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South Georgia Insider

Author: Thressea H. Boyd, Host

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Welcome to the South Georgia Insider Podcast, hosted by Thressea H. Boyd, editor of South Georgia Business Magazine. Join us as we chat with business and civic leaders and community influencers about the exciting—and sometimes challenging things happening throughout South Georgia. Topics range from business and manufacturing to entrepreneurship and rural prosperity, economic development, agriculture, education, healthcare, tourism, and the arts.
48 Episodes
On this podcast, Deanna Smith, with the Investment Center at CBC Bank, and Kristin Hanna from the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta (BGV) discuss how a Leadership Lowndes (LL) class project created a successful workforce training program. In 2019, LL members met with representatives from the BGV to develop the Academy for Success (AFS), an eight-week program emphasizing the development of soft skills, a vital part of an employee's work performance. After modifying a purchased curriculum, LL members and the BGV staff created the AFS program focused on helping students get a job and retain a job.  During the job-seeking portion, students learn how to complete an application, improve communication skills, and understand the importance of an excellent social media presence."The third class is a lot of fun--it's dressing for success," said Smith, which includes a "what not to wear" fashion show with local business leaders demonstrating inappropriate interview and work clothing. "This day is fun, and it changes the relationships so much," Hanna said. "These very professional, polished adults are suddenly walking in some pretty wacky clothes. I think it breaks down a lot of barriers."The program also teaches some "lost art" skills, like the proper way to give a handshake. "We will stand in the corner of the room and have the kids come around and introduce themselves," Smith explained. "Then we give immediate feedback, and [the students] move to the next person. We try to solidify that feedback so they can improve each time." Smith said during the interview class, students practice answering common questions before participating in formal mock interviews, where local business leaders conduct five-minute mock interviews and provide feedback.During the "retaining a job" portion, students learn valuable employability skills, from respecting authority to how to deal with workplace challenges. Smith said the program also teaches networking and conversation, along with basic etiquette, including table manners. "We are prepping them for the last week when we put it all together," said Smith, noting that the final class is a paparazzi-style event. The highlight of the class is the graduation ceremony. Students are transported to a local restaurant via limousine and walk the red carpet as government officials and business leaders cheer them on. Once inside, the students dine with government and business leaders and engage in conversations that build relationships while practicing their newly learned communication skills.Each year, the AFS is offered in the spring or fall, and students apply to participate. Hanna said the program has been successful in helping BGV students find and keep employment.Volunteers and corporate sponsors are needed to sustain the program's growth. Business leaders interested in participating can email Smith at or Hanna at to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. 
In this podcast, Georgia Senator Russ Goodman provides an overview of the 2022 legislative session and the agricultural industry. Representing Georgia’s 8th district—Atkinson, Clinch, Echols, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, and part of Ware counties—Goodman is a seventh-generation farmer and co-owner of Cogdell Berry Farm and the Great American Cobbler Company. He is passionate about saving family farms and understands the regional and global economic importance of farming and the struggles of being a small business owner. What you’ll learn in this podcast:In 2020, Goodman and family members started the Great American Cobbler Company in Homerville, Georgia. Producing blueberry, blackberry, apple, and peach cobblers—(made with locally and regionally sourced products—the company quickly expanded to more than 7,000 grocery stores across the U.S.  During a busy 2022 legislative session, Goodman said key wins include: The FY23 budget included $900,000 to renovate the South Georgia Regional McMullen Southside Library.Georgia’s teachers received pay raises. Mental health funding received bipartisan support. The state’s multi-month gas tax suspension and income tax cuts provide financial assistance to Georgians. House Bill 1064 passed unanimously in the Senate and exempts up to $17,500 in military pension from state income tax for veterans under 62 years old.      Parent’s Bill of Rights (HB1178) gives parents fundamental rights to “direct the upbringing and education of their minor children.”House Bill 385 allows some (high need areas) retired Georgia teachers the ability to return to teaching full time and still collect their state pensions. The “Georgia Grown Farm to Food Bank Bill” (Senate Bill 396) assists food banks in buying directly from farmers. The “Freedom to Farm Act” protects farmers and property owners and expands agricultural education programs in elementary classrooms. Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.      
