Troup Trends | February 2024 Issue

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February 2024

Venue With a View page 5

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February 2024



February 2024 VOLUME XI, ISSUE I A publication of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce 111 Bull St./P.O. Box 636 LaGrange, GA 30241 (706) 884-8671 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Chair: John Westmoreland, CPA JK Boatwright & Co, PC Past Chair: Brandon Eley CORE Marketing Group Chair Elect: Summer Deal True North Investments Secretary/Treasurer: Mike Gilmartin Community Volunteer

CHAMBER STAFF President: Connie Hensler Director of Member Experience: Leslie Traylor Director of Communication & Events: Christan Spires Operations Specialist: Anna Marie Arrington Accountant: Melanie Key, CPA Design: Christan Spires

TO CONTRIBUTE Troup Trends welcomes your ideas. Please send inquiries to for consideration. This publication is produced by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written permission is prohibited. All claims, materials and photos furnished or used are, to the publisher's knowledge, true and correct. Publication of any article or advertisement is not an endorsement by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

Troup Trends is published quarterly by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. Please send news items, suggestions, advertising requests and comments to:

CONTENTS 4 | A Letter from the Chairman 5 | Cover Story Venue With a View 10 | Nonprofit

A Word With the Riverkeeper

18 | Marketing Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Supercharge your Marketing 19 | Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Survivor of the Shift

22 | Movers, Shakers, & Risk-Takers Second Cohort of Chamber's 26 Education | Minority Business Acceleralotor LaGrange College to Launch New Program Kicks Off Academic Programs 11 | Spotlight on Community

13 | Small Business Get To Know Your Customers

15 | 2023 Annual Report

16 | Healthcare

29 | Business Spotlight Come to Life at Vernon Woods Retirement Community 30 | Spotlight on LaGrange Mayor's Christmas Ball; Troup

Wellness Starts with Healthy Hearts Resource Center 32 | Chamber Events

38 | Leadership

Youth Leadership Graduation; Leadership Troup 2024

41 | Troup County

Troup Strategy Tours Inland Port


Aerial view of the Oakfuskee Conservation Center

P.O. Box 636 • LaGrange, GA 30241






ince 1911, the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce has been the leading voice in promoting local businesses, advocating for better policies for the business community, and connecting key stakeholders in the area to foster economic growth so that we can ensure that our region is an economic hub and the most desirable place to live, work, and do business in the southeast. It is truly an honor to serve as your 2024 chairman and I want to thank our membership, both new and longstanding, for making our Chamber “best in class”. In all the years I have been involved with the Chamber, I have never been more excited about its future and the future of Troup County. The LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce understands that in order to have strong economic growth, we must have a strong community. We are incredibly fortunate in our community to have elected officials, business leaders, educators, and citizens who realize we all share the responsibility of working together to improve the community as a whole. A strong local business community is good for everyone.

Contributors community. I would like to thank Brandon Eley for his leadership, as Chairman, over the past year. Brandon’s vision helped drive membership growth, create new events, and established connections. His dedication and contributions to the Chamber will be felt for many years to come. My main goal as Chairman this year is to continue to bring increased value to all of our members, by helping create a connected and engaged Chamber. The Chamber’s leadership team is dedicated to supporting our local businesses in every way possible with events, programs, workshops, and networking opportunities. I want to encourage each of you to make the most of your Chamber membership. I look forward to working with this year.

CHALTON ASKEW Trustbuilding Inc. BRANDON ELEY CORE Marketing Group & 2BigFeet IRISHA GOODMAN Troup County School System ANDREA LOVEJOY Community Member

MARYANNE LOVEJOY Troup Strategy Center MATTHEW OLESON UGA Small Business Development Center LINDY OLLER LaGrange College

As we move into 2024, I look forward to continuing the Chamber’s long history of success. It is an exciting time to be in business in Troup County, for both small businesses and large industry, as our area continues to attract companies from all over the world; bringing new jobs and growth opportunities that impact our entire

SHELLEY STRICKLAND Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center

JOHN WESTMORELAND Chairman, Board of Directors LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce


Special Thanks to Our 1911 Society Presenting Sponsors!


February 2024



Venue With a View T

roup County’s new Oakfuskee Conservation Center is earning rave reviews. Fabulous! Incredible! Breathtaking!

“Use any wonderful adjective you can think of to describe it. There’s nothing like it,” said Susan Ferguson, one of hundreds of area residents who already have experienced the spacious, well-appointed, eco-friendly event center in Pyne Road Park on West Point Lake. Designed to combine nature and elegance, everything from the ballroom to the bathrooms has been earning high praise since

the facility opened Dec. 1.

Already, Oakfuskee has hosted weddings, small and large meetings, meals, an Active Life tea, Christmas celebrations and multiple conferences. In its first week, the facility was the scene of the sold-out Mayor’s Ball, a gala event conceived by LaGrange Mayor W.T. Edmondson as a fundraiser for scholarships.

The building is a huge hit, but it’s the view that draws the most “Wows!” Situated atop a point near the tip of Pyne Road Park, the




conservation center offers a wide, unimpeded view of West Point Lake. Facing west, it showcases amazing sunsets. “I think it’s the most beautiful view on West Point Lake,” said Troup County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews. The spectacular view is centered by a remarkable 80-year-old slash pine, standing majestically alone near the shoreline. Oakfuskee’s floor-to-ceiling windows – even a peek-through fireplace - make the tree visible from every vantage point. LaGrange architect Gordon M. “Skip”Smith Jr., who designed the facility, recognized the significance of the tree on one of his first site visits. “The whole building is lined up with the tree,” he said. The tree was the “obvious choice” for the facility’s logo, which also offers a nod to the area’s Native American cultural heritage reflected in the name Oakfuskee, said brand specialist Andy Fritchley of


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Atomic Brand Energy. “The tree personifies Oakfuskee,” said Troup County Manager Eric Mosley, alluding to the facility’s focus on the environment. More than a venue, Oakfuskee is also a conservation center committed to leaving a minimal ecological footprint while safeguarding the local ecosystem. Sustainable design is featured throughout, and the lower level includes the new home of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, with office space, a lab and indoor classroom. (See accompanying article for more on Riverkeeper.) Built in 15 months by Sheridan Construction, the building is impressive and inviting, with a dramatic entry, exposed beams, original art by local artists and a fireplace mantel fashioned from a 700-year-old cypress log reclaimed from the Chattahoochee River. The ballroom can adjust for smaller events or expand to accommodate 300. A carefully-planned bride’s room contains many special features, like hanging rods

high enough to accommodate formal gowns, and a row of salon-style stations perfect for a bevy of bridesmaids. A comfortable groom’s area doubles as a conference room with a view. Outdoor spaces are a major part of the design, with large, covered patios on both levels, offering flexibility and shelter. A fire pit with seating overlooks the lake. “It’s way more than we dreamed of,” said County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews. “We are extremely pleased with the building, with the way it looks and functions and with the positive reaction to it. We are grateful to the organizations that made it possible. It’s going to be a wonderful asset for the community.” In addition to $3 million in SPLOST funds, the $13 million project was underwritten by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Callaway Foundation and the federal American Rescue Act. The grant funding, Crews said, made the spectacular building possible, instead of the “concrete floors and metal barn” that might have been.


