Ocean to Table program draws in shellfish consumers


A new series of workshops aims to increase popularity and interest in local foods and sustainable seafood in Georgia.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is partnering with UGA Cooperative Extension Program in Chatham County to offer the Ocean to Table series, designed to educate consumers about different seafood topics so they can make informed decisions about purchasing and preparing seafood harvested on the coast.

At the inaugural workshop, held at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, participants learned about local harvesting methods and management practices that ensure consumer safety and sustainability of Georgia’s clam and oyster industries.

“Georgia has rigorous health regulations in place to help protect consumers from getting sick,” says Kayla Clark, public programs coordinator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “It’s important to share information about shellfish safety so buyers feel more confident when purchasing, preparing and consuming shellfish.”

Retailers and wholesalers are regulated and inspected by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture to ensure that Georgia seafood is safely processed before being sold to consumers.

“When you walk into a seafood market, you can speak directly with a local retailer or wholesaler and get information about how and where a product was harvested,” says Clark. “There’s also the added bonus of knowing that your local purchase supports Georgia shellfish growers and businesses.”

A tour of UGA’s Oyster Hatchery showcased Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s effort to expand the state’s shellfish industry to meet consumer demand for single oysters.

Paula Thompson, a retired microbiologist who volunteers for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, came to the workshop to learn about shellfish research.

“It was really neat seeing the hatchery and learning about the methods they use to grow the oysters,” says Thompson. “I didn’t realize commercial fishermen propagate clams and oysters by putting oyster seed grown in the hatchery on their farms. I had no idea growing shellfish was so similar to farming on land. It’s fascinating.”

Participants also learned about the environmental benefits of sustainable shellfish industries. Clams and oysters improve water quality by filtering out pollutants, reduce erosion by stabilizing the shoreline and create habitat for other marine animals.

Contact: Kayla Clark,, 912-598-2354

“By engaging our community and inspiring them to be more sustainable, we hope to maintain healthy ecosystems that provide food for coastal residents and support jobs for local clam and oyster farmers,” says Clark.

By Emily Woodward

Georgia Center for Continuing Education announces new weekend program for youth

A youth weekend program, Weekend Robotics Experience, offered this spring will build on the Summer Academy robotics camps for youth. The two-day, mini camps will be offered on three weekends in March and April. Students will learn programming skills and be introduced to a variety of mechanical components used in building robots. The weekend will cover robotics design concepts and help them understand the importance of engineering and technology.

Youth ages 11-14 are invited to register for this exciting technology event. The sessions will be held on 25-26 March, 8-9 April, and 29-30 April at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.  For more information and to register, visit our website.  For questions, contact the Georgia Center at or 706-542-3537.



UGA Small Business Development Center expands work with pharmacists

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has reached out to SBDC Medical Practice Management Program Director Jeff Sanford to teach the association’s ownership workshops. The program involves content related to business plan development, business valuation and financial analysis.  These programs are offered in Nashville, Newark, and Orlando. The NCPA represents the interests of America’s community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies. Together they represent an $81.5 billion health care marketplace and employ more than 250,000 individuals on a full or part-time basis. The SBDC has developed a reputation as a resource based on its work providing business training for pharmacists in partnership with the UGA College of Pharmacy.

UGA recognizes longtime community servant with inaugural leadership award

Roy Reeves, a Moultrie businessman who was instrumental in the launch of the first UGA Archway Partnership, was presented with the inaugural award for Innovation in Community Leadership by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, during the institute’s annual conference on Friday.

Reeves was selected for his decades of public service in Colquitt County. Leadership Award

“The Innovation in Community Leadership Award recognizes an individual or organization that has taken extraordinary steps to enhance and sustain their community leadership development programming,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “This year’s winner, Roy Reeves, has been involved in various aspects of community leadership programming in his hometown of Moultrie for more than three decades. His leadership in public education, the faith community, youth development, and community engagement has resulted in hundreds of emerging leaders being trained to take on community leadership roles.”

Reeves, who did not know ahead of time that he was the award recipient, said he was honored to be recognized.