On this podcast, Dave DiSalvo, executive director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Tourism Authority, shares why Valdosta is more than a convenient I-75 stop for gas, food, and an overnight stay. A native of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, DiSalvo arrived in Valdosta in 2021 and was pleased to find a community that shares his passion for tourism.With Georgia on their minds, last year, more than 159 million domestic and international people visited and spent $34.4 billion in the Peach State. In addition, Georgia’s tourism and travel industry generated a total economic impact of $64.5 billion and supported more than 422,600 jobs. Located on the Georgia-Florida border, Lowndes County received an economic boost from the state's tourism boom with a $389.4 million economic impact, up from $350.3 million in 2019. Where did visitors spend their money in Lowndes County? Food Beverage: $122.5 million Lodging: $77.9 millionRetail: $66 millionRecreation: $63.4 millionTransportation: $59.6 millionLooking at South Georgia’s bigger tourism picture, DiSalvo shared economic data from the 2021 Georgia Day Travel USA Visitor Profile produced by Longwoods International. The in-depth report examines state and regional numbers for domestic visitors and profile data that includes expenditures, trip purpose, seasonality, origins, activities, and demographics.While the visitor profile numbers represent the entire South Georgia region, DiSalvo said part of Visit Valdosta's marketing strategy will include a deeper dive into specific Lowndes County numbers."We talk about tourism in Lowndes County and Valdosta and are very fortunate. Not only do we have downtown [Valdosta], but we have Hahira downtown, and quite frankly, we need to look at the regional opportunities," he said. "If someone goes shopping and spends the dayin Thomasville, as long as they come back and have dinner and spend the night in Valdosta, that's a win for all of us. It creates that regional reach we would love to have as part of tourism."  Focused on the thousands of visitors that come annually to Wild Adventures Theme Park, DiSalvo said the goal is to get people to spend a second night in Valdosta.Along with the hub activity in Downtown Valdosta, including the new Unity Park Amphitheater, DeSalvo said Valdosta has a lot of “tourism drivers” like family fun at Recoil Trampoline Park, historical sites, arts and entertainment, golfing, tennis, and wakeboarding.   The Valdosta Tourism Authority recently announced the launch of its "Valdosta ahhh" campaign, which DiSalvo said is about "the experience, excitement, relaxation, anything you want it to be that 'ahhh' moment."A city with plenty of hidden treasures, Valdosta has lots of 'ahhh' experiences, from roller coasters to dining and shopping, historical sites, outdoor recreational activities, and more. The campaign launched in August and will feature people sharing their "Valdosta ahhh" moments on social media. "What better way to help sell it than to have someone who has already experienced it," he said. "We have great opportunities to create those moments and unique experiences." Find out more at Visit Valdosta. Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.     
With more than 200 million people with intellectual disabilities worldwide, the Special Olympics has remained a vital movement to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people.Meredith Elizabeth Crum, senior program manager for Special Olympics in Georgia,  talks about the organization’s growth and upcoming State Fall Games, Oct. 7-8, 2022, in Valdosta. Special Olympics is the first, and still the only, organization to offer training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities.In 1970, 500 athletes gathered in Atlanta for the first track and field event under the Special Olympics Georgia banner. Today, the organization has grown exponentially and has helped thousands of children and adults in the process. The number of active athletes has grown to 26,620 participating in 26 sports. While the number of athletes has decreased because of COVID-19, Crum said participation is returning. Crum encourages individuals and families to attend the opening ceremony from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7, at Freedom Park. The free event will feature f entertainment and activities, including Lee Snow, a popular Tiktok comedian and preacher from Columbus, Georgia.More than 1,200 athletes, including 200 plus from Valdosta, are expected to participate in team and individual sports like bocce, golf, softball, and cycling.Presenting sponsors for the State Fall Game include Packaging Corporation of America (PCA) and Berry Global. In addition, Lovell Engineering Associates and Knights of Columbus are sponsoring the opening ceremony. Crum said additional sponsorship levels are available. Volunteers are also needed to serve as unified partners or buddies, where they are paired with an athlete.Having worked for Special Olympics Georgia for four years, Crum said the most enjoyable part is seeing the lifelong friendships formed between the athletes and volunteers. Businesses and individuals interested in volunteering and sponsorship can contact Crum a or call 229-834-8277.Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.   
