2018 Instructor Bios

Keynote Speaker

 Josh Benton, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Keynote Address 

Josh Benton is an economic and workforce development professional with over a decade of experience with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and currently serves as the Executive Director of Workforce Development. Within this position, Josh leads the Cabinet’s workforce efforts including site selection, program and policy development, management of the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation and, through partnership, promotes the Commonwealth’s private sector-focused workforce initiatives such as KY FAME, Work Ready Communities, Registered Apprenticeship, and the Work Ready Skills Initiative. Josh holds bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Cumberland College and master’s degree in Public Administration from Kentucky State University.



~Remaining speakers listed alphabetically~

David Bridges, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Opening Session

David Bridges is Director of the EI2’s Economic Development Lab which advises governments and universities, both in the U.S. and around the globe, on innovation-led economic development initiatives (ILED). ILED activities foster collaborations among informal network players such as governments at all levels, universities, corporations, startups businesses, entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurial support organizations to drive the development of startup ecosystems. Our practice focuses on maximizing the building blocks of startups, sources of innovation and sources of talent, and focusing the collective effort required to enable the success of these valuable startups. As Associate Vice President for International Initiatives, he has been engaged in innovation ecosystem projects in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Mr. Bridges has been a member of EI2 for 23 years. In that time, he has gained experience managing programs around technology transfer, co-development research, SBIR grants, seed fund management, international commercialization, incubation, acceleration, proof-of-concept centers, cluster development, university innovation centers, and innovation ecosystem. In total, Mr. Bridges has led, co-led or advised on proposals resulting in over $42 million in innovation-related grants for Georgia Tech.

Tedra Cheatham, Georgia State University

Ethics in Economic Development

Tedra Cheatham is Director of Business Partnership Development for the 3rd largest business school in the nation, the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. Tedra works to identify business challenges and targeted solutions that are mutually beneficial for the business community and the student talent pipeline. Prior to joining the Robinson College of Business, she was Executive Director for The Clean Air Campaign, leading efforts nationally for cleaner air, less traffic and more economic vibrancy through its K-12 digital education program and consulting with private industry. Previously, Tedra served as chief operating officer and vice president of economic development for the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce near Atlanta, Georgia. Her contributions to the success of North Fulton’s development helped foster numerous transportation enhancements and a thriving business community that is home to several Fortune 500 companies.

Tedra has also held leadership positions overseeing economic development for the north central Texas cities of Bedford and Euless. A Louisiana native, she began her career in government affairs and later worked in the public sector as an analyst for the Louisiana State Senate. Tedra was named to the White House’s deployment team to the Gulf Coast in 2010 to address economic conditions following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and served on the Post-Katrina Task Force in New Orleans.

In 2008, Tedra was recognized for her leadership in North Fulton by the American Women’s Business Association. An active member of the community, Tedra helped establish The Drake House, a residential assessment center in Roswell for homeless women and their children. She is a certified economic developer (CEcD) and served eight years as a member of the Board of Directors for the International Economic Development Council. She is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Atlanta. Tedra led a Metro Atlanta-wide initiative through the Atlanta Regional Commission to plan for future housing needs and revitalized downtown centers. Tedra earned her Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana State University and her Master of Public Administration from the University of New Orleans.

Chris Downing, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Closing Session

Vice President of the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech, Chris Downing has more than 25 years of leadership experience at Georgia Tech in technology-based economic development, university outreach and technical assistance, entrepreneurship and start-up support. Downing has served in a number of capacities in the development and success of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Georgia Tech’s primary economic development and outreach organization. His roles have included Associate Vice President of EI2, Director of the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP), Associate Director of the ATDC incubator, and several years as a research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

Downing played a key role in the expansion and development of ATDC at Technology Square including the origination of Tech Square’s research park and corporate collaboration spaces. His technology-based economic development efforts helped Georgia Tech and the Enterprise Innovation Institute win the prestigious “2014 Innovation Award” from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Tech Square’s ecosystem also won the “Outstanding Research Park Award” in 2014 from the Association of University Research Parks. Downing is currently leading a feasibility study for the expansion of Georgia Tech’s second research park, Technology Enterprise Park, into a broader life sciences and technology innovation district.

Downing’s engineering expertise includes energy efficiency and energy recovery systems, mechanical facilities design, indoor air quality, and manufacturing process systems.  He currently serves on advisory boards for the Technology Association of Georgia and the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. Downing is a registered Professional Engineer in both Georgia and Florida and holds a B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida.

Donna Ennis, Minority Business Development Agency Business Center

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

Donna Ennis, C.P.F is the project director for the MBDA Business Center–Atlanta located at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2). Funded by the Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the MBDA Business Center’s mission is to grow and strengthen Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs).

A Certified Professional Facilitator, Donna is responsible for the strategic direction, marketing, outreach, and operations for the Center and provides assistance to Center clients in strategic, business and market planning; private and public procurement, finance, operations and business process improvement. Under her leadership, the Center has assisted companies in generating over $1.2 billion in contracts, financing, and sales; creating or retaining more than 4,300 jobs; and launching a national Connecting Advance Manufacturing Program (CAMP).

Donna has more than 35 years of experience in marketing, communications, public relations, program management, and business development with an emphasis on identifying company needs and matching those needs to the appropriate resources. As the former manager of product marketing and program services for EI2, she directed the marketing strategies and activities for EI2’s Center for International Standards & Quality, Lean Enterprise Services, and the Energy and Environmental Management Center. Trained as a lead auditor for ISO 9001:2008, she helped companies determine their business process improvement needs and provided specific direction for clients who implemented management systems and lean techniques as part of their business strategies.

Donna received her Master of Public Administration from Georgia State University and a B.S. in communications from Boston University. She was selected as one of Georgia Tech’s 2015 Faces of Inclusive Excellence, is an awardee of the Georgia Tech Women Out Front program, and has been named one of Atlanta’s Top 100 Black Women of Influence by the Atlanta Business League. Donna is on the Board of Advisors of Enhanced Capital, the Georgia Hispanic Contractors Association, and the Board of Directors of the North Atlanta High School Sports Booster Club. A native of Washington, D.C., Donna is the proud mother of daughter Adenike Makinde.