“I believe everything rises and falls on leadership,” Reeves said as he accepted the award. “The greatest resources a community has is its volunteers. They’re the ones that get involved and make a community go.”

More than 150 people from 39 Georgia counties attended the Community Leadership Conference, held at the UGA Center for Continuing Education Feb. 2-3. Participants included representatives from chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, K-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, community leadership programs, power companies, housing authorities, judicial systems, county commissions and the medical field.

This year’s theme, “Transforming Leaders, Transforming Communities,” focused on helping community leaders improve existing programs. Workshops targeted adult, youth and nonprofit leadership programs, bringing together leaders from the public and private sectors of Georgia communities. The Small Business Development Center, another PSO unit, presented a session on digital marketing.

Reeves, who owns Reeves Properties in Moultrie, has chaired the executive committee of the Colquitt County Archway Partnership since it was launched as a pilot program in 2005. Archway, also part of UGA PSO, connects selected Georgia communities with the extensive resources at UGA and other Georgia higher education institutions to address locally identified critical community needs.

Reeves’ volunteer work in the Moultrie community dates back to the 1980s, when he returned to his hometown to join the family business. He is a member and has served as president of the Moultrie Kiwanis Club, United Way of Colquitt County, and the Moultrie-Colquitt Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, he has served on numerous boards and committees in Moultrie-Colquitt County and is a longtime member of the Colquitt County Board of Education, where he served as chairman in 1999, 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2013. Under his leadership, the board recently completed construction on a new state-of-the-art Colquitt County High School.

In 2014, Reeves was named to the Advisory Board of UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. Because of his experience in community leadership roles, Reeves provides invaluable counsel and advice to the institute in fulfillment of its leadership development mission.

Reeves, a UGA graduate, is married to Cheryle Neal Reeves, and the couple has three grown children.

UGA scholar selected for Knauss Fellowship

University of Georgia alumna Shiyu (Rachel) Wang has been awarded the John A. Knauss Marine Policy fellowship for 2017. Sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program, the year-long fellowship matches current and recent graduate students with hosts in the legislative and executive branches of government.

Beginning in February, Wang will spend one year working as an aquaculture program fellow in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Aquaculture. The office creates employment and business opportunities in coastal communities, provides safe, sustainable seafood, and maintains healthy and productive marine populations, species, ecosystems and vibrant coastal communities.

Wang was among 125 Knauss fellowship applicants from across the country. Sixty-five were chosen for the 2017 class, representing 29 of the 33 state Sea Grant programs.

“I believe the Knauss fellowship will provide a unique educational and professional experience for me to start a career relating my knowledge of marine science to policy decisions, allowing me to influence and protect our natural resources,” said Wang. “This opportunity will also help me determine where, within the scheme of environmental action, my strengths and skills will have the biggest impact.”

Wang received her master’s degree in marine sciences from UGA. Her research focused on the aquatic metabolism of the coastal saltmarsh estuary, as part of Georgia Coastal Ecosystems – Long Term Ecological Research (GCE-LTER) project. Wang holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ocean University of China.

Georgia Sea Grant is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Knauss fellowship. For information on applying, please visit the Georgia Sea Grant website.



UGA alumna named State Botanical Garden of Georgia director

Jennifer M. Cruse-Sanders, vice president for science and conservation at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, has been named director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA, effective Feb. 15, 2017.

Cruse-Sanders’ senior administrative experience managing botanical garden programming and personnel, her track record of raising funds to support those programs, and her energy and commitment to public gardens, made her the top candidate.

“Jenny’s strong record of outstanding leadership at the Atlanta Botanical Garden makes her ideally suited to lead Georgia’s State Botanical Garden,” said Jennifer L. Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach, which oversees the garden. “I am confident that working closely with the board of advisors and the Friends of the Garden, she will be in a position to raise the profile of and support for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia throughout the southeast and the country.”

Cruse-Sanders has worked at the Atlanta Botanical Garden since 2008. She was director of research and conservation before becoming a vice president. Prior to Atlanta, she spent nine years as a research associate at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. She received her M.S. and a Ph.D. in botany from UGA. She earned her B.A. in biology at Boston University.