If you're craving a tasty burger—or maybe a foot-long hot dog with slaw or chili—head over to Ella's Top Corral in Valdosta, where locals have named it the "Best Burger of South Georgia" for the past several years.In this podcast, Nick Perry, co-owner and general manager of Ella's Top Corral, shares his entrepreneurial journey from the early days when he formed the hamburger patties by hand to managing the family-owned business alongside his grandmother, Ella Mae Brown. Here's what you'll discover in the podcast: Ella Mae Brown, known to family and friends as "Miss Ella," started working at Top Corral more than 45 years ago. In 2006, when the original owners wanted to sell, she purchased the popular restaurant and added Ella's to the name. Following in his grandmother's career path, Perry started working at the restaurant before he could drive. After graduating from Valdosta State University with a degree in psychology, Perry considered other career options before deciding to go into business with his grandmother. From remodeling the interior to modernizing the outdated drive-thru system, Perry has focused on upgrading the restaurant while keeping some of its nostalgic features.Boosting business during the pandemic, Ella's launched an app for easy ordering. In addition, they started catering "box lunches" that include a sandwich choice (hamburger, chicken, or hot dogs), fries or chips, and dessert. Perry attributes the restaurant's growth—and expanded customer base—to word-of-mouth advertising, marketing, and community involvement.With the single burger a customer favorite, other crowd pleasers include the double or triple burgers (all hand-formed patties), country-fried steak sandwiches, foot-long hot dogs with chili or slaw, fries, onion rings, corn nuggets, and hand-spun milkshakes. His advice to other small business owners, "We can only take it one day at a time, and you can plan so much and do so much, but in the 24 hours we have or let's say for me in the eight to 10 working hours if you can't get all done, it's okay.  "It's better to focus on one thing," he said. "That's something my grandmother has done over these last 47 years. She's been at the restaurant and brought it to this point, and I see it as the grace I have to continue doing that and taking it to the next level."Perry serves on the Valdosta-County Chamber of Commerce board and Lowndes Education Improvement Foundation and was named the chamber's 2022 Young Professional of the Year. Located at 1007 South Patterson Street, Valdosta, Ella's Top Corral is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, for drive-thru and online (website and app) order. Note: inside dining is currently closed.  Download the Ella's Top Corral app on Google Play Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. 
Where do entrepreneurs and small business owners go to find the right tool and resources to start a business or expand an existing one? A good starting place is the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center. In this week’s podcast, Walt Moore, area director of the UGA SBDC at Valdosta State University, talks about how the SBDC provides a wide range of consulting services and educational training for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. What you will discover in this episode:Helping small business owners make better decisions and reach their goals, SBDC consultants provide confidential, no-cost, one-on-one business consulting with small business owners that want to grow or start their business.With 18 offices across the state, the SBDC is part of the University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach Extension and is partly funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).The SBDC provides training (free and at a nominal cost) through on-demand, web-based, and in-person formats. Topics include writing a dynamic business plan, Quickbooks, government, contracting, importing and exporting, marketing and social media, and more.SBDC also provides clients with extensive data and applied research, including demographics and industry trends.In response to economic disruptions from COVID-19, SBDC consultants fielded an increasing number of customer requests, including assistance with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPE) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Upcoming Webinar: Bend or Break: How to Endure Inflation: September 20, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A virtual class for small business owners about the effects of looming inflation. The course, taught by SBDC consultants Walt Moore and Andy Fried, is offered at no charge (registration is required).Course outline:Define inflation and other related termsDiscuss current economic environments and the effects of inflationReview profit and loss levers to improve profits and cash flow.The class will conclude with an introduction to the “One Percent Solution,” a user-friendly tool that provides an overview of a company’s cash flow and show how even a small (1%) change can have a significant impact. Attendees will receive an Excel spreadsheet to monitor and manage their company’s cash flow. RegisterSubscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  
Discussing South Georgia Medical Center’s continued focus on healthcare access, our guests in this podcast include Erika Bennett, director of marketing, and Lara Davis, women’s healthcare coordinator, share how SGMC is transforming healthcare for women. What you will learn in this podcast: Latest technology for mothersAngel Eye video technology State-of-the-art birthing bedsWireless maternal/fetal monitoringOB/GYN hospitalist  Cord blood banking programPlacenta donation program Advancement in breast cancer screening and treatmentBreast Center, a new comprehensive center under the leadership of general surgeon Dr. Harvey Miller, chief clinical quality director. Lori Trouille is a nurse practitioner who serves as a breast navigator guiding each patient throughout their journey and a liaison with their provider. The Breast Center works with a multidisciplinary team to enhance processes that support a highly reliable workflow and decrease the time between imaging, diagnostics, and treatment for breast cancer. Women’s Empowerment Series SGMC will start offering some fun classes through its new Women’s Empowerment Series. The classes will be focused on helping women in the community connect with SGMC and promote mental and physical health.Classes are also being planned for expecting mothers and family members, including prenatal yoga, boot camp for dads, and informational classes for grandparents. Women are encouraged to join SGMC’s Women’s Health Market Facebook page. This group serves as a resource and partner for all things related to women’s health. Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.      
