Monday, December 14, 2009

Georgia House of Representatives Majority Leader Jerry Keen Speaks at the Gwinnett Chamber's Legislative Luncheon

Keen to Discuss Key Issues, Including Water, Education, Transportation and Economic Development, at the December 16 Legislative Luncheon Presented by Rocket IT

Duluth, GA- The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Presenting Sponsor Rocket IT will be hosting Georgia House of Representatives Majority Leader Jerry Keen for the annual Legislative Luncheon on December 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Atlanta Marriott-Gwinnett Place. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear important issues that the Gwinnett Chamber will help to address in order to continue a prosperous business environment. The issues discussed will include water, education, transportation and economic development.

"The Legislative Luncheon is a great opportunity for our members to hear an influential voice on the issues that will affect our business climate the most in the upcoming year," said Jim Maran, Gwinnett Chamber president and CEO. "The Gwinnett Chamber wants to help serve as our members' voice while advocating to our elected officials."

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen was unanimously elected to be the first Republican House Majority Leader in over 130 years in 2004. He just completed his fourth term and running for his fifth representing House District 179 in Glynn County. He has authored legislation to eliminate state income tax on capital gains and provide state income tax credits for private donations of green space property to qualified land trusts. He played a major role in passing tort reform, the Voter ID bill and the Women's Right to Know bill. Keen serves on the Rules, Appropriations, Ethics, Insurance, Energy, Utilities and Telecommunication committees. Georgia Trend Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians.

General Membership meetings are held once a month providing an opportunity for Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce members to stay abreast of important issues in Gwinnett, network with other business professionals and have a chance to listen to renowned speakers from all types of industries.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

5 Ways to Grow During Down Times

What business owner does not want to try and grow their business? Some might say it can not be done right now due to the recession we are still in. Roger W. Reak of StratAlli would disagree though. Reak spoke at the GiANT Impact Metro Atlanta Council for Entrepreneurship (MACE) this morning about "5 ways to grow during down times."

If you missed it, don't worry because you can still catch the cliff notes version...

1) Commit to Change
Change is not as scary and intimidating as people think. A common reaction with the topic of change is to simply shrug it off and say "why change? We have always done it this way." Or some say "I can't try to change anything now, I'm trying to hold onto the clients and services that I have now in this bad economy."

The truth is a bad economy actually can help to present new lines, customers and employees, geographical expansion, inventory purchases, potential company acquisition and streamlining the organization. Just to name a few.

First, YOU have to change your attitude and get enthusiastic by becoming the company's biggest cheerleader. Second, commit to innovation, improvement and growth. John Wooden, a former coach at UCLA once said, "Don't confuse activity with progress."

2) Plan and Get Help
Reak recommends companies have a strategic outlook over a tactical one. He suggested that companies create a one page living strategic and business plan. This will provide focus and force companies to set extremely specific goals. Make sure to get help from everybody around you and then be sure to educate all the employees on the details of the priorities set before them.

Find out how your business is different than your competition. Reak says "be different in a way that matters to your customers." He also believes that a business expert and/or consultant can provide an outsider's view that can help provide valuable guidance.

Reak believes that a major problem with small businesses is they think like small businesses. Instead, develop an advisory board. This can help to spread the pressure of the company around while gaining important insights and other perspectives.

3) Get Your Finances In Order
A must do is establish your financial stability ad funding for growth. First, you must honestly asses your current status. Then, question every expenditure and decide if it is a worthy cost. Next, maintain a cash flow plan with and without additional financing and stick to it.

4) Improve Your Organization
The big word to remember under this tip is SIMPLIFY. Most businesses are overly complicated because they believe that is the best way to do business, it's not. Start simplifying your organization by having fewer layers, streamline all your systems and focus on your primary business function and outsource non-core functions, such as human resources and legal.

Train every employee on the business plan and strategies, products and services, procedures, responsibilities, importance of innovation, etc. Make sure to establish accountability with all employees by providing incentives, raises and promotions based on specific performance of personal business plan goals. Also, start empowering your employees by shifting some responsibility for elements of the company plan onto them.

5) Market and Sell
This is probably one of the biggest ways to help grown in a down economy. First, develop a marketing plan aimed at your target client. Then make sure you have a consistent message on all marketing materials (social media, Web site, brochures, etc.).

Take advantage of the free social media available today. Creating a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter an blog accounts is a great way to spread your message to an enormous amount of people without costing money.

Selling, obviously, is the way to grow a business during any time of the economy. So, train all employees to be able to sell your products/services. Always have something to leave behind to a potential client. Make sure that all employees are enthusiastic.

So, do you think you have all of the tools to be even more successful and really grow your company despite the economy? If you have any more questions feel free to contact Roger W. Reak at or at 770-689-6261.

Sorry you missed out, on this great event! To learn more about MACE and other exciting events, so you are not missing out again, visit

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

GLOW: Gwinnett's Leadership Organization for Women---Helping Gwinnett Women Walk Tall

Women of Gwinnett have a reason to walk tall, and it's not just because of their great shoes. According to the Center for Women's Research the majority of women-owned businesses increased by 42 percent from 1997-2006. Women in management, professional and related occupations now account for 50.6 percent of the total population. A third of women believe that being a woman is beneficial to their business success. So now is the perfect time to celebrate being a woman and Gwinnett's Leadership Organization for Women (GLOW) is the perfect way to help put an extra bounce in your step.