“And not a single penny of property tax” was used, Mosley said. Going forward, the facility is expected to pay its own way, and under the terms of the DNR grant, any profits will be used for additional improvements to Pyne Road Park. Oakfuskee’s fast start was no accident. Both Crews and Mosley sought input from LaGrange’s Downtown Development Authority, which manages the highly successful Del’Avant event center. Recalling the slow start at Del’Avant, their advice was “Don’t wait until you build it to start booking it.” Events like weddings and large meetings are scheduled months in advance. If you wait for the paint to dry, a new facility can sit largely idle for months. County leaders turned to Atomic Brand Energy, the contracted marketer for Destination Troup, which created an active social media strategy months before the opening. Brand specialist and owner Andy Fritchley said one facet of

the approach was to use biweekly drone photography to share the panoramic setting online, along with updates on the building’s progress. Since marketing to brides was a big part of the assignment, Atomic staged a styled photo shoot weeks before the opening, featuring two of their employees as the “bride” and “bridesmaid,” with friends and models in other roles for photos both inside and lakeside. The “wedding photos” were shared online in multiple ways and used as part of a newly upgraded Oakfuskee website ( “That one move really helped us,” Crews said. “We hit the ground running and started generating cash immediately.” Another early move that’s paid off, Crews said, was enlisting Anna Knight, who manages events for Del’Avant, the Abbott Atrium and other facilities, to also manage rentals for Oakfuskee. “We are very lucky to have Anna,” Mosley said. “She has a great background, and


her experience has been a huge asset.” That background, including more than a dozen years as an event coordinator, helped the Oakfuskee opening go smoothly, Knight believes. “All I’ve learned at Del’Avant has been useful here. Everything that worked at Del’Avant, we did here.” While Oakfuskee is getting a lot of attention now because it’s new, Knight believes that Del’Avant will also remain successful and other local venues can also continue to thrive. “The venues are completely different. It’s really a matter of preference, in town with hotels and churches or lakeside with the view and outdoor options. Every bride has a vision, and there’s room for both,” she said. Knight has already seen a situation where having multiple options proved beneficial. A bride and groom were looking to hold their wedding in LaGrange, midway between their hometowns of Milledgeville, Georgia and Selma,



S T O R Y Alabama. Del’Avant was booked on the desired date, but Knight was able to tell them about Oakfuskee. “They booked it. Having the second option kept them from going to another town. They’ll bring about 300 people here on Oct. 1 and spend their money in Troup County.” Another perk, she explained, is that Oakfuskee, like Del’Avant, allows hosts to hire their own vendors, a cost-saving opportunity that’s rare in larger cities, like Atlanta. And that, adds Commission Chair Crews, benefits businesses across Troup County. “We are creating jobs and opportunities for small businesses out here every day,” he said. The idea of a facility of some type at Pyne Road Park is not new. County leaders and citizens alike have long recognized that the park has unrealized potential. Architect Smith’s involvement goes back to 1976, shortly after the lake was impounded, when he completed a walking trail project there as his Eagle Scout project, never dreaming that he would someday complete a much larger project at the park. As early as the 1990s, various development ideas were floated and a proposal to build a “celebration center” with horse arena was put forward in 2004 but never happened. In recent years, the county has upgraded camp sites, pavilions and picnic areas and built a “mega boat ramp” for fishing tournaments. Yet a larger project remained elusive, largely due to lack of funds. “The timing was just right this time,” said Crews. The success of the DNR grant coinciding with the availability of the federal funds, coupled with the Callaway support and voter-approved SPLOST funding, made Oakfuskee possible. Now leaders hope that Oakfuskee will be the catalyst for other improvements, not just to attract weddings and meetings, but to create more opportunities for Troup County residents to visit West Point Lake. The potential is virtually unlimited, said Kathy Tilley of Visit LaGrange. “West Point Lake is our largest tourist attraction, drawing millions of visits per year, but it's not easily accessible to everyone. If you don't live on the lake, own a boat or fish, then it is difficult to enjoy the lake. With the addition of Oakfuskee and the water-based amenities that are planned around it, many more people will be able to get out on the water and enjoy the peaceful beauty that is found there,” Tilley said. The county is looking forward to improving Pyne Road Park in ways that will benefit the community, Commissioner Crews said. That might include expanding picnic and pavilion features, wildlife viewing stations and walking trails. Lodging options, like cabins or “glamping,” are distinct possibilities, along with kayak rentals and more. A lakeside amphitheater with opportunities for musical events and festivals with food


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trucks could be in the future. “It’s in the realm of possibility that we could create a mass of activities that would attract a wide variety of local citizens,” Crews said. Just how big could the impact of Oakfuskee be? The jury is still out, but county leaders believe there is reason to be excited and optimistic. The facility is already fully booked for summer weekends and fall is filling up. Several major events have been held and more are on the calendar. One bride has booked a 2027 wedding. “Great Wolf Lodge just had their national sales meeting with hundreds of Great Wolf employees, executives and salespeople coming to LaGrange. They hosted a massive event at Oakfuskee and loved every minute of it. The open spaces, the views of the lake, the secluded location surrounded by nature, all combined to make their meeting spectacular,” Tilley said. Meanwhile, Mosley said, the focus is on continuing to improve, finding out what’s the process and fine-tuning efficiencies “for us and the taxpayers,” A father of two, Mosley admits he’s poured his heart and soul into the project and jokes that his family refers to Oakfuskee as “his third and favorite child.” Crews, too, is proud and grateful for what Oakfuskee means now and what it could mean for generations to come. He’s eager to get more people out to the site, including a joint meeting of LaGrange civic clubs planned this month. “Once you see it,” he said, his voice brimming with anticipation. “Until you walk in and see it, you just can’t believe it.”