In this week’s podcast, Sementha Mathews, executive director for the Turner Center for the Arts, provides a broad-stroke description of the programs and events and a glimpse into the center’s future growth. Presenter SeriesThe 2022-23 Presenter Series opens on November 15, 2022, at Mathis Auditorium with Neil Berg’s “60 Years of Rock N Roll,” featuring a slight twist from the popular 50-year show. Mathews said the show honors Lowndes-Valdosta Arts Commission's diamond anniversary while giving the audience an extra decade of music to enjoy. “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” which features everyone’s favorite lawyer, Elle Woods, is coming to the Valdosta stage on January 10, 2023, at Mathis Auditorium.  The season wraps up with “Purple xPeRIeNCE,” a tribute to Prince, on March 7, 2023, at the Performing Arts Center (PAC), 3101 Barack Obama Blvd., Valdosta.All shows start at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available at a discounted price through early September. In addition, each performance has an optional pre-show dinner; advanced reservations are required. Music in the Art Park:If you’re ready for a bit of rock-n-roll, country, or some blues, bring your lawn chair or blankets and sit under the canopy of trees at the Turner Center Art Park. Musical guests provide free entertainment from 7- 9 p.m., the second Friday of each month from March through November.  South Georgia EntertainersFor local musicians wanting to network and be a part of a supportive community of like-minded performers, the Turner Center is hosting the newly formed South Georgia Entertainers. Open for musicians of all genres on the second Tuesday of each month, from 6-8 p.m. Richard Hill Glass Studio One of the TCA’s newest program offerings includes glass-blowing, stained glass, fused glass, and torch. Mathews said the glass art studio not only meets the needs and interests of people in the community, but visitors can experience this unique art form. The Meta Shaw Coleman Children’s Art Museum Featuring 10,000 square feet of creative space, the children’s museum will include interactive areas highlighting local history and venues.“When you walk in, you’re not just learning about what you can become through all these different interactions, but you’re also learning about where you live,” she said. “Everything in the building relates to something we have right here.”ARToberfestThe 5th annual ARToberfest is Saturday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Turner Center Art Park. The free event celebrates the talent of local and regional artists and will include live performances, food trucks, and plenty of activities to celebrate artists.  For more information, call the TCA at 229. 247.2787, or online at to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
When it comes to rural communities, there is no cookie-cutter approach to developing economic strategies. In this podcast, Darrell Moore talks about how the Center for South Georgia Regional Impact (SGRI) connects Valdosta State University's resources to the needs of communities across the region. During the past four years, the SGRI has utilized the services of VSU's faculty, staff, and students to complete more than 150 projects. Ranging in size and scope of complexity, projects have included community logos and website development, translation of documents for foreign industry recruitment, and assisting with the Georgia 2020 Census count. In partnership with the Governor's Rural Strike Team, the SGRI recently hosted the inaugural Rural Development Institute to assist Georgia's rural communities (populations of less than 50,000) develop strategic plans for economic prosperity.The three-day event, which took place on the campus of Valdosta State University, included more than 40 economic development, city, county, and community leaders from Bacon, Crawford, Dawson, Lanier, Mitchell, Seminole, Twiggs, and Worth counties.Using a team concept, each community was required to have representation from the development authority, city, and county. Additional team members included business leaders and representatives from school systems, chambers, and other community entities.  Before attending the institute, teams completed a readiness index to evaluate their community on various pillars of economic development, including leadership, industry recruitment, infrastructure, education, demographics, and quality of life. Session highlights included content experts and consultants discussing various topics, including workforce, manufacturing, retail as a catalyst for economic growth, downtown redevelopment, rural tourism strategies, and collaboration with elected officials. Planting seeds for ideas and identifying available resources, after each session, community partners worked with mentors to reflect on lessons learned and brainstorm ways to implement similar programs within their community. During the final session, in collaboration with their mentors, community members identified 15 to 30 potential projects, with the SGRI committing to assist with one or two projects per county. Moore said, helping with some immediate wins, "Hopefully, they go to number three, four, and five, and have continuous community improvement."Future projects include strategic planning, housing, website development, marketing and video, industrial site evaluations, retail recruitment, and tourism efforts.For more information, contact the Center for SGRI at 229-333-5800.Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  