"GLOW empowers women by giving them the opportunity to come together as one and talk about what we face in life," said Wendy Frank of Rocket IT. "As crazy as the world is today we lose touch with what is right and wrong and having GLOW is a big help to getting us back on track."

The organization was created in August of 2008 as a way to bring professional women together in a relaxed space. GLOW has a focus on six areas of interest to women in business, finance, communication, leadership, life-balance, marketing and innovation.

"The scene is already set for empowering women and you can unabashedly talk about balancing motherhood and work or just gush over where to find good shoes," said Amy Bray of Andersen, Tate & Carr, PC. "The folks that attend GLOW seem genuinely interested in meeting new people, in a laid back way."

GLOW is not your ordinary networking event. Every meeting has a different topic and speaker so that you walk away having learned something and having met new people. "I love all the GLOW events, I was able to input something from all the speakers and use it in my business to grow," said Cynthia King of Sam's Club. "GLOW helps me to stay focused on all my goals and achievements for my business. Having other women in business to talk to allows us to feed off each other's thoughts and solutions."

"I attend GLOW for two reasons --- to be a part of a leading organization for women and it's a comfort to be able to sit down with other women and talk about what we face in the workforce from climbing the corporate ladder to having a baby and learning to balance our life," said Frank.

GLOW speakers come from diverse backgrounds and fields, bringing unique knowledge and wisdom. "Speaking at GLOW was an amazing experience. The women involved are engaging and enthusiastic, hungry to embrace new information and eager to help each other succeed," said Paige Havens of Spitfire Media Group.

Other speakers have included Kelly Greer with Tillman, Allen, Greer, LLC; Wendy Kinney, creator of the Ready...Set...Go Make Money networking methodology; Dr. Beverly Scott with Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; and Dr. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength.

The success of GLOW can be attributed not only to the amazing line-up of speakers but also to supporters such as Gwinnett Medical Center. "Gwinnett Medical Center has been the proud presenting sponsor of GLOW for the past two year because of the direct impact it makes to the target audience we want to reach. Women make 95 percent of the health care decisions in their household and that means we want them to know about the quality of care provided in their backyard," said Andrea Wehrmann of Gwinnett Medical Center. "The benefits we have seen from GLOW are dynamic and overwhelming. From networking, to community support, to new friendships and word of mouth efforts, GLOW helps GMC continue to prosper in spreading the latest and greatest about what we offer the community."

GLOW was created in an effort to cultivate and empower this important segment of the economy. The Gwinnett Chamber and Partnership Gwinnett developed strategies to raise awareness about small business support services and resources for women in business while working to more effectively integrate the female population into leadership positions in the public and private sectors.

"GLOW is helping women to achieve in their inner personal and professional lives," said Wehrmann. "This group of women that encompasses GLOW are the movers and shakers in Gwinnett County and we are proud to serve this group each year. Also, GLOW empowers women by helping them to define their individual success not society's success. GLOW gives women the chance to sit back, relax, find empowerment and then get up and kick butt!"

For more information about this exciting initiative designed to advance women in the workplace and the community, contact Nicole Wright at 770-232-8816 or at or visit www.glowgwinnett.ocm. We hope you will join us as we "learn, laugh, network and leave glowing!"

AT&T Connecting People with Their World

AT&T's vision is to connect people with their world; everywhere they live and work, and do it better than anyone else. AT&T is bringing it all together for their customers by driving innovation in the communications and entertainment industry and consistently demonstrating a passionate commitment to customer care.

For more than a century, AT&T has provided reliable, high-quality products and services. They work with peer organizations to provide technology solutions to a wide variety of customers. Firms like Cisco, for example, may provide the additional equipment and technical support required to meet the needs of a customer while companies like Georgia Power will work with AT&T's construction engineers in establishing placement on power and telephone poles throughout the county.

AT&T Regional Manager and Gwinnett Chamber Vice Chair of Marketing and Communications Delores Crowell commented that AT&T also believes in strengthening the communities where they live and work by providing good jobs. "We donate our time and talents, and support programs, such as the Gwinnett Chamber's Government Relations program, that create economic opportunity including local education and economic development projects throughout Gwinnett County."

"The Gwinnett Chamber helps AT&T to promote our brand throughout the county by delivering best-in-class events, supporting smart public policy initiatives and providing access to key decision makers," said Crowell. "In addition, the Chamber's staff and leadership are always looking for new opportunities for its members and often seek feedback for improvement."

Crowell's favorite Chamber event is the Success Lives Here Business Leadership Series. "I believe that the true measurement of an effective chamber is their ability to provide high quality events and services and also educate and inspire their members on a variety of topics and subjects. I am able to find this at the Gwinnett Chamber through programs like Success Lives Here."

With the Gwinnett Chamber's Legislative Kick-off fast approaching in January and as presenting sponsor of the Kick-off and number of other Government Relations programs, Crowell also noted that the Chamber's Government Relations efforts are the best in the state. "Participation is important because of their reputation both locally and across the country, the Gwinnett Chamber always has a significant presence of elected and public officials at meetings and events," said Crowell. "The high participation levels are the result of planning, execution and also because these political leaders realize that we have a lot of public support from key business leaders. They seek out our advice and support on critical issues that impact the county."

