for Distributive Cooperative, Inc., and a member of the Seven Hills Rotary Club. (Continued on page 38)


ryan earnest Heritage First Bank Having begun his banking career in 1995 in Rome, Ryan Earnest joined the staff of Heritage First Bank in 2002 as a lender and in 2005 became Senior Vice President and Senior Lending Officer until being elected President in May 2008. In December 2017, he was named Chief Executive Officer, and in March of 2019, became Chief Executive Officer of Heritage First Bancshares, Inc., the bank’s holding company. Ryan received a Bachelor of Arts degree from West Georgia College and a diploma from the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. He serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Rome/Floyd County YMCA and the Development Authority of Floyd County. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for LSU’s Graduate School of Banking and the Board of Directors for the Georgia Bankers Association Insurance Trust, Inc. He is former Chairman of the Board for the Floyd Healthcare Foundation and South Rome Redevelopment Corporation, a former Board Member of Seven Hills Rotary Club and previous Chairman of the Diaconate at First Presbyterian Church of Rome. Ryan is a member of the Boards of Directors for Heritage First Bank and Heritage First Bancshares, Inc.

andy garner McRae, Smith, Peek, Harmon & Monroe, LLP C. Andrew (Andy) Garner, III is an attorney and partner with McRae, Smith and Peek and was elected to the partnership in 2006. He represents and provides assistance for the firm’s banking clients in collection matters and is on call for clients who require quick response regarding real and personal property. Andy has also served in local government law, and as counsel to the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission for some years. He has served as an assistant county attorney for Floyd County from 2003 – 2015, and primary contact for the Floyd County Commissioner, the Board of Tax Assessors and the Health Department. He represents the Georgia Department of Transportation in the right of way acquisitions, and offers comprehensive estate planning services to the firm’s clients. Appointed in 2012 by Governor Deal, Andy served on the Rome Circuit Public Defender Oversight Panel to review the local public defender’s office on an annual basis. The panel holds the responsibility to select a candidate to serve a Chief Public Defender for this circuit. Andy holds membership in many organizations and actively serves as board member in most. He is a past board member of the Seven Hills Rotary Club and a Paul Harris Fellow. He has held the offices of President, Vice President and Secretary/Treasure of the Rome Bar Association.

ian Griffin V3 Publications, LLC Ian Griffin is the current Owner/CEO of V3 Publications LLC, a full-service creative agency located in Rome. Prior to this position, he was a founding partner of what started as V3 Magazine, a Northwest Georgia feature reader that highlighted the people and places important to the area. He began by working in sales, marketing and public relations. Under his direction, V3 has grown from a three-man operation to a staff of over 20 editors, writers, designers and photographers who specialize in business promotions across all platforms. A Rome native, Ian graduated from the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte in 2000 and returned to Rome in 2006 to start V3. (Continued on page 40)


jenna guzman International Paper Jenna Guzman is a content and brand communications professional currently serving as the Communications Manager for the International Paper Rome Containerboard Mill. With a decade of professional experience in communications, public relations, and social media strategy, Jenna previously worked with the Department of Defense through various DoD contractor positions across the southwest and southeast, including White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. With more than 500 publications as a columnist and journalist, Jenna’s award-winning work has been published in USA Today, ESPN Online, the Scoop Magazine, and Pulse Magazine. She is Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certified, OSHA 30-Hour Certified, and holds various military clearances. Jenna serves on the board of the United Way of Rome and Floyd County, as well as the Board of Directors for the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce. Jenna holds a BA in journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University and an MA in journalism, with emphasis on digital media from the University of Missouri (Mizzou).

andy harris Coosa Valley Credit Union Having served as President/CEO of Coosa Valley Credit Union since 2015, Andy Harris joined CVCU as VP of Retail Services in 2010, bringing years of financial services industry leadership and expertise to his role with the company. During his tenure as CEO, CVCU has doubled in size, growing from $165 million in assets to $365 million in assets and more than 100 employees. Under his leadership, CVCU has completed two mergers in three years, significantly lowered operating expenses, and achieved record income. Andy previously worked for Community Bank of Rockmart, having begun his career at Suntrust Bank in Rome. He is very active in the Bartow County community, having been born and raised in Taylorsville. He has served on the Cartersville Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Board, is a member and past president of Rotary Club of Etowah and is an active member of Tabernacle Baptist Church. Andy holds a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, both from Shorter College. The Rockmart High graduate and his wife, Krista Kimsey Harris (a second grade teacher at Cartersville Primary), daughters Addie and Lauren, and dog Bella reside in Taylorsville.