In this podcast, Brandie Dame talks about events, events, and more events happening in Downtown Valdosta. Less than six months on the job as Valdosta's new Main Street Director, Dame is busy preparing for the official opening of the much-anticipated Unity Park Amphitheater.The amphitheater will be a focal point for downtown events and available for organizations to rent. "We really want concerts…to bring people downtown Valdosta to shop and dine and just explore our beautiful downtown," she said. Located on the corner of Lee Street and Central Avenue, the amphitheater's official opening will take place Saturday, August 20, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a host of family-friendly activities, a kid's zone, splash pad, food trucks, and live bands. One of them is The Motowners, a tribute band that will perform from 8 to 10 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The popular "First Friday" is now "Friday After Five," featuring themed events and a flexible schedule. "We know a lot of people go on vacation and out of town, and we didn't want to take that business away from our downtown businesses. So, we renamed it Friday After Five to move it around." A Packed Calendar: August 5: Friday After 5 Pup Crawl will give people a chance to bring their pets downtown. USA Rescue Team will have adoptions of dogs and cats. In addition, the Valdosta Main Street table will have "pup crawl" merchandise for shoppers that presents a receipt from a downtown merchant.  September 9: Friday After 5 will be part of Valdosta State University's annual Family Weekend. October 27:  Is the annual "Witches Night Out," a fun-filled time to dress in your scariest (or not so scary) costume and come downtown to shop and enjoy delicious treats in local restaurants.  2nd Saturday (April-December): The Maker's Market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes vendors who grow and sell fresh produce, baked goods, jams and jellies, handmade items, art, and more. December 2: Friday After Five will highlight the annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Unity Park Amphitheater around 5:00-5:30 p.m.December 3:  The annual Valdosta Christmas parade will start at 6 p.m. at Woodrow Wilson Drive, proceed south on N. Patterson Street, and end in Downtown Valdosta. Downtown ExpansionsOpening in September is Downtown Social, a family entertainment venue with virtual games, darts, shuffleboard, and an assortment of food and beverage items. The Southern Cellars features "wine and charcuterie" and much more.GUD Coffee recently moved into a larger space and expanded its menu. Next year a boutique hotel will open on the top floors. Hammer and Stain South Georgia is a wood and paint DIY studio located on West Hill Ave. Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit. Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  
Declining accessibility to healthcare professionals has been a topic of conversation in rural communities for decades. In 2016, the discussion moved to action when local visionaries approached the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) about establishing the first four-year medical college in South Georgia. Located on a sprawling 31-acre site in Moultrie, Colquitt County, in August 2019, PCOM South Georgia welcomed its inaugural class of doctor of osteopathic (DO) medical students to its new campus.  In this episode, Joanne Jones, campus officer, provides an overview of PCOM South Georgia’s growth and expansion plans.What you will learn on this podcast: ·       PCOM started more than a century ago in Philadelphia and in 2005 opened PCOM Georgia, in Suwanee, near Atlanta. ·       A Doctor of Osteopathic (DO) medicine uses a “whole person” approach to medicine by treating the entire person rather than symptoms.·       Upon graduation from PCOM South Georgia, the DOs will start their residency. The goal is to place as many as possible at healthcare facilities within the region, including Archbold Medical Center, Colquitt Regional Medical Center, and South Georgia Medical Center.·       Statistics show that where doctors complete a residency program, a majority remain within a 100-mile radius. ·       PCOM South Georgia has started pathway programs to provide high school students exposure to career opportunities in healthcare.·       Expanding its outreach, PCOM South Georgia has partnered with Georgia Southern University, Valdosta State University, and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to provide articulation agreements.·       Looking toward future growth, PCOM South Georgia values its community partnerships, including financial contribution for developing new programs that meet regional healthcare needs. Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting, produces South Georgia Insider. Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  
In this episode, DeAnnia Clements, president of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, explains that providing a trained workforce within its 11-county service area is a top priority.With more than 20 years of experience within the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), Clements was recently appointed the third president of Wiregrass Tech after serving more than six months as the college’s interim president. Wiregrass Tech is focused on a three-prong approach to workforce development that includes: adult education, technical and academic instruction (degrees, diplomas, and technical certificates), and economic development. What you will learn on this podcast: · During FY22, Wiregrass Tech’s Adult Education Program has assisted more than 975 students in improving their reading, writing, and math skills, learning to speak the English language, or preparing to pass the General Educational Development (GED) and High School Equivalency (HiSet) tests. · Wiregrass Tech students are skilled and ready to enter the workforce. With a nearly 99% job placement rate, Clements says, “Every aspect of your life you’re coming into contact with someone with technical training, whether from Wiregrass or another technical college or they learned through an apprenticeship program. They developed skill sets through a technical college.” · Within its economic development efforts, Wiregrass Tech offers customized training. For example, when a business or industry needs to retrain existing or new employees, Wiregrass Tech finds a qualified instructor to teach the specific skills, allowing the company to experience growth and success.Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting, produces South Georgia Insider. Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.   