The State Botanical Garden serves UGA’s teaching, research and outreach missions, and is an extremely popular public garden. More than 235,000 people visit the Garden annually for educational programs, research, special events, and recreation. The 313-acre Garden includes a tropical conservatory/visitor center; the nondenominational Cecil B. Day Chapel; the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies; and a horticulture complex and nursery. The garden contains several theme gardens and five miles of nature trails through deciduous Georgia piedmont forest.

Cruse-Sanders joins the State Botanical Garden as it prepares to break ground in October on the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, named for a charter member of the advisory board, and a key feature of the garden’s master plan. The university will begin construction on the new attraction in October 2017.

So far UGA, in partnership with the garden’s board of advisors, has raised more than $4.2 million for the Children’s Garden and has received authorization from the University System Board of Regents to seek bids for a design professional and construction manager.

The two-and-a-half acre fun-filled educational environment will include a wheelchair-accessible canopy walk in the trees, a tree house, creature habitats, hands-on garden plots, an underground laboratory, edible landscapes, and a bog garden and pond. One component, an amphitheater in the woods, was completed in 2015.

Cruse-Sanders follows Wilf Nicholls, who will retire on Jan. 31, 2017, after more than six years at the garden. Associate Director John Graham will serve as interim director from Feb. 1-14.

Contact: Kelly Simmons,, 706-296-0855

Student spotlight: Shivani Rangaswamy

Shivani Rangaswamy, a pre-med student from Cumming, Ga. and a 2016-17 Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar, shares with us her experience with service-learning at UGA and how she plans to meld service with her long-term career goals.

What made you want to get involved with service at UGA?

It is easy to get wrapped up in the college atmosphere and get lost in the “UGA bubble.” But outside our campus is one of the poorest counties in the entire country. By spending significant amounts of time learning about the issues facing the Athens community and working with various nonprofits in the area, I became very interested in facilitating change through my role as a UGA student. UGA has some great programs and organizations, like Public Service and Outreach, that really make huge impacts on our community. Over the past couple of years, service has become one of my main priorities for my undergraduate career.

What do you hope to get out of the Student Scholars program?

For most of my life, I have viewed service and my career as two separate aspects. The Student Scholars program really changed my perspective by showing me how I can integrate service and social responsibility into my career aspirations. I hope to learn skills and avenues through which I can integrate citizenship and service in all aspects of my life.

In addition to the Student Scholars program, what other volunteer and service programs are you involved with, both at UGA and in Athens?

I am a tutor with the Thomas Lay afterschool program where I mentor Athens-Clarke County students on a weekly basis. I also volunteer at the Mercy Health Center, which is a local free clinic. At UGA, I am the vice president of events for RefUGA, a refugee and advocacy student organization, and a service ambassador for the Center for Leadership and Service.

This spring you’ll be working with the Archway Partnership. What made you choose that unit for your internship?

I wanted to work with this program because I am interested in pursuing a career in community-based healthcare and I enjoyed the local and community-oriented approach of Archway. I like how they truly listen to their constituents and empower them with advice and resources rather than operative with a savior mentality.

Do you believe it is important for students to participate in service programs?

Service programs have been such a fulfilling and rewarding experience of my undergraduate career. I am so excited that UGA is making it a priority for their future students with the experiential learning requirement. The nonprofit/public service industry is a very rewarding and exciting field to work in, but not many people know much about it. Getting involved in programs such as Public Service and Outreach can open up career opportunities and pathways that you may never know you had the option to pursue.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

As a pre-med student, I will probably still be in school or training! But when I graduate, I hope to work for a local nonprofit organization. I want to work to provide accessible and affordable healthcare for my community. Your health is one of the most important aspects of your life, and if you are not healthy, you will have difficulty working and supporting yourself and your family. I believe that by providing preventative medicine that is culturally sensitive and locally based, medical professionals can provide citizens with the agency to make positive changes in their life.