Tim Evans, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce 

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

Since 2005, Tim Evans has served as the Vice President of Economic Development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Gainesville-Hall Economic Development Council.  He also serves as the Treasurer for the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority.  He is responsible for managing business recruitment, expansions and retention efforts by marketing and representing Gainesville-Hall County to key business decision makers in the United States and internationally.  He has had a key role in developing numerous commercial and industrial sites and served as the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority’s project manager for several new business park developments. He is also implementing a retail development initiative for Gainesville-Hall County, Georgia with the support of business leaders, real-estate professionals and elected officials. 

Prior to his current position, Tim worked with the Georgia Department of Economic Development for 11 years, and was involved in site location, project management, marketing, export assistance and business development in domestic and international markets. He has earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer from the International Economic Development Council.

Tim is a native of Northeast Georgia and a graduate of Oglethorpe University with degrees in Economics and Political Studies.  He earned an MBA from the Terry College of Business of The University of Georgia in 2009, and he is a graduate of Leadership Hall and the 2016 Class of Leadership Georgia.  Tim and his wife, Killian, have a son, Banks, and they live North of Lake Lanier in Hall County, Georgia.

Karen Fite, Industry Services and Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership Director

Panel Discussion: What Automation Means for Your Community (Moderator)

As the Director, Industry Services, Karen Fite oversees outreach units of the Enterprise Innovation Institute that provide Economic Development services to Georgia and other regional states. Units under her direction include: Georgia Tech Procurement Technical Assistance Center (GTPAC), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center, Southeast Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) and the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Program (GaMEP). As director of the GaMEP, Ms. Fite oversees the statewide outreach for service delivery to manufacturers and entrepreneurs. She is responsible for connecting businesses, manufacturers, and communities to Georgia Tech’s wealth of innovation and technology services, which is designed to elevate their competitive position and economic impact. Previously Fite was the state regional network manager for the GaMEP, leading the team of nine regional managers in their outreach efforts.

Fite’s background included RAB-Certified Quality Management Systems Lead Auditor where she provided implementation assistance and training to companies pursuing ISO 9001. She has expertise in assisting companies in the implementation of Lean Principles in manufacturing, government and healthcare entities. She also led several strategic planning efforts for Georgia communities to plan for their future growth.

Prior to joining Georgia Tech over 25 years ago, her earlier experience includes the application of industrial and management engineering, employee involvement, and business principles.

Fite has a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami and a Bachelors of Science (Health Systems) degree from Georgia Tech.

John Fluker, Grenzebach

Panel Discussion: What Automation Means for Your Community

John Fluker was named to the position of President & CEO of Grenzebach Corporation by the Grenzebach board of Directors in May of 2017. As President & CEO, he provides leadership and is responsible for all day to day management decisions and implementation of the company’s long and short term strategies for the North American, Latin American, and parts of the South American markets. He is also a part of the Grenzebach Group’s executive management team representing the NAFTA region, helping to guide the Grenzebach Group’s overall strategy and execution at a global level.

A native of Georgia, Mr. Fluker relocated back to Georgia from Boston and started at Grenzebach in February of 2006 as a Sales Manager for the Glass market for Grenzebach. Since that time he has held positions of Director of Sales, Vice President of Sales, and Chief Sales Officer (CSO) before being named to his current position.

Mr. Fluker is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. While getting his degree at MIT, he served as a research assistant and instructor of engineering in various summer programs guiding upcoming high school seniors. He was a member of the MIT basketball team and involved in variety of organizations and churches in the Boston area and he has continued his community and church involvement after moving back to the Atlanta area. He is an active member of Antioch Lithonia Missionary Church, and a board member for Attack Youth Soccer Club

Mr. Fluker’s early work history included positions with a large Boston firm specializing in semi-conductor test equipment. He held various roles, beginning as a Manufacturing Engineer and ending up as a Product Support Engineer. His work as a Product Support Engineer required extensive travel throughout the world, primarily in South East Asia supporting company and customer installations in those regions.

John Fluker met his wife of seventeen years, Shelly-Ann while attending MIT. Dr. Shelly-Ann Fluker, is an Associate Professor of Medicine of Emory University working at Grady Hospital. They have two beautiful children, John Stephen and Alecia.

Matt Forshee, Georgia Power

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

As Georgia Power’s community and economic development manager in the East Region, Matt supports local communities through leadership development, strategic planning, existing industry retention and expansions, and with new companies considering an expansion or relocation to the area. He works closely with Development Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, Commercial Real Estate agents and developers, business owners and executives, industrial plant managers, community foundations, schools and various state agencies to grow and expand the economic opportunities for Georgia’s side of the Central Savannah River area.

Mr. Forshee joined the Georgia Power team in 2014, having formerly served as the lead local economic development official in Fayette County, Ga, Athens-Clarke County, Ga, and Oconee County, Ga. In these communities, his efforts helped bring in over $750MM in new economic growth and an announced 3,500 new jobs, including recruiting the largest Chinese manufacturer in Georgia, Sany America, and recruiting the largest purpose-built film studio in Georgia, Pinewood Atlanta Studios, home to Marvel’s “Ant-Man” and “Captain America 3”. In his roles, Matt has also designed and launched leadership development programs, business retention & expansion programs, social media marketing programs, strategic economic development plans and a film commission. Under his leadership, Fayette County won the Georgia Economic Developers Association’s “Deal of the Year” award in 2009 for the NCR Customer Center of Excellence expansion project and again in 2013 for Pinewood Atlanta Studios.

Matt was named by IEDC and Development Counselor’s International as one of the nation’s top 40 under 40 economic developers in 2013 and again in 2015.  He holds a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture with a focus on community design from the University of Georgia as well as a Certificate in Local Government Management from UGA. He has been through and has taught at numerous community leadership programs.

Tami Gerke, News 13 Orlando

How to Handle the Media

Tami has worked for more than 20 years in a variety of news positions in television stations in Florida, Georgia and New York. She took a hiatus from news in 2007 to work in corporate communications at AGL Resources, now Southern Company Gas. While at AGL, she worked with the Georgia Economic Development Association.

She also spent a couple of years working as the Director of Communications for Troutman Sanders law firm before heading back to the newsroom last summer. She is currently the Assignment Manager for News 13 in Orlando. She is a runner, a former exercise boot camp instructor and a grandmother.