dr. joyce heames Berry College Dr. Joyce Heames is the Dean and a Full Professor of Management of the Campbell School of Business at Berry College. She came to Berry from West Virginia University, where she served as Associate Dean of Innovation, Outreach, and Engagement for the John Chambers College of Business & Economics. Before that appointment, she was Chair of the Department of Management (programs in Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism, International Business) and Coordinator of the Master of Science of Industrial Relations program. She started the PhD program in Management for the Business School. Her academic career started at Samford University in Alabama, where she served in administration for the Brock School of Business. Joyce is a native of Birmingham and holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from Samford University and earned her Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi. She and her husband, Tim, have four children and ten grandchildren. 40

dr. heath hooper Shorter University Dr. Heath Hooper is in his eight-year at Shorter University and in his fourth year of serving as the Dean of the Ledbetter College of Business and an Associate Professor of Sport Management. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Sport Studies from Reinhardt College, a Master of Coaching and Athletic Administration from Concordia University – Irvine, and a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Sport Management from North Central University. Before coming to Shorter University, Dr. Hooper worked as an Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Reinhardt University and Young Harris College. Dr. Hooper serves the Rome Community by being involved with the Rome Floyd Chamber and as a Board Member for the Rome-Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth. Dr. Hooper is married to AnnMarie Hooper; they have one son, Ty.

Jarrod “J.J.” Johnson Smoothie King The owner of Smoothie King in Rome, J.J. Johnson, actively serves the Rome Floyd community as a member of the advisory board of the Shorter University Business School, a committee member for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and as a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club. Originally from Houston, Texas, J.J. is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a former Houston Police Officer. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Texas Southern University. He is married to Dr. Bridgette Dingle and is the father of Katherine Johnson.

stephanie jones Redmond Regional Medical Center Stephanie serves as the Chief Nursing Officer at Redmond Hospital, a position she has held since 2016. She holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from the University of West Georgia. Active in our community, in addition to serving on the Chamber’s committee for Government Affairs, she has also served as moderator for local electoral discussions and is active in the HCA Government Group. Stephanie served as Treasurer for the Rome-Floyd Cancer Initiative and as a member of the Northwest Regional Cancer Coalition since inception. She has served as a preceptor/mentor Vanderbilt University’s MSN Administrative tract and the University of West Georgia’s, BSN and MSN programs.

(Continued on page 42)


chris kerr Hardy Realty Chris Kerr is a Director and Sales Agent at Hardy Realty. He has previous work experience at companies in NYC and LA, such as onefinestay (a luxury home-sharing business), DreamWorks SKG, Paramount Pictures, MTV Networks, NBC Universal, Hulu, and Gerson Lehrman Group. Chris graduated from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1996 and was chosen by the Georgia Rotary Student Program to attend the University of Oslo in Norway. He also received a master’s degree from the Annenberg School at The University of Southern California in 2000. Chris is a member of the Rome Rotary Club and serves on the Board of Directors for the Rome Area Council for the Arts, the Heart of the Community Foundation, and the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce. He is also a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 2019.

nancy knight Knight’s Car Store and Garage A native of Rockmart, Nancy graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science. She currently serves on the Chamber executive committee as Vice-Chair of Community Development. She is Co-Founder of North Georgia Animal Partnership and Claws for Paws. She is a graduate of Leadership Georgia Class of 2002. She has served on the Board of Chieftain’s Museum, Heart of the Community, and Coosa Country Club. As a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, she has served as Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Finance Chair, Chair of the Rector Search Committee, and Chair of Building Renovation. Nancy and her husband, Jack, are owners of Knight’s Car Store and Garage. They are the parents of three adult children, Ford, Katherine and Cliff, and a house full of rescue dogs.

jill maslanka Whittington, Jones & Rudert, CPAs, LLC A partner at Whittington, Jones & Rudert CPAs LLC, Jill serves as the treasurer of the Rome Floyd Chamber of Commerce and the Harbor House. She is a graduate of Leadership Rome XVI and Past President of the Rome Chapter of the Georgia Society of CPAs. Additionally, she is a member of the finance committee and the advisory council at St. Mary’s Catholic School. She also volunteers her time at the Rome Floyd Community Kitchen. Jill is a native Roman and a graduate of Berry College. She is married to Matt Maslanka and has a daughter Kate, who is a student at the University of Georgia and a daughter Abby, who attends Rome High School.