Improved understanding of financials helps Atlanta aviation company soar

Dan Casey was looking for a location for a new business after selling his Oxnard, California-based helicopter tour company. Sean Casey was closing his 10-year-old residential real estate business in Atlanta after the recession hit the industry hard. The brothers could have opened their new aviation parts company anywhere, but they chose to land in metro Atlanta.

“When people think of Georgia, they think of peaches and peanuts. Not a lot of people realize aviation is the number one export product in Georgia,” said Casey. “Combined with the state’s friendly business climate, it swayed our decision to locate in Atlanta.”

They opened Rotocorp LLC in 2011, starting small and communicating with potential customers via email and phone. Dan focused on engineering while Sean conducted all sales and marketing.

“We experienced steady growth in years two and three,”said Casey. Rotocorp, an authorized Robinson Helicopter Company Service Center, now maintains the largest inventory of Robinson parts in the world. It also distributes aviation-related products from companies that include Rolls Royce, Dart Aerospace and Aviall, a Boeing company.

With more than 10,000 Robinson helicopters around the world, exports quickly grew to more than half of their sales and were responsible for 80 percent of their growth. The Caseys decided on a strategy to triple their export sales in three years and began looking for an export finance line of credit.

“We sell major components, so our average ticket is about $5,000,” said Casey. “One of hardest things for our international clients to do, sometimes, is to actually execute payment for an order. It can take days or weeks – depending on the country – to send us funds. We wanted to secure an export finance line of credit large enough that it would allow us to provide open account terms to some of our overseas buyers and attract new ones.”

They approached the Export-Import Bank at the end of 2013 and were referred to Darrel Hulsey, an international trade consultant for the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.

“My eyes glossed over when we talked numbers, so the bank recommended we talk to the SBDC,”said Casey.

Hulsey helped them sharpen their financials and prepare financial projections as part of the application for a seven figure export credit line.

“For any small business, seeking capital is always a challenge,” said Hulsey. “Our goal is to enlighten clients as to what is available and how various entities can help them obtain capital, mitigate the risk and help them grow. When working with Sean, the objective is to make sure the company grows successfully. Success is not just a matter of growing, but of growing profitably and being prepared for that growth from a capital standpoint.”

“Darrel taught me that I needed to pay more attention to our financials,” admitted Casey. “Our work with the SBDC revealed that I really needed to sharpen my skills in that area of the business.”

Hulsey then recommended Rotocorp for the SBA Emerging Leaders Program. “This program is a seven-month long, extremely intense, ‘hacked’ MBA program,” said Casey, who graduated as the program’s class valedictorian.

“It helped extend Darrel’s training in the importance of managing by the numbers, making data-informed financial decisions,” he says.

Hulsey also introduced the Caseys to several industry contacts and a tax filing status called an IC-DISC. “The IC-DISC is one of the few true tax benefits left for exporters,” says Sean. “It helps make exporting more profitable. This information has been extraordinarily helpful to us.”

Rotocorp now serves more than 1,000 customers in 45 countries. It has three employees with plans to add two more in the next 12-18 months. In the last year, its sales numbers have nearly doubled. “We finished the third quarter of 2016 ahead of our total fiscal year for 2015 and are looking to have a record year this year,” said Casey.

“Sean is very determined and focused,” said Hulsey. “I’ve worked with a lot of owners over the years. Those like Sean are the ones who overcome obstacles and succeed. Rotocorp will continue to do well.”

Project will identify innovative stormwater management in coastal Georgia

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is helping create an inventory of low impact development stormwater practices along the coast to use as examples for future projects.

These practices improve water quality and the health of coastal ecosystems, said Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“One way of mitigating the impact of polluted runoff is the implementation of stormwater low impact development best management practices, which incorporate science-based strategies and tools to treat stormwater before it flows into our streams and estuaries,” Brown said.

The inventory will include best practices from 11 of Georgia’s coastal communities. Information about the type of practice, along with photographs and summary reports will be included. Summary data can be used to support the design, development and permitting of future projects in coastal communities.

Kelly Hill, coastal resources specialist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Coastal Resources Division, will work with Brown and other partners to develop the inventory. Hill hopes coastal communities will use it as a resource to learn about alternative infrastructure.