Todd Greene, Atlanta Federal Reserve

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank

Todd Greene is vice president and leads the community and economic development department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Greene has oversight for research, policy, and outreach initiatives that promote inclusive economic growth with a focus on small business, housing, community and economic development finance, and human capital and workforce development in all or portions of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. At a national level, Greene leads the Federal Reserve System’s human capital/workforce development working group in the Community Development function. He has published and presented on various economic and workforce development related topics and is the co-editor of the recent book Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century.

Previously, Greene was a member of the general faculty at Georgia Tech where he led various centers and programs related to applied economic development, including the Community Policy and Research Services group, the Center for Manufacturing Information Technology, and the Program in Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy.

Greene earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and holds master’s degrees from Washington University and Georgia State University. He has completed executive education programs at Stanford University Graduate School of Business and Universidad ESAN (Lima, Peru). Greene is on the board of directors and is a member of the governance committee of the International Economic Development Council, is vice chairman of the Atlanta CareerRise Leadership Council, and is a member and past chairman of the Georgia Economic Developers Association. He currently serves on the Augusta University Board of Visitors and the board of directors for the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS), and is a member of the Southern Economic Development Council.

Kenwin Hayes, ReUrbanis Advisors

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

Kenwin M. Hayes, Sr. currently serves as the Executive Director of the City of Griffin Downtown Development Authority. In this capacity, he is responsible for the planning, development, and execution of business development policies for the community. Kenwin has over 15 years’ experience in a variety of areas including architecture, engineering, planning, and real estate development. Mr. Hayes is passionate about neighborhood revitalization and creating unique places that reflect the essence of the community. Mr. Hayes is one of 45 professionals in the nation that is a certified planner (AICP) and certified economic developer (CEcD).




Lynne Henkiel, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Business Incubation: Community Assessment

Lynne is the Director of Innovation Ecosystems in the Startup Ecosystems group at EI2. She has been involved in developing EI²’s innovative incubation practices, aiding communities to develop their entrepreneur base through research and education. She also has been the developer for the incubation health assessments tool and instrumental in developing the community readiness programs. Her career at Georgia Tech has focused early on with commercializing innovations from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Stennis Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center. Within her responsibilities of working with startup companies that licensed NASA technology, she worked in partnership with startup entrepreneurs to overcome many of the early pitfalls of starting a technology business. She also managed the dual-use industry partnerships for NASA Marshall involving both large and startup businesses.



Jones Hooks, Jekyll Island Authority

Managing Economic Development Organizations

Jones Hooks has more than 36 years of experience in managing multifaceted organizations. His background includes working extensively in the public and private sectors, on local, state, national and international levels.

Originally from Metter, Georgia, Hooks’ Georgia roots run deep. After completing undergraduate work at the University of Georgia in 1975, Hooks earned his MBA at the George Washington University. After completion of his graduate work, Hooks assumed a full time position on Capitol Hill with Congressman Ronald “Bo” Ginn (D-GA deceased).

In 1981, Hooks was named Director of the Kings Bay Impact Coordinating Committee (KBICC), established by Congress to assist communities in Camden County, Georgia and Nassau County, Florida in preparing for and mitigating impacts created by construction of the Navy’s Trident Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia.

After six years at Kings Bay, Hooks was recruited to lead the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission. After successful management of that organization, Hooks was chosen by local leaders to head the Albany Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

In 1997, Hooks moved to Atlanta to work in the Strategic Relocation and Expansion Services group of KPMG. At KPMG, Hooks spent months on special assignment with the Yamacraw Mission, a state-funded, highly confidential project focused on building a high tech economy in Georgia.

Beginning in August of 1999, Hooks served as President/CEO of the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (HREDA) headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. HREDA is a public/private regional partnership representing 15 jurisdictions and 1.5 million people from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach.

Since June 2008, Hooks has served as Executive Director of the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA). The JIA has over 300 employees and an operating budget of $29 million. The Authority is responsible for the stewardship of Jekyll Island, a barrier island off Georgia’s coast. The JIA is also responsible for providing services, programs and amenities that maximize benefits to island visitors and residents.

Hooks was a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 1984 and a Program Chair in 1985. He received the Edward A. Freeman Outstanding Alumni Award from the Leadership Albany Foundation in 1991, and in 2001 Hooks was awarded the Courage in Leadership Award by Leadership Hampton Roads. In 2017, he received Leadership Georgia’s Frederick B. Kerr Service Award in recognition of his dedicated service to the state and his continued support of the leadership organization.

Hooks served as President of the Georgia Economic Developers Association in 1995 and is an Honorary Life Member of the Georgia State Chapter of Future Business Leaders of America.

Hooks currently serves on the Brunswick- Glynn County Development Authority Board and is a member of Wesley United Methodist Church, St. Simons Island.

Married for 41 years, Jones and Stephanie Hooks have two married sons and five grandchildren.

Leigh Hopkins, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Panel Discussion: Business Retention and Expansion, Creating a Foundation for Success (Moderator) 

Leigh Hopkins, AICP, is a Senior Project Manager with the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI²).
Leigh transfers her expertise in economic development research and analysis into practical solutions to complex community problems, and helps create competitive climates for communities and businesses to grow and thrive.

Leigh has managed the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative for the 15-county Northwest Georgia region for five years, and the development and implementation of the first Advanced Manufacturing Strategy in the state. Leigh also co-managed a project to gauge the feasibility of developing an “innovation district” near Atlanta’s Westside, intended to spur collisions between industry and academia to create the environment for technological innovation and new partnerships.

Interested in the sustainability of Georgia’s growing manufacturing sector, Leigh has assessed the feasibility of creating Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED)-standard industrial parks across the Southeast. Other interests include using ArcGIS to visually convey the impact of firm attrition, job growth, zoning regulations, and economic incentives on communities. Leigh was the course director (2014 – 2017) for all of Georgia Tech’s economic development courses, including the Georgia Tech Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC), accredited through the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Leigh is an active member of the American Planning Association (APA)/Georgia Planning Association (GPA) and has held an American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification since 2010. She participates in regular professional development courses through membership with IEDC and GPA, and is also an active member of the Georgia Economic Development Association (GEDA). Leigh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources from the University of Georgia, and a Master’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in City and Regional Planning.

