New project will investigate the impacts of Georgia’s blue crab fishery

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources awarded Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant a Coastal Incentive Grant to study recreational crabbing in Georgia.

As part of the project, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will partner with UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government to develop an online survey tool and conduct in-person interviews at popular recreational fishing areas to assess the extent of Georgia’s recreational blue crab fishery.

“Catching blue crab is a favorite activity for many coastal residents and visitors, but despite its popularity, little is known about the impacts of recreational crabbing,” says Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director and project lead.

The surveys and interviews will evaluate landings by recreational crabbers, direct and indirect economic impacts from trip expenditures and awareness among anglers of the state’s blue crab regulations.

The data generated from this project will not only address an identified coastal management research need, but will also help coastal resource managers make more informed decisions about the management of an economically and culturally important species. This information will be used to develop outreach resources that support sustainable recreational crabbing practices and the conservation of this valuable coastal resource.


Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348

University of Georgia students solve Rocky Branch Elementary School sound problem through service-learning project

The Rocky Branch Elementary School cafeteria will soon be less noisy, thanks to students from the University of Georgia.

In the coming weeks, students in the College of Engineering will install sound-absorbing panels they created on the walls of the cafeteria at the Oconee County school. Third-grade students at Rocky Branch will decorate the panels with pictures of fruits and vegetables.

The idea came to Ben Davis, an engineering professor with experience in sound and acoustics, after he was asked to visit the school during lunch period.

“The cafeteria creates a ‘cocktail party’ effect,” Davis said. “Students talk at a normal level, the sound bounces off the walls, students raise their voices to be heard, and the sound gets even louder.”

Davis decided to turn the problem into a service-learning opportunity for his graduate students. Service-learning at UGA is the application of academic skills and knowledge to address a community needs, issue of problem and to enhance student learning. Students who enroll in official service-learning courses receive credit for experiential learning, a requirement for all UGA students since 2016-17. Almost 6,000 students enrolled in one or more service-learning course during the 2016-17 academic year, according to the Office of Service-Learning, which is part of the offices of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the Vice President for Instruction.

Davis and his students worked alongside third grade students and their teacher, Christina Crowe, at Rocky Branch taking detailed measurements and making diagrams of the cafeteria.  Crowe and her students used an iPad to measure the sound in the cafeteria and learned it exceeded the standards recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Based on all of the information collected, the UGA students assembled a prototype of a soundproof panel. Constructed with wood and insulated with rockwool, an inflammable material, the panels are wrapped with sound fabric, a material designed to reduce noise. The fabric allows sound to pass and be absorbed by the rockwool.

When they took the panel prototype back to the school, it provided an opportunity for the elementary school students to learn more about the science of sound. They also wanted to know if the panels could withstand nonstandard uses, like a bump or a stray hand running along the wall on the cafeteria.

“It’s classic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in action,” said Laura Mason, the principal at Rocky Branch. “It’s a great partnership. The students are learning so much and solving a real-world problem.”

The engineering students also benefitted from the project.

“I liked the service-learning project because we get to directly see our work in use,” said Haynes Curtis, a master’s student in engineering at UGA. “We don’t usually get to see our projects in action.”

“I’m hoping this project can inspire the kids to see what engineering is,” said Ryan Romeo, who is getting a doctoral degree in engineering at UGA. “A couple of the kids said they want to be engineers when they grow up.”

Panel installation began May 3, 2018. 


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Contact: Ben Davis,, 706-542-4225

A Winning Recipe: Restaurateur learns the special ingredients needed in documents to secure SBA loan

Andre Gomez, chef and owner of Smyrna’s award-winning Porch Light Latin Kitchen, understood the rewards of providing quality service at an early age.

“My grandfather was into a lot of Puerto Rico business holdings, and one was a hotel,” he says. “So my first exposure as a worker was in the hospitality field.”

Working while earning his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, he says he “fell into” food. “I loved seeing people enjoying their meals. The camaraderie in the kitchen and working together with the staff was pretty cool, too.”

Upon graduation, he continued working in various positions for several restaurants, including one of the top steak houses in Atlanta. He and his wife Ashley decided to pursue their dream and open a small restaurant that offered the familial friendliness and delicious flavors he grew up with in Puerto Rico.

Gomez’s search for funding led him to a bank, which then led him to the Kennesaw State University office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“When we talked about getting a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, the loan officer put me in contact with the SBDC,” Gomez says. “They told me the SBDC would be a good resource.”

He met with consultant Antonio Barrios in February 2015.

“Andre was very involved in the industry,” says Barrios, who now directs the Gwinnett SBDC office. “The bank told him they were interested and would like to proceed with the SBA loan application, but he needed some help with his narrative and financial projections. Like many clients, he had provided the basic information, but it was not in the format they like to use for their analyses.”

Barrios explained SBA loans and the application process to Gomez. He helped him prepare his three-year financial projections, including detailed revenue projections, sources and uses of funds, income statement, balance sheet and cash flow. He also provided a demographic report.

“I had put a business plan together—the concept, menu, etc.—and Antonio helped me fine-tune it using all the knowledge and information he has of restaurants and in dealing with banks,” says Gomez. “He put everything in perspective, made me feel more at ease in going through this process and answered all my questions.

“I’m first and foremost a chef. I understand the business from the food part. He helped me understand the other perspective as a business owner.”

“Andre had his numbers. I helped him put them in the right place in the plan,” says Barrios. “We made sure they were good for the bank’s expectations. Then we looked at the total loan package. I advised him on the other information the bank needs—his resume, personal tax returns and other forms the bank will look for. He went to the bank with all the information they needed, which facilitated the process.”

The six-figure start-up loan was approved, and on October 1, 2015, Andre Gomez opened his 1,400-square-foot restaurant in a former Quiznos that fronts Smyrna’s Village Green. He hired 16 employees.