“The inventory will identify on-the-ground examples that can be visited in person and provide more detailed information on the process and costs involved,” Hill said. “This information can be used by practitioners, local governments and the water resource community.”

Funding for the project was provided by DNR. Other partners include the nonprofit Center for Watershed Protection based in Ellicott Coty, Md., and the Ecological Planning Group, a Savannah-based consulting firm.

Community impact: Public Service and Outreach hosts second Day of Service

More than 225 UGA employees fanned out across Athens-Clarke County, contributing 550 total hours of service to nonprofit organizations during the Public Service and Outreach second annual Day of Service on Nov. 18.

In addition, Public Service and Outreach and Cooperative Extension employees in other counties also participated in projects in their communities.

Projects ranged from installing compost bins at local middle schools, cleaning the kitchen at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter and clearing trails at Dudley Park. In all there were 14 service projects in Clarke County for employees to choose from.

At the Sweet Olive Animal Rescue Farm in Winterville, five Public Service and Outreach employees helped dig holes for fence posts. Co-founder Kat Howkins was so excited to have a full crew working on her farm, she brought them cinnamon rolls as a treat.

“It allows us to fulfill projects we just can’t do as two people trying to run this place,” Howkins said. “We have volunteers but having a dedicated, sophisticated group of workers is amazing. They have put in those fence posts in the last hour. It’s so awesome.”

In Brunswick and Savannah, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant employees cleaned up trails and beaches.

In Athens and across the state, 105 employees collected supplies for local schools. Across campus employees collected canned goods for Campus Kitchen at UGA’s annual Turkeypalooza, which provides a Thanksgiving dinner to food-insecure seniors and their families. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a unit of Public Service and Outreach, collected the equivalent of 5,500 pounds of food (including cash gifts) winning the campus collection competition.

Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum began her day at Hilsman Middle School where she used a power drill to help co-workers from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development and the Office of Service-Learning build a wash-and-weigh station for produce grown in the school’s garden.

Frum worked alongside Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning, which coordinated the Day of Service, measuring wooden boards to be cut. Wilder said the project is a tangible reminder of how important her daily work is.

“I think we’re wired to try to make a difference,” Wilder said. “We think about that every day as we come to work and how what we do really matters to the state of Georgia. Days like this are days that we can really see the impact that we’re having.”

That was obvious at Dudley Park, too, where massive piles of branches were stacked on the banks of the Oconee River. Volunteers, including the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Scott Pippin, took a brief break for a group photo in the warm late afternoon.

Pippin, who works with planners across Georgia in his day job, said he enjoyed the manual labor. It was different to see an immediate physical product instead of working in the office on projects that may take years to complete.

“It’s great to actually see what you’ve done in a day instead of the long-term vision of the stuff we normally work on,” he said. “It’s an immediate gratification of feeling like we did something today that made a difference.”

UGA Public Service and Outreach includes the Archway Partnership, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the Center for Continuing Education and Hotel, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, the Small Business Development Center, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and the Office of Service-Learning, which also reports to the UGA vice president for instruction.

New model adds greater value to celebrated South Georgia winery

Charles Cowart Jr. grew up on a 12,000-acre cattle farm his father managed in Calhoun Co., Ga. Farm workers there grew corn and other grains for silage but had little to do during the winter. So his father planted muscadine grapes, which they would prune and maintain during the coldest months, when the vines were dormant.

The senior Cowart purchased the vineyard in the mid-1970s and grew it into a business producing table grapes and grape juice. Now that 190-acre “make do” for the winter is a third-generation family business that produces 150,000 gallons of grape juice each year.

Most of the juice is processed and sold. However, Cowart and his son, Charlie, keep 30,000 gallons to produce some of the Southeast’s most celebrated muscadine grape-based wines. With 132 awards to date, they are labeled under the family brand: Still Pond Vineyards and Winery.

The Cowarts, looking for ways to add value to their produce, decided to open a craft distillery. They turned to Debbie Finney, area director of the Albany office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, for help in securing financing and a line of credit to launch their new business.