In this episode, we are talking about Thomas University’s new football program, the first in the nation designed specifically to assist veterans and military personnel in their transition from military to civilian life. Giving us insights into this unique combination of academic and athletic programs is Stephen Ferguson, vice president for military and corporate relations at Thomas University.Located in Thomasville, Georgia, Thomas University is a regionally accredited, non-profit university that offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and education specialist degrees at its main campus, online, and satellite locations in Tallahassee and across Georgia.What you will learn on this podcast: In 2017, Thomas University opened the Center for Military Life to provide resources during the entire life cycle of military service, from pre-enlistment, career advancement to transition support back to service life.Thomas University accepts up to 64 college credits from military training toward a college degree. The valuable on-the-job training is evaluated for credit and is part of the student’s Joint Services Transcript ((JST) or Community College of the Air Force transcript. Offering multiple online programs for global access, Thomas University’s on-campus classes—with an average class size of 10 to 15 students—provide veterans with an easy transition to college life. The university is an academic partner with the National Defense Industrial Association to help connect veterans and military personnel in job placement. Ferguson says it creates a “crosswalk from higher education to industry.” Earlier this year, Thomas University established the nation’s first football program explicitly designed to assist veterans in transitioning from military to civilian life. To lead the Night Hawks football team, the university hired seasoned football coach Orlando Mitjans, Jr., who brings more than 20 years of coaching experience, including positions at The Citadel and West Point.The football team will include military veterans, active reservists, and members of the National Guard.The inaugural football team is on track to start during the fall 2023 season. Thomas University is exploring options to build a permanent stadium on its campus; however, they will use a local high school stadium in the interim.Thomas University is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Sun Conference.Ferguson says the Thomasville community has provided an “outpouring of support” and positive feedback from local businesses and residents.“It’s not just football; it’s a transition program that allows veterans to be together and play together and continue the camaraderie that they are used to in the United States armed services.”Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app   
Straddling the Georgia-Florida line, just a few miles from Valdosta, people of all ages are finding Wild Adventures Theme Park to be their ticket for an affordable day of fun. Part of Herschend Enterprise, Wild Adventures started as Liberty Farms Animal Park in 1996 and has morphed into a 177-acre theme park with thrilling rides for all ages, a waterpark, a zoo with hundreds of exotic animals, and an all-star concert venue.But there is more, and in this episode, Jon Vigue, vice president and general manager, and Patrick Pearson, director of sales and marketing, provide an update on the new sights, sounds, and tastes coming to Wild Adventures when the 2022 season opens on March 19.What you’ll learn in this episode:The new Water’s Edge Brews & Bites will include great food, live entertainment, and a place for a bit of relaxation. Teaming up with Georgia Beer Company, the restaurant and entertainment venue will feature locally brewed beers, wine, and food, all in a shady spot to listen to live music around the “water’s edge.” Take a walk on the wild side, and visit the Wanyama Overlook, the park’s largest new animal habitat featuring exotic animals native to Africa and Asia, including giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, wildebeests, and more. The 2022 Concert Series kicks off April 30 with Gabby Barrett, ACM New Female Artist of the Year and Billboard’s Top New Country Artist of 2020. This year’s shows will not disappoint, with John Fogerty, Danny Gokey, Brothers Osborn, Three Dog Night, Jeff Foxworthy, Skillet, Grand Funk Railroad, and much more are part of this year’s concert lineup. Making a significant investment in employee education, Wild Adventures employees can participate in Herschend’s GROW U program to pursue a college degree. The best deal to explore Wild Adventures is with a 2022 Season Pass that gives you access to rides, slides, exotic animals, and general admission to the entire All-Star Concert Series. Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting, produces South Georgia Insider.  Subscribe to South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter) and follow South Georgia Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. 
It's OK Not to Be OK

It's OK Not to Be OK


In this episode, we're talking to Michael Smith, executive director of the Greater Valdosta United Way (GVUW), and Emily Anne Vall, PhD., executive director of Resilient Georgia, about Georgia's escalating mental health challenges.Before COVID-19, mental health issues like anger, stress, worry, and depression were rising globally. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, more than 1.4 million adults in Georgia have a mental health condition. Consider by many health professionals as the "new pandemic," in 2021, 44% of adults in Georgia reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression, with 29% unable to receive counseling or therapy. Part of a regional coalition, the GVUW received a grant from Resilient Georgia to increase mental health awareness, reduce stigma, and promote behavioral health services for children and adults within 10 South Georgia counties. What you'll learn in this episode · How Resilient Georgia is building a statewide coalition of public-private partnerships to prevent and heal childhood adversity, highlight trauma-informed awareness and care, and promote resilience among children and adults. · Domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking were a concern before the pandemic; however, high levels of isolation and financial stress have put a "magnifying glass" to these issues and more. · GVUW is sponsoring awareness training programs for first-responders and healthcare workers to build awareness and training that will better support children and adults coping with adversity and trauma. · How to guide the conversation that "It's OK not to be OK."· The lack of mental health professionals in Georgia is a statewide crisis, especially in rural communities. According to a report by the Georgia Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation, within Georgia's 159 counties:150 are considered to have a mental health professional shortageApproximately 77 counties have no full-time psychiatrists52 counties have no licensed social worker60 counties have no pediatricians Visit the Resilient Georgia website to register for its newsletter and receive more information focused on:Interactive training opportunities: Georgia’s 16 region coalition: Childhood Experiences (ACEs) prevention: Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit. Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting, produces South Georgia Insider.    