Offering a piece of advice to fellow Chamber members, Crowell said that it is important to identify your firm's strengths and commit to develop the areas that need improvements. 'This is the only way to measure success. You must be honest about where you are today, before you can establish a plan for the future."

Visit for more information.

62nd Gwinnett Chamber Annual Dinner, A Celebration of Gwinnett's Success

A Year Marked by the launch of the region's first comprehensive entrepreneurial development initiative, the Metro Atlanta Council for Entrepreneurship, the successful completion of the second full year of the Partnership Gwinnett Economic and Community Development Strategy, the recruitment of two Fortune 500 global headquarters Asbury Automotive and NCR, and the hosting of the first Gwinnett Day at the Capitol are just a few of the many Chamber and community accomplishments that Kerry Armstrong, senior vice president, Duke Realty Corporation and Gwinnett Chamber 2009 Chair, looks back on as the highlights of a phenomenal year.

"Other accomplishments, such as the creation of the Diversity-Supplier Forum and the Meet the Purchasers Forum, the announcement of more than 115 relocated or expanded companies in Gwinnett, and the initiation for Gwinnett County to become a Certified Work Ready Community, have helped Gwinnett to reach new levels of success," said Armstrong. "Also, the continuous growth, and the prominence and effectiveness of our Chamber, not only regionally, but nationally is worthy of celebration as well."

On February 5th, the community will have the opportunity to commemorate the successes of 2009 and the people who made it possible at the 62nd Annual Dinner Presented by Gwinnett Medical Center. The Dinner will serve as a celebration of the people of Gwinnett, who by their service, volunteerism and commitment, allowed Gwinnett to reach new heights and set goals to strive for in the future.

"Gwinnett's most visionary leaders are honored at The Chamber's Annual Dinner for all they do to benefit our community. Their work is reflected in Gwinnett County's impeccable education, health care services, business environment and government, which is the reason that Gwinnett County is the envy of so many communities, not just in Georgia, but throughout the region," said Philip Wolfe, president and CEO of Gwinnett Medical Center.

Looking towards the future, Bartow Morgan, CEO and chairman, Brand Banking Company, and Gwinnett Chamber chair-elect, commented that in "2010 the Chamber will continue to thrive as the place for leaders in commerce, education, health care and government to work together to build an even higher quality of life in our community."

"Our economic development efforts, centered in our highly successful Partnership Gwinnett initiative, will continue to advance our mission of job growth and wealth creation, education and workforce excellence, quality of life enhancement and marketing and outreach," said Morgan. "Though economic conditions will clearly challenge our community and our nation in the coming year, the Chamber and its members will build upon Gwinnett's strong foundation and remain committed to finding solutions for continued success."

The black-tie optional spectacular serves as an opportunity for more than 1,000 of Gwinnett's finest to celebrate those that have made significant contributions to enhance our quality of life, make Gwinnett a better place to live, improve our education, medical and public service communities.

Join us in recognizing several Gwinett pacesetters. The highlight of the gala will include presentations of Citizen of the Year, Outstanding Public Service, and Ambassador of the Year honors, and the presentation of the D. Scott Hudgens Humanitarian Award to the charitable institution best embodying the spirit of compassion and generosity to which Hudgens was so deeply committed. Held at the Thomas P. Hughes Grand Ballroom at Gwinnett Center, on February 5th, the cocktail reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a 7:30 p.m. dinner.

Now is the time to get involved with the 62nd Annual Dinner. Members wishing to learn more about sponsorship opportunities or to register for this event should contact Alicia Krogh at 770-232-8809 or or visit

GLOW Panel to Show Women Business Executives How to Care For Mind, Body and Image

Gwinnett's Leadership Organization for Women's December 4 Panel to Feature an Image Consultant, Nutritionist and a Fitness Consultant

Duluth, GA- Women need to take time to relax, network and learn how they can take care of the person that is usually on the bottom of their to do list- themselves. Join the Gwinnett Chamber's Gwinnett's Leadership Organization for Women, GLOW, and Presenting Sponsor Gwinnett Medical Center for a panel discussion of "I Don't Sweat...I GLOW" on December 4 for the opportunity to get pampered while learning how to take care of your body. The event, held at The 1818 Club, will begin at 7:15 a.m. with networking and a breakfast buffet followed by the panel discussion at 8:15 a.m.

"This is for all of the multi-tasking modern day superheroes who navigate the hurtles of the business world as well as their personal lives in 3" pumps, a pencil skirt and a matching handbag fondly known as the 'black hole,'" said Nicole Wright, program manager. "To all of my women who do it all without breaking a sweat because we all know we don't sweat...we GLOW...this event is for you!"

The event will feature a diverse panel on how to take care of your body. The panelists will include Sarah Hathorn from Illustra Image Consulting, Connie Jeon of Elements Diet & Fitness and Althea Lawton-Thompson from Aerobics, Yoga & More Fitness Studios. The panel will feature a 40-minute open discussion where attendees will have the opportunity to ask any and all questions about the important details on how to take care of themselves inside and out.