“We still sell juice to wineries, and most of our customers sell in high-traffic tourist areas,” said Cowart. “When the economic crunch hit, they saw fewer tourists, and we saw a steady decline in what our juice customers were able to buy from us.”

While they were looking at ways to become more self-sustaining, they noticed the trend in new craft breweries.

“We prefer taking our grapes from the field to a finished product, so it made sense to see if we could make a distillery work here rather than cut back on production. We started working on this idea in 2010, and by 2012 we were looking at how we were going to pay for it.”

They decided to apply for a USDA Value Added Producer Grant and went to Finney, who had assisted them with other projects. The project’s size and the lack of comparable distillery models they needed to help develop realistic financial projections were challenging.

“The Cowarts were already successfully producing a value-added product in the winery. You could see the potential for adding another business,” said Finney. “We put together all the pieces that showed how the distillery would work and how they would use more of their wine in the product.”

With Finney’s help, Cowart developed projections and a loan proposal and was awarded the highly competitive grant.

“Debbie helped us quite a bit, putting together all the forms and numbers our grant writers would need to make our distillery feasible,” said Cowart. “We looked for hours at the numbers, looking at all possibilities and what we did and did not need to do. She showed us it’s important to know what you’re doing before you get too far into it.”

Still Pond Distillery opened in 2014 as the only farm winery and distillery in the Southeast. Nineteen new products have been added to the Still Pond brand: nine distilled spirits, six fortified wines and four meads. Full-time employment now stands at nine, and sales of the distilled spirits are boosting their wine sales.

“Last year we used about 40 percent of the grapes we grew,” said Cowart. “This year we’ll use about 50 percent. Our production our of our new facility will yield us more gross income than the vines in our fields. We want to be as self-sufficient as we can.”

Finney sees a bright future for Still Pond.

“The Cowarts built this business and know it. They have a good vision, and like all successful business owners, they are always planning and working on their business,” she said.

“As far as I’m concerned, the SBDC has done us a fabulous job,” said Cowart. “Debbie Finney is quite an asset to that office. She has been quite a blessing for us.”

UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium hosts PSO student scholars

The 2016-17 Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Student Scholars visited the Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island in late September.

The PSO Student Scholar program is intended to provide students with a deeper understanding of PSO’s purpose, breadth, and depth through supervised service experiences with PSO units and communities. Upon arrival, the students met with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Director Mark Risse and Associate Director for Marine Education Anne Lindsay about the research, education and outreach efforts by faculty and staff on the Georgia coast. Following the introductions, students accompanied marine educator and naturalist John “Crawfish” Crawford on a nature hike through the maritime forest on the Jay Wolf Nature Trail. The rest of the weekend at the coast included a behind-the-scenes tour of the UGA Aquarium with Marine Educator Mary Sweeney-Reeves, water quality sampling with Marine Educator Mare Timmons, and a tour of the Oyster Hatchery at the Shellfish Research Lab. Megha Kalia and Tracy Wong are two PSO student scholars assigned to UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

SBDC assists Calhoun printing company with start-up and growth

Mike Aldridge went into commercial printing in the Atlanta area just a year out of high school. After a career in the industry, he began to think about running his own business his way with a focus on printing for the rug trade.

“I had a desire to go into it further,” he said. “However, he would need a capital investment of nearly $400,000 for equipment, space and personnel.

In the spring of 2014, he partnered with his brother-in-law and began looking for financing for his new business. A Calhoun resident, Aldridge approached Century Bank in Calhoun to help process an SBA loan and get funding. Century suggested he contact Richard Montanaro at the UGA Small Business Development Center.

“Angela Hammond at Century advised us on the direction she thought would be successful in granting the loan,” he said. “The printing industry is 50 miles wide with all kinds of businesses and has been on the decline in the last 8-10 years. So we did stand some challenges explaining our business.”

It was a challenge pitching Aldridge’s new business to the bank, Montanaro agreed. “Mike is an experienced production manager. He had been doing the work for years and his experience was very helpful. But when he put together the financial projections, his numbers were from a high-volume, existing company. We took a great deal of time modifying and translating his information to what it would look like for a start-up company.”