Less than two years later, Porch Light Latin Kitchen’s revenues were outpacing projections by nearly 100 percent, reports Gomez. The restaurant was included in Atlanta Magazine’s annual “50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta” issue.

“Andre didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start a business. He had passion and planned to be successful. He worked hard and learned the operations of other restaurants,” says Barrios. “When it was time to open his restaurant, he used resources like the UGA SBDC to overcome challenges in putting it together. It was well planned.”

By June 2017, Gomez had signed the lease on more space nearby. He plans to open another restaurant with a new concept.

“The bigger picture is the most important thing I learned working with Antonio,” he says. “At the end of the day, I always want to look ahead, keeping everything in front of me so there won’t be any surprises. As a cook, you look at food costs. As a business owner, the plan I developed with the help of the UGA SBDC has helped me spend all of my money in the right way.”





Native plants brought to campus by State Botanical Garden an education tool for students

A garden of native Georgia plants installed on south campus by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will offer students a place to observe and study plant and insect interactions to better understand the role plants play in maintaining biodiversity.

The garden, located on D.W. Brooks Mall close to the Odum School of Ecology, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the department of plant sciences is part of the State Botanical Garden’s Connect to Protect program, which encourages businesses, civic organizations and homeowners to support pollinator communities by using native species in their gardens and plant displays.

“We wanted to create a space on campus that inspires our community to think about the way that our landscape can function and look,” said Lauren Muller, a graduate student in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who has been working with UGA faculty and staff at the botanical garden.

The plants chosen for the site are those that would do well in the moist soil conditions along D.W. Brooks Mall, said Heather Alley, a UGA conservation horticulturist at the botanical garden. Among them: buttonbush, which attracts bees, butterflies and sphinx moths; Georgia aster, which attracts bees; swamp milkweed, which attracts monarch butterflies; and scarlet hibiscus, which attracts hummingbirds. The plants were cultivated at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

Muller is already using the south campus garden as an outdoor classroom for the undergraduates she helps teach about medicinal plants. She also takes time in these lectures to discuss Connect to Protect as a Public Service and Outreach program that encourages people to think about the potential ecological function of the landscape.

“Our hope is that we will be able to install interpretive signage at the garden,” Muller said, “This could be a place where entomology, ecology, plant biology and horticulture students could observe plant-insect interactions in an urban landscape setting.”

Rachel Smith, a third-year horticulture major, also is involved with the south campus garden. As a student worker in the Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden, Smith helped shepherd the project from start to finish.

“It’s super exciting,” she said, “because I really get to know and learn about our local native plant species and their different functions in the Georgia Piedmont ecosystem.”

Honey from southwest Georgia in stores across U.S., thanks to SBDC and federal loan

Ray Crosby knows his bees and honey. A third-generation farmer who lives with his family in the rural southwest Georgia town of Omega, he understands what makes his product—packaged as pure, unfiltered raw honey—unique. His knowledge, in fact, resonates with the customers from coast-to-coast who buy Weeks Honey.

“Working with Ray, I’ve learned a lot about honey,” said Heather Sharpe, a consultant in the UGA Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Albany office. Her honey-buying habits have made her a “honey snob” she said.

“Ray has a passion not just for the quality of the honey, but for the bees and beekeepers,” she said. “He’s an advocate for Georgia’s local honey and its health properties. He believes in handling honey with love and great care. Weeks Honey produces a pure quality craft product without damaging its properties, and Ray is committed to this mission.”

That commitment and assistance from the SBDC has helped Weeks Honey grow from the shelves of 150 stores to 3,000. Overall sales have increased 30 percent, and they continue to grow.

In 2017, Weeks Honey was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Georgia District Office 2017 “Family-Owned Business of the Year.”

Crosby grew up helping with the family hives, but left home at 18 to make his mark in the corporate world.

“I said I’d never end up in this business getting stung by bees every day, but I came back in 2001 when my parents asked if I would help our family business for the next generation,” said Crosby, who has been running the business since 2009. “When we lost my father, I stepped out of the bee yards to manage the honey side as well.”

By 2015, Crosby realized that to leave a strong, viable business to future generations, he had to move it to the next level. He would need to restructure the company’s debt and expand.

He contacted Lynn Bennett, area director of the UGA SBDC at Valdosta State University.

“Ray needed some guidance in producing a solid business plan that would capture his current structure and provide a pathway for growth,” she said. “He was looking for assistance with his cash flow projections and wanted to develop a new marketing strategy.”

Bennett helped Crosby develop the plan and projections. She also introduced him to Sharpe, who worked with his staff to develop marketing strategies including social media and a plan to target new customers out west.

“We had to get bigger or cut back a lot to be profitable, so we made the leap. Our expansion was very expensive,” says Crosby said, “so I talked to Lynn and Heather quite a bit.”

Weeks Honey successfully secured a seven-figure loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crosby used it to refinance the company’s debt and expand product sales to 28 states across the nation, from California and Arizona, across Texas to New York and New Jersey.

“The loan refinanced the equipment we needed for our expansion and the inventory and supplies. It funded the labeling equipment, machinery, inventory, bottles, jars and lids,” he said.

The business maintains between 6,000 and 8,000 hives of honey bees for production, and it rents hives to farmers in Georgia and California for pollination services. The expansion has ensured Crosby’s family and friends will continue to hold their jobs at the farm and has allowed him to hire another full-time employee. The company also supports 60 beekeepers, up from 20 just a few years earlier.

There are a lot of variables in honey production, Crosby said. But he has faith and understands the importance of good business decisions.

“I tell others, if you need advice or someone to hold your hand to get through any process in your business, the consultants of the SBDC are not afraid to get their hands dirty and do anything that needs to get done.”