One inch insulated and tinted glass in

Photos provided by Destination Troup











A Word With the Riverkeeper


he Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is celebrating two milestones this year. First, the 30th anniversary of the nonprofit environmental advocacy organization and secondly, the opening of expanded offices for the Middle Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in the newlyopened Oakfuskee Conservation Center in Pyne Road Park. Here, Henry Jacobs, Riverkeeper for the Middle Chattahoochee region, which includes West Point Lake, explains the group’s mission and program of work. Describe briefly the mission of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, especially the work of your office. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK) is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with more than 10,000 members. Since 1994, we've leveraged water monitoring, education, research, advocacy, communication, collaboration, legal action, and more to make sure our water stays protected for all who depend on it. We have offices located in Atlanta, Gainesville, and LaGrange. In the Middle Chattahoochee region, which includes LaGrange and West Point Lake, we continue to work towards the goal of a healthy, trash-free river as it flows south from Metro Atlanta, through West Point Lake and on down to Columbus and Phenix City, Alabama. We’re also proud to operate the West Point Lake Floating Classroom program, one of only two such programs in Georgia (the other program is our Lake Lanier Floating Classroom). How does your new location within the Oakfuskee Conservation Center enhance or expand your ability to fulfill your mission? Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is grateful for the opportunity to have an indoor classroom and office at the Oakfuskee Conservation Center. We’ve operated our floating classroom program from Pyne Road Park since 2017 so it’s a perfect fit to enhance the environmental education field trip with a new indoor classroom outfitted with state-of-the-art technology,


February 2024

microscopes and an aquarium stocked with native fish (courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Warm Springs Hatchery). Describe your work with school children, in general, and specifically the 6th graders in Troup County Schools. Since launching the West Point Lake Floating Classroom program in 2015, nearly 25,000 students and adults have experienced the field trip. Thanks to support from donors in Troup County, we’ve served 5,028 sixth grade students from the public middle schools and will continue to do so on an annual basis. Theresa Henke, a teacher at Long Cane Middle School, shared with us after an outing, “Thank you so much for educating our children by offering the floating classroom. Such a needed program for those children who don't get to go on boats, go to the lake, or have these experiences. Every student was so grateful and had such a good day!”










Second Cohort of Chamber's Minority Business Acceleralotor Program Kicks Off


he LaGrange Troup County Chamber of Commerce has announced the 12 businesses selected for the second cohort of the thriving Minority Business Accelerator Program. This initiative, stemming from the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee, aims to foster equitable growth among local minority-owned businesses in Troup County. Throughout the year, the MBA cohort will engage in four educational sessions, providing them with valuable insights and knowledge to enhance their business operations. Additionally, each business will benefit from personalized 1-1 sessions with experienced small business coaches. As part of the program perks, participants will receive a complimentary Chamber membership and a tailored marketing package to amplify their visibility in the community. The sponsors contributing to the success of this year's program include presenting sponsor Marsh McLennan Agency and supporting sponsors Callaway Foundation, Georgia Power, Interface, Kia Georgia, LaGrange Housing Authority, Jane Foods, and Synovus.

2024 MBA COHORT Gloria Bailey Glo's Rentals Dr. Joy Baker ReNew Infusion & Wellness Tiffani Bray Tiffani Bray Photography, LLC Cynthia Finney The Golden Circle Art and Culture Studio Kendra Gunn 2Gunns Entertainment Monica Gunsby Queens Catering & More Travis Hart Priority Industrial Cleaning Services, LLC Veronical Kelley Sheer Elegance Event Center Crystal Lyons Diamonds & Digits Nail Studio Kalitha Reynolds The Reach Agency, LLC Patricia Smith Sunset Driven Transportation, LLC Amy Walker Enchanted Nails by Amy




Get to Know Your Customers In a world where face-to-face consumer interactions are declining, it is more important than ever to get to know your customers virtually. Taking the time to learn about your customers through social media analytics, customer profiles and surveys will improve your business marketing efforts and strengthen customer retention – enabling you to better meet the needs of your customers.

To learn best practices for getting better acquaintedw with your customers we asked UGA SBDC business consultants Nadia Osman, Jennifer Lee and Drew Tonsmeire to share their tips.

Social Media Analytics If you want to effectively engage your customers with social media, it is important to understand who they are and what kind of content captures their attention. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok reach varying demographics. Successful businesses will adapt their marketing strategies to each platform, diversifying them to fit the medium and target audience. Most platforms will provide you with analytical data about your followers and their engagement rates. Utilize this data to better understand what works and doesn’t work for your customers.

“Taking the time to identify your target market sets the stage for all marketing efforts and helps ensure that the strategies focus on reaching those individuals where they already are, whether that is online or in-person. If a company is using a business account, each social media platform has an area dedicated to showcasing the demographics of the audience they are reaching. There are also other third-party platforms that can create more in-depth reports and regularly email them to account administrators.” NADIA OSMAN, BUSINESS CONSULTANT UGA SBDC IN SAVANNAH

Customer Profiles If you want to effectively engage your customers with social media, it is important to understand who they are and what kind of content captures their attention. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok reach varying demographics. Successful businesses will adapt their marketing strategies to each platform, diversifying them to fit the medium and target audience. Most platforms will provide you with analytical data about your followers and their engagement rates. Utilize this data to better understand what works and doesn’t work for your customers.

“One of the biggest keys to understaning market effectiveness is proper target definition. Spending time understanding eactly who your customers are and what they value (demographics and psychographics) will help you determine the best places to reach them. Utilize research, information you have collected, or even anecdotal data to build a profile of your target customer that you can refine as your business grows and evolves.” JENNIFER LEE, BUSINESS CONSULTANT UGA SBDC IN BRUNSWICK

Customer Surveys It is important to receive direct feedback from your customers to better understand how your products or services are being received. One way to do this is paying attention to customer reviews and responding in a personal way to all reviews – good and bad. Additionally, customer surveys are an excellent way to receive in-depth feedback about your business’ strengths and weaknesses. Surveys are a creative method for driving sales, as you can incentivize customer participation with an offer or discount. By opening the door for customer feedback, you are creating a dialogue between you and your customers.

“It is a good thing for business owners to have an opportunity to hear from customers. From focus groups to customer surveys, these feedback tools can provide insights into customer motivations, experience with your brand, or product and service innovations to bring to the marketplace. Many email platforms provide survey tools to make it easy for you and your customers to engage in survey dialogues.” DREW TONSMEIRE, AREA DIRECTOR UGA SBDC AT KENNESAW STATE UNIVERSITY


February 2024




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2023 ANNUAL REPORT For 112 years the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber Commerce has been the economic development organization that regional leaders depend upon to get the job done. In 2023, hundreds of chamber members worked to foster cooperation and growth in their teams, companies, community and in our region. Retail








Finance & Insurance

TOP 5 Industries

Food & Beverage

Civic Organizations & Non-Profits

Programs & Events



















Healthcare/ Medical





























Wellness Starts with Healthy Hearts


t’s impossible to count all the ways your heart supports you in a single day. Whether it’s checking out a new trail, gardening or simply playing with your kids, every beat of your heart helps you do all the activities you enjoy most. That’s why it’s so vital to take care of your cardiovascular health—and doing so is easier than you might think. According to Wellstar medical experts, consistency is the key. “To keep your heart in top shape, make gradual changes sustained over a lifetime,” said Dr. Vivek Nautiyal, Wellstar medical director of preventative cardiology. “Investing in your heart health can be as simple as going for a walk after work, trying a healthy recipe or scheduling that wellness exam you may have been delaying.” Remember to start small—by just taking a few simple steps, you can keep your heart going strong. Protecting your heart takes a team Along with monitoring your overall wellbeing, your primary care provider can help catch potential heart problems early. “At your annual wellness exam, your provider can assess your risk of certain heart conditions, such as heart disease or high blood pressure,” Dr. Nautiyal explained.


