SBDC Contractor Academy supports local businesses

Food may be the love language of the Classic City. From staples to newly established restaurants, Athens is never short on good eats. So, in a town with a lively food scene, how can a small business stand out?

For Rashe Malcolm, chef and owner of Rashe’s Cuisine, the answer came in the form of the Contractor Academy, a training program for local business owners offered by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a unit of Public Service and Outreach.

The Contractor Academy provides resources for small businesses, ranging from caterers to real estate developers, looking to work with larger corporations or government agencies. On Oct. 23, Malcolm joined 14 other business owners in the second of four sessions held in Clarke County. The day’s topic? Marketing and business development.

From cooking lessons to personalized meal prep, Malcolm understands that it’s not just her food that drives business. “The Contractor Academy has made me realize there’s a way I can present my services to enhance how I introduce my product, so people will look at it in a different light,” she said.

Over the course of six weeks, SBDC consultants helped contractors position their businesses to break into new markets and expand their client base.Sessions covered strategic planning and execution, financial readiness and scalable infrastructure.

SBDC consultant Bart Njoku-Obi speaks at the Contractor Academy

The Contractor Academy is one of many SBDC resources helping local business owners grow their accounts. Bart Njoku-Obi, a consultant with the SBDC Office of Minority Business Development, explained, “The individuals here have the opportunity to come back and connect directly with our consultants to take the principles they’ve learned in the program and apply them.”

“I’m really changing my business, and a lot of it is through advice that I’ve been getting from the SBDC,” said Julie Lorenz, CEO of Olis, an Athens-based company that makes lab instruments called spectrophotometers. For Lorenz, the Contractor Academy refreshed her perspective and got her thinking beyond the day-to-day grind of running a business. “One of the most important lessons that these classes teach us is to make time to work on your business—not just in your business,” she said.

Malcolm agreed.

“Because I took this class, I don’t have to be just another restaurant. I don’t have to be just another caterer,” she said. “I can be an expert in this field, providing services that others, who didn’t come to this class and didn’t do the research, may not be able to tap into.”

The SBDC serves communities through 17 regional offices across the state, six of them in partnership with other University System of Georgia universities. The first Athens Contractor Academy was supported by the University of Georgia Office of the President, in collaboration with Athens-Clarke County Economic Development, Envision Athens and the Northeast Georgia Business Alliance.


Hayley Major Editorial Account Manager • 706-542-0060

Fueling Growth: The Right Ingredients Lead to Healthy Growth for Augusta Meal Prep Business

Former firefighter and nurse Onnie Sanford never intended to start her own business. However, a strong desire to recover her fitness and energy after childbirth put her on that path.

Sanford now owns and runs Paleo Num Yums, an Augusta business that sells pre-cooked meals to health-conscious individuals.

“As a nurse, I understand the relationship between nutrition and health, and that for many, nutrition is hard to get their hands around,” Sanford said.

Feeling out-of-sorts after her second pregnancy, Sanford launched into high-intensity training and worked with a nutritionist at the gym.

“I learned how to eat, and everything changed,” she said.

Not six weeks after delivering her third child, Sanford was back in shape. Friends asked her to cook the paleo diet-inspired meals she’d learned from the nutritionist that had helped her recover. She would post the meals on social media and use the extra money to pay for groceries.

She launched the business in January 2016. As it grew, her friend Kyle Flanagan, a successful entrepreneur and long-time University of Georgia Small Business Development Center client, suggested she contact Augusta Area Director Rick McMurtrey.

“When Onnie approached us in 2017, she was looking for another location that would allow her to continue growing. She had two full-time and two part-time employees, and her sales revenues were on pace to reach $165,000,” McMurtrey said.

They worked together on location selection, with McMurtrey pulling demographics indicating that a 1,300 square-foot space next to an Earth Fare market would be a good fit. He helped with sales revenue projections to complete an executive summary for Sanford’s bank and helped her plan a discussion and a build-out allowance with the landlord.

“Rick kept his finger on my pulse throughout,” she said. “He sent me to the SBDC’s GrowSmart® program and other workshops. He came out six months before I was scheduled to move and talked about my long-term goals and processes that would get us through it.”

The first year, sale revenues grew more than 200 percent and Sanford added six new part-time employees. Onnie’s husband Dwayne now helps with human resources while working for a local fire department.

“Rick and the SBDC have given me a better understanding of what I’m doing,” she says. “When someone comes to me with ideas, I decide whether it will work for my business, tell them if it won’t, and remain confident in my decision. They’ve given me a better head for business.”

Fifth annual UGA Day of Service benefits local nonprofits and agencies

More than 200 UGA Public Service and Outreach employees planted flowers, organized books, walked dogs and reconstructed a middle school garden in Athens-Clarke County as a part of the 2019 PSO Day of Service.

It was the fifth Day of Service event, held annually on the Friday before Thanksgiving.

UGA faculty and staff participated in service projects at 14 sites, four of them offering two shifts, contributing about 385 hours of service to the local community. Seventy-five PSO employees also contributed to a supply drive for the Athens Area Diaper Bank and for programs in UGA’s Archway Partnership communities, collecting nearly 2,000 diapers, 328 combs, 113 bars of soap, 90 rolls of toilet paper, and other items, like shampoo, shaving cream, razors, band-aids, and games and puzzles.

 “While everyone in PSO is committed to UGA’s outreach mission across the state, our faculty and staff personally commit hundreds of hours volunteering right here in Athens,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for Public Service and Outreach. “Our PSO Day of Service is an example of how we pull together as a united team to serve our Athens community.”

On the Day of Service, employees cleared debris from Cleveland Road Elementary School and put in a new pollinator garden at Coile Middle School. They sorted books for Books for Keeps and cleaned cages and exercised pets for adoption at the Athens Pets Animal Shelter. They planted 22,000 daffodils along the Highway 10 Loop at Lexington Road and filled bags with fixings for holiday meals for older adults and families, many of them grandparents raising grandchildren. PSO faculty and staff also partnered with Project Safe and the Athens Community Council on Aging to offer a free pop-up thrift sale for seniors.

Public Service and Outreach employees built and stained new benches for Howard B. Stroud Elementary outdoor spaces.

Assisting with Turkeypalooza, sponsored by the student-run UGA Campus Kitchen organization that addresses food insecurity in Athens, has been a pre-Thanksgiving tradition for years.