New class begins UGA Public Service and Outreach leadership academy

The 2017-18 Vivian H. Fisher Public Service and Outreach Leadership Academy includes 19 faculty and staff representing each UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO) unit, Cooperative Extension, and academic schools and colleges.

Offered through the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the program emphasizes personal leadership development and communication skills, and it also helps participants recognize the role of outreach at UGA, see the scope of the work the units perform across Georgia and learn how that work ties into the university’s mission.

“By discovering more about themselves as leaders, learning more about each other’s leadership styles, and gaining exposure to the university’s public service and outreach mission, this academy helps prepare graduates to assume leadership roles within PSO and UGA,” said Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop. “The Fanning Institute is honored to be a part of continuing Vivian H. Fisher’s legacy of professional development and service.”

Fisher was an associate vice president for PSO from March 2001 until her retirement in January 2008. She launched the academy in 2007. Fisher died in 2008. The academy was named in her honor in 2012.

“Our family is humbled that UGA recognizes Vivian as a leader and as someone who cared about her community and invested in others,” said Dexter Fisher, Vivian Fisher’s husband. “Vivian was a remarkable woman who believed in giving back and working to make her community a better place, and she would be pleased to see the work she did is continuing.”

The biennial academy provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to develop in areas that were important to Fisher, said academy participant Sarah Sorvas, a special projects manager with the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.

“The principles she left as part of her legacy—self-examination, self-empowerment, collaboration, and mentorship—are all clearly realized as part of this program’s curriculum,” Sorvas said. “These guiding principles have produced a culture among Public Service and Outreach that promotes professional growth and development and a commitment to share these ideals with our community.”

Participants in the Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy will meet for two days during most months of the fiscal year, visiting each PSO unit, including an Archway Partnership Community and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in Savannah. They will spend a day in Atlanta, visiting the State Capitol and learning about UGA’s relationships with state government officials. Participants will graduate with a certificate from Public Service and Outreach during a ceremony in May.

The 2017-2018 Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy participants are:

  • Tracy Arner, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Mark Butler, Small Business Development Center;
  • Stephan Durham, College of Engineering;
  • Bryan Fluech, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant;
  • Brian Freese, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Chris James, Public Service and Outreach;
  • Shana Jones, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Dan Lasseter, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Jennifer Lewis, College of Environment and Design;
  • Sharon Liggett, Archway Partnership;
  • Mandy Marable, Cooperative Extension;
  • Sayge Medlin, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development;
  • Jeff Miller, Cooperative Extension;
  • Bart Njoku-Obi, Small Business Development Center;
  • Kiel Norris, Center for Continuing Education & Hotel;
  • Josh Podvin, Office of Service-Learning;
  • Shelly Prescott, State Botanical Garden of Georgia;
  • Carolina Ramon, Small Business Development Center; and
  • Sarah Sorvas, Center for Continuing Education & Hotel


Writer: Charlie Bauder

Contact: Matt Bishop

UGA wins national award for helping coastal Georgia mitigate sea level rise impacts

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant at the University of Georgia received a 2017 University Economic Development Association (UEDA) Award of Excellence for helping communities on the Georgia coast reduce their risk of flooding and subsequently qualify for lower flood insurance rates.

The award was presented to UGA representatives on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, during the UEDA Annual Summit in Long Beach, Calif. UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America.

“My deepest congratulations to the UGA faculty and staff who are behind this outstanding national award,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their efforts to support communities across Georgia underscore exactly what it means to be a land- and sea-grant university in the 21st Century.”

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant won for sea level rise adaptation plans, developed in partnership with the coastal cities of Tybee Island and St. Marys. Using a grant from the National Sea Grant, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant faculty, as well as faculty from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, analyzed risks and vulnerabilities from tidal flooding and sea-level rise over the next 50 years, and developed a plan that enabled savings of $3 million on flood insurance for property owners. The plan has emerged as a model for other coastal communities across the country.

Three UGA programs were finalists for the UEDA award, which are judged on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals in three categories: Innovation, Talent, and Place, as well as the intersections of these three categories.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant were in the Place category, along with the Archway Partnership, which focused on work that helps Georgia communities address critical locally identified economic development needs, including infrastructure for growth and business recruitment, workforce development, leadership, tourism and downtown revitalization. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and the Archway Partnership are UGA public service units.

“I am extremely proud that we have been recognized nationally for the work we are doing on the coast as well as throughout the state,” said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and the Archway Partnership are tapping into the vast resources of the university to help Georgia communities thrive.”

Innovation Gateway, a unit of UGA’s Office of Research, was a finalist in the Innovation category. That program was launched in 2015 to consolidate UGA’s technology transfer and new business startup programs, thereby streamlining the path from lab or field to the marketplace.

The competing organizations were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact, and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

“The fact that so many University of Georgia programs were recognized in this national economic development competition highlights just how deeply committed our faculty and staff are to changing lives for the better,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. “The impact of their work extends across our state and beyond, and I am delighted that they have received this significant honor.”

Writer: Kelly Simmons

Contact: Mark Risse




Getting buggy at the Botanical Garden’s 12th Annual Johnstone Lecture

If you’re into bugs, don’t miss the Johnstone Lecture at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Sept. 26.

The speaker will be Jaret Daniels, associate professor of entomology at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.

His talk, “Backyard Bugs,” is inspired by his recently published book, “Backyard Bugs: An Identification Guide to Common Insects, Spiders, and More.”

Daniels trained as an insect ecologist before focusing on conservation-related work, including pollinator conservation and declining butterfly species.

The book “is something I’ve wanted to do for some time because it’s a great way of encouraging young people to pay attention to the biodiversity that they find in their own landscapes,” Daniels said.

Daniels’ lecture will continue on the same track.

“I’m planning on doing a sort of virtual backyard tour of all the interesting insects that you might find,” said Daniels. Alongside a virtual tour, attendees will be given more detail about the histories and biologies of insects that can be found in a typical environment.