Vicki Horton, Myriad Partners

Real Estate and Reuse: How to Work with Site Selectors

Vicki has been a professional site selection consultant for 25 years. She assists her corporate clients with location strategy, community evaluation, site selection, real estate negotiation, and economic development incentive negotiation and collection.

In her 25 plus year career, Vicki has worked for well-known site selection firms including The Austin Company, Fantus Consulting, Deloitte and Touche, SC&H Group, Myriad Partners and Crowe Horwath. She also spent a portion of her career as the Director of Network Strategy for a nationally known consumer products company.

Vicki works with Fortune 100, 500 and middle market companies. Some of her current and past clients include Porsche, Cox Enterprises, PPD, HCA, ConAgra, Hobart, Avery Dennison, Russell Stover, Under Armour, Springs Industries, ADP, Chicos, Simmons, Fisher Scientific, Owens Corning, Gaylord Entertainment, and AOL.

Vicki earned a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Akron and a Masters of Public Administration degree from Cleveland State University. She is an active member of the Industrial Asset Management Council (IAMC), The Association of Operations Management (APICS), The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), International Tax Professionals (ITP) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Vicki is a paid speaker, professor and an award-winning published author. Her award-winning book, The One You Feed, is a compilation of short stories, reflection questions and quotes designed to assist in the development of key character traits in children ages 7 to 14. In 2013 The One You Feed won the National Indie Excellence Award in the categories of Book Cover Non-Fiction and Young Adult Non-Fiction. She is a part-time professor in the Geography Department at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. She teaches courses on Site Selection and Economic Development.

John Karras, TIP Strategies 

Economic Development Strategic Planning

As a senior consultant with TIP, John works closely with business and community leaders to create actionable strategies for economic development. He has managed a wide range of consulting engagements for communities and regions in 20 states. In addition to his strategic planning experience, John has built a reputation as a leading thinker on urban revitalization trends and their impact on economic development.

Prior to joining TIP, John founded urbanSCALE.com to empower urban planning and economic development professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to make their communities more vibrant. John is also the creator of the urbanSCALE Rating System, the first comprehensive measure of how urban a city is on a scale of 1 to 10. The urbanSCALE website has evolved into a growing online community with insights and creative thinking for urban planners, economic developers, and civic leaders.

Before entering the economic development field, John worked in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration within the New York City Department of Transportation’s Division of Planning & Sustainability. With the NYC Department of Transportation, he managed projects that improved freight mobility while balancing needs surrounding parking, deliveries, transit riders, cyclists, and pedestrians. John also worked as an urban planning/GIS specialist with AECOM. John has a BS in Geography from Texas State University-San Marcos and a MS in Community & Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin.

Greg King, Georgia Tech and Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia

IEDC and the Certification Process

Greg King serves as the Associate Vice President for Economic Development at Georgia Tech where he develops innovation partnerships between companies and campus.  In addition, he supports the state’s economic development efforts by identifying and representing the unique higher education resources and opportunities to those companies looking to relocate or expand in Georgia.  Greg also leads Georgia Tech’s engagement with industry that involves the creation and operation of innovation or technology centers on or near campus.  He provides stewardship of the network of these corporate innovation labs and centers, developing partnerships and focusing university resources to support their growth.   Greg has a joint appointment for economic development with the Board of Regents, University System of Georgia, where he currently serves as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Economic Development and Industry Engagement.  

Prior to his current role, as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Georgia Tech, Greg worked closely with high growth companies and government agencies to establish partnerships, to conduct business development and create new programs to support industry growth.  Greg has also led university teams that worked with and advised communities and economic development organizations on strategies to develop and support their capacity for technology based economic development.   As an officer in the United States Navy, his experience spanned over 20 years and included a wide range of demanding executive, staff and operational assignments worldwide.

Greg holds a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Management from Georgia Tech and a Master’s in Economics from the University of Oklahoma.  He was also part of the Fulbright International program representing university-industry collaboration and economic development.  Greg is also a certified economic developer (CEcD) through the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Eloisa Klementich, Invest Atlanta

Managing Economic Development Organizations: Case Study

Economic development expert Eloisa Klementich has spent the last two decades solving complex problems at the city, state and national levels. Currently, Klementich is president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the City of Atlanta’s economic development authority where she has been lauded for her involvement in nearly all recent economic development wins for the City of Atlanta. Some key accomplishments as President and CEO of Invest Atlanta and in her previous role as head of the agency’s economic development department include helping to create more than 30,000 new jobs, $3.3 billion in new capital investment and over 2,800 affordable housing units in the City of Atlanta.

Previously, Eloisa served as managing director of business development at Invest Atlanta. In this position, she worked to attract new businesses and create initiatives that promoted job growth in Atlanta. Before coming to Invest Atlanta, Eloisa served as special assistant for economic development at the U.S. Economic Development Administration in the Office of the Secretary. She served as California’s assistant deputy secretary for economic development and commerce and has held various roles with city governments, including a consultant for Mexico’s President Vicente Fox, working on best practices for addressing constituent issues and requests.

Eloisa holds a bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College, as well as master’s degrees in urban planning and Latin American affairs from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MBA from el Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey. She received her doctorate degree in
public administration from the University of LaVerne. 

Eloisa is also active in various business and civic organizations. She serves as a board member for the International Economic Development Council, Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, WorkSource Atlanta, Latin American Civic Association, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Atlanta Technical College, and Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. She is the recipient of the 2017 Walker’s Legacy Women in Economic Development Award and the 2017 National Association of Minority Contractors Georgia Chapter’s Public?Sector Award. A graduate of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2017, Eloisa has been featured in 2017 Delta Sky Magazine’s “Faces of Atlanta Business” and The Atlanta
Business Chronicle’s “People to Watch in 2017.”

David Lee, United Parcel Service 

Economic Development Talks: Perspectives on Automation

At work, I lead innovation programs at UPS. You may have seen some of our brown delivery vehicles on your street today. It’s a wonderful job because I get the chance to work with thousands of UPSers around the world to explore problems and design interesting solutions together. My core professional belief is that the people are capable of doing amazing things, but that more organizations need to create channels for people to demonstrate their full set of abilities. Now, more than ever, we need working environments that people love – where they are able to bring every ounce of creativity, brilliance, and oddness to work. Human beings can be amazing on weekends. We as leaders need to make it easier for people to bring their Saturday-self to work and create great products, tools, and experiences for our customers and our co-workers. The future depends on it.