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Your provider will check the Foundational 4 numbers that are the cornerstone of general wellness and heart health, including: • Body mass index (BMI) • Blood pressure • Blood glucose (sugar)

Blood cholesterol

“Your provider can help create a personalized plan to keep your heart healthy, which may include diet, exercise or other lifestyle modifications,” Dr. Nautiyal shared. “If you need expert cardiovascular care, they can also refer you to a heart specialist right away.” When it comes to staying ahead of potential health issues, Dr. Nautiyal also shared the importance of being aware of your family history and cardiovascular stats. “Be sure to know your cholesterol numbers and seek a preventative cardiology consultation if you have a family history of premature heart attacks, coronary disease or stroke—especially at an age below 55 years old,” Dr. Nautiyal said. Tips to invest in your heart health Think of healthy habits like a savings account. Each small change adds up over time in the days, months and even years you invest in your well-being.

By following these tips, you can be proactive about protecting your heart. Focus on food. Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein sources like lean meats. Be sure to control your portion size, reduce sodium intake and limit unhealthy fats. Get a good workout. Any aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, dancing or biking, is beneficial for your heart. At least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week is recommended, according to the American Heart Association. Keep track of the scale. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of serious medical conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Stop smoking. Smoking can be harmful to your heart and blood vessels as well as many other vital organs. Learn the benefits of quitting for good. Manage stress & your mental health. Depression, anxiety and chronic stress may be harmful to your heart. These issues can even cause physical problems, including irregular heart rate and increased blood pressure. If you feel overwhelmed, find support from a behavioral health specialist. For more information about Wellstar’s cardiac care program, visit

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Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Supercharge your Marketing


arketing is an everchanging discipline, especially digital and online marketing. Since the advent of the Internet, marketing has been constantly evolving… we’ve come a long way from simple banner ads in the 1990’s. “AI,” or artificial intelligence, has been all over the news lately, but what does it mean and how can you use it in your business and marketing efforts? What is AI (and is it really “intelligent”)? AI, as it relates to services like ChatGPT and other platforms, is a kind of computer program that uses a series of complex algorithms and a very large data set to generate content (like text & images) based on inputs (queries & prompts). It's not exactly "intelligent" in that the program doesn't necessarily understand or comprehend anything, it's just running a series of algorithms on data sets and outputting the results. You don't have to worry about Skynet anytime soon. ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is an advanced language processing tool that can generate human-like text based on given prompts. Its applications in marketing range from content creation to customer service automation. Similarly, image creation AI tools like StableDiffusion allow the generation of high-quality images from textual descriptions, offering a new realm of


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visual creativity for marketers. Benefits of Using AI in Small Business Marketing Cost-Effective Content Creation: Small businesses often operate with limited budgets. AI tools like ChatGPT can create compelling copy for websites, blogs, social media, and email campaigns, significantly reducing content creation costs. Enhancing Personalization: AI’s ability to analyze data allows for personalized marketing strategies. Businesses can tailor content and visuals to match the interests and behaviors of their target audience, increasing engagement and conversion rates. Automating Customer Interaction: ChatGPT can be integrated into customer service channels to provide instant responses to queries, improving customer experience and freeing up human resources for more complex tasks. Visual Branding and Marketing: With tools like StableDiffusion, businesses can create unique and captivating images for their marketing materials, social media posts, and website, enhancing their visual appeal and brand identity. Practical Applications A local bakery might use ChatGPT to generate unique blog posts and recipes, attracting a larger online audience. A boutique fashion store might

employ StableDiffusion to help create promotional images, setting itself apart in a crowded online space. A small tech startup could utilize ChatGPT for efficient email marketing campaigns, resulting in increased open rates and engagement. Overcoming Challenges and Best Practices While AI tools offer immense benefits, they are not without challenges. Ensuring that AI-generated content aligns with your brand, managing ethical considerations around AI-generated images, and maintaining a balance between automation and human touch are critically important. Best practices include:

Regularly reviewing and fine-tuning AI-generated content.

Using AI as a complement to human creativity, not a replacement.

Staying informed about the latest AI advancements and ethical guidelines.

For small businesses, the integration of AI tools like ChatGPT and image creation technologies like Stable Diffusion offers a pathway to more effective, efficient, and engaging marketing strategies. By embracing these tools, small businesses can not only compete but also set new standards in the digital marketing realm. This article was written with the help of ChatGPT.


Surviving the Shift


or Black History Month, we are spotlighting one of LaGrange's native sons in our DEI corner. Entrepreneur Dr. William F. Pickard was born to Willie H. Pickard and Victoria Woodyard Pickard on January 28, 1941, in LaGrange, Georgia. Pickard caught his first glimpse of the automotive world in the 1950s when his parents moved the family to Flint, Michigan, a city built on the car industry. Dr. Pickard's 50-year entrepreneurial career began as a McDonald's franchisee in Detroit, Michigan. William F. Pickard, Ph.D., is the Founder and Dr. William Pickard Executive Chairman of GAA Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management (GAA) and GAA New a Master's Degree from the University of Michigan, a Ph.D. in Ventures. Under his leadership, the business became the first Education from The Ohio State University, Honorary Doctorates minority-owned group of plastic parts suppliers to service the from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) and Florida A&M University top three U.S. automakers. Since 1989, GAA has generated FAMU. more than $5 billion dollars in sales with eight plants in the U.S. He is a philanthropist, supporting education at Wayne County and Canada, servicing Boeing, Mercedes Benz, Ford, General Community College District, Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Motors, Chrysler, Delphi, Johnson Controls, Starbucks, The Atlanta, Fort Valley State University, Ohio State, Florida A&M Home Depot, Merck & Co. Pharmaceuticals, the U.S. Marine University, and other HBCUs. The William F. Pickard Living Corps and the City of Detroit. He is a Co-Managing Partner at Center is named in his honor at Grand Valley State University. MGM Grand Detroit Casino and co-owner of four Black-owned He donated to Western Michigan University to build the newspapers, which evolved into Real Times Media, a media Hall-Archer-Pickard East and West Living Center. The Pickardmarketing company. Dortch Living Center at Clark Atlanta University is named in He has served on business and non-profit boards, including honor of Dr. Pickard and his friend for over 40 years, Thomas Asset Acceptance Capital Corporation, Michigan National and W. Dortch, Jr. He partnered with his friend of 50 years, His LaSalle Banks, Business Leaders for Michigan, National Urban Excellency Governor General Cornelius A. Smith, to launch League, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Black Chamber the Smith-Pickard Friendship and Alliance Scholarship at of Commerce, National Park Foundation, and he is a lifetime Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) funding member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. scholarships for students from the United States and the Honors include Morehouse College's 34th Candle in the Dark Bahamas, studying Agriculture. His philanthropy extends to arts Award for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, Michigan Lifetime and culture at the National Museum of African American History Humanitarian Award, and Michiganian of the Year for business and Culture in Washington, D.C.; Charles H. Wright Museum of success, civic leadership, and philanthropy. He was the first African American History; Motown Historical Museum; Detroit Chairman of the African Development Foundation in 1982, Symphony Orchestra (DSO). appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and under President Dr. Pickard is creating a new generation of entrepreneurs George H.W. Bush, he was appointed to The National Advisory with his latest book, Surviving the Shift – 7 Proven Millionaire Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations (1990) and the Moves: Vision/Attitude, Opportunity, Relationships, Talent/ Federal Home Loan Bank Board – Indianapolis Bank of Indiana Skillset, Financial, Failure and Faith- for Embracing Change and (1991). Black Enterprise honored Dr. Pickard as one of the 50 Building Wealth. Anyone can use his undeniable principles to most Influential Black Entrepreneurs over the past 50 years. In become a successful entrepreneur. As one of the country's February 2021, he was appointed by the Commonwealth of most successful Black entrepreneurs, Dr. Pickard knows a thing the Bahamas as the first-ever honorary consul for the State of or two about overcoming failure and mistakes to become an Michigan. extraordinary entrepreneur. In his book, he details the highs and Dr. Pickard holds an Associate Degree from Mott Community lows of his entrepreneurial evolution and offers seven proven College, a Bachelor's Degree from Western Michigan University, principles for embracing change and building wealth. Source:


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MOVERS, SHAKERS, RISK-TAKERS West Point Economic Development Director Graduates from the Advanced Economic Development Leadership (AEDL) Program forward to applying these new skills within my role at the City of West Point.”

Shephard Named 2024 United Way of West Georgia Board Chair

AEDL is a collaboration of four universities – Valdosta State University, The University of Southern Mississippi, Texas Christian University, and the University of New Mexico. These four universities are committed to excellence in economic development and advancing the knowledge, skills, and application of key job creation strategies in America’s cities, communities, and counties.

The West Point Development Authority and City of West Point’s Economic Development Director, Meghan Richardson, recently completed the Advanced Economic Development Leadership executive education program and has earned the Economic Development Master Practitioner (EcDMP) certificate. She has been in economic development for 12 years. “The Advanced Economic Development Leadership program was an exceptional learning experience,” said Richardson. “It allowed me to convene and collaborate with like-minded economic development professionals from around the country, while also learning about today’s leadership and economic development best practices. I look

Harris Named Realtor of the Year Congratulations to Maria Harris for being recognized as Realtor of the Year by the Troup County Board of Realtors. She was also appointed President of the board and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Troup County Board of Realtors and the Circle of Excellence Award from the Columbus Board of Realtors. Maria was reconized as the 2024 Grand Marshall for the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade.


February 2024

It is an immersive and challenging program. The experiential curriculum enhances key skills necessary for leading successful community and economic development strategies. Led by experienced world-class faculty, program topics include negotiation; retail and commercial development; personal and professional leadership; navigating the new normal in the world of COVID; communications and media relations; marketing in a social media environment; strategic planning and application; successful teamwork; attracting new industry and entrepreneurship. The Advanced Economic Development Leadership course accepts mid and senior-level practitioners from across the U.S. For more information on economic development opportunities in West Point please contact Meghan at (706) 645-3518.

Shandaleia Shephard is the 2024 United Way of West Georgia Board Chairman. As Vice Chairman, she spent the past year reviewing and updating the organization's bylaws, an arduous task. Shandaleia strives for perfection and leads with grace all while holding a full-time job, working to complete her doctoral degree, and raising a beautiful daughter. Thank you to Shandaleia for giving back to your community.

Do you know a Mover & Shaker? Nominate them to be featured in Troup Trends using the form here:


Carroll EMC Promotes System Engineering Leadership

Jarrod Kilgore

Tyler Collins

Carroll Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC) announces the promotion of Jarrod Kilgore to Manager of System Engineering and Tyler Collins to System Engineering Supervisor, effective immediately. This transition of leadership ensures the long-term reliable and efficient design and operation of the cooperative’s electrical system.

engineering, including Collins.

“Power distribution is constantly evolving,” said James Layton, Vice President of Engineering and Technology. “These guys have proven over and over again that they are up for the challenge and have demonstrated expert problemsolving skills when implementing new technology to better serve our members. Their behind-the-scenes work is key to an innovative future.” Kilgore began his career at Carroll EMC as a student employee in 2009 while attending Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) to earn his electrical engineering degree. Upon graduation, he was hired as a full-time System Engineer and assisted with designing and carrying out projects like SCADA and Distribution Automation, both controlled system operations. He was later promoted to System Engineering Supervisor where he continued supporting engineering functions but also oversaw the cooperative’s control center and personnel. During this time, Kilgore earned his Professional Engineering (PE) License which required a degree, four years of study under another PE as well as an eight-hour, comprehensive exam. In his new role, Kilgore will remain responsible for system designs and plans while adopting additional direct reports from apparatus, metering and system

“Jarrod has a bright future ahead of him,” Layton said. “In the seemingly short time he’s been at the cooperative, he has made significant strides both professionally and personally. He will be an asset for the cooperative far into the future as he continues to develop his skills and helps others develop theirs.” In passing the torch of supervisor, Collins will assume the former duties of Kilgore and supervise the control center where technicians dispatch crews and manage outages or system disruptions 24/7. Collins has a similar work history with Carroll EMC having begun in 2013 as a student employee while studying electrical engineering at SPSU. He was hired as a System Engineer after obtaining his degree. Collins is currently working towards his PE license. “I’m looking forward to seeing this transition of leadership in the department,” Layton adds. “It will be pleasing to see how their roles evolve and complement one another and continue to benefit the cooperative’s employees and members.” Carroll EMC is a Member-owned cooperative providing electricity to approximately 54,000 homes and businesses. The co-op serves Members in Carroll, Haralson, Heard, Paulding, Polk, Floyd and Troup counties. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. For more information visit the cooperative’s website at or follow Carroll EMC on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, X and YouTube. Carroll EMC: Community Built. Community Builder.

Carroll EMC Grows Safety Culture with Recent Promotion

Carroll Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC) announces the promotion of Matt Young to Manager of Safety, Training and Loss Control, effective immediately. Expanding his previous role as Director of Safety and Training, Young will assume additional responsibilities, including adopting supporting personnel into the department, to further advance the coop’s safety, training and risk management practices. “Matt’s transition from the field to the office was seamless,” said Kim Jennings, Vice President of Human Resources. “His many years of working in the field as a lineman gave him an expert understanding of safety, and he is committed to expanding those practices as the industry changes. We are confident he will excel in his new role and will continue to prioritize the health of our employees and community.” Young began his career at Carroll EMC as a Meter Reader in 2003 after graduating from Central High School and following in his father’s footsteps, a long-time employee of Georgia Power. He later accepted a Groundman position and continuously trained over many years to advance to Apprentice, Lineman and, eventually, Journeyman in 2015. After his move from the construction department, Young became a Certified Utility Safety Professional and graduated from the Carroll County Chamber’s Leadership Carroll program.