One example of an insect that could be uncovered is the Monarch butterfly, which Daniels calls  the “most iconic butterfly,” but is aware that not many people know the background and detailed story of them.

Daniels hopes people leave the lecture with a better appreciation for insects and a motivation to look closer at the biodiversity in their own landscapes. He also hopes that his book, and his lecture, will help get people outdoors and looking at the important insect biodiversity that is around them.

“I mean, as a child myself, that’s where I learned about insects, in my parent’s yard,” he said. “And you know, without that experience I wouldn’t have become a scientist.”

The Johnstone Lecture, sponsored by the Friends of the Garden, is scheduled for Sept. 26 from 7-9 p.m. in the Visitor’s Center and Conservatory at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, 2450. S. Milledge Ave., in Athens, Ga.

The lecture is free, but reservations must be made by Sept. 25 at:

UGA’s R/V Georgia Bulldog logs nearly two decades of sea turtle research

The revving of the engine serves as a wakeup call for those aboard the R/V Georgia Bulldog. It’s 5:30 a.m. and the deck is soon abuzz with commotion as the crew prepares to depart for a research cruise aimed at sampling sea turtles off the coast of Brunswick, Ga.

For the 18th year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR) has enlisted the help of the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s R/V Georgia Bulldog crew to provide logistical support and assist with the collection of biological data for their In-Water Sea Turtle Research program. The program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, is designed to monitor abundance, distribution and health of sea turtles along the southeast coast.

“Sea turtles are long-lived, slow-growing, and late-maturing species that only go on land to nest unless they strand,” said Mike Arendt, assistant marine scientist at SC DNR and lead researcher on the project. “If you don’t monitor them in the water like we do, and for a long period of time since they take decades to reach maturity, you’re missing the most important information.”

Arendt has worked on the project since it began in 2000 and took over the survey in 2007.

Because of where the survey is conducted, most of the data collected have been for loggerhead sea turtles, but in recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on understanding the distribution of the next most common species, the smaller, endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

“Between 2000 and 2015, over 2,300 loggerheads were captured compared to around 260 Kemp’s ridleys,” said Arendt. “We were starting to wonder if we were sampling in the right places for them.”

The shallow coastal waters off Brunswick have been some of the best documented locations for Kemp’s ridleys, and Lindsey Parker, captain of the R/V Georgia Bulldog, knows exactly where to find them.

“After so many years of random sampling all up and down the coast, I’ve found a few hot spots for ridleys,” said Parker. “We tend to see more around inlets and because of my familiarity with the Brunswick area, we can sample those areas more fully than in other areas that I’m less familiar with.”

The Bulldog, a 72-foot shrimp trawler that was converted to a multipurpose research vessel in the 1980s, is an ideal vessel for this type of sampling because it can easily navigate shallow waters and estuaries.

Sampling involves pulling two 60-foot trawl nets behind the boat for 30-minutes. Each time the nets are pulled up after a drag, excitement on board starts to build, especially if there’s a sea turtle in tow.

On this cruise, a Kemp’s ridley is caught on the first trawl. Once it’s safely on board, researchers work quickly to process it to reduce as much stress on the animal as possible. The team, made up of research biologists, technicians and graduate students, move around the boat with ease, grabbing gloves, measuring tools and vials while calling out information that’s recorded on a data sheet.

They first scan the turtle to make sure it hasn’t been tagged before assigning it a unique ID. They then collect blood samples, measure the carapace, administer the pit tag and place the animal in a harness so it can be weighed. The last step is the release, which involves gently lowering the turtle over the side of the R/V Georgia Bulldog using the harness.

“Kemp’s ridleys, by and large, are really easy to process,” said Arendt. “They’re healthy looking, they’re clean. Plus, they’re small, so it’s really easy to work them up.”

He adds, with a hint of pride, that their record processing time is 14 minutes.

By the end of the day, the team processed eight sea turtles, seven Kemp’s ridleys and one loggerhead.

“We’re about three-quarters of the way through our sampling period and we have 34 Kemp’s ridleys so far,” said Arendt. “Two thirds of our Kemp’s for 2017 were caught this week, which amounted to almost half of the 2016 total.”

This long-term project has generated a wealth of data that’s been shared with over 25 collaborators, studying everything from sea turtle DNA to testosterone to blood chemistry. The cruises also train graduate students in veterinary or marine science programs in practical field experience that will help prepare them for their careers. Arendt explains that bringing in more partners and providing workforce development opportunities is important for getting the most bang out of the taxpayer dollar.

“We have the skill sets, funding, and federal and state permits to safely capture and handle the sea turtles, so that enables the collaborators easy access to animals that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to study,” Arendt said. “In return, we get important information on sea turtle health and foraging behavior that the collaborators have the funding and skills sets for, so it’s win-win.”

Additionally, Arendt has the R/V Georgia Bulldog and her crew, who have decades of trawling experience and strong connections to the research community and the commercial fishing industry.

“The Bulldog crew is a great interface between science and industry to help disseminate our results and generate support for our endeavors,” said Arendt.

Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348, ext. 107


Atlanta gelato business turns to UGA Small Business Development Center for expansion assistance

Wes Jones and Jackson Smith grew up as best friends in their north Atlanta neighborhood. At some point, says Jones, “we thought it would be fun to start a business together when we got older.”

Maintaining their friendship through college, they
went on to jobs in education, for Jones, and gelato
 production, for Smith, who had moved to New York
 City. When Smith would travel home, he’d bring
cartons of his delicious craft with him to share with family and friends. Their requests grew, and Smith realized he may have found a product they could turn into a business.

The friends started working on a business plan. They invited another friend, Khatera Ballard, to help them on a brainstorming session, and she joined them in the start-up.

Honeysuckle Gelato launched from a food truck in 2011. The locally produced gelato desserts were an instant hit.