Prior to UPS, I had the fortunate chance to be part of building a number of teams and capabilities inside other large companies. I helped to lead an amazing team of people who made miracles happen at SunTrust Bank, a purpose-driven regional bank based in Atlanta, Georgia. Before that, as a member of Bank of America’s emerging technology lab and venture capital group, we worked on exploring and enabling some of the best innovations in personal finance over the last 20 years. From that work, we launched services like check image capturing, modern ATMs, and enhancements to online brokerage services. My last role there was to help launch a startup business inside the company to better serve the retirement needs of millions of Americans, making it easier transition into the adult life that so many people dream about.

I went to business school at the University of Chicago, where I learned about so much more than business. As an undergrad I studied economics at the University of Virginia. Home is Atlanta, Georgia where I live with my partner, Jennifer, and our two young boys.

Scott Malone, Development Authority of LaGrange

Economic Development Talks: Perspectives on Automation

Scott Malone is a native of LaGrange, Georgia. He was locally educated at LaGrange Academy and went on to obtain a Chemical Engineering Degree from Georgia Tech, a certificate in Laboratory Sciences from the University College of London and an MBA from Duke University with a concentration in Finance and Real Estate Development. He spent the first part of his career working with Andersen Consulting based out of Atlanta, Georgia. Scott specialized in working with manufacturing and logistics companies while with Andersen. He spent the last several years of his career with Andersen managing International projects throughout Europe and the Philippines. While living in Manila Scott developed a core competency in the Aviation space working with Philippine Airlines. Scott’s return to the US led him to Chicago working with American Express developing the operational plan for the first Corporate Jet Airline in the US called INDIGO. Scott left Andersen in 2000 to become the President and COO of New World Air Holdings the primary owner and operator with American Express of INDIGO. Shortly following 9/11 Scott returned to Atlanta to begin Malone & Company and in 2004 returned to LaGrange as the Managing Partner of Granger Inns, Inc. and Granger Inns II, LLC. Scott and his partners sold their business in 2014 and in February of 2016 Scott was named the President of the Development Authority of LaGrange where he remains today. Scott and his wife Stacey have two boys ages 9 and 12 and they attend St. Peters Catholic Church.

Tim Martin, Stephens County Development Authority

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

Tim Martin began his service as Executive Director to the SCDA in June 2008. He comes to Stephens County with more than thirty years working in community and economic development.

Tim also served in the Peace Corps in Bogota, Colombia.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree at Florida State University, where he also pursued graduate work.  He is a Certified Chamber Executive (CCE), Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), and Certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP).

Tim’s leadership roles have included President of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (2000), President of the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (2005), and President of Georgia Technical Colleges Directors Association (2006).

Tim enjoys reading, writing, running, and traveling.  Tim and his wife, Esther, have two married adult children and five grandchildren.

Misti Martin, Cherokee Office of Economic Development

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

Misti Martin is a native of Canton, Georgia and has been in the Chamber and Economic Development field since 1991.  In February 2004, she was named as President of the Development Authority of Cherokee County, now known as the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. 

Martin worked for the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce & Development Authority and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.  She served as President & CEO of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce in Covington, Georgia from 1998-2004 before returning to Cherokee.  

Ms. Martin received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management from the University of Georgia and earned her MBA from Troy University.  She is also a graduate of University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute (EDI) as well as the University of Georgia’s Institute for Organization Management.  Misti became a Certified Economic Developer by the International Economic Development Council in 2000 and is a 2005 Graduate of Leadership Georgia.  She was featured as one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2011 and as a “Notable Georgian” in 2012 and 2013.

Martin has held numerous positions on state boards for Chamber and Economic Development organizations and served as Chairman of the Board of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) in 2012. 

Misti is married with three sons.

Mary Ellen McClanahan, Georgia Department of Economic Development

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

As Director of Entrepreneur & Small Business Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Mary Ellen helps find solutions and effective ways to build an entrepreneurial environment to support small business through mentoring, professional development, strategic planning and resource awareness. She also connects with Georgia’s business and community associations so that thousands of businesses, local leaders and practitioners are aware of resources and opportunities. She also directs any size businesses to the specific resources they need.

Mary Ellen is also an Existing Industry Project Manager within the Metro Atlanta region. She calls on expanding companies making them aware of state resources and incentives and provides assistance with their growth plans and decision-making process. She also works closely with the local economic developers with their existing industry support efforts.

During her 20 years with the department, she helped develop and grow its regional economic development program, the “Entrepreneur Friendly” Initiative and acted as legislative liaison. Prior to that, Mary Ellen was the economic developer and president of two rural South Georgia chambers of commerce in Dodge and Sumter Counties.

Originally from Erie, PA and in Georgia since 1973, Mary Ellen serves on the boards of GEDA (Georgia Economic Developers Association), GACCE (GA Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives), Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection, the DeKalb Workforce Investment Board and Sandy Springs Economic Development Advisory Council.

She is a 1997 graduate of Institute for Organization Management, Leadership Georgia and a 2000 graduate of EDI (Economic Development Institute).

Alfie Meek Ph.D., Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Dr. Meek has more than 20 years of experience in economic/fiscal impact analysis and community-based research. Before joining EI², Alfie served for nine years as the Chief Economist and Director of Economic Development for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. In that role, he was integral in the development and implementation of Partnership Gwinnett, a community-wide strategic plan that was named the best multi-year economic development program for large communities by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in 2010. Before his time in Gwinnett County, he spent three years as the Director of Applied Research at The University of Georgia’s Business Outreach Services and Small Business Development Center, and served for five years on the faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology as an economist and project director for the Center for Economic Development Services. Preceding his tenure at Georgia Tech, Alfie was the Research Economist for SunTrust Banks, Inc.