The cost to attend is $35 for Chamber members and $45 for non-Chamber members. All no-shows will be billed. Walk-ins are not guaranteed a seat. To register, please contact Nicole Wright at 770-232-8816 or To register online, visit

The mission of GLOW is to assist in the success of business women within the community. The series helps women to become more competitive in the business arena, establish a network of business contacts and address areas of personal and professional growth, by learning from accomplished women who are making an impact. The program creates and fosters an environment where women can gather and openly address the unique challenges women face in today's business environment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Record Year Despite the Challenges

As we head into the holiday season and wrap up 2009, there are many achievements that we at the Gwinnett Chamber are thankful for. Most importantly we are thankful for you, our members, whose countless volunteer hours and continued financial support have helped your Chamber and Gwinnett make some very impressive headlines in 2009. I wanted to share some of our highlights with you.

For starters, thanks to Partnership Gwinnett's Economic and Community Development Strategy, we shocked the world by becoming the only community in the U.S. to recruit two Fortune 500 Corporate Headquarters in less than a year: NCR from Ohio and Asbury Automotive from New York. These were just the highest profile project wins from more than 115 expansions and relocation's yielding 6,200 jobs since the launch of Partnership Gwinnett in 2007. Successful recruiting trips to Asia and Europe and our historic partnership with the State to attract businesses from the Gaming and Digital Entertainment clusters have earned us honors and recognition in Georgia and abroad. Our brand has never been stronger, thus positioning us for even stronger long-term, high-way job creation.

To ensure Gwinnett and the Metro Atlanta region remain strong, we also successfully lobbied for a number of legislative actions to strengthen our community. These included enhancing statewide tax credit incentives for strategic industries that allowed us to attract NCR and reauthorizing tax allocation districts to revitalize blighted neighborhoods in southern Gwinnett. We rallied business community support to pressure Emory and Piedmont Hospitals to drop their lawsuits against Gwinnett Medical Center's open heart surgery program, thus saving countless lives. To support education, we launched mentoring programs in middle schools for at-risk students; helped secure more than $500,000 in grants for the creation of a Bio Science Career Path (with lab equipment) in our high schools; and expanded work-based apprenticeship programs in Gwinnett County Public Schools and Gwinnett Technical College. Encouraging our public partners to invest in a strong quality of life creates an environment that stimulates job creation.

To help our members grow their businesses and be as competitive as possible in today's challenging market conditions, we hosted a record 320 networking and business development events attended by more than 35,000 participants this year. We also launched the region's first comprehensive entrepreneurial development initiative, the Metro Atlanta Council for Entrepreneurship, attracting more growth companies that collectively employ 2,765 people with aggregate revenues of $690 million. Our Diversity Supplier Forums directly assisted 37 minority ad women-owned business owners in obtaining contracts from government agencies and private employers. And more than 500 new companies joined the Chamber in 2009, meaning greater partnership opportunities for you.

The Chamber's goals are simple. Creating jobs and wealth. Strengthening our communities. Growing your business. With your support, successes in these areas will remain strong in 2010 and beyond. Happy Holidays.

By Jim Maran

Chairman's Club: Better Than Publicity, It's Fulfilling Rewards

Matt Hyatt, president of Rocket IT, feels the Chairman's Club provides a unique opportunity to meet community leaders and build valuable relationships, among many other benefits.

"Since becoming a member of the Chairman's Club in 2006, I've met hundreds of other business and government leaders. I've developed strong business relationships with many of these people, and I now count some of them among my closest friends," said Hyatt.

Another Chairman's Club member, Lee Machen of Executive Advisor Group, LLC, believes that "undoubtedly being a Chairman's Club member has become one of my primary avenues for building successful business relationships. In the end, the friendships that are built naturally lead to mutual business opportunities."

Building beneficial relationships is not the only major reward of Chairman's Club membership. "Rocket IT has enjoyed wide exposure in Gwinnett, building brand awareness and good will that just is not possible anywhere else," said Hyatt. "In my opinion, there is no better business-to-business networking opportunity in Gwinnett County."

When asked for advice to other members, Matt Hyatt responded with, "I'd say that participation, contribution and consistency are the keys to success."

Hyatt believes "the members that pour their time and attention into their community month after month, year after year, are the ones that tend to enjoy the highest rewards."

Is your business ready for fulfilling rewards? Then be a proactive leader in the Chamber's efforts to build and sustain a prosperous community. To set up an appointment, contact Vince DeSilva, vice president of membership services at 678-474-1703 or

Chairman's Club members know that they make a critical difference in determining the future course of the business environment by becoming a key player at the table when decision are made. The financial contribution of $5,000 or more has a direct benefit on pro-business initiatives that will continue to foster a welcoming climate for industry growth in the county. Join with this group and a leader committed to the future of Gwinnett.

Sponsorship Opportunities: "Expose Yourself" With The Chamber

Expose yourself...come on, let it all show! In today's economic climate it is a must. Businesses everywhere are having to try even harder in order to get their name out to potential clients. It is such a daunting task to many companies that the pain of how to succeed scares them from even trying.