Within the year, the partners knew they needed help working on their business rather than in it. “We had gotten tied down in the day-to-day demands, working just to make the sale or get to the next day,” says Jones. “We needed to take a step back, put a strategic plan in place and follow it.”

Ballard had heard about the resources available at the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, so Ballard reached out to the DeKalb office. She asked for help ensuring the business had systems in place that would lead it to long-term sustainability.

“They were growing so quickly that they were going in many different directions. No one had a defined role. They were all doing whatever was needed to keep things running,” says Sharon Macaluso, area director of the Dekalb office of the UGA SBDC. She asked them to complete an organizational assessment chart to prepare for their strategic planning retreat.

With the assessment as a starting point, Macaluso led them through a strategic plan and helped them discover the areas that needed attention. She shared some of the resources available through the UGA SBDC, including IBISWorld Industry Research Reports and IndustriousCFO, a financial analysis software that provides four-year industry metrics. Jones and Ballard later attended the UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart® program, and Jones met with consultant Andy Fried of the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University to develop a financial scorecard and dashboard.

“Until we met with the SBDC, we had not set any goals or deadlines outside of what our customers want,” says Jones. “The SBDC offers the right environment to talk about goals and how we want to look in the next three-to-five years. They’ve helped us take a step back and really think about our growth. They helped us make sure to get results.”

They began to grow Honeysuckle Gelato “intentionally,” says Jones. Smith now oversees everything product-related. Wes manages the business and strategy, and Ballard leads branding and marketing.

They’ve secured several lucrative commercial contracts, including Whole Foods and Delta Airlines. In 2015, they opened their first retail shop at Ponce City Market to wide acclaim. Honeysuckle Gelato products are now available in stores throughout the Southeast.

Sales have grown more than 800 percent since Jones, Smith and Ballard first came to the UGA SBDC in 2012. Employment has grown to 10 full-time staff, with a store manager and production workers, and 15 part-time. In June 2017, they moved production into a building four times larger than their previous facility, with room to expand. They are located near the Atlanta Community Food Bank, to which they donate a generous portion of Honeysuckle Gelato’s profits, in keeping with their values.

“We want to make a tangible impact with our work through the food bank,” says Jones. “We’d always wanted to find a way to give back. Being in the food business, they were a natural t for us.”

Smith, Jones and Ballard continue to work with the SBDC as they expand nationally and internationally.

“Being accountable to someone else is really important. That has allowed us to take the time to be intentional about our business,” says Jones. “Our work with the SBDC has taught us how to make sure we’re asking ourselves the right questions and that we’re positioned to act on everything we put on paper.”


Pulaski County: L.I.F.E. League visits University of Georgia

On July 14, the Archway Partnership hosted L.I.F.E. League on the UGA campus for a day full of basketball, learning and planning for the future. Sponsors of the event include the Archway Partnership, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Office of International Education, Recreational Sports and the Georgia Museum of Art.

L.I.F.E. League is a middle Georgia nonprofit organization founded in Hawkinsville that enriches the lives of local, at-risk teenagers by teaching goal setting, good decision making, and life skills. This was the league’s fourth annual trip to Athens to play the championship basketball game for their summer camp league.

The organization was founded by three graduates of the Pulaski Tomorrow adult leadership program, including Middle Georgia State University faculty member Jeff Tarver, the CEO of L.I.F.E. League. Pulaski Tomorrow’s adult and youth leadership programs were created as an initiative of the Pulaski County Archway Partnership in collaboration with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

According to Tarver, “this trip exposes our campers to the educational opportunities that are available to them. Every summer, after our UGA trip, I have several youth who approach me to tell me that they now aspire to attend college!”

The high school graduation rate for L.I.F.E. League participants is 90 percent—more than 15 percentage points greater than the local average. Many L.I.F.E. League participants also go on to participate in Pulaski Tomorrow Youth Leadership.

The L.I.F.E. League students started their day on campus with lunch at the Joe Frank Harris Dining Commons where they were joined by UGA students, faculty and staff. After lunch, the students walked over to the Georgia Museum of Art for a tour, learning activities, and discussion of college admissions and opportunities to see the world in college. Following their time at the museum, the students played their championship basketball game at the Ramsey Student Center in front of cheering UGA faculty and staff, Hairy Dawg, the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band, and UGA football standouts Nick Chubb and Jake Fromm.

This partnership between L.I.F.E League and the University of Georgia provides rural students with the opportunity to experience a college campus and learn about the opportunities available to them in the future. According to Tarver, “The University of Georgia has a tremendous impact on our kids by inspiring them to reach their full academic potential.”

Freshmen get a jump on experiential learning before their first semester

University of Georgia first-year student Paula Rios couldn’t hide a smile when she stumbled upon familiar children’s books at Books for Keeps.

The flashback to her younger days was an added benefit to Rios as she sorted books during a service-learning project at the Athens non-profit, which provides books to children in grades pre-k through 12, who are from low-income families.

“Wow, it’s just been a great experience to see issues in the community I wouldn’t be exposed to,” Rios said. “Now, I want to find a local organization I can work with during my college career. It helps create a closer relationship between students and the community.”

The volunteer work at Books for Keeps is part of a service-learning course for participants in the UGA Freshman College Summer Experience. The class, “Strategies and Life Skills Needed to Succeed,” requires students to participate in a service project that addresses a community need and reflect on it to gain a deeper understanding of what they learn in class.

This summer was the second year students in the 17-year-old Freshman College program were enrolled in a service-learning course.

Chase Hagood, director of the Division of Academic Enhancement, which oversees Freshman College, said the class introduces the concept of service-learning to incoming students who may not have heard of it before. For many students, it also fulfills the university’s new experiential learning requirement instituted last fall.

“We deployed this course to both help students understand the university’s service mission and help them quickly become members of the broader community,” Hagood said. “Having this course builds a more holistic picture of what life should look like at UGA.”