MOVERS, SHAKERS, RISK-TAKERS Carroll EMC Names Manager for System Design

Carroll Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC) announces the promotion of Matt Jones to Manager of System Design, effective immediately. Under his leadership, the department has implemented the cooperative’s new, automated work order system and has expanded the GIS mapping system to maintain accurate records of inventory in the field. “Our system design team is incredible,” said Jerome Johnston, Chief Operating Officer. “To completely transition our work order system from paper-based to digital within a year while also launching a system-wide inventory and keeping up with other day-to-day tasks is something to applaud. Matt has led his department well and has demonstrated a level of competence not reached without intention.” Jones began his career at Carroll EMC in 2014 as a System Design Technician after earning years of construction and design experience as a contractor for several electric cooperatives and Georgia Power. He was quickly promoted to Service Coordinator and System Design Supervisor, respectively, the following two years. During his time at the cooperative, Jones has completed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Supervisor and Management Development Program as well as Meridian’s Medallion Certification Program. A resident of Paulding County, Jones is invested in the community as a board member of the Paulding County Chamber of Commerce and a member of its Work Force Development and Tourism Committee. 24

February 2024

Carver Cares; Celebrating Lifetime Achievements CEOs by the Titan organization. In 2023, Joel was personally honored by Pearl River Community College Alumni Foundation with their “2023 Lifetime Achievement Award”. During the same year, Bishop Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta presented Joel in partnership with Kay Durand, the “Bishop’s Cross Award” for exceptional service to the Episcopal Church. Joel’s 40 years of sales management experience encompasses both franchise and Fortune 500 companies: Westin, Hilton, Omni, Wyndham Hotel Group, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Leading Hotels of the World. He also served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for CSM Corporation. Joel Carver serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Carver Companies, an Atlanta-based hospitality infrastructure powerhouse. In 2013 he founded Carver Hotel Group, and, only two years later, it was named one of the “Top Startups in Georgia.” In 2018 and again in 2023, Carver was named to the INC 5000 as one of the “Fastest Growing Privately Held Corporation in America”. Currently, Carver Healthcare is scheduled to launch in Q1 of 2024. In 2022 Joel was honored with the designation of “Georgia’s Top 100

Williams Receives Certificate of Excellence

Well known as a dynamic and powerful speaker, Joel provides keynote, human resources, and sales training speeches and presentations throughout the industry. He’s been named one of the “Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing,” and has coauthored “Marketing for the Year 2000, TODAY!”, “Marketing for the Next Millennium”, and “The People Effect: Find, Grow and Retain the Best of the Best.” An accomplished organist and choral conductor, Joel continues to participate in the arts as time from The Carver Companies and speaking engagements allow. Ameia Cotton-Williams, a graduate of Miles College and Strayer University, is celebrating her most recent accomplishment of receiving her certification for excellence as a supervisor from the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government. One of many of Ameia’s greatest achievements are founding of the Troup County Anchor Foundation Inc. The mission of the organization is to promote and perform charitable services while strengthening our communities’ “one person, one neighborhood, and one city at a time”. She is an executive consultant for Greater Achievement Youth Empowerment Academy. This group provides high school students free tutoring for the SAT/ACT.

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LaGrange College To Launch New Academic Programs


aGrange College will implement three new graduate and undergraduate academic options, including a Doctor of Education — the college’s first doctorallevel degree — and a minor in Computer Science. “These new additions will expand our academic offerings to reach more students,” said Dr. Brian Peterson, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We are committed to growing and evolving our programs to meet employer needs in high demand job markets. “The Doctorate in Education has been discussed at the college for the last seven to 10 years as something that our local community of educators sorely needed,” he said. “Adding this program allows us to move


February 2024

forward in our strategic plan initiative to create educational programs that are in need by the local and regional workforce.” Dr. Gretta Milam, Chair of LaGrange College’s Education Department, will serve as coordinator for the new doctoral program, slated to begin in fall 2024. “This Curriculum and Instruction degree will allow teachers to remain in their current position at a higher level pay or to advance their career beyond the PK-12 classroom to pursue other educational job opportunities that focus on teaching and learning,” she said. The college’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program will offer a series of graduate-level courses in the field of marriage and family therapy, starting in spring 2024. Current students, alumni

and individuals from outside the college with a master's degree will be eligible to enroll in these courses. For undergraduates, a computer science minor will be added in spring 2024. “This field is one of the fastest-growing areas in higher education, given the renewed emphasis on technology, AI and applications-based computing in most employment sectors,” Dr. Peterson said. “Adding the minor was a quick first step in developing a more intentional, sweeping program in computer science that students will be able to integrate into their own disciplines.” Other new programs to debut in fall 2024 are a minor in neuroscience and a concentration in strength and conditioning.










Troup County School System Announces Teacher of the Year Finalists


roup County School (TCSS) Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate surprised three teachers with flowers and a special pendant during the Teacher of the Year Surprise Patrol on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. As Dr. Shumate, principals, family, co-workers, and friends entered their classrooms, the Teacher of the Year (TOTY) finalists learned they made it to the next local round of the competition.

Dr. Brian Shumate, Quinshada Simpson, Principal Candace

The division finalists are: Elementary Teacher of the Year

Quinshada Simpson: 3rd-grade English Language Arts teacher at Ethel Kight Elementary

Middle School Teacher of the Year

Chontia Sheffield: Health and Physical Education / Athletic Director at Gardner Newman Middle School

High School Teacher of the Year

Efrén Muñoz Medina: English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher at LaGrange High School

"We are extremely proud of all our TOTY candidates, especially the three finalists. Daily, these teachers demonstrate a passion for learning and results, proven leadership, and inspiration for the next generation. This is one of the best parts of my job when we recognize our outstanding TCSS employees! I wish the three finalists good luck." said Dr. Shumate.

Principal Dr. Kelley Adams, Chontia Sheffield, Dr. Brian Shumate

These top three system finalists will now move on to the next phase of the competition for TOTY. The finalists will be judged by educational professionals who do not reside in Troup County. They will observe classroom instruction, conduct interviews, and review their written applications. TCSS will announce one of the three finalists as the Troup County School System Teacher of the Year and honor all school-level Teacher of the Year winners at a special reception on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, at Del'avant Event Center. Dr. Zelda Kitt from The Hope Academy is the current TCSS Teacher of the Year. She is vying for the state-level honor, which will be announced in May at the 2025 Georgia Teacher of the Year

Principal Jamie Bozeman, Efrén Muñoz Medina, Dr. Brian Shumate



February 2024



Come to Life at Vernon Woods Retirement Community


ife Simplified. That’s what we mean when we say, “Come to Life at Vernon Woods.” Leave the day-to-day activities like cooking, housekeeping, maintenance and driving to us, while you enjoy what matters most. Whether that’s spending time with family and friends, pursuing new interests or simply relaxing. After all, that’s what your retirement years are for.

Health System, now Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center, to provide residents access to medical services in addition to housing. The Callaway Foundation provided generous support by donating the land and funds for site work to begin the development. As one of the first communities in Georgia started by a hospital, Vernon Woods is known statewide as a leader in providing support services and care to its residents. We welcome visitors and invite you to stop in and see what “Come to Life at Vernon Woods” is all about.