No need to be afraid when you are a member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. "We are here to help you expose yourself to all of Gwinnett and the greater metro Atlanta area," said Vince DeSilva, vice president of member services. "When the economy slides it is crucial for companies to market themselves better than ever before. Sponsorships are a great way to do this in a cost-effective way while reaching a highly influential audience."

As an added benefit, when companies align themselves with the Gwinnett Chamber by sponsoring programs and services, they are conveying to the community that they are a reputable company, according to independent research from the Schapiro Group. This research study shows that when respondents were told that a particular small business was a member of its local chamber, they were 44 percent more likely to rate it favorably than study respondents who were not told of the chamber affiliation. Respondents were also 63 percent more likely to want to purchase goods or services from a small business that is a chamber member.

The results show that being active in the local chamber of commerce is a good strategy for businesses to use in communicating important company traits too. The report revealed that statistically, it is an effective way to convey to consumers that a company uses good business practices, is involved in the community, cares about customers and is reputable- regardless of whatever they may or may not already think about the company.

Many of Gwinnett's business leaders have already caught on to what the Schapiro Group is reporting. Companies and organizations such as Gwinnett Medical Center, Rocket IT, AT&T, Georgia Power Company, Merrill Lynch- The Cross Group, The PrivateBank, SCANA Energy, Peterbrooke Chocolatier, Cakes by Shupan & LaFavor, Etc., are aligning themselves with the Gwinnett Chamber and exposing their companies to Gwinnett and metro Atlanta by sponsoring a variety of programs and services.

Chamber members are provided with plenty of opportunities throughout the year to showcase their companies. Sponsorships develop during the year that will place your company in front of decision makers all across the area, and for a price that will fit almost any budget. By partnering with the Gwinnett Chamber in your company's marketing, public relations and advertising plans, your company will have access to a broad array of potential clients that your competition will not have.

If you would like to be notified of new opportunities to expose your company, please e-mail Vince DeSilva, vice president of membership services, at with your preferences.

Industry Spotlight: WIKA Instrumental Corporation Measures Up in Gwinnett

For over 60 years, WIKA has continued to globally advance pressure gauge, sensor and temperature instrumentation technology. WIKA Instrument Corporation, located in Gwinnett County, has served as the WIKA USA subsidiary for over 40 years.

WIKA believes manufacturing and logistics are important to Gwinnett's local economy because their production facility keeps jobs in the community. WIKA's facility in Gwinnett County is doing something positive to sustain a local manufacturing presence in spite of a national decline. Michael Gerster, president of WIKA states, "A good and solid manufacturing base is the backbone for the local economy. We are part of the DNA which builds strong communities."

WIKA works with other Gwinnett County companies to increase training opportunities for its employees and uses many local companies for maintenance and business services. WIKA employees have been enthusiastic participants in the Gwinnett Corporate Challenge for several years now.

Gerster reported that his company experienced the benefits of being involved in the community and with the Chamber in July 2004, when WIKA had a fire in the middle of the day which disabled 50 percent of their plant. "Without the support and influence of the Gwinnett Chamber, WKIA would have lost two to three days of production."

WIKA has been nominated for "Georgia Manufacturer of the Year" in 2006, 2007 and in 2008 by the Gwinnett Chamber and Gwinnett Technical College. WIKA was also recently recognized at the chamber's "Manufacturing Appreciation Breakfast".

According to Gerster, "WIKA's leading business principle is to understand any outcome we accomplish is the result of a process. If we don't like the result, it is the process that needs to change. We encourage people to ask why the process did not give us the desired results and develop corrective action." WIKA requires continuous improvement training for all employees to find solutions to fix "what" went wrong and not "who" is wrong.

For more information on WIKA, visit www.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gwinnett Chamber Public Policy: It’s All about Jobs for 2010

2010 is high-wage jobs. For the coming year, it will be all about getting other successful companies like NCR to locate and expand in Gwinnett to improve the business climate and quality of life for the County and the region. Gwinnett Chamber members and guests will have the chance to get a preview of the legislative session at the Annual Legislative Luncheon
Presented by Rocket IT on December 16 at the Atlanta Marriott-Gwinnett Place at 11:30 a.m.
The luncheon, featuring Georgia House of Representatives Speaker Glenn Richardson, will be the first opportunity for Chamber members to learn about the key issues, which include water, education, transportation and economic development, that the Gwinnett Chamber will address to ensure a healthy business climate.

“The Gwinnett Chamber is constantly working to improve our County and region at the legislative level so that we can bring more companies like NCR to Gwinnett which provide
high-wage jobs,” said Demming Bass, Gwinnett Chamber vice president of communications and public policy. “The pro-business legislation that the Chamber advocates helps all companies to grow and become more successful.”

The Gwinnett Chamber puts together a number of high profile events prior to and during the legislative session in an effort to communicate the business community’s message. Following the December 16th Legislative Luncheon, the Chamber will officially begin the session with the Legislative Kick-off Presented by AT&T on January 7 at 6 p.m. at The 1818 Club. The Kick-off, which is held to educate the legislative delegation on our 2010 priorities, presents a great opportunity to personally thank and spend quality time with the County and region’s senators and representatives.

The Gwinnett Chamber will also once again hold Gwinnett Day at the Capitol Presented by AT&T on February 25. Following a full day of lobbying for issues important to Gwinnett,
the Chamber will wrap up with a reception in the historic “Depot” where the Chamber will host the entire Georgia General Assembly while showcasing the best of Gwinnett.