Course instructor Megan Ward, administrative director of the New Media Institute at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, used nontraditional teaching methods, such as assigning students to a scavenger hunt around Athens to familiarize them with the city. She also asked the students to research campus organizations that benefit the local community and consider getting involved with one of them once the fall semester begins.

Getting students engaged with the community early can make a difference, said Louis Crow, Books for Keeps program director.

Crow grew up in Athens and graduated from UGA in 2015 with a degree in social work. He said he always felt a separation between the community and the university when he was in high school, but programs like those run by the Office of Service-Learning, a part of UGA Public Service and Outreach, are changing that.

“It’s been great to have regular volunteers throughout the summer,” Crow said. “This exposes students to the community. You’ve seen more students get involved, especially the last few years under President (Jere) Morehead, who has made it a clear priority.”

Freshman College participant Darby Day said she’s looking forward to exploring other service-learning classes at UGA.

“It’s made me realize I want to do more of it,” she said. “It expands your horizon to get involved in Athens.”

The UGA Freshman College Summer Experience is a four-week academic residential program that allows incoming first-year students an opportunity to begin forming academic and social networks before their first full semester on campus. This year, 275 first-year students participated in the Freshman College.

Writer: Christopher James

Downtown Renaissance Partnership helps boost economic vitality in northwest Georgia

Downtown business districts in some northwest Georgia cities are getting a face-lift, thanks to the University of Georgia and funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Chickamauga, Chatsworth, Rossville, Lookout Mountain and Ringgold are among the communities benefiting from the expertise of UGA faculty and students working with the Downtown Renaissance Partnership program in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Among the projects:

• A historic rail depot in Chickamauga has been converted into a downtown Welcome Center;

• An old textile mill in Rossville is being studied as a possible site for social and business ventures;

• The grounds around the duck pond at the John Ross house in Rossville are being updated. A log cabin on the grounds, the former home of Cherokee Indian Chief John Ross, is a National Historic Landmark;

• A new stage is going up in Chatsworth, and the city is making streetscape improvements to link the stage and surrounding park to downtown; and

• The city of Lookout Mountain is developing a new town center development concept.

The projects, intended to attract more new businesses and customers to rural downtowns, were developed by UGA students and faculty, led by Danny Bivins, a senior public service associate at the Institute of Government, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

“I don’t think it ever would’ve happened without Danny Bivins and the Carl Vinson Institute,” said Betts Berry, a cattle farmer and lifelong resident of Chickamauga. “We might’ve talked about it. They showed us the community’s potential and what people were interested in.”

The Downtown Renaissance Partnership is a 4-year-old collaboration between the Institute of Government and the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation. The partnership includes intensive three-month fellowships for students in UGA’s landscape architecture program as well as other learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the university’s College of Environment and Design.

Since 2015, the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation has granted the institute $200,000 to fund projects in northwest Georgia.

“Over several decades, the Lyndhurst Foundation has supported numerous projects in Chattanooga aimed at improving the quality and impact of good urban design while also enhancing public participation in the community planning and design process,” said Benic M. “Bruz” Clark, president and treasurer of the Lyndhurst Foundation. “We feel extremely fortunate to be able to work with Danny Bivins and his team to expand this body of work in northwest Georgia. The results to date have been impressive, and we have really enjoyed our association with UGA staff and the students who are turning community aspirations into reality.”

The projects evolve through a series of meetings with people who live in the local communities. The local stakeholders drive the process and the conceptual designs. Bivins said he also works with other state and regional partners to assist with the planning process, such as representatives from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and the Small Business Development Center, another UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

The community relationships are valuable to the students working on the projects as well, said Doug Pardue, an associate professor in the College of Environment and Design, who leads an Urban Design Studio class. Students receive hands-on experience in downtown conceptual design, strategic planning and project implementation.

As a master’s student in landscape architecture, Dan Shinkle worked in Chatsworth in 2016 as a Renaissance Fellow. He provided Mayor Tyson Haynes with plans for a new stage at the city park, a streetscape connecting the park to downtown and plans to repurpose Chatsworth’s vacant downtown industrial site. By the time Shinkle graduated last May, the city was pouring new sidewalks he had designed.

Other projects underway include the restoration of a historic cemetery in Chickamauga and a regional trail system. The program “has jump-started projects in Chickamauga that the community would never have done,” Berry said. “Anything we do downtown encourages our merchants and small businesses. I think it makes a tremendous difference.”

Collaborating for Plant Conservation

When it comes to plant conservation, the key to success is collaboration. Partners in the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) know this all too well.

Headquartered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA (SBG), GPCA is a network of more than 40 conservation organizations committed to preventing local extinctions of rare plant populations.

“Although each partner brings a different expertise to the network, the core of the GPCA is the connection between conservation horticulture and on-the-ground restoration,” said SBG Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders. “Botanical gardens specifically make good partners because they are in a unique position to communicate information about rare plant species and they can be instrumental in creating networks for effective conservation action.”

Since its inception in 1995, the GPCA has worked on 100 priority species projects. Of those 100, 99 have been brought into cultivation or safeguarding at a partner organization and 49 have been returned to the wild.

In November 2016, the GPCA partnered with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service and the National Wildlife Refuge Association for the inaugural Southeastern Partners in Plant Conversation (SePPCon) conference. The purpose of the meeting was to bring partners together in the same place to talk about the priorities for plant conservation in the Southeast and to gather information from attendees on specific lists of plant species identified as rare or at-risk by the Fish and Wildlife Service. For the Southeast, the lists included 104 at-risk plants.

More than 160 people from 24 states and territories attended the conference, representing a wide variety of groups including state agencies, environmental research organizations, utility companies, universities, and more. As a result of bringing together these partners, one unexpected outcome was that they were able to identify plants on the list that were actually not rare enough to warrant conservation action.