In this episode, we’re having a roadside chat with Stephanie Stuckey, CEO of Stuckey’s Corporation, who shares the journey of revitalizing the company her grandfather, W.S. “Sylvester” Stuckey, Sr., founded in 1937. Part of Americana, Stuckey’s and its iconic teal roof stores became popular stops for travelers to find a clean and convenient place to fill up their cars, grab a quick bite to eat, and even purchase souvenirs. After decades of robust growth, the company had some ownership changes, then in 2019, Stephanie says she had a “crazy and unexpected” opportunity to buy the family’s business. What you’ll learn in this episode The value of “shoe leather learning,” which Stephanie says is “getting out and walking the streets and understanding your customer.”  Ways to blend a “legacy brand” while remaining fresh and relevant.When it’s time to pivot the business model.Adversity can make a company stronger.How to use authentic storytelling to expand a company’s brand and boost social media engagement. Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting. Mentioned Links:South Georgia PRSASociety for Commercial Archeology 
Welcome to the South Georgia Insider Podcast. In this episode, we're getting an insider's look at the tech side of agriculture from Chris Chammoun, director of AgTech at the Center of Innovation, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) What you'll discover in this episode:· When Max Manufacturing had an idea to improve poultry composting, the Ag-Tech center connected the Mitchell County business to University of Georgia scientists doing similar research. The collaboration helped Max Manufacturing expand its product distribution and provided new technology for poultry farmers. · Through a multi-year process, the Center of Innovation and GDEcD helped bring indoor agriculture production to Georgia. In 2021, Pete's, a California-based company, announced an $18 million investment to open the company's first eastern U.S. indoor, controlled environment agriculture facility in Peach County. · Family-owned Sweet Grass Dairy, located in Thomas County, came to the Ag-Tech center to help extend its U.S. distribution, but first, they needed to determine the shelf-life of their award-winning cheese. Through the Ag-Tech center, Sweet Grass Dairy was connected to the UGA Food Product Innovation & Commercialization Center, which provided the research needed to expand the company’s distribution footprint. The Ag-Tech center works within four primary areas: Integrated Precision AgricultureControlled Environment Agriculture Food Production Innovation Food System Technology IntegrationOn March 2, 2022, the Center of Innovation and the Georgia Research Alliance will host the inaugural Georgia AgTech Summit at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center. This event aims to gather industry, academia, and government to present current research, discuss the current state of the ag-tech sector, and plan for the industry's future within the Peach State. There is no cost to attend. Click here to register.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 South Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting.       
The Fall 2021 semester has started, and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College continues its focus on best-serving businesses and industries within an 11-county region. Today's guests are DeAnnia Clements, Wiregrass Tech interim president, and April McDuffie,  interim vice president of Academic Affairs. Enrollment ramped up during the summer, and part of the success is the abundance of programs that fast-track a student's ability to get an education and enter their chosen career field. Building expansion continues on the Valdosta campus, with the Edward and Rhonda Mark Health Sciences Building opening in January 2022.  At the Coffee County campus, a new facility to expand diesel and CDL programs is under construction. Wiregrass Tech has been a regional leader in dual enrollment efforts for several years. Clements explains that with House Bill 444, which went into effect last year, dual enrollment credits are capped at 30 hours, along with other restrictions."We want to make sure the dual enrollment students have the opportunity to take advantage of of the funding allowed through legislation," says Clements, who emphasizes the importance of students taking classes to explore career options.McDuffie explains Wiregrass Tech's adult education classes provide students flexibility to continue working their "day job" while earning college credits at night and online."We are making sure classes are available when they [students] need them," McDuffie says. "We've always had a robust online program, which helped during the pandemic when we had to shut down." With the large number of evening classes offered, Wiregrass Tech continues to recruit part-time instructors. McDuffie encourages professionals to visit Wiregrass Tech's job board to see the complete list."Our instructors work very closely with industries and businesses in their field," McDuffie says. "They have that communication and rapport with them so that we can make sure we are training students for what those employers need."Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting.  