And since our opening in 2000, as LaGrange’s first planned community offering independent and assisted living, Vernon Woods has set the standard for retirement living. Our dining program under the direction of Chef Jeffery Tucker receives 5-star reviews from residents, family members and guests. All meals are served restaurant-style, so there are always plenty of choices available on the menu to select from. Vernon Woods is locally owned and operated, developed by West Georgia



City Hosts Inaugural Mayor's Christmas Ball Mayor Willie T. Edmondson envisioned hosting the inaugural Mayor’s Christmas Ball as a means to foster community unity and generate funds for a scholarship fund benefiting local high school seniors. The event also aimed to pay homage to past city leaders. Attendees were encouraged to contribute by bringing unwrapped toys, which were subsequently donated to children in Troup County through Toys for Tots. Grammy Award-winning artist, Regina Belle, graced the event with a performance at the newly established Oakfuskee Conservation Center. The Mayor’s Christmas Ball successfully brought the community together, raising approximately $7,500 and collecting over 600 toys, contributing to the festive spirit and community welfare.

Mayor Willie T. Edmondson

Mayor Edmondson & Regina Belle

City of LaGrange Launches Troup County Resources Portal The City of LaGrange in partnership with the City of Hogansville, the City of West Point, and Troup County launched the new website www.troupcountyresources. com. This website offers information on free resources from area nonprofits and organizations in LaGrange, Hogansville, West Point, and all of Troup County. The City will also officially opened the first Resource Center in the City’s Customer Service area on the first floor of City Hall. The Resource Center is a desk with a computer that will offer free access to the website www. It will be available to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or whenever City Hall is open. The City plans to install more Resource Centers throughout Hogansville, West Point, and Troup County in the next year for the community to use at no cost.


February 2024

Ribbon cutting ceremony February 1, 2024.



WELCOME 2023 NEW MEMBERS 404 Celsius

FreeUp Storage LaGrange

Pinky's Burger and More

8s Cigar Lounge

Gordon Food Service

Portable Storage Solutions


Hall & Lampros, LLP

Priority Industrial Cleaning Services, LLC

Agency 13

Heather Honerkamp

Publix Super Markets, Inc., Store 1873

AirEvac Lifeteam

Holly Brack, Individual

Alex L. Dixon, P.C.

Hometown Family Medicine, Lafayette Parkway

Regenia Andrews, Southern Classic Realtors

Alexander Contracting Co. Inc.

ReNew Infusion & Wellness

Automated Business Machines

Ideal Cleaners

Right Hand Restoration

Bare Knuckles Automotive, LLC.

Infinity Plus LLC

Rio Grande Taqueria

Bickerstaff Parham Real Estate

J.B.C. Contractors, LLC

River City Door Company, LLC

Blue Pineapple Travel

Jacqueline Hill - Real Estate Advisor, Berkshire Hathaway Home Service

Second Time Around

Briller Facility Services Bryant Electric Bryant Security Burn Fitness Cardio/Zumba Capital City Bank Carry Your Cross Fitness Childcare Structured Right LLC Chop House Circa Market, Coffee, and Events CitruSolution Carpet Cleaning Civers-Davis Development, LLC Clockwork Youth Academy Inc Coach Jacole, LLC Country Financial - Britney Buchanan Agency Delaton Service Corporation DoorDash Dunkin Donuts Enchanted Nails by Amy Fabframez Familia Functions LLC FitCo Health Club LaGrange FPC Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten

Georgia Properties

Shear Perfection Salon and Spa Speed Machine, LLC

Job Konnections, LLC

Splendid Events

Journey Home Realty Group

Stanford Automotive and Repair Inc.

Kirkland Express, LLC

Superior Fence and Rail

Kona Ice of LaGrange

Synergy Security Services, LLC

LaGrange Academy

Teachable Moments Inc

LaGrange Main Street Pub

Tee Time Golf Studios

lc, creative

The Copper Carrot Bakery

Legacy Vapes

The Dickerson Firm

LivWell Health

The Enclave

Love's Travel Stop Inc., West Point

The Golden Circle Art and Culture Studio

Loves Travel Stop Store, Hogansville

The Medicine Cabinet- Lee's Crossing

Maidee Smith Early Care and Learning Center, Inc

The Reach Agency LLC

Make Your Walls Great Again, LLC Marketplace at Lafayette Square Martin Environmental Services, Inc. Metro CIty Bank Miracle League of LaGrange Momentum Marine Motto Mortgage Office of Non-Profit Global 501C3 Developers Old Time Antiques, LLC

T-Mobile Travelin' Tom's Coffee of Troup County Troup County Branch NAACP TVD Group Two Teachers Tutoring, LLC Valley Pallets and Crating Wesley Methodist Church of LaGrange, Inc. Willow Medical Aesthetics Your Buried Treasures Yvonne Pittman, Diplomat

Paula Waldron State Farm




Join us in celebrating our members! Ribbon Cuttings, Anniversary Celebrations and Grand Openings


Metro City Bank 1510 Lafayette Parkway, A4, LaGrange

Portable Storage Solutions Mobile Storage Business

Lafayette Christian School - Kindergarten Building 1904 Hamilton Road, LaGrange

All Self Storage 101 Lukken Industrial Drive. E, LaGrange

Love's Travel Stop 1917 Highway 18, West Point

Burn Fitness Cardio/Zumba 1605 Vernon Road, #1400, LaGrange

February 2024



FitCo Health Club LaGrange 124 Main Street., Suite C, LaGrange

Liberty Community Model Home - West Point 244 Stocks Circle, West Point

Copia Investments 7 E. Lafayette Street, LaGrange

Enchanted Nails by Amy 2170 W. Point Road, Suite 35, LaGrange

Long & Long, CPA, PC 201 Church Street, LaGrange

Dickey's Barbecue Pit 1604 Whitesville Road, LaGrange

Thank you to our Ribbon Cutting Sponsor

City Hall, Customer Service Resource Center 200 Ridley Avenue, LaGrange





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Gold Sponsor

On December 12, Frank Patterson, President & CEO of Trilith Studios was our featured Early Bird speaker. Trilith Studios is the second largest purpose-built studio in North America and is the future of filmmaking and content producing where some of the world’s best talent live and work side by side. Films recently produced at Trilith include Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


The Q4 Safety Council meeting was on November 15, Dr. Kelly Veal, owner of The Veal Group, discussed mental health awareness as it relates to safety in the workplace.


For the final Small Business Book Club meet-up, the Small Business Book Club read Atomic Habits by James Clear. Thank you to Pretty Good Books in Downtown LaGrange for hosting us.