(Continued on page 44)



ben mCelrath Marglen Industries, Inc. Having graduated from The University of Alabama with a BS in Commerce and Business Administration, Ben McElrath began working at Marglen Industries in 2009 as Sales and Procurement Manager. Solely responsible for raw material purchases and sales transactions, he was instrumental in building Marglen’s recycled food-grade PET resin business. In 2012 Ben was promoted to President, and today, Marglen is one of the largest users of recycled PET in the country with over 130 million pounds of capacity for recycled PET annually. Ben has been active in The Association of PostConsumer Plastic Recyclers, Foundation for Plastic Recycling, National Association for PET Container Resources, and Georgia Association of Manufacturing. He is a Board Member of the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Georgia, a Board Member and past Chairman of The Greater Rome Existing Industries Association, a past Board Member of Coosa Country Club, President of Nine O’clock Cotillion, and a past Member of the Darlington School Alumni Council. A 2015 graduate of Leadership Darlington and a 2018 graduate of Leadership Georgia, he and his wife, Sarah, are active members of St. Peters Church. They have two children and live in historic Downtown Rome.

alli mitchell United Way In January 2019, Alli Mitchell stepped into the role of Executive Director/CEO of United Way of Rome and Floyd County, charged with revisioning and rebuilding the organization. Previously, she served two years as Executive Director of the American Red Cross in Western North Carolina and led The Davies Shelter for nearly ten years. Alli holds a degree from the University of Georgia. She is an AmeriCorps Alumna, participated in Leadership Rome and Leadership Asheville, co-founded the Leadership Asheville Executive Director Roundtable and is founder of the Rome-Floyd Nonprofit Executive’s Roundtable. Alli is a member of the inaugural class of the Linda B. Williamson Foundation Leadership Academy. A humanitarian and servant leader at heart, she is passionate about relationship management, building and strengthening community, and driving innovative collaboration across sectors to improve the quality of life for all. Alli enjoys reading, yoga, and adventuring with her Airedale Terrier, Tilda.

Parrish owens G&L Holdings As Director of Corporate Development for G&L Holdings, Parrish Owens is responsible for advancing the strategic initiatives of the business by identifying, analyzing, and executing on opportunities that accelerate the long-term success of the enterprise. Prior to this role, Parrish worked at Southeastern Mills and Tri-Eagle Sales. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Florida State University, where he is still involved as an alumnus and serves on the Board of Directors’ Executive Committee for the Seminole Boosters. He also achieved further executive education at Emory University, Kennesaw State University, and Kansas State University. Parrish and his wife, Catherine, live in Atlanta. (Continued on page 46)


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will pinson Pinson’s Inc. Born in Rome in 1979, Will Pinson graduated from Pepperell High School and attended Shorter University on a golf scholarship. While in college, he began framing houses with some high school friends and discovered a love for construction. He worked for several companies performing different construction tasks while establishing his first business, Will Pinson Properties, through which he began building homes and remodeling. In 2011, he joined Pinson’s Inc., and from there has been able to broaden his construction management abilities into commercial and light industrial work. He continues to build custom homes and remodel. He and his wife, Courtney, have three sons: Britton, Bennett, and Campbell. He said the people and businesses of Rome have been very good to him, and he plans to offer them top-notch construction services for years to come.

dr. heidi popham Georgia Northwestern Technical College In June 2019, Dr. Heidi Popham was named President of Georgia Northwestern Technical College. She has worked for GNTC for more than 23 years, beginning as the Executive Assistant to the President. She gained significant leadership experience through her service as Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, and Executive Vice President. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management from Covenant College and both Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Georgia.

ryan simmons Brand RED An avid film lover and storyteller since childhood, Ryan Simmons is a director and owner of Brand RED Studios, a film production and marketing company based in Rome. His first short film premiered to a packed auditorium and kick-started his career in filmmaking. Since then, Ryan has gone on to win prestigious awards at the Cannes International Film Festival and the NYC film competition The Christophers Award. Ryan directed and produced Running A.T. Full Speed, a feature-length documentary on one man’s journey of breaking the speed record of the Appalachian Trail to raise $100,000 for orphans in Uganda. Ryan holds an MBA from Berry College.