His current areas of special focus include economic/fiscal impact analysis, forecasting and modeling, work-force issues, tax policy analysis, and target industry analysis. In addition to his research, Dr. Meek speaks widely on topics relating to economic impact and economic development. Dr. Meek has also written for economic development-related publications, as well as other periodicals. His research on the size and economic impact of the sports industry in the United States was published in Sports Marketing Quarterly. This research has been written about and cited in numerous publications – USA Today, Georgia Trend, Financial Times London, Fortune Magazine, and Investor’s Business Daily among others.

Alfie is an active member of the National Association for Business Economics, and is past president of the Atlanta Economics Club. He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Georgia, a Master’s degree in Business Economics from Georgia State University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

John Metcalf, Workforce Systems Associates

Workforce Development

Residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, John P. Metcalf has been involved in solving workforce development challenges for over 20 years. First as a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Workforce Development Board, where he served as the Vice-chair; then as a senior partner with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce; consultant with Coffey Consulting, Thomas P. Miller and Associates, and National Association of Workforce Boards, and now as president, Workforce Systems Associates.

Workforce Systems Associates leads workforce, education, and community visioning efforts engaging community stakeholders to create strategies that build on a new vision.

John focuses on local and regional community planning, sector strategies, strategic planning, transformational and change management, and leadership development. John has created innovative integration strategies for workforce, economic, and education development at the community level.

Before his involvement with solving community workforce challenges, John spent 30 years at AT&T in a broad range of sales, marketing, and executive leadership positions allowing him to bring a business focus to workforce and community planning.

John continues working to help communities and organizations in their strategic and industry sector planning at the state, regional and local levels.

Rodrick Miller, Ascendant Global Consulting

Investing in Your Community’s Future

Rodrick Miller is a seasoned economic developer known for his deep expertise in urban recovery, trade and foreign investment, strategic planning and project finance. He has emerged as one of the foremost economic development leaders in the country, respected globally for his ability to maneuver in extraordinarily complex political and business environments, and craft strategies and structure deals to provide long-term value to communities and investors. His skills as a salesman, negotiator, policy expert, and corporate strategist have been honed in over 10 countries.

Miller is the President & CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the public-private partnership charged with leading the economic revitalization of the city of Detroit. Over Miller’s tenure the organization has significantly expanded its capacity in business attraction, small business, and real estate and finance. The organization’s signature small business program, Motor City Match, aimed at developing and leveraging small businesses to anchor neighborhoods is quickly becoming a national model.  Meanwhile, he has pushed a pointed real estate development agenda which is creating the infrastructure to support significant expansion of large-scale manufacturing and logistics operations to generate more jobs for Detroiters.  Under Miller’s leadership, the DEGC has brought more than $750M in new investments and 6,000 new jobs to Detroit including Adient, Lear Corporation, Sakthi Automotive, Fifth-Third Bank, and Ally Financial. In 2014, Miller supported the city’s exit from bankruptcy through negotiating disposition of key public assets to ease large creditor tensions and jumpstart new development opportunities. Most recently, his team brokered the transaction to bring the Detroit Pistons back to downtown Detroit.

Previously, Miller served as the founding president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), the official economic development organization responsible for ensuring the long-term economic vitality and driving job growth for the City of New Orleans. As the chief economist and thought leader on economic recovery, Miller focused the organization’s efforts on lowering barriers to entry in the marketplace, increasing transparency, and developing approaches to drive inclusive economic growth. Results since their founding in 2011 include state legislation allowing for benefit corporations, a policy framework to guide the use of tax incentives in economic development, and the attraction of more than $720 Million in new investment and 7,500 new jobs through proactive attraction and expansion of corporate projects in the New Orleans market. In June of 2013, NOLABA launched ProsperityNOLA, the first ever comprehensive economic development plan for the city of New Orleans. Miller led his team in crafting this 5-year plan with a keen eye on ensuring the plan would diversify the economy and present economic opportunities for all the citizens of New Orleans.

Prior to that position, Miller served as the Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Vice President of International Economic Development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), and held several other positions in the public and private sectors.

Miller holds a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science degree in international business from St. Augustine’s College. He also gained a Graduate Diploma in Finance from the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) in Mexico while completing a Fulbright Fellowship. A scholar-practitioner, he is a sought-after lecturer and contributes to various publications. He is a term member of US Council on Foreign Relations, is a board member of the International Economic Development Council, and sits on the Federal Reserve Board’s Community Advisory Council. Miller has received numerous accolades including Ebony Magazine’s 30 under 30, Phoenix Business Journal’s Top 40 under Forty, Top 100 Tech Influencers in the Silicon Bayou, Young Economic Developer of the Year, and numerous others. He enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with his son. Miller is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.

Crystal Morphis, Creative Economic Development Consulting

Economic Development Marketing & Attraction

Creative Economic Development Consulting is an entrepreneurial, innovative firm with a unique commitment to give back to the field of economic development. The firm provides strategic planning, product development, impact analysis, and organizational development services. In 2013, Creative EDC launched a web-based site assessment tool, CreativeSiteAssessment.com. It helps economic developers assess potential business development sites through an independent ranking and prioritization system. In 2015, the firm relaunched the nationally-recognized and award-winning Certified Entrepreneurial Community® program. In 2016, the firm created the first Certified Industrial Building Program. We have a pay-it-forward philosophy. We give away one consulting project a year through the Creative Give Back, sponsor a Women’s Economic Development Network, and started a mentor network. These innovations are just a few examples of how our firm is truly creative.

Crystal was a local economic developer before serving ten years as a managing partner in a consulting firm. She founded Creative EDC in 2012. Crystal has a Bachelor of Arts, major in economics, from Salem College and a Master of Science, major in economics, from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Crystal is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), regular instructor at the IEDC-accredited Basic Economic Development Courses at UNC-Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech, a licensed real estate broker, and a LEED Green Associate. She has been published in the Economic Development Journal and Community Development.

Sam Pugh, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

BEDC Course Administrator

Sam is a Project Manager with the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI²).

Sam’s skills include economic analysis; strength, weakness, opportunities and threat (SWOT) analysis; community assessment; and incentive strategy development. His work also includes tourism investment validation studies and preparation of an annual statewide economic outlook. He has assisted on several projects including the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative for the 15-county northwest Georgia region and a workforce analysis for a Georgia community completed through the Economic Development Research Program.