“The Gwinnett Chamber serves as your voice, advocating on your behalf to our elected officials,” said Bass.

During the legislative session and at each of these events, the Gwinnett Chamber will be advocating for water, transportation, education and economic development, which were identified as key concerns from the Chamber’s 7,200 members as well as from feedback received
from more than 2,500 residents, business, and community leaders during the research phase of
Partnership Gwinnett, the community’s public private initiative, led by the Chamber.

“The Chamber’s efforts to secure a new, dedicated revenue stream for transportation projects ended in a road block in 2009. Looking forward to 2010, we will focus on getting this conversation started again,” said Bass. “Coming back from the Strategic
Leadership Visit in Denver, we learned a lot of important lessons on how a transportation plan can be successfully structured and implemented. We look forward to applying those lessons here.”

The Gwinnett Chamber is actively involved in a number of groups working to ensure the long-term availability of water in the region. Through its involvement with these groups and from what the Gwinnett Chamber is hearing from the business community, it is vital for Gwinnett to secure future water supplies, despite difficult budget challenges and improved drought conditions.

“The Gwinnett Chamber will continue to support the necessary funding for the Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Plan and the raising of the Conservation Pool of Lake Lanier two feet from 1071 to 1073 in order to increase water storage for droughts,” said Bass.

And finally, in order to ensure a qualified workforce for the region, Georgia must continue to make the necessary investments in our educational infrastructure. “With a tough economic climate expected to persist into 2010 no one argues that the State will continue to have to make difficult budget cuts,” said Bass. “However, we will urge legislators not to cut investments in k-12 public schools, our technical colleges and university system at a time when they are growing and needed more than ever.”

Be sure to mark your calendar for these important events. Also, visit the Gwinnett Chamber Government Relations Web site,, for the latest developments. Whether as a sponsor or an attendee to any of these events, you’ll add your voice to our efforts to ensure the public policy decisions our leaders make today will continue to have a positive impact on our community by bringing high-wage jobs to Gwinnett and the region.

Drugs Don’t Work: Just say ‘NO’ to Drugs…in Gwinnett’s Workplaces

Just say “NO”! It’s preached to children every day, what about the workplace? The fact is that drugs simply do not work. How about becoming a role model for all the kids and having a drug free workplace? If schools can be drug-free environments then so can offices!

The Gwinnett Chamber’s Drugs Don’t Work (DDW) program is the perfect way to have a respectable and responsible workplace and save your company money. This program educates Gwinnett employers about the prevention, intervention and elimination of substance abuse in the workplace. The program also provides the continuing education hours needed to obtain and maintain the drug-free workplace certification.

If being a good role model isn’t reason enough to enforce a drug-free workplace, consider many of the financial benefits of being a part of the Gwinnett Chamber’s Drugs Don’t Work program including increasing productivity and reducing your company’s workers’ compensation premiums by 7.5% when you join.

All it takes is five easy steps to become a certified drug-free workplace:

Step 1: Your company must have a substance abuse policy. As a member, a “fill-in-the-blank” state recommended policy will be emailed to you. All you have to do is print it on company letterhead and hand it to all employees.

Step 2: Your company must conduct drug testing. You do not have to drug test all your workforce or have random drug tests. However, you do have to conduct pre-employment, reasonable suspicion (for cause) post-rehab and post-accident drug testing. As a member, you will be offered discounted prices for On-Site and OraLab drug testing kits.

Step 3: Your company must conduct one hour of employee education each year. As a DDW member, the Chamber will provide you with a monthly newsletter that will help you with this requirement. An Employee’s greatest weapon to prevent drug abuse is education.

Step 4: Your company must conduct two hours of supervisor training each year. You can sign up for monthly supervisor newsletters or attend the quarterly meetings in order to meet this requirement.

Step 5: Your Company must EITHER have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or a referral list of treatment and counseling centers in your area. As a member, you will have access to an online help center.

Steve Queen from the Drugs Don’t Work Presenting Sponsor Sentinel Offender Services said that, as an added benefit beyond saving his company money, this program helps with family life because the more information and sources someone has, the better. He also believes that this program is a “great source of information on the advantages and pitfalls of the drug-free workplace by bringing in great ideas with speakers and topics. The Chamber helps fill in the gaps that most Web sites leave out.”

Most people brush off a drug-free program because it should be something that is common sense, right? Let’s look at some facts. American business owners lose an estimated $160 billion per year due to drug use. In fact, 77% of illegal drug users are employed in full- and part-time jobs. A quarter of the workforce reports substance abuse or addiction in their family and 42% of them report they have been distracted and less productive at work because of it. Looking at it this way…it seems more important now, doesn’t it?

For more information on this important program visit; or contact Nicole Wright at 770-232-8816 or

The Aurora Theatre: Enriching Gwinnett’s Culture

The ‘Arts’ is something that is greatly needed no matter where you are; luckily for Gwinnett, we have the Aurora Theatre.

Aurora Theatre Founder and Producing Artistic Director and Gwinnett Chamber Board Member Anthony Rodriguez said he will continue to fight the good fight to keep Aurora as Gwinnett’s crown jewel for the performing arts.