“We expected to gather information and set priorities for these plant species, but we didn’t anticipate finding out that some of them actually didn’t need urgent attention,” said Cruse-Sanders. “But this was just as important. Because of limited resources for plant conservation as a whole, if you can eliminate some of these from the list, there’s a greater percentage of resources to use for those plants that do actually need it.”

Following the meeting, the group submitted a list of 10 plant species that were more common than previously thought to the Center for Biological Diversity. As a result, the CBD contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw these species from the petitioned list. For the service to review each plant, it costs roughly $100,000, Cruse-Sanders explained. “So, one result of this meeting was a million dollars in savings that can essentially be used elsewhere for conservation.”

Under the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Act, plants make up more than 50 percent of listed species, but receive less than 5 percent of available funding for conservation. This is why conservation alliances like the GPCA and meetings like SePPCon are so important, explained SBG Conservation Coordinator Jennifer Ceska.

Ceska, along with other GPCA representatives, led sessions at the SePPCon meeting for other interested parties on how to establish conservation alliances within their own states.

“While planning for the SePPCon meeting, we were able to really tease through what has made the GPCA model work for the past 22 years,” Ceska said. “Federal and state agencies asked us to teach our model to others in detail, sharing how we work with other organizations, inspire people to stay actively involved, and train volunteers to watch over the last remaining population of a species.”

Since the SePPCon meeting in November, several states have launched their own conservation alliances, including, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. In May 2017, the first tri-state plant conservation alliance meeting with Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia was held in Chattanooga to discuss plant and habitat recovery projects for the tri-corner region. GPCA leaders have also consulted with partners in Kentucky, Texas, Arizona and Colorado on creating their conservation alliances.

“Moving forward, the goal for us at the garden, as well as through GPCA and SePPCon, is to continue this open line of communication and collaboration,” said Cruse-Sanders. “Without these partnerships, we truly wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do.”

To learn more about GPCA or how you can get involved, visit

Georgia Sea Grant funds project to enhance jellyfish industry

A Georgia Sea Grant funded project will help protect turtles and enable fishermen trawling for cannonball jellyfish to operate more efficiently.

Georgia fishermen recently conducted several 30-hour cannonball jellyfish trawling trips to test the turtle excluder device, which is similar to the TED for shrimpers first developed in 1968.

Cannonball jellyfish, commonly referred to as jellyballs, is the third largest seafood commodity by weight in Georgia. Considered a delicacy in Asian countries, most of the jellyballs caught by Georgia fishermen are exported to Asian markets, where they’re sold in restaurants and grocery stores.

The jellyball industry emerged in the late 1990s but only has been recognized as an official industry in the state since 2013.

Shrimpers have been required by the federal government to use TEDs since 1987.

However, the TED required of shrimpers doesn’t work well with jellyballs because the four inch opening which prevents turtles from getting into the net is also too small for the jellies.

This requirement is seen as a hindrance to Howell Boone, a commercial fisherman who expressed concern over the impact of the current TED on his jellyball harvest.

“We can’t make any money using it…zero,” said Howell Boone, who captains a commercial fishing boat that trawls for the jellies.

The project to develop a jellyfish TED was proposed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the College of Coastal Georgia, and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, all of whom recognized the benefits of the commodity to both commercial fishermen and the economy.

“This was a project where we needed to support a developing industry,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We have to protect our turtle populations, but also need to find a way to support our fishing industries. Much like the shrimping industry and TEDs, we are hoping to find a win-win solution.”

The team first tested Boone’s argument that the shrimp TEDS were ineffective for jellyball trawlers by pulling two identical nets behind his boat. One net was equipped with a certified TED; the other had no TED. Results of the trawl showed that nets with certified TEDs caught 23.6 percent fewer jellyballs by weight, when compared to a net with no TED, which supported Boone’s concerns about the TED limiting catch.

The next step involved designing a practical TED for the jellyfish industry that would appease fishermen, state resource managers and biologists.

“We’ve been involved with TED development and certification since it began in the late 1970s,” said Lindsey Parker, a marine resource specialist at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“We are familiar with how government agencies evaluate TEDs. We know the tasks it will have to perform and how well it needs to perform those tasks when put to the test.”

Parker, who has a 35-year history with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, worked with Howell Boone’s father, Sinkey Boone, who invented the first turtle excluder device. The original design has been modified over the years to be more efficient and eventually gained national certification in 2012.

The new jellyball TED, designed by Howell Boone, has an eight-inch opening, large enough to let 6- to 8-inch jellyballs into the net but small enough to keep sea turtles out.

The team conducted 22 paired trawls using the same methods as before, but yielding much different results. There was no significant difference in the amount of jellyfish caught between the net with the experimental TED and the net with no TED.

Patrick Geer, chief of Marine Fisheries for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and co-principal investigator on the jellyball TED project, said the new design looks promising and could be considered for use in state waters.

“If we can use the results of this study to support and manage this emerging fishery in an ecologically responsible manner that not only helps the economy but supports commercial fishers then it’s our responsibility to do so,” Geer said.

Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348, ext. 107

Contact: Bryan Fluech,, 912-264-7268





Local student brings pollinator program to Colham Ferry, helps school with STEM endeavors

Harper Ann Moffett, an Oconee County High School junior, recently introduced third graders at Colham Ferry Elementary School (CFES) to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s pollinator conservation program, Connect to Protect.

In March, Moffett spoke with the students about native plants’ benefits for wildlife, including pollinators. Afterwards, she instructed them on ways to take care of the demonstration garden she planted at the school.

Weeks later, and after years of planning, CFES became one of 26 Georgia elementary schools to earn STEM certification, a status rewarded to schools invested in science, technology, engineering and math education. Only one percent of Georgia’s elementary schools are STEM certified.