Before his career at Georgia Tech, Sam worked at the Georgia Department of Transportation managing a team of environmental planners. His team was responsible for managing and completing the environmental studies needed for the approval of federal-aid transportation projects. He has experience working on economic development transportation projects such as the Governor’s Road Improvement Program and the Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail. Sam holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Economics as well as two Bachelor’s degrees, one in English and one in Environmental Economics and Management, all from the University of Georgia.

Steve Rushing, Health Extension Services, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Ignite Session: Economic Development “On The Ground”

Steve Rushing brings three decades of experience in health care management and information systems, with clients ranging from community hospitals and multi-specialty clinics to home health care agencies and health maintenance organizations. He currently serves as Director of Health Extension Services at the Enterprise Innovation Institute, a program responsible for health information technology research and deployment initiatives.

Recent projects have included assistance to the Georgia Department of Community Health in conducting an environmental scan of the state’s health information technology (HIT) landscape and HIT assistance in developing a strategic and operational plan for Georgia’s statewide health information exchange. He also serves as an executive-in-residence at the Health Systems Institute, a joint venture between Georgia Tech and Emory University’s School of Medicine.

In addition, Steve currently oversees the Jobs Accelerator project’s implementation at EI2 and multiple state and federal partnerships. This integrated project, funded by the EDA, ETA and SBA, addresses job acceleration through effective HIT commercialization and educational programs aimed at both the supply and health care provider sides of the HIT cluster in Georgia.

Previously, Steve worked for Anderson Consulting (Accenture) for 25 years in its health care practice, as well as for The North Highland Company, BearingPoint’s Clinical Transformation practice and Superior Consultants’ e-health division. Through his position with ATDC, Rushing will council health information technology and related industry members on navigating the rapidly changing and complex health IT landscape, and share leadership and management experiences.

Tom Sammon, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Panel Discussion: What Automation Means for Your Community

Tom Sammon is an engineering project manager for Georgia Tech’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) since 2005. He focuses on implementing lean manufacturing practices and helping companies develop capital equipment applications.

He has 25 years of experience in the industrial automation and machine building fields, working as a project manager implementing equipment systems into manufacturing companies throughout North America. Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Sammon’s work focused on discrete manufacturing, ranging from metalworking and welding with the Panasonic Robotics Group, system integration for the automotive industry, and high-speed packaging for companies like Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. He is an active member of the faculty group Robotics & Intelligent Machines at Georgia Tech (IRIM) and is on the Board of Advisors at West Georgia Technical College’s Industrial Electronics degree program.

Sammon holds an M.S. in management of technology from Georgia Tech and a B.S. in industrial engineering from Southern Polytechnic State University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Georgia.

Kevin Shea, Georgia Economic Developers Association

Closing Session: “The Importance of Being Involved in Your State Economic Development Association”

Kevin is President of the Georgia Economic Developers Association.  GEDA’s mission is to serve as the resource for networking, professional development and public policy for Georgia’s Economic Development community.  Shea has been with GEDA since July 2014.    

Previously, Kevin worked in economic development at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Savannah Economic Development Authority.  He also served at the state-level as Managing Director of the Canadian Office of Georgia in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Kevin is a recipient of the GEDA Rip Wiley Award for Professional Excellence, Georgia’s highest honor for an economic developer.  He is also a past Chairman of GEDA. 

A graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Kevin earned a BSFS (Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service) and majored in International Economics.  Shea achieved the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation, for the second time, in January 2017.  He is also a graduate of the Basic Economic Development Course at Georgia Tech and attended the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma.  Kevin is a graduate of Leadership Georgia, as well as the Leadership programs in Augusta and Savannah.

Shea also worked in financial services in St. Augustine & Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and in fundraising at St. Joseph Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.  A native of Savannah, Kevin is married to Anne Castles Shea and they have six children and nine grandchildren.  He enjoys spending time with family, being involved in his church, playing golf and traveling.

Kent Spencer, Invest Atlanta

Panel Discussion: Business Retention and Expansion, Creating a Foundation for Success

Kent Spencer joined the Invest Atlanta Business Development team in August 2013 as the leader of this emerging program Business Retention and Expansion program. As the Assistant Director of Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) effort, Kent used his years of experience and training to help grow and accelerate the BRE initiative. Between 2012 and the present, Invest Atlanta’s BRE program has visited, surveyed or supported over 1,000 businesses in Atlanta representing over $3.0 billion in total annual revenue.

Invest Atlanta’s BRE effort has helped support, retain and expand scores of businesses in the city of Atlanta. These efforts represent over $1.0 billion dollars in capital investment and over 2,500 jobs, that will remain within the City of Atlanta.

Growing up in Detroit, Kent understood the importance of small businesses and how quickly they can grow to make a positive impact on local economies when they are properly supported. As the Director of the Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC) -Wayne (Detroit) County Business Resource Center), Kent ably to led the staff to assist hundreds of local businesses and participated in capital formation.

Kent’s previous work in residential and commercial financing gave him the adaptive skills necessary to accommodate the special needs of a variety of clients. Kent is a true advocate of small businesses and the individuals and their families that operate them.

His work in insurance, risk management and the music industry helped expose Kent directly to the issues and concerns that business owners face. It is his believe that the first step in be truly supportive is to be a good listener and to be empathetic at all times.

Chata Spikes, Atlanta Police Department

How to Handle the Media

Chata Spikes believes that communication is an art; as it is a powerful component of human interaction, development and growth. Effective communication can provide structure to chaos, express emotions, and deliver a message to the masses.

 She has more than 15 years of media experience having held various positions both on and off camera with Fox News Channel, ABC & CBS, and most recently, CNN.  Additionally, she has worked for WSB-TV (Atlanta, GA), WYFF News 4 (Greenville, SC), WMAZ (Macon, GA), and DCTV -DeKalb County Government Television.  She also worked as communications specialist and call center supervisor for Time Warner, Inc. She is currently the deputy director of public affairs for the Atlanta Police Department.

In 2007, she was bitten by the education bug; initially, what was supposed to be a one-month lecturer session morphed into eight years of educating future journalists. She served an adjunct professor of mass communications at her beloved alma mater, Fort Valley State University.

She is a 2001 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Fort Valley State University, in Fort Valley, GA. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Radio/TV Broadcast.  She also holds a Masters of Organizational Leadership and Communication from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Chata also started her doctoral studies at Nova Southeastern with a focus on Higher Education Leadership.