“It has been my privilege to serve on the board of directors. I hope my presence lends a unique perspective on cultural arts and how they affect quality-of-life issues as the Chamber plans for the future,” said Rodriguez.

The theatre is located on the square in the historic, downtown Lawrenceville. Their Mainstage Season is continuing with Christmas Canteen 2009 and Tranced, a psychological thriller. “Aurora Theatre strengthens Gwinnett by creating a positive economic impact, which makes our county a more desirable place to live, work and play,” commented Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is a major supporter of the Chamber’s Strategic Leadership Visit program where delegates take trips to other cities in order to learn innovative ideas on how to work together and improve the quality of life in the area. “I believe the Chamber’s Strategic Leadership Visit may be the most important event on my calendar. It gives me the opportunity to learn best practices from other communities. No matter where we visit, cities stress the importance of the arts,” said Rodriquez. “When our leaders hear from Raleigh or Denver that the arts are vital to creating a successful city, it makes it easier for me to fight the good fight. Aurora’s mission is to create a new generation of theatre goers, but we only succeed with help from a team of people.”

The Strategic Leadership Visit is not the only involvement in the community Aurora Theatre participates in. Over the summer, Aurora Academy offered $12,000 in scholarships to community children for theatrical training. Also, the theatre works with the Gwinnett County Public Schools to create programs that will enhance their curriculum. Thousands of local school children are able to attend live theatrical performances with Aurora’s help. Field trips are being scheduled for “The Library Dragon” in February 2009.

The Aurora Theatre introduced GGC Lab Series this season that are experimental plays in the studio theatre. It also offers ancillary programming like: Funny Fridays, Swing Nights and Lawrenceville Ghost Tours. For young children, there is Children’s Playhouse and Aurora Academy for students of all ages. For more information visit,

Gwinnett Chamber Strategic Leadership Visit: Leaders Return with a Regional Outlook

Regionalism. That is the buzz word that arose from the Gwinnett Chamber’s fourth Strategic Leadership Visit in the ‘Mile High City.’ The 2009 Denver trip, which took place in late September, marked the fourth such trip the Chamber has planned for the county’s and region’s leaders in government, business, and education. The purpose of the Chamber’s Strategic Leadership Visit is to take a select group of both Gwinnett’s and the region’s leaders to other metro counties and regions to explore innovative ideas and programs which have helped to build partnerships to impact positive community change. This also fulfills an important ongoing objective of the community’s Partnership Gwinnett long-term economic and community development strategy.

“For 2009, we choose Denver because of its resilience to bounce back after busts and booms in the economy, including the oil bust in the 1980s,” said Gwinnett Chamber Vice President of Communications and Public Policy Demming Bass. “The fact that many of the region’s most successful initiatives came out of this crisis can serve as an inspiration for Gwinnett and metro Atlanta as we weather one of the worst economic recessions in decades.”

The way in which Denver bounced back with its regional approach left the biggest impression on the leaders who attended the trip. Throughout the Strategic Leadership Visit, Gwinnett’s leaders heard from Denver-area city and county leaders who achieved economic stability and growth by doing what is best for the region rather than limiting their focus to their own community.

“Through Partnership Gwinnett’s cooperative mindset that regional approach is already in play. Gwinnett is taking the lead with this new way of doing business,” said Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District Executive Director Joe Allen. “During the Denver trip, all of the stakeholders that we heard from noted this model of cooperation among the local communities working as one to improve infrastructure, seek funding solutions, and plan for future growth. They truly realize each one’s success is dependent on the success of the other.”

Previous visits to Fairfax County, Virginia, Collin County, Texas, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina have exposed participants to a wide range of ideas and practices for economic and community development. Equally important, the visits have created new networks among business and civic leaders in Gwinnett and metro Atlanta – connections vital for implementing lessons learned upon return to Georgia.

Past visits have greatly influenced a number of Gwinnett success stories including the creation of Partnership Gwinnett, the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, the Gwinnett Braves Stadium, and the current pursuit of the tollway for the Ronald Reagan Parkway Extension.

So, what did attendees bring back from this year’s trip to Denver? While Gwinnett and metro Atlanta will never have the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and certainly not the low humidity levels that bring many people and businesses to the Mile High City, Gwinnett may see changes in areas where revitalization is needed, a peaceful co-existence between roads and transit, and new business and education partnerships aimed at increasing completion rates and access to career choice for our future workforce.

During the tour of the Belmar redevelopment in Lakewood, Colorado, Gwinnett’s leaders learned about the Denver region’s strong public-private partnerships that allowed for the conversion of a dying mall into a new urban downtown center. The city officials had an attitude of “let’s make this work” rather than the normal “follow the rules” mentality of government. The importance of allowing “out-of-the-box” rules and regulations and tax increment funding were an important part of the equation that made Belmar and the Town Center at Aurora possible.

“During the Belmar tour, what I saw before me was a complete integration of retail, employment, residential and cultural venues on the footprint of a former interior mall about the size of the Gwinnett Place Mall area,” said Allen. “We would do well to further explore this model and bring the various private and public decision makers to the table to determine Gwinnett Place Mall’s long-term direction and strategy for continued success. This step is something the CID has already begun to do with various meetings scheduled with local property owners.”