“Richard spent a lot of time helping us prepare a detailed plan,” said Aldridge. “It gave a good and accurate representation of what we thought our new business would do.”

Montanaro coached Aldridge on market research, cost analysis and competitive analysis to help him develop his business plan and financial projections. And he attended his presentations to the bank.

“Richard has started several businesses in his career. He’s done it before,” said Aldridge. “He knew how to address the good, bad and ugly and gave us solid recommendations on our business plan and projections and how to handle our receivables and payables.”

When his SBA loan was approved, Aldridge opened Eagle Color and Sublimation LLC in a 5,000-square-foot facility in Calhoun with five employees that August. They do business with eight regular customers, including three of the continent’s largest flooring and mat manufacturers, and were recently asked to complete an RFQ for a potential new overseas customer.

Eighteen months after Eagle Color had opened, sales had climbed to an estimated $1 million annually. This rapid growth brought another challenge Montanaro had coached Aldridge on from the beginning: cash flow.

“The faster a business grows, the quicker it runs out of cash if they don’t plan for their cash cycle adequately. I coached Mike on asking vendors for better terms and on offering his clients small incentives for earlier payment so he could manage his cash flow.”

Aldridge agrees this advice has helped him manage his growth. “Starting out, Richard warned us how hard it was going to be. He was helpful in explaining what to do. Little things like that have been a huge help in getting our money early.”

Since the company’s opening, Montanaro has assisted Aldridge in strategic planning and provided website analysis to enhance the company’s digital footprint.

“Richard’s really good about following up,” Aldridge said. “We talked every two to three months. He asks how it’s going and what else he can do to help. That’s nice.”

“What stands out about Mike and his business is the seamless way they translate customers’ design needs into a manufactured product and how quickly they go from design to production,” said Montanaro. “I expect them to continue to grow and can’t wait to help them with their next expansion.”

UGA’s State Botanical Garden completes first major prairie planting

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia completed its first major planting of native grasses and wildflowers as part of the Piedmont Prairie Restoration.

In September, more than 10,000 plugs grown from seed at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia were planted at the garden at a site named Prairie on a Hill.

“This planting actually represents the last stage of a five-year cycle,” said Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist at the botanical garden. “We first had to determine the species to use. Then, we had to find the plants, collect the seeds from wild population, figure out how to grow them and then increase the seeds each year. It really takes a village.”

All of the plants are native to the Georgia Piedmont and are critical as migration corridors for the birds and insects that are essential pollinators for this region of the state.

Faculty and staff from the botanical garden worked alongside employees from the Gainesville Fockele Garden Company on the project, funded by a three-year grant from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services.

“This habitat also supports ground nesting birds, such as turkey, quail, grouse and snipe,” said Jennifer Ceska, conservation coordinator at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. “We have seen declines in those populations over the last 50 years, and these species are considered to be high priority for conservation managers.”

As part of the garden’s commitment to education, the Prairie on a Hill will be used as a teaching and demonstration area for those who want to learn more about the process of native habitat restoration. Ceska’s hope is that landowners, particularly large land-holding organizations, will incorporate what they learn into their environmental practices.

All of this work feeds into the goals of the Georgia Native Plant Initiative, established in 2010. By using the growing knowledge base of native habitat restoration and the local ecotypes needed to sustain them, those working at the Center for Native Plants can partner with landscapers, land and roadside managers, and commercial property owners to transform landscapes across Georgia.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s habitat restoration program goes beyond the Prairie on the Hill. While one project involves the removal of invasive species from the understory of its floodplain forest, another has been a source of research for Lauren Muller, a graduate assistant studying horticulture. Muller’s project—determining the best way to prepare a site for establishing milkweed, an important host plant for rapidly dwindling populations of Monarch butterflies—will conclude with a planting in October at Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, Ga.

“Our habitat restoration program, and particularly our Prairie on the Hill, feed into the research, education and display efforts we promise to fulfill here at the garden,” said Jim Affolter, director of research. “And at the end of the day, we are guiding the research of our students and providing the public with a beautiful prairie meadow to explore.”