February 2024

2023 LaGrange Christmas Parade West Georgia Technical College Director's Award

Bagdad Court No. 111 1st Place First-Time Entry

Herrera Construction 2nd Place First-Time Entry

BPOE Elks Lodge #1084 1st Place Civic Division

Troup County E-911 2nd Place Civic Division

Baptist Tabernacle LaGrange 1st Place Church Division

St. Peter's Catholic Church 2nd Place Church Division

Revenge Hair Studio 1st Place Small Business Division

Crowder's Auto & Truck Repair 2nd Place Small Business Division

Ethel W. Kight Elementary 1st Place School Division

thINC College & Career Academy 2nd Place School Division

Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center 1st Place Industry Division

Great Wolf Lodge 2nd Place Industry Divison




Small Business of the Year Emberglow Handmade, LLC


Small Business of the Year Atomic Brand Energy

Small Business of the Year LaGrange Housing Authority

Small Business of the Year Auto Gallery Chevrolet GMC

Large Business of the Year Jackson Services

Manufacturer of the Year Hyundai Transys Georgia Powertrain

Nonprofit of the Year Communities in Schools of Georgia in Troup County

February 2024


2023 Chairman of the Board, Brandon Eley, passing the gavel to 2024 Chairman, John Westmoreland


Young Professional of the Year Dr. Nick Griffin

Ida Tarver Jones Volunteer of the Year Kesha Coniglio

Otto Korth Diplomat of the Year Bret Bryant

Tom Hall Innovation Award DASH for LaGrange

Commissioner Richard English Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award Reverend Hugo Oropeza

Jane Fryer Community Impact Award Kathy Tilley

Chairman's Award Jamey Jackson













Presented by


Lukas Langston

Autumn Brown

Molly Moncrief

Eva Carnes

Lillian Norton

Liam Carroll

Aryan Patel

Saxon Chastain

Brennan Plank

Sophie Corley

Ella Powers

Ephrem Davidson

Ana Rollings

Gracie Folds

Jacob Sillyman

Tate Hanson

Asher Skiff

Hugh Kersey

Alyssa Stephens

Carlyanne Knight

Jayla Tigner

Jaylen Williams


February 2024

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CHRISTAN SPIRES 706.884.8671


MEET THE 2024 CLASS Drew Barton Ashley Becker JoHannah Biang Massiah Cameron Paige Clifton Amber Crooks Veronica Dowell Keri Drake Kam Gatens Gail Gordon Cody Hammock Stacey Hardigree Kristin Hays Michelle Hollis Beth Hudson Caleb Hutchinson Qua Huzzie Daiquiri Hyde Kari Jones Tammy Lancaster Laticia Mitchem Alex Orellana Brad Peterson Tangie Smith Caroline Stone Caysi Brooks-Swol Adrienne Tickle Alex Updegrove Nigel Walker Shirley Wynn

SiteCare Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce Hills & Dales Estate West Georgia Technical College Emory Healthcare MJR Solutions Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. The Yard on Mill UrgenCare, LLC Success By 6 Auto Gallery Chevrolet GMC Lafayette Society of Performing Arts Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center Hogansville Police Department The Graham Law Firm Sheridan Construction Communities In Schools of Georgia Kia Georgia Harmony House Domestic Violence Shelter SouthState Bank Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center Long & Long, CPA, PC Great Wolf Lodge Malone Solutions LivWell Health Go Reatly Georgia Power Duracell Troup County School System Synovus Bank










Leadership Troup 2024


he 2024 Leadership Troup year is off to a great start.

Leadership Troup, presented by Malone Solutions, has educated local professionals about the issues and concerns of the community since 1991. The program spans eleven months and includes leadership modules created and taught by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development–a public service and outreach unit of the University of Georgia. Topics covered during the sessions include: Social Issues, Civic Engagement, Education, Healthcare, Economic Development, Tourism, and Manufacturing along with learning new perspectives on leadership from Fanning faculty.



Did you know players can tee oo from diierent boxes? That means that regardless of strength or skill level, everyone has a chance to win! When you’re playing a course, in addition to stroke play, you can also choose to play a scramble, match play, stableford, or alternate shot.

scan the code or visit our website to book a tee time | 706-989-6900

Softscapes Landscape Irrigation Installs Hardscapes Retaining Walls French Drains Fencing Walkways Outdoor Patios Outdoor Kitchens

(706) 326-6518 (706) 575-2571


February 2024

Commercial Landscape maintenance



Troup County leaders tour the Appalachian Regional Port in Crandall, Georgia.

Troup Strategy Tours Inland Port Troup Strategy Center’s Infrastructure Committee spearheaded a visit to northwestern Georgia to learn about the Appalachian Regional Port in an effort to starting planning for the proposed regional port in Troup County. Troup County leaders heard from the Georgia Ports Authority regarding the operation of all Georgia ports with a focus on the Appalachian Regional Port, which has been operational in Crandall, Georgia for five years. In addition, the group met with local leaders of Whitfield and Murray Counties to learn about port’s impact on the local communities.

General Manager of Georgia Ports Authority Inland Operations, Wesley Barrell




Get to know the 2023 Young Professional of the Year Dr. Nicholas Griffin Transition Facilitator Troup County School System Share a proud moment from your professional journey that not only highlights your success but also reflects your positive impact on the community. A proud moment of my professional journey would be the wonderful opportunity presented to return to the Troup County School System as a Transition Facilitator. In November 2022, I graduated with high distinction (3.97 GPA) from Liberty University with my PhD in Special Education and my career shifted to my new role in July 2023. This is a new position in the school system and I feel so thankful that Dr. Brian Shumate, Mrs. Deana Brown, Dr. Jacqueline Jones, and the Troup County School System valued me, my work ethic and vision enough to trust me in such a new role.

What's your recipe for success? My recipe for success is simple. 1. Keep God first and spread love 2. Be consistent and patient 3. Give it your all and be the hardest worker in the room

When you’re not working, what do you like to do? When I am not working I like to spend my time hanging out with my family, working out, reading, coaching wheelchair sports for the West Georgia Wolverines, or coaching football at Gardner-Newman Middle School. I also serve as a board member for Stanley Garden, Circles of Troup County, Hope Givers and most recently, the LaGrange Chamber of Commerce.

What are your future plans? I plan to continue being the change in my community and leading by example; support our Troup County School students at a high level of engagement and service. Although I devote a great deal of my time to my career in the Troup County School System, I also volunteer my time in the community coaching and with my nonprofit organization, ELVTD Youth and Mentoring Inc. ELVTD Youth and Mentoring focuses on mentorship, relationship building, parenting support and classes and mental health counseling through evidence-based and trauma informed curriculum; through these efforts ELVTD Youth and Mentoring will also provide charitable works and events through free community resources, educational tools, social and life skills, and family-based interventions with emphasis on adults and children.

Imagine your Young Professional of the Year title is a magic wand. How would you wave it to bring about positive changes and growth? I would increase family mental health and parental impact within our community. I truly believe that we as parents influence and impact our children more than we think. Our children seek structure, rules and accountability and we can provide all of those things. We all need to love and be gracious towards one another in our close knit community because we can uplift one another through love and accountability. It is also essential for us as a people to be culturally relevant, loving, and empathetic. This commandment of love is evident in John 10:16 where it reads, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” This verse reminds us to love and welcome others as we cultivate young minds to grow, regardless of faith, race, or disability.


February 2024



February 2024

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