kenna stock Harbin Clinic As Chief Executive Officer of Harbin Clinic, Kenna Stock heads the largest privately owned, multi-specialty physician group in Georgia, comprising 240 medical professionals representing 40 different medical specialties and services. With 13 medical offices throughout Northwest Georgia, Harbin provides care for nearly 250,000 patients. An active member of the community, Kenna serves on the Board of Directors of Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Mercy Care – Rome, and United Community Bank, in addition to her service with the Rome Floyd Chamber. She is a member of the Executive Advisory Council of Berry College’s Campbell School of Business. Kenna joined Harbin Clinic in 1999 as Business Office Director. She served as Chief Operations Officer from 2001-2013 and became Harbin’s Executive Director in 2014. She was named CEO in 2015. Before coming to Harbin Clinic, she was the business office director at Esse Health, a multi-specialty physician group in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lindenwood University and an MBA from Shorter College.

mary transue Georgia Highlands College A member of the Georgia Highlands College administration since December 2014, Mary Transue currently serves as Vice President of Advancement and Government Relations and Executive Director of the GHC Foundation. She has 12 years’ experience with the University System of Georgia, as well as extensive experience in corporate healthcare and non-profit leadership. Building and maintaining strong relationships and partnerships with communities and businesses are the keys to success for any organization and one of the aspects of her job she enjoys the most.

tashia twyman Rome City Schools Currently serving as Director of Communications and Public Engagement for Rome City Schools, Tashia Twyman is a lifelong advocate of children and education. She served as an adjunct instructor and tutor at several colleges and schools, including Rome Middle School, Shorter University, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Georgia Highlands College. A 2017 recipient of the Heart of the Community Award, Tashia is a Member and Past Chair of the Open Door Children’s Home Board, President and Chair of several fundraisers for the Montessori School of Rome Booster Club, a Parent Volunteer at Darlington School, and a member of the 2004 class of Leadership Georgia. She is a Sustainer of the Junior Service League of Rome and a youth department volunteer at Lovejoy Baptist Church. Tashia earned a BA in Marketing and English from Georgia Southern University and a Master of Education Administration degree from Jacksonville State University. She and her husband Chris, have two children: Lauren Christa and Myles Christopher. (Continued on page 48)


eric waters Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy An educator with over 20 years’ experience, Eric Waters was named CEO and Principal of Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy in 2012. As CEO, he is responsible for the overall operations and coordination of programs to meet industry and community needs, budgets and collaborative partnerships with economic development, business, postsecondary education, government and community leaders. He also has more than 15 years of experience in healthcare management and as a business owner. Waters holds master’s degrees in Business Administration, Health Administration and Education in addition to a Specialist degree in Education. He is currently Rotary Assistant District Governor for District 6910 and Past President of the Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club.

cassandra wheeler Georgia Power Since November 2017, Cassandra Wheeler has served as Regional Director for Georgia Power’s Northwest Region with responsibility for the operations, sales, customer service, economic and community development, and eternal affairs activities for 14 counties and over 160,000 customers. Having served for more than six years as a B-18 avionics technician, she went on to earn a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati and an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She began her career at Alabama Power in 2001 as an engineer and held positions of increasing responsibility before becoming plant manager at Plant Hammond in May 2014. In addition to her service with the Chamber, Cassandra serves on the Boards of Directors for Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Open Door Children’s Home, and the YMCA.

mark white The Fairbanks Company A native Roman, Mark White serves as Vice President and General Manager at Fairbanks, where he began working as an Industrial Engineer in 1997. He has been active with the Chamber over the years, serving on various committees and boards. He currently serves as Chairman of the Greater Rome Existing Industry Association (GREIA) and the Board of Directors for the Rome Floyd County Development Authority (RFCDA). He is a member and Past Chairman of the Board of Trustees for The Model/Johnson Schools Foundation. He is a graduate of Model High School and the Southern College of Technology. He and his wife, Brandy, have three daughters, Hannah, Lauren and Maggie Jon, and one granddaughter, Harper Katherine.


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