Moffett discovered the Connect to Protect program while searching for community leadership opportunities. It was her father, Mincy Moffett, a botanist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who suggested she contact the garden about Connect to Protect.

“My dad has always emphasized the environment and the plants that make it up,” Harper Ann said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how essential they are to us and our communities.”

Connect to Protect, a multi-faceted program, encourages local businesses, schools and homeowners to support pollinator communities by using native species in their gardens and plant displays.

The purpose of Connect to Protect is to teach others about the importance of native plants for restoring pollinator resources and to prevent diversity loss from disrupting our natural communities.

Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist and Connect to Protect program coordinator, supplied Moffett with the plants and wooden planter for the demonstration garden. The State Botanical Garden’s education department provided her with Connect to Protect handouts and signage.

“This is a mutually beneficial project,” said Alley. “Harper Ann was able to gain leadership experience, and the garden’s conservation and education efforts were promoted to a young audience.”

The teachers at CFES agree that Moffett’s presentation brought a fresh look to their science education curriculum.

“The collaboration between the State Botanical Garden, Moffett, and Colham Ferry Elementary School was a great fit with the school’s science and math focus,” said Heidi Wolfe, a third-grade teacher at CFES. “The installation of the Connect to Protect planter and the adoption of the program figured noticeably in our recent STEM Certification.”

Moffett hopes that she can continue to promote Connect to Protect by speaking at more schools throughout Oconee County this spring and fall.

“I’m trying to get my school’s environmental club involved,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to plant each demonstration garden, and I think a larger group can really engage with the kids and show them how to take care of the plants.”

Moffett said the club intends to build new planters for those schools looking to add a Connect to Protect garden on site. By working with the University of Georgia’s Materials Reuse Program, they hope to help offset the costs and labor that may be involved with each planter.

Her appreciation for the environment and community has inspired her to consider a career where she can make the most impact.

“I’d like to do something that makes the world a better place, whether that’s through the medical or law profession,” she said. “My dream job, however, would be in international law, working with environmental sciences.”

Contact: Heather Alley, , 706-542-1244


New management practices promise a bright future for established middle Georgia business

Small, start-up businesses are not the only type of company that can learn from experts at the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.

Associated Paper is a case in point. A successful family-owned distributor of industrial packaging, shipping, janitorial and sanitary maintenance supplies, Associate Paper serves more than 3,000 clients in middle Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, and a showroom/warehouse in Marietta.

In 2012, its top executives began looking for training in the new tools and technologies that would allow them to run the business more effectively and efficiently, ensuring its long-term sustainability.

“We needed help getting better organized and doing some long-range planning,” said CFO Gerald Hinesley. “We thought the UGA SBDC would be the best place to start.”

Hinesley and President Ronnie Kent reached out to Sharon Macaluso, area director of the Decatur office, for help on warehouse issues. She and consultant Bob Thiele helped them conduct reviews and provided recommendations for improving inventory management and warehouse layouts. This work led to a strategic planning retreat in 2013.

“Associated Paper had reached a good level of success,” said Macaluso. “But like many businesses, they hadn’t focused on their long-term goals. Looking further down the road would tell them what opportunities lie externally and what internal changes they needed to make.”

“We felt we had some areas we could improve upon,” Kent said. “The strategic plan helped us there, and it confirmed some of the things we were doing well.”

The strategic planning helped them identify Associated Paper’s core values: integrity, commitment, excellence and accountability.

“We came to the realization we’d been hiring folks whose core values didn’t match ours, which helped us deal more quickly with people who weren’t a good fit,” said Hinesley. “It’s now a major part of our hiring practices.”

Two years later, the company had experienced a great deal of turnover in its customer service and purchasing departments. Inexperience and shortages between hires had generated frustration across all departments, so Kent and Hinesley turned again to Macaluso.

They decided a team building exercise would get everyone rowing in the same direction, so Macaluso phoned Steve Dempsey, associate vice president of UGA Public Service and Outreach. He recommended Brendan Leahy, a public service associate and leadership development trainer with the UGA Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Their discussions led to a Saturday team building retreat with 30 of the company’s employees from customer service, purchasing and sales, along with officers and managers, led by Leahy.

“We were a little concerned because we scheduled this on a Saturday,” said Hinesley. “It was a bit challenging bringing our employees in for the day, but Brendan was wonderful. We had a lengthy conversation before the training, and he came in and did an outstanding job getting all the employees engaged in the process. At the end of the day, our employees said it was a great exercise for them.”

The exercise allowed Associated Paper an easier transition while making personnel and operational changes. Inter-department and cross-department communications improved, leading to overall higher efficiencies and productivity.

Associated Paper has realized five percent annual sales growth and hired a new vice president of sales since its management began working with the UGA SBDC.

“We kicked off our big 50th anniversary promotion in January 2017. Led by our goals and objectives, we have a lot of plans for growth that we’re doing with our employees,” said Kent. “We are excited about the potential.”

“Associated Paper is an established business with a higher level of sales,” said Macaluso. “But they, too, came to the UGA SBDC to learn how to develop solutions to the variety of management issues they’ve encountered. We provide the resources and small Georgia business needs to address any management issue.”

“The SBDC has a lot of capabilities to use if you just reach out and are open to discussing the problems you are having,” said Kent. “They have a wealth of knowledge and their people are available when you need them.”

Dressing up the Georgia Center

Uga and Hairy Dawg stare out from the elevators at the Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. The Savannah Room has a bright new look with a separate bar area, and a new menu on the way. Bikes soon will be added to the amenities guests can enjoy when they stay overnight. Got a room at the hotel? You qualify for the faculty and staff rate at the UGA Golf Course. These and other changes are underway as Georgia Center Director Dawn Cartee revitalizes the 60-year-old facility, built with grant money from the Kellogg Foundation. Stay tuned for more.