SGMC: CEO Ronald Dean

SGMC: CEO Ronald Dean


South Georgia Medical Center recently released its FY2020 Annual Report that celebrates the hospital's past while looking ahead to a bright future. In this podcast, we talk to SGMC CEO Ronald "Ronnie" Dean, as explains the hospital's strategic priorities outlined in the annual report: Unsurpassed Patient Experience, Unequaled Access to Care, Unimpeachable Credentials, Unmatched Efficiencies.Unsurpassed Patient Experience: "We exist for one reason and one reason only, to take care of patients," Dean says. "When you think about what we do, a lot of people zero in our capabilities to heal, and we provide medical care. But truthfully, we are doing more than that; we are enriching and improving the lives of those we serve."Compassion is essential to SGMC's mission, and Dean says, "Our intent is to make sure everyone feels respected. Treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of who you are, where you come from, and what your situation is. We believe anyone who walks in our doors, that we need to wrap our arms around them and show them we care." For a majority of patients, the Emergency Room is a primary entry point to the hospital. "Nothing is constant in the ER; it's always changing," Dean says. "The types of patients being treated, the mix of the patients, some really sick, some not as sick as other. But all are there because they feel like they need to be there. That team [ER] is trained to handle all conditions, but sometimes it's not overwhelmed but stressed." SGMC's involvement with the Partnership for Health is an example of improving healthcare access to residents. "They provide that primary care the patient needs to prevent them from having to come to the ER," Dean says. "Then it's to help them finish the healing process when they leave the ER. We are very proud of the Partnership for Health and what they do." Unequaled Access to Care: The term "access" is a buzzword in healthcare today—now more than ever, patients have options."We simply want everyone to be able to access what they need locally," Dean says. "We would rather not have anyone have to travel for something that can be delivered here responsibly. There are some specialties that we will never provide in our community because there are not enough resources to make it happen or demand."  SGMC has recently doubled the number of physicians within their network and tripled the number of access points. Another access to care will come with the residency program.  Mercer University School of Medicine is a partner with SGMC's residency program, which will start next year with selecting the first class of medical residents.Unimpeachable Credentials:  Each year, hospital and healthcare facilities undergo numerous—very rigorous—national accreditations. SGMC continues to receive approval at the highest standards from the top accrediting agencies.Unmatched Efficiencies: During COVID-- hospitals had to "rethink" delivery of care, not just in response to the pandemic but moving forward. "We had to go through problem-solving on a lot of equations, just like a lot of organizations did," Dean says. "We learned a lot about ourselves, and I am very proud of the team, and we didn't miss a beat."Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app 
We’ve seen the mass number of "help wanted" signs displayed across businesses of all sizes. And, even before the COVID-19 workforce disruption, the need for specifically skilled workers reached critical levels, with 40 percent of U.S. employers unable to meet production demands. Apprenticeships use a  "grow their own" approach.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there have been more than 1.9 million new apprentices since FY 2011, up by 38 % from the previous decade.Today's guests are Nichole Shanks, workforce development manager with Ace Electric, and Jason VanNus, systems coordinator for work-based learning and youth apprenticeship at Lowndes High School.The fall 2019 issue of South Georgia Business Magazine,  "Apprenticeship Programs Are Filling the Workforce Gap," highlights an innovative apprenticeship program between Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, Ace Electric, and Lowndes High School.In this podcast, we're going to get an update and dive a little deeper into how apprenticeships can put high school students on the right track toward well-paying careers. "For every one person that enters the skills trade, we are losing three to four every year due to retirement or aging out," says Shanks. "We aren't getting enough young people out of high school interested in the skills trade. We wanted to get involved before they graduated high school.It’s time to re-think the hiring process. "The labor shortage exists with the current avenues. We have to go outside the current avenue to get a new crop of students," VanNus says.He explains that an apprenticeship aligns with the student's curriculum and career goals. "[With an] apprenticeship they are learning how to be productive in the workforce and also specifically identified skills and traits that are going to be in the field they want."The first Lowndes High School and Ace Electric summer apprenticeship program started with nine students, and three are now full-time employees with Ace Electric. As part of a dual enrollment program, the students split time between classes at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College and Lowndes High School while also working at Ace Electric.  Georgia is a leader in work-based learning, including HB 402 that encourages companies to provide worked-based learning opportunities for 16-year-olds and older. According to VanNus, the employer can receive up to a 5% discount on worker compensation premiums, depending up the number of students hired.Shanks says the old model wasn't working, "It wasn't working for your local economic development. The students would go away to whatever school and then never come back. Here we are forming relationships and providing employment from a young age. A lot of times, they are going to stay in their local communities and be a productive member of the workforce."Join us next time as we continue to promote South Georgia as a great place to live, work, play, and visit.Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 or through the TuneIn app Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting.   
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