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister was particularly impressed with Denver’s regional approach to transportation. “Denver reinforced the notion that we need a regional approach to solve our transportation issues,” said Bannister. “As Chairman, I serve the people and businesses of Gwinnett, but I also serve the people who commute from surrounding counties to Gwinnett. It is important to remember this as we discuss transportation.”

Chairman Bannister and fellow business and community leaders learned about several different transportation models that would be interesting for Gwinnett to consider. One model is Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) where the governing body of the RTD includes representation from throughout the region, and no one area of the region (including the City of Denver) dominates the RTD. Denver’s model for funding its FasTracks and T-Rex transportation initiatives are also worth considering as we debate how to increase state funding here in metro Atlanta and Georgia. Gwinnett leaders also learned about the peaceful co-existence between roads and transit when they heard from one of the presenters who said “While it is true that roads alone are not the answer, Roads are not the enemy.”

Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District Executive Director Chuck Warbington was equally impressed with Denver’s regional approach to solving transportation issues. “The idea of tackling issues from a regional standpoint instead of individually was the biggest lesson that I learned on the trip,” said Warbinton. “One initial way to solidify relationships and work together is through better planning and funding for transportation and transit projects on a regional level that connects employment centers across the Atlanta metro area.”

A new initiative may be born from what Gwinnett leaders learned from their lesson on The Adams County Consortium, which was created a few years ago in partnership between Adams
County Economic Development and all local educational systems from K-12 to colleges. In less than five years, more than 5,100 students have attended its Career Expo and 1,000 went through its “Experience 9 to 5” mentoring program.

“The result of this program for Denver has been increased overall successful completion rates for secondary and post-secondary students with increased access to career choices in local industry,” said Bass. “The ‘9 to 5’ program impressed everyone on the trip so much that there are already plans to implement the program in Gwinnett.”

What’s Next
While it may be too early to measure the ideas elicited and successes gained from the Chamber’s trip to Denver, these areas mentioned left a big impression on attendees and will surely help to direct the Gwinnett area’s and the region’s future.

“The regional cooperation between the cities in metro Denver made it possible for huge transportation projects, attracting seven professional sports teams, and an array of arts and cultural amenities,” said City of Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson. “We have had similar success with Partnership Gwinnett, which has made it possible to keep and attract businesses, support education, and develop arts and cultural programs. This trip has inspired all of us take another step forward and reinforced the importance of regional thinking.”

For more information on the Strategic Leadership Visit,
go to

Yerkes National Primate Research Center: Discoveries Happen Here

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, are in the comprehensive process of unraveling the mysteries of human health. Why do some people develop neurodegenerative diseases while others do not? Do hormones play a role in social behavior? What new treatments will slow or stop the progression of infectious and noninfectious diseases? At Yerkes, research is focused on understanding the human body and behavior and on beginning the translational research process. Research at Yerkes provides a vital connection to further scientific discovery that will improve the health of our nation and the world.

The Yerkes Research Center is an international leader in biomedical and behavioral research. As one of only eight National Institutes of Health–designated national primate research centers, Yerkes is unique in its position to carry out such diverse research. The center houses nearly 3,600 nonhuman primates and more than 13,000 rodents between the main center on Emory’s Atlanta campus and the Yerkes field station in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

As a lead primate research center and as a national resource for the bioscience industry, the Yerkes Research Center has become an integral and important part of Gwinnett County and its economic development success, particularly with the bioscience industry. Stuart Zola, PhD, Director of the Yerkes Research Center joined the Chairman’s Club in 2007. Dr. Zola believes Yerkes helps to make Gwinnett County unique.

“Gwinnett has a leading national primate research center. There is nowhere else in the world where this type of behavioral and translational research is conducted, and because of this
Yerkes helps to draw the interest of the biomedical industry to Gwinnett,” said Dr. Zola.

“Discoveries happen here,” continued Zola. “The bioscience industry can and does take advantage of the research and discoveries Yerkes is producing.”

In addition to drawing the attention of one of Gwinnett’s target industries, Yerkes is also working to prepare future scientists through its partnerships with the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science & Technology and Georgia Gwinnett College. “We collaborate on training programs and internships where students work directly with scientists to complete projects,” said Dr. Zola. “The scientists at Yerkes help the students understand how science works and become their mentors.”

“For nearly seven decades, Yerkes has been dedicated to improving human health and well-being and to advancing scientific understanding of primate biology, behavior, veterinary care and conservation,” said Dr. Zola. “We look forward to working the Gwinnett Chamber to help move forward our cause of advancing scientific discovery and improving human health.”

For more information on the Yerkes Primate Research Center, visit

Best Practices from Metro Denver

Last month the Gwinnett Chamber led a delegation of business and community leaders on its fourth annual Strategic Leadership Visit to the metro Denver region of Colorado to study best practices in the areas of economic development, transportation, education, revitalization, arts and culture and regional collaboration.

The most striking observation was the fact that many of the region’s most successful initiatives that have been instrumental in Denver’s rise as one of the nation’s premier communities were spawned out of the economic crisis of the oil bust in the mid 80s. That revelation can serve as an inspiration to us here in Gwinnett and metro Atlanta as we weather one of the worst economic recessions in