Ramatulai Jagne, a Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar from Clayton County, joined other 2019-20 Student Scholars helping with Turkeypalooza this year.

“I think this is important because food insecurity is a big problem in Athens,” Jagne said. “So being Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars, we really want to help combat that, so this is a big way that we can’t help.”


Kelly Simmons Director of Communications • 706-542-2512

SBDC employee receives PSO Employee Spotlight Award

Carolina Ramon, director of the Office of Minority Business Development for the UGA Small Business Development Center, was presented with the second Public Service and Outreach Employee Spotlight Award on Dec. 6.

Ramon was surprised with the award by PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum during a meeting at the SBDC offices in Athens. She is the second Employee Spotlight.

SBDC Director Allan Adams nominated Ramon for the award.

“Carolina has distinguished herself as a dedicated public service faculty member, determined to find innovative ways to assist entrepreneurs interested in growing their business,” Adams wrote in his nomination. “She works tirelessly to reach out to, encourage and help business owners overcome the challenges they face in a highly competitive marketplace.”

Ramon joined the SBDC in 2015. In September 2019, she was recognized by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as one of the “50 Most Influential Latinos in Georgia” at a luncheon at SunTrust Park.

“The SBDC is a critical component of Georgia’s economic development program and I am proud of the work these employees do in 17 regional offices throughout the state,” Frum said. “Carolina’s contributions exemplify the service mission of the University of Georgia, the state’s land-grant and sea-grant university.”

The PSO-wide award was established earlier this year as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and contributions of employees throughout the year. The Employee Spotlight highlights employees who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities, who produce outstanding work and who contribute significantly to the strategic mission of the division.

Any full or part time employee of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, the eight PSO units, and the Atlanta economic development office are eligible for the award. Employees can nominate themselves or someone else.

For more information or to nominate someone for the award, go to

Leadership institute helps Macon businesses grow

An entrepreneurial leadership curriculum developed by the University of Georgia is helping several Macon business owners lead their businesses to new heights.

In 2018, NewTown Macon—a nonprofit organization focused on economic and cultural development in downtown Macon—contacted the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development about developing a program that would blend leadership and entrepreneurial skills development for current and aspiring business owners in downtown Macon.

“We have a small business loan program, and a lot of people that we help finance never have taken a business loan before,” said Bethany Rogers, director of business and real estate development for NewTown Macon. “They often need some coaching to get them across the finish line, so we were trying to figure out a way to offer that in a group setting. After bringing our ideas to the Fanning Institute, we saw the need to also include leadership and personal development as part of the program.”

Building on NewTown Macon’s program vision, Fanning Institute faculty designed the curriculum for the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and facilitated the initial class in fall 2018.

“We developed a unique curriculum that injects leadership development as a core component to successful entrepreneurship,” said Brandy Walker, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute. “We first asked participants to focus on themselves as a person, a leader and a business owner in order to set them up for success in developing their business plan.”

Over the course of four sessions, participants focused on developing leadership skills critical to working with others to grow their business, while also learning more about business plan development and other entrepreneurial skills.

“Having Brandy’s expertise in curriculum design and presentation added tremendous value to the program,” Rogers said. “Her work made the curriculum much more digestible for the participants and much more dynamic.”

NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy participant Nora Stephens poses with her food truck.

Nora Stephens participated in the NewTown Macon Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy to help her food truck business. (PHOTO: Shannah Montgomery / PSO)

Scott Mitchell, owner of Travis Jean Emporium, an art gallery and gift shop in Macon, credits the academy with helping him grow his business and expand his leadership role in the community.

“Before going into the academy, I decided that this year I was going to step back and not do some things like outside committees,” Mitchell said. “Instead, the academy showed me that I need to step up more.”

As a result, Mitchell joined the Chamber of Commerce board and is the incoming chairperson of Main Street Macon, which he said also opened doors for his business.

“I had 15 months of straight (revenue) increase from the previous year until June 2019,” Mitchell said.

Megan Carson, owner of Sparks Yoga in Macon, also developed her business ownership skills through the academy.

“From a leadership perspective, I was having a hard time delegating and leading my business as much as I should be,” Carson said. “The academy helped create a more concrete vision and mission and take charge of my business more.”

Evaluating her business following the academy, Carson identified a need to re-structure her membership plans and since doing that, membership in the yoga studio has increased significantly, she said.

According to Mitchell and Carson, the academy also strengthened the relationships between business owners in downtown Macon.

“The connections have been very helpful by learning that I have not been alone in these struggles,” Carson said. “I have these connections now that I can reach out to and talk to. We’re all in this together.”


Charlie Bauder Fanning Institute Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039


Brandy Walker Fanning Institute Public Service Associate • 706-542-1660

AT&T Foundation contribution to support Embark Georgia network

A $25,000 contribution from the AT&T Foundation will help the University of Georgia increase college access and retention for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness.

Embark Georgia, founded and run by UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, is a statewide leadership network of higher education, k-12 and child welfare professionals who provide leadership and support for youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness and are enrolled in or interested in attending any postsecondary educational institution in Georgia.

Of the total gift, half will train employees on 12 University System of Georgia (USG) and Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) campuses to be designated points of contact for students. These contacts will undergo Fostering for Success Coaches Leadership Training.

“The contact on each campus is a source of support and connection on campus,” said David Meyers, Fanning Institute public service associate and Embark Georgia co-network director. “While that role in and of itself is significant, this additional leadership and coaches training will help these individuals more effectively guide students to available federal, state, campus and Embark Georgia resources that can help them better be able to succeed in college.”

With the remainder of the gift, Embark Georgia will provide emergency assistance funding to cover medical, transportation, housing or food needs for college students in Georgia who have experienced foster care and/or homelessness.

“At AT&T, we know every child has the potential to achieve something great,” said Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Georgia. “As we work to cultivate a future of opportunity and promise for all Georgians, we are especially proud to support Embark Georgia and the University of Georgia’s meaningful work to connect our youth—tomorrow’s leaders—to resources that can help them realize their academic dreams.”

Since its establishment in 2012, Embark Georgia has established a designated point of contact for students at every USG and TCSG institution. Georgia is the first state to do this for both foster and homeless youth.

“Helping create a better educated and more prosperous Georgia is a key mission of a land-grant and sea-grant institution like UGA,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for Public Service and Outreach. “Our corporate partners recognize that and we appreciate their support for our programs.”

In all, the gift is expected to serve about 120 students across Georgia.

“Embark Georgia has led the way nationally to ensure that youth who have experienced foster care or homelessness have access to what they need to pursue their educational goals,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “This leadership training will enable these USG and TCSG employees to help their schools develop more robust campus-based programs to better serve these students and keep them on track.”

For more information on Embark Georgia, go to


Charlie Bauder Fanning Institute Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039


David Meyers Fanning Institute Public Service Associate • 706-542–5062

Students spend fall break helping communities recover

IMPACT Service Break students used their fall break to serve their fellow Georgians who are recovering from back-to-back natural disasters.

During the Nov. 1-3 weekend, students traveled to Cairo, Georgia, less than an hour north of Tallahassee with a population of fewer than 10,000 people. The community experienced damage from Hurricane Michael a year ago, followed by a tornado about five months later in March 2019.

“Cairo has one emergency social services organization, The Help Agency, serving all of Grady County,” said Sharon Liggett, operations coordinator for the Grady County Archway Partnership, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. “It was devastating for them to be wiped out twice and have limited means to restock on goods and supplies needed in the community. The agency provides food, medical, rent, utilities, clothing as well as other needs not otherwise covered.”

The collaboration between the Center for Leadership and Service and the Archway Partnership leveraged the existing IMPACT program to make a positive mark in the state of Georgia in line with the University’s Great Commitments recommendation.

A learning experience

“Participants worked alongside the Cairo community to learn about their relief services and resource access challenges,” said Ashley Kalinda, student lead for the Cairo trip. “The community identified how we could help, and we grew by learning from them.”

“Students began with a community tour to orient themselves and witnessed the damage,” said Liggett. “They saw homes, now one year later, with blue tarps still on the roof and the twisted off tops of trees.”

From there, students worked at the Help Agency to clean, organize donations, install shelving units, and restock items.

“We talked about what emergency relief means for a community, the dissemination of resources in these situations, and the importance of listening to what a community tells us they need,” said Kalinda.

UGA IMPACT students unloading new shelves for the Grady County Family Learning Center Building.

UGA IMPACT students unloading new shelves for the Grady County Family Learning Center Building. (Photo by Sharon Liggett)

The trip also allowed students to experience rural south Georgia culture. They enjoyed home-cooked meals with team members from the Help Agency, and attended the 47th annual Mule Day in Calvary, Georgia, celebrating the mule’s historic role in the local agriculture.

Kalinda explained how each day, participants reflected on their personal identities and how they affect their perceptions of disaster relief issues.

“This gives us a better understanding of how we can go about addressing these things going forward in our own hometowns,” said Kalinda.

Amanda Torrence, senior coordinator for IMPACT Service Breaks at CLS, said the reflection helped students learn from the community members and partners, and also consider their own experiences and identities related to the trip.

“I believe that you cannot fully engage in service-learning without considering your own personal development and growth,” said Torrence.

A history of service

IMPACT Service Breaks began in 1994 with a group of UGA students interested in spending the week of spring break engaged in community service as opposed to the more traditional past-times of college spring break. Administered by the Center for Leadership and Service, a department within the Division of Student Affairs, the program has engaged more than 3,000 students in service to dozens of communities across the United States.

Torrence explained that an IMPACT trip does not end when the trip ends. She hopes students bring back what they have learned to the UGA and Athens community.

“Whether that is getting involved with service, advocacy, or just being a more critical consumer, we want this positive social change to continue long after this trip,” said Torrence.


Marilyn Primovic Graduate Assistant for Marketing • 706-542-5060

Relationship with SBDC paid off for contractor when the U.S. economy went south

Guiomar Obregon’s company was struggling during the Great Recession. Loans were coming due, business was down. Fortunately, she had already tapped into the expertise of the UGA Small Business Development Center when she launched Precision 2000 (P2K) two decades ago, so she knew where to go for help.

P2K is an Atlanta-based civil engineering firm that builds infrastructure for communities, including water and sewer lines, roads, bridges, sidewalks and streetscapes. It repairs concrete on airport runways and taxiways. It works with the Georgia Department of Transportation on highway repair contracts, replacing concrete slabs, and contracts with military bases in the Carolinas and Georgia.

“We knew the SBDC was there to assist small businesses, so I took many of their classes, initially,” said Obregon, a general contractor. “As the company continued growing, we continued accessing the SBDC resources.”

Then the economy tanked.

“In 2007, I had many loans that were maturing, and the banks were not lending. Our sales had dropped to half of what they were, and we were in a bad spot to refinance,” Obregon said. “The SBDC helped me prepare the documents for a (U.S. Small Business Administration) loan, helping me refinance the equipment and some of the real estate, the office and the equipment yard.”

SBDC Consultant Antonio Barrios helped Obregon learn about the that was applicable to the refinancing she needed.

“He helped me navigate, look for the best options and negotiate with the banks,” she said.

P2K owner Guiomar Obregon examines a set of blueprints.

The SBDC then helped Obregon apply for U.S. Small Business Administration business development certification, which can help socially and economically disadvantaged businesses secure contracts with the federal government.

“The certification was essential because it opened new avenues to guide Guiomar’s company out of recession and into strong growth,” said Carolina Ramon, director of the SBDC’s Office of Minority Business Development, who is helping Obregon with strategic planning.

International trade consultant Rick Martin, an SBDC international trade consultant, helped Obregon expand globally.

“When we opened our office in Colombia, he helped with knowing what kind of preparations we needed to take, where to get equipment and how to understand import/export regulations,” she said.

In the last decade, P2K has grown from 40 to 70 employees. Annual sales have doubled to $18 million. Obregon and her company have received several awards, including the 2017 Inspiration Award from the Latin American Association.

Obregon also co-founded the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association, which has grown to 250 members in the last six years.

“I’ve learned, as a business owner that you don’t have all the answers, and you don’t have to,” Obregon said. “You do have to reach out to entities like the SBDC and ask them to help you. I would encourage everyone to use the resources of the SBDC.”

First PSO Employee Spotlight Award goes to Vinson Institute event planner

Melanie Kearns, a senior event coordinator, in governmental training, education and development, at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government is the first recipient of the UGA Public Service and Outreach Employee Spotlight Award.

PSO Vice President Jennifer Frum and Vinson Institute Director Laura Meadows surprised Kearns as she was waiting for a training program to begin at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.

“Is there a Melanie Kearns in the room?” Frum called, as she walked into the conference room with a bouquet of red and black balloons and a gift basket of assorted items. She also handed Kearns an award certificate.

“We’re honored to have great employee like you,” Frum said.

Kearns was nominated for the award by Institute of Government colleague Tracy Arner, financial management program manager for governmental training, Education and Development.

In her nomination, Arner cited the professionalism that Kearns shows in coordinating the Vinson Institute’s annual Georgia Government Finance Officers Association conference (GGFOA).

“There are many moving parts to coordinating a four-day conference including lodging, food, meeting rooms and registration. Melanie works out the details so that the on-site coordination goes smoothly for attendees,” Arner wrote in her nomination. “The GGFOA is an important client group. Melanie’s work strengthens the bond we have with that organization. She represents the Institute of Government and UGA well.”

The PSO-wide award was established earlier this year as a way to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and contributions of employees throughout the year. The Employee Spotlight highlights employees who go above and beyond their normal responsibilities, who produce outstanding work and who contribute significantly to the strategic mission of the division.

Any full or part time employee of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, the eight PSO units, and the Atlanta economic development office are eligible for the award. Employees can nominate themselves or someone else.

For more information or to nominate someone for the award, go to

Student-run juvenile court judges cases of first-time offenders

It feels like a real court proceeding.

There’s a judge and a bailiff. Attorneys consult with their clients, first-time offenders who’ve committed minor crimes like shoplifting or fighting. Jurors determine how respondents will make restitution for their crimes.

But there’s one distinct difference between this court and others: All the participants are teenagers.

Created by Emily Boness, a public service associate at the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, and Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court Judge Robin Shearer, Athens’ peer court has tried more than 580 cases. A partnership between the Fanning Institute, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, and the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court System, the peer court is in its seventh year.

Student Adetokunbo Ojo participates in peer court.

Student Adetokunbo Ojo participates in peer court. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Although such courts are relatively common throughout the U.S., there aren’t many in Georgia. The goal is to hold juvenile offenders accountable while also giving them an opportunity to perform community service that can expunge their records rather than having them serve jail time for minor offenses.

Cases are also heard and decided much sooner than they would be in county court, and the recidivism rate for peer court participants is much lower than the rate for statewide youth offenders.

For Boness and other Fanning faculty who work on the program, it was important that the Athens court was totally led by the middle and high school students. That means continually training new student volunteers from local middle and high schools to serve as attorneys, bailiffs, judges and jury members. The training focuses on teaching students how to interview a respondent (or defendants in traditional court settings), how to craft opening and closing statements, and how to identify aggravating and mitigating factors in a case.

UGA law students provide guidance and help volunteers prepare for their cases.

Emily Boness talks with members of the peer court jury

Emily Boness, public service associate at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, is the co-founder of Athens Peer Court. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

“Peer court allows the youth volunteers to learn practical skills like public speaking, persuasive writing and collaboration towards a common goal,” said Ansley Whiten, a second-year law student. “The first-time juvenile offenders also get a lot out of the program because it gives them a second chance. It still holds them accountable for what they have done, without perpetuating the idea that they are part of the ‘system’ now.”

The jury determines how much community service, within baseline sentencing guidelines for the crime, the respondent will need to complete and whether a written and/or oral apology is warranted. After completing their assigned community service, many of the respondents return to serve on peer court themselves.

“We hope they feel a sense of ‘I got to tell what happened. I saw my peers serving in a community leadership role. I was positively influenced by them,’” Boness said.

Emily Boness helps student Maya Cornish into the judge’s robe.

Emily Boness helps student Maya Cornish into the judge’s robe. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

“They see other teenagers in leadership roles, and therefore can see themselves there too,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “Peer court would be a great addition to any community’s efforts to develop leadership skills in youth. The process is positive and that helps to positively influence the offenders to stay involved—on the right side of the law next time.”

In total, more than 300 middle and high school students have served on the Athens peer court.

One of those students is Maya Cornish. A junior at Clarke Central High School, Cornish has served on peer court for four years. In addition to being a leadership opportunity, she views peer court as an opportunity to effect change.

“These are peers doing something for each other and just trying to help improve the community,” she said. “We’re trying to teach other kids that they can be so much more. They can actually grow from this experience.”


Leigh Beeson Writer/Editor

UGA partners on study to find sustainable methods of harvesting horseshoe crabs for the biomedical industry

Pacemakers, prosthetic implants, antibiotics, in fact every medicine or medical device approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, depend on the horseshoe crab.

A protein in the blue blood of the crab is used to test medicine and medical devices for bacteria before they are used on humans, saving millions of people from infection.

But to get the blood, the horseshoe crabs must be harvested and bled. Though they are returned to the ocean, studies have shown that some die and females are unable to produce as many offspring. Scientists are working to create a synthetic version of the protein.

Until they create it, marine researchers like those at UGA are exploring ways to protect the species from decline.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is working with a pharmaceutical company to farm the horseshoe crabs in their natural habitats on Jekyll Island, as a way to maintain the blood supply without depleting the horseshoe crab population.

“It’s a semi-natural environment in the fact that it’s tidally influenced, full of marine life and it would be similar to what they might experience out in the wild,” says Bryan Fluech, associate director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Fluech and marine resource specialist Lisa Gentit worked with Kepley Biosystems Inc., based in North Carolina, to construct four, 5-by-15 foot holding pens to house the horseshoe crabs in a saltwater influenced tidal pond, established in cooperation with the Jekyll Island Authority and the UGA 4-H Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Associate Director Bryan Fluech examines a horseshoe crab

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Associate Director Bryan Fluech examines a horseshoe crab

The site was ideal for the study because it was easy to access and because the environmental conditions in the pond are comparable to Georgia’s estuaries, where horseshoe crabs are commonly found.

Over the course of the six month project, Flueh and Gentit monitored water quality and conducted routine health assessments of the crabs to assess their responses to being in the enclosures.

“Think about humans,“ Fluech says. “We give blood and if we’re not careful we can get woozy and it can affect our health. The same can be true of horseshoe crabs. In addition to drawing their blood, we are also taking them out of their natural environment, hauling them to a bleeding center and returning them to their home hours or days later.”

Current methods of harvesting crabs often involve removing and transporting them, sometimes hundreds of miles from their natural habitat, to bleeding facilities where almost a third of their blood is extracted before they are returned to the wild.

The stress of removing them from their natural environment, collecting the blood, then releasing them without feeding or providing further care can have negative impacts on their health.

“If we can keep the crabs healthy, instead of bleeding the crabs once a year for about 30% of their blood, maybe, through careful husbandry, we could bleed them multiple times a year for a smaller percentage of their blood,” says Kristen Dellinger, a research scientist at Kepley and principal investigator on the horseshoe crab project.

Dellinger said several studies have explored sustainable harvesting methods, but none have taken the approach of housing them in environments that are similar to their natural habitat.

“There have been some attempts to raise horseshoe crabs in captivity for bleeding purposes, but, to my knowledge, those studies were done in closed tanks and the horseshoe crabs were given a fixed diet,” Dellinger says. “We’re curious whether this is what caused their blood quality to decline.”

The project, funded by the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant, involved conducting periodic bleeding and monitoring of 40 tagged horseshoe crabs that were kept in the enclosures at the research site on Jekyll Island.

The horseshoe crab’s blood contains a compound called LAL, or limulus amebocyte lysate, which causes blood to clot around deadly endotoxins, trapping them and keeping them from spreading. Thanks to this special compound, millions of patients are protected from bacterial contaminants each year.

Unfortunately, the widespread use of LAL comes at a cost to the hundreds of thousands of wild horseshoe crabs that are harvested annually for their blood.

In the outdoor, submerged enclosures on Jekyll Island, the crabs had access to natural food on the bottom of the pond and they experienced tidal rhythms as well as day and night cycles, all of which are things they experience in the wild.

“In a perfect world, you’d satisfy the global needs of LAL with diet, care and appropriate breeding from a captive population that can continue to flourish as well as provide a service to the medical industry,” Dellinger says.

In addition to looking at the environmental conditions, the research team tested different bleeding methods in an effort to optimize the way the blood is collected with the ultimate goal of using less blood.

Some studies have shown that the bleeding process can impact the spawning patterns of female horseshoe crabs, with some spawning less frequently or not spawning at all. Findings such as this are alarming not only when it comes to maintaining healthy horseshoe crab populations, but also for other animals that depend on the crabs for survival.

A vile of blue horseshoe crab blood is examined in a vile.

A vile of blue horseshoe crab blood is examined in a vile.

Threatened shorebirds like the red knot rely on horseshoe crab eggs for essential nutrition during their annual migration. They time their migration to arrive during spawning season so they can feast on the eggs that fuel their annual flight to nesting grounds in the Arctic.

Because of their benefits to humans as well as their ecological significance, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep a healthy population of crabs, Dellinger said.

During the six-month project, Fluech collaborated with university partners on a number of initiatives connected to the study, with the goal of spreading awareness about the project and the environmental importance of horseshoe crabs.

Fluech is working with Dawn Zenkert, coordinator of the UGA 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, to incorporate information about the project into educational activities at the center.

“We’ve been able to stop there and share information about the project with students and campers,” Zenkert says. “It has been great just being able to talk about it with visitors. Last week we had a couple visiting from Canada who learned about it.”

Campers kayaking in the tidelands pond as well as those who passed by the site on their way to the salt marsh routinely stopped to talk with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant interns Cole Wilder and Ivy Spratling, who assisted with the project over the summer. These interactions allowed Wilder and Spratling not only to gain experience in research and experimental design, but also to cultivate their informal education skills.

“This whole experience has helped me fine-tune some of the tips and tricks that I’ve already started building and geared them more towards what I think would be very helpful in a professional career in environmental education,” says Wilder, who recently graduated from the College of Coastal Georgia (CCGA) with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. He plans to pursue a career in environmental education or animal husbandry.

Fluech also worked with CCGA Associate Professor David Stasek and his students on a small side project that involved sampling invertebrates like clams, crustaceans and worms at the horseshoe crab enclosure site.

Every other week the students identified and recorded the amount and type of invertebrates in each sample in order to create a diversity index of invertebrates commonly found where the horseshoe crabs live. Knowing what type of natural food is available to the crabs is useful for the project team.

“We’ve been able to have value added because of the connections we have here with our community partners,” Fluech says. “Regardless of the intended outcomes of this project, from a public service perspective we’re successfully advancing knowledge of the industry and supporting efforts to preserve horseshoe crab populations.”


Emily Kenworthy Public Relations Coordinator • 912-598-2348 ext. 107

Partnerships help Georgia businesses find trained employees and students find good jobs

What happens when there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them?

That is a critical issue for many Georgia communities and one that the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government is working to address.

Recent one-day conferences in Gwinnett and Tift counties, organized by the Vinson Institute, drew hundreds of attendees. Among them were representatives of k-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, businesses and economic development professionals from across the state.

“Economic development across Georgia is one of our highest priorities at the University of Georgia,” Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach, said in welcoming participants to the Innovating Georgia’s Workforce Pipeline conference at the UGA Gwinnett campus. “How we all prepare the rising generation for the workforce is of utmost importance.”

Much of Georgia’s problem stems from a mismatch in skills that employees possess and openings that business need to fill. One longer term solution to this problem is working with students in the workforce pipeline to make them aware of in-demand positions and the pathway to get there.

Georgia school systems now have access to a resource to assess middle school student aptitude and interest for a certain field, said Dawn Mann, program manager for career guidance and counseling at the Georgia Department of Education (DOE). The results help them guide students along their paths to graduation and into careers.

A similar assessment has been offered to Georgia high school students for several years now and the results show that 92 percent of female students had an aptitude for engineering. But only 35 percent were interested in that field of work.

“Students are interested in careers they know about,” Mann said. “This is information that can change the game.”

An attendee speaks at the Innovating Georgia's Workforce Pipeline Conference

In 2017, the Paulding County College and Career Academy (CCA) began a High Demand Career Day to help students who were unsure about their plans after graduation. Results from a survey of students’ aptitude and interests are used to carefully curate a day full of opportunities to connect them with postsecondary options at local institutions or employment with area businesses.

“We had people who joined the workforce right after graduation because of that event,” said Marores Perry, CEO of the Paulding CCA .

It’s imperative to help students and their parents know what jobs are available, and the skills required for those jobs, said Katy Castanien, with the Spalding-Griffin County College and Career Academy (CCA). The Spalding-Griffin CCA launched an innovative “Made in the Region” program to help educate parents about advanced manufacturing careers and other opportunities that are in their backyard.

“Parents don’t understand that these are great STEM careers,” Castanien said. “Going into manufacturing is not a dead end job. There are lots of opportunities.”

Already, the partnerships between k-12 schools, post-secondary institutions and businesses are helping address the state’s workforce deficit.

In the Fall of 2018, Georgia Power became one of the first businesses to use YouScience results in order to recruit students with a high aptitude in energy and utility related skills. They invited students to come out and learn more about what a day in the life at Georgia Power would look like in many of the high demand, skilled labor roles.

As a result of the event, 11 students were offered Georgia Power Summer internships and seven other internships were offered through other sources. The company is now providing scholarship support for five of the students pursuing an Electrical Lineworker Apprentice Certification (ELAC) through South Georgia Technical College, said Brooke Perez, community and economic development manager for Georgia Power.

“We know that workforce development plays a critical role in our community’s economic development success, said Greg Wilson, a public service associate in workforce development at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. “Over the past five years, the Institute of Government has had the opportunity to partner with state agencies, workforce development boards, communities, and other organizations as they seek to strengthen their workforce efforts. The conference builds upon this work and seeks to strengthen the workforce ecosystem. We look forward to facilitating future conversations and building more connections among workforce development professionals.”


Kelly Simmons Director of Communications • 706-542-2512

Hill’s career a commitment to building stronger communities and leaders

For 40 years, Louise Hill has dedicated her life to developing leaders of all ages in communities of all sizes across Georgia.

“Since J.W. Fanning himself, no single individual has focused their life’s work solely on developing community leaders more than Louise Hill,” says Matt Bishop, director of the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. “There are very few community leadership programs in Georgia that do not have Louise’s fingerprints on them.”

Hill’s career as senior public service faculty at the Fanning Institute and UGA came to a close with her retirement on Oct. 1.

A 1979 UGA graduate, Hill began her career with the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation, where she developed leadership programs for youth, women and ultimately all of Farm Bureau’s constituents. In 1996, she returned to UGA to serve as director of development and alumni relations for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Then in 2003, Hill joined the faculty at the Fanning Institute and for the last 16 years, she has guided the institute’s community leadership programming.

“I don’t think anyone exhibits the principles of leadership that Dr. Fanning gave us more than Louise Hill,” says Jimmy Allgood, chair of the Fanning Institute Advisory Board. “Louise has been instrumental at the Fanning Institute and is a driving force for our advisory board.”

J.W. Fanning was UGA’s first vice president for services, a position he held from 1965 until he retired in 1971.

Hill has worked in most of Georgia’s 159 counties to establish leadership programs, translating into thousands of Georgians assuming community and civic leadership roles.

“Louise always made everyone in the room feel on the same level playing field while encouraging each one in their greatness and value,” says Kristie Rucker, co-chair for Leadership Hart in Hart County. “She is one of a kind.”

Louise Hill poses with Carol Tyger

Carol Tyger, chairperson for Leadership Dawson in Dawson County, says she knew Hill was special from the moment they first worked together.

“Each time she either facilitated a session for our class or when I spoke to her at the leadership conference, I appreciated her even more,” Tyger says. “I’d be talking away, asking her opinion, and I could see her eyes twinkling as she got ready to put a positive twist on my dilemma. What a shining jewel she has been for the Fanning Institute.”

Along with developing community leadership programs, Hill helped develop the institute’s regional leadership programming and specialized leadership programs, such as the Public Health Leadership Academy, in partnership with the UGA College of Public Health.

“Louise was one of the first people I met when I took on the role of program coordinator for Leadership Dalton-Whitfield County,” says Phyllis Stephens, chief operating officer for the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, who has worked with Hill on both community and regional leadership programming. “She guided me in this role and I consider her a mentor and a friend. She has pushed me out of my comfort zone when needed, and she has been my ‘go to’ person for advice and ideas.”

Hill also contributed to leadership development on the UGA campus, serving as lead faculty for the Vivian H. Fisher Public Service and Outreach Leadership Academy. In 2011, she received the Walter Barnard Hill Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach from UGA Public Service and Outreach.

Louise Hill with UGA President Jere Morehead

“It is often said in the workplace that everybody is replaceable, but I think everyone would concur that Louise Hill is absolutely irreplaceable for her contributions to the institute and UGA and for her very real and sustained impact on people in communities throughout Georgia,” says Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “If you lined up those she’s positively affected shoulder to shoulder, they would stretch all across the state.”

To continue her leadership development work, the Fanning Institute has established the Louise Hill Community Leadership Development Fund.

Through this fund, the Fanning Institute will work with communities that are underserved in leadership development because of a lack of resources to create, restart and/or revamp adult and youth community leadership development programs.

“With this fund, we want to focus attention on those places where, with a little bit of seed corn, we can help cultivate new leaders, which we all know is a cornerstone to community and economic vitality,” Bishop says. “We’re setting up this fund to continue the legacy that Louise forged for us at the Fanning Institute and throughout Georgia.”

To donate to the Louise Hill Community Leadership Development Fund, make a check payable to the UGA Foundation (note “Louise Hill Fund” in memo) and mail to:

J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development
1240 South Lumpkin Street
Athens, GA 30602

Donations to the fund can also be made online at


Charlie Bauder Public Relations Coordinator • 706-542-7039

Hancock County employee earns Vinson Institute certificate, saves county millions

Hancock County Clerk Borderick Foster’s cost-saving initiative succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Not even a courthouse fire so hot it melted a brass bell could deter him.

When Hancock County leaders began seeking new ways to cut costs and build reserves, Foster figured out how to save $5.5 million by refinancing a jail construction bond. But first he had to track down or re-create copies of the bond documents that were destroyed when fire gutted the Hancock County Courthouse on the square in Sparta.

Foster made the cost-saving initiative his capstone project when he enrolled in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Certified Public Manager (CPM) program. He presented the project results to his 26-member class in late spring and received his CPM certification at a graduation ceremony this summer.

Refinancing the 1989 jail construction bond reduced the principal and interest payments by $550,000 a year, saving the Hancock County general fund $5.5 million over the bond’s 10-year repayment plan, Foster said. The savings have allowed the county to expand its road resurfacing program (Foster also serves as county road administrator), make some much-needed building repairs and start building an emergency reserve in the county general fund.

“Last year, we were doing a campaign on ways to save,” Foster said. “This was the end of October, and you can only refinance these bonds in December and June, so we had a short deadline to get it done that year.”

It didn’t help that the very documents Foster would need had been destroyed when fire ripped through the county’s 130-year-old courthouse in 2014.

“It was a nightmare at first. I had no idea how we were going to re-create all these files, because when the courthouse burned, all that stuff was destroyed,” he said.

Foster turned to the network he had built years earlier while collecting and organizing county documents. That network included the original bond issuer, the Bank of New York (now BNY Mellon). Bank employees scanned hundreds of documents and sent electronic copies to Hancock County.

“I printed those documents out, and I reconstructed the bond the best that I could,” Foster said.

County Commission Chair Helen G. “Sistie” Hudson helped Foster pull everything together quickly enough to refinance the jail bond late last year.

Foster says he’s still amazed by how much the county could save by refinancing the jail bond.

“It only extended the payment schedule by one year, so if we had not done the refinancing, we would still be paying that huge amount each year. Now I can see how we can even build some reserves and give the general fund a break,” he said.

The 300-hour CPM curriculum, delivered in Georgia exclusively by Institute of Government faculty, is designed to help managers with state and local government agencies strengthen their leadership skills to earn nationally recognized certification. The program features a combination of in-class learning, independent study and a capstone project, according to CPM instructor Marci Campbell, an Institute of Government faculty member.

“The capstone project is a CPM requirement and has to help improve efficiency, customer service or program effectiveness,” Campbell said.


Roger Nielson Public Relations Coordinator—Carl Vinson Institute of Government • 706-542-2524

Georgia Center offers course on machine learning and data science for executives

The UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel now offers a new course for business executives that demystifies machine learning and data science and focuses on the practical applications of these revolutionary technologies in business.

Taught by Jagannath Rao, a professor in the UGA College of Engineering and a senior vice president of data services for Siemens, the course is designed for people with little to no coding experience, and provides hands-on experience building and implementing data science projects.

Participants in the inaugural class were from Lockheed Martin, Quicklogic Corporation, Sandia National Laboratories, Recro Gainesville Development LLC, and NASA, among others.

“This course focused on making AI practical in a corporate environment and is geared to leaders tasked with setting such strategy for their business,” said Chris Rogers from SensiML Corp, who was in the first class.

New business accelerates after SBDC helps Atlanta consultant align his work processes

Charles Broom had worked 15 years as a consultant, helping small and large businesses hire specialized professionals, create strategic plans and negotiate contracts.

By 2017, he was ready to be his own boss.

“Eventually, I got to a place where I wanted to do the ultimate challenge; start and sustain a business,” he said.

He set up offices for his project management and staffing support service, the RieLes Group, at a Peachtree Center high-rise in downtown Atlanta. He soon realized he needed someone to help him and reached out to Paul Wilson of the UGA Small Business Development Center, run out of Georgia State University.

“Charles was a terrific resource for growing other companies. He’d ask them the hard questions and help them develop strategic plans,” Wilson said. “He contacted us and asked for assistance in developing strategies to pursue his own contracts. He wanted our help getting the knowledge in his head onto paper so he could develop his own road map for his company.”

Wilson helped Broom brainstorm Broom’s vision, mission, company values, goals and objectives. He then helped Broom create a strategy mapping tool that focused on four key areas: personnel, finance, marketing and growth. Broom also sought his assistance in putting in place the multiple operational processes he needed to run his company: accounting, human resources and recruiting to fill the staffing needs of his contracts.

“Before, he had consulted on these areas,” Wilson said. “Now, he had to operate in them.”

For each mapping section, they worked together to focus on where the business was and what Broom wanted it to look like.

“Paul imposed timelines and challenged me to make the most of our time together,” Broom said. “We drilled down to specific action items. He then held me accountable about taking the time to visualize the business prior to acting on these items. This step was difficult, but necessary.”

Broom learned his messaging wasn’t clear, so he invested in a consultant who redesigned and refreshed his branding and website.

“Charles took the initiative to get help and invest in his business,” said Wilson, “then he started to see results.”

Revenues for the RieLes Group were in the six figures in 2018, and the company had been awarded a federal contract for more than $1 million. The company now manages several professionals in six states, the numbers ebbing and flowing given ongoing contract needs.

The RieLes Group is well-positioned for the additional contracts Broom expects to hold soon.

“Thanks to the work and time put in with Paul and the SBDC, I’ve learned the importance of forecasting and having systems and processes in place. They have prepared us to meet all new opportunities.”

UGA’s first Archway Partnership community continues to build on its successes

When they keep inviting you back, you must be doing something right.

Colquitt County leaders have continued to fund the Archway Partnership in their community, nine years beyond the original five-year commitment to the program.

“We just really believe in it,” said Chip Blalock, executive director of the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie and chair of the Colquitt County Archway Partnership. “Our funding partners invest in the program because they know we’ll get a good return on it.”

An impact study from March 2017 shows that in the 12 years between 2005, when the University of Georgia launched its Archway Partnership in Colquitt County, through 2017, the area realized an additional $226.9 million in economic activity, an average of nearly $19 million a year.

And the program is going strong today, as the community continues to tap into UGA resources to help create businesses and jobs, develop leaders and address critical challenges, like public healthcare, infrastructure needs, education, housing, zoning and downtown design.

Since 2005, more than 169 UGA students and 18 faculty have worked on 134 projects in the south Georgia county.

In recent months UGA students completed a crime survey of the county, which resulted in the city hiring two additional police officers; produced a design for a Moultrie Welcome Center in a vacant storefront on the town square; and kicked off the second year of a leadership program designed to prepare African American males to be community leaders one day.

“Growing up in this community, a lot of the leaders I looked up to are getting older and we do not see the next group to take their place,” said Brian Knighton, principal of Stringfellow Elementary School in Moultrie. Knighton and Colquitt County native Ralph “RJ” Taylor brought the idea to the Colquitt Archway Partnership in 2017, and worked with faculty from the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development to create the program.

“I feel an obligation to give back and help develop that next generation of leaders.”

Leadership Legends in Moultrie GAThe relationship between the county and the university and the desire to “give back,” also influenced a group of Colquitt County natives to set up the UGA Moultrie-Colquitt County Alumni Scholarship Fund. Every year in perpetuity this fund will provide at least one academically talented student from Colquitt County High School with a scholarship to attend UGA. Using a dollar-for-dollar match from the UGA Foundation, the group so far has provided Georgia Commitment Scholarships for five students to attend the University of Georgia.

“With these scholarships, the community has launched a new partnership with the University of Georgia that will benefit our students from Colquitt County,” said Jimmy Jeter, a local businessman, who contributed to the endowment.

Colquitt County was the pilot community for the Archway Partnership, which was developed by faculty in UGA Public Service and Outreach and UGA Cooperative Extension. Based on the extension model, Archway placed a UGA employee—an Archway professional—in Moultrie to address economic development issues in the county.

Initial projects included helping the county find a cost-efficient way to pay for expansion of its wastewater system in order to accommodate a new chicken processing plant that would bring 1,500 jobs to the area.

UGA also facilitated meetings to adopt a zoning ordinance and land-use plan for the county, an effort that had failed in the past.

After a series of community meetings, the Archway Executive Committee identified the county’s most-pressing needs: Increasing the graduation rate for high school students and improving the health status of local residents.

Since then, 13 Georgia counties have been Archway Partnership communities. Six have graduated from the program. Seven, including Colquitt, are still active.

In 2009, when the YMCA in Moultrie received a grant to establish the Healthy Colquitt Coalition, UGA’s College of Public Health (CPH) became involved. The county’s relationship with CPH led to additional grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Health Alliance.

Colquitt County officially graduated from Archway in 2011. But UGA continued its commitment to the community with support that included a grant funded through CPH. When that grant ended, the original local funders—Colquitt County, the City of Moultrie, the Colquitt County Board of Education and Colquitt Regional Medical Center— agreed to continue with Archway, each giving $10,000 a year to pay for a part-time Archway professional and cover operations.

“We just really refused to end it because of the great relationship we have with UGA,” Blalock said.

When the opportunity arose for each funder to contribute $5,000 more for the Archway professional to work full time, they all agreed, Blalock said.

“That’s just an illustration of the buy-in,” he said. “It’s about what we can do to make Moultrie and Colquitt County better.”

The Leadership Legends program began with 13 African American eighth grade boys in fall of 2018. As ninth graders this school year, they will be assigned mentors from the community, whose interests are similar to the student’s aspirations. In 10th grade, the program will focus on community engagement in Colquitt County. When the students graduate from the program at the end of 10th grade, they will become mentors for participants in the next Leadership Legends class. The program already is showing positive results.

“When I first started, I didn’t want to speak in public, but now since I’ve been doing it for the last year, it’s going to help me a lot,” said Joseph Stokes, a ninth grader in his second year of Leadership Legends. “Usually, I’d be scared to do something like this, but now I’m not.”

In addition, Colquitt school officials are considering adding a leadership program to the middle and high schools in the county. The Youth in Action Leadership Program, created and implemented by the Fanning Institute, has been in the county’s elementary schools since 2015.

Light pole banner for the city of MoultrieDeveloping a diverse group of leaders is vital to community sustainability, said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute.

“Today’s community leaders have a responsibility to develop the leaders of tomorrow,” Bishop said.

Recent UGA projects underway in Moultrie include a crime survey by geography major Taylor Hafley, which showed the city needed more police patrols. At the same time, a landscape architecture student Ben Proulx, identified areas along the Tom White Linear Park walking trail where tree roots had broken through the asphalt, and stretches that were dark and possibly unsafe.

Proulx suggested the city install lighting in strategic spots along the trail and recommended trees be planted a distance from the trail to avoid future problems with roots. During the process, a property owner next to the trail offered part of his land to be used for a rest station, with shelter from the sun and possibly rest rooms.

Yusheng Fang, a graduate student at the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art, created a design for a new Moultrie Welcome Center, which will be located in a vacant storefront on the town square.

The task provided an experiential learning opportunity for Fang, whose expertise is in reimagining spaces for their function and possibility.

“On the second floor there is a special barn door and many structures with a sense of industrial design,” she said. “How to retain these historical senses while allowing them to serve the new functions is an exciting and challenging part of the renovation project.”

“The university knows we’re a place they can try new ideas,” Blalock said. “It’s all about community.”


Kelly Simmons Director of Communications • 706-542-2512

UGA finalist for national economic development awards

For the third year, three University of Georgia programs have been selected as finalists for national awards recognizing innovation in economic development. UGA is the only university that has had three finalists for three consecutive years.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, both units of UGA Public Service and Outreach, and the New Materials Institute, a component of the UGA Office of Research with roots in the College of Engineering, are among the 24 finalists for the University Economic Development Association 2019 Awards of Excellence. UGA’s finalists are in different categories and will not compete with one another.

UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America. Entries were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals based on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals.

Categories include innovation, talent and place, as well as the intersections of those three categories. Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

Programs selected as finalists are:

  • A revitalization/visioning program for downtown Clarkesville, Georgia, developed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Through the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, a community revitalization initiative with the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, city and business leaders and Clarkesville citizens came together to create a master plan for their downtown after a fire in 2014 gutted three buildings and destroyed four businesses. New apartments, restaurants and retail outlets in the renovated business district have revitalized the downtown and the master plan continues to drive development. (Place category.)
  • A youth leadership program incorporated into a Loganville, Georgia, high school, developed by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. The Youth in Action program empowers students to facilitate their own goals and establish themselves as leaders in the school community, serving on steering committees that help school administrators develop ideas for school improvement. Since the curriculum was introduced in 2015, high school graduation rates have increased from 78.3% (2013-14) to 86.2% (2016-17) and are well above the state average of 81.6%. (Talent category.)

“It is a validation of our work throughout the state of Georgia as the land- and sea-grant institution that we have had so many finalists for these awards,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “We are honored to be recognized in so many different areas.”

  • The UGA New Materials Institute as a model for industry engagement and collaboration with higher education research. In the New Materials Institute, faculty work with public and private partners to pioneer systems and materials that promote a circular economy, meaning that products are recovered and recycled at the end of their useful lives. Programs range from innovative waste management systems to biodegradable materials that meet the high expectations of both industry and consumers. Most importantly, the institute trains the next generation of engineers and scientists to use this holistic approach. (Innovation category.)

“I am pleased that UEDA recognizes the value in connecting translational research units like the New Materials Institute with a range of industry partners to spark new ideas and advances in areas of societal need,” said Vice President for Research David Lee. “We believe our approach with New Materials is replicable across a range of research areas and applications. It has tremendous advantages: for the university in supporting our research, for the partner industries in pushing their R&D forward, and for the public who will ultimately reap the benefits of these collaborations.”

Winners will be announced during the UEDA Annual Summit in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2019.


Kelly Simmons PSO Director of Communications • 706-542-2512

Michael Terrazas Director of Research Communications • 706-542-5941