She is a member of Leadership Georgia Class of 2011 and was featured on the cover of the Georgia Trend magazine’s 40 under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest 2009 edition. Spikes’ accolades also include being featured in Who’s Who in Black Atlanta in 2008, 2010, and 2012; as well as a member of the Education Policy Fellowship Program Class of 2012.

Bob White, ViziTech USA

Economic Development Finance: A Practitioner’s Perspective

Bob White is Director of Business Development for ViziTech USA, a leading national education and training company specializing in 3D technology, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) training solutions for education, business, government, healthcare and the military. Bob joined ViziTech USA in January 2018 following a career that spanned more than three decades in economic development at both the statewide and local levels in Georgia. Bob was Assistant Director of economic development for the Atlanta Gas Light Company before joining the Henry County Development Authority (HCDA) as executive director in 1995.

In Henry County, Bob managed all aspects of a community-level economic development agency in Georgia’s 8th largest county, and was directly involved in the recruitment and/or expansion of some 70 industries representing the addition of more than $1 Billion in new capital investment in the community, and issuance of more than $600 million in Industrial Development Bonds. In January 2015, Bob stepped down after nearly 20 years as executive director of the Henry County Development Authority. 

Bob is a Certified Economic Developer, and is a graduate of the IEDC Basic Economic Development Course at Georgia Tech, and the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a recipient of an “Outstanding Thesis” award from the Southern Industrial Development Council in 1991. He was co-creator of a biennial Development Authority Law workshop in conjunction with GEDA, the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia (ICLE) and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and was a contributor to the Georgia Development Authority Handbook, 2006 Edition, published by the Fanning Institute at UGA. He has also served as an Instructor for UGA’s Development Authority Board Member Training Program.

Bob is a longtime member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) and, in 2011 he served as chairman of GEDA. In 2012, he was named to Georgia Trend magazine’s “100 Most Influential Georgians.” 

Bob is a proud graduate of the University of Georgia, and he and his wife, Laura, reside in McDonough.

Laron Walker, MyStemKits.com

Economic Development Talks: Perspectives on Automation

Laron Walker is a technology entrepreneur who graduated summa cum laude from Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Later, he enrolled in Purdue University where he obtained his Masters of Science in the same area. As an authority in web technologies, Laron has been instrumental architecting leading enterprise platforms that span both web and mobile for over 20 years.

Laron spends a tremendous amount of his time evangelizing STEM education with schools and organizations focused on kids and education. He works to ensure that education is open, accessible and affordable to all. At present, Laron is developing programs that teach kids workforce relevant skills using computer science, hardware and other interesting technology. Kids as early as kindergarten are being exposed to concepts such as Robotics, IOT, Big Data, App Development, Gaming, and 3d Printing.

Laron is the CEO of MyStemKits.com, the world’s largest library of 3d printable manipulatives, aligned to the national K-12 education standards. MyStemKits.com develops K-12 curriculum for standards-driven instruction and 3D-printable manipulatives to create an end-to-end STEM solution. MyStemKits.com converts the 3D printer to a classroom supply factory without the red tape of purchase orders, budgets, etc. Combining technology, high-quality curriculum and 3D models enables teachers to easily integrate 3D printing in their classroom, while also becoming more effective instructors.

Laron lives in Atlanta, Ga with his wife Rachel and their three kids (Isaiah, Laila and Olivia).

Joy Wilkins, Serving Communities, LLC

Ethics in Economic Development

Joy Wilkins is an advisor, speaker, facilitator, instructor, and author on community development, economic development, and leadership development matters. 

Joy loves to develop partnerships for working together across boundaries, lead high performing teams, and engage with community leaders to help improve lives. She has delivered research, planning, and advisory services for clients in the United States and Canada and is often called upon to help leaders in the areas of community engagement, strategy design, and consensus building. Her past roles include serving with the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and a software development start-up.

A Certified Economic Developer by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), Joy is also a registered mediator in the state of Georgia. She has a master’s degree in city planning from Georgia Tech; a graduate certificate in real estate from Georgia State University; and a bachelor’s degree, with majors in sociology and political science, from the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Joy is a member of the IEDC Board of Directors and has been actively involved in a number of other endeavors to serve and advance the profession since 1994.

Charles Wood, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Panel Discussion: Business Retention and Expansion, Creating a Foundation for Success

Charles Wood currently serves as the Vice President of Economic Development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. He has more than 15 years of economic development experience spanning a range of efforts including business recruitment, retention and expansion, entrepreneurship and real estate development and redevelopment. Prior to joining the Chattanooga Area Chamber, Charles served as the Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce for five years after working in economic development in College Station, Texas for seven years. During his career Charles has led recruitment and expansion efforts resulting in thousands of jobs created by companies including Hewlett Packard, Mellon Financial, Toshiba and Volkswagen.   Additionally, Charles served as the thought leader and project manager for three Tax Increment Finance districts, two technology commerce parks, a high-tech business incubator and a multi-state regional entrepreneurship initiative. He holds a Masters Degree in Economic Development from the University of Southern Mississippi, completed Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and holds the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) from the International Economic Development Council.

Jennifer Zeller, Georgia Power

Innovations in Economic Development Research

As Support Services Manager for Georgia Power’s Community & Economic Development organization, Ms. Zeller is responsible for directing the engineering, research and creative teams that support business recruitment, expansion and retention initiatives, and the department’s work in helping communities prepare for growth. Jennifer is also responsible for the Georgia Resource Center, a world-renowned multimedia facility for assistance with strategic location decisions.

Jennifer joined the Georgia Power team in 2007. She was formerly Vice President of Research for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, where she worked for more than 10 years, and for the Lee County, Florida, Office of Economic Development. 

Ms. Zeller serves on the boards of the federal Workforce Information Advisory Council (WIAC) and the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2er). She is a member of the National Association of Business Economics and serves on the Brand Awareness Committee of the Technology Association of Georgia.

Jennifer holds a Bachelors degree with concentrations in Economics and Political Science from Florida State University. She also received a certificate in economic development and Web design from Georgia Tech.

Originally from Toronto, Jennifer resides in the City of Atlanta with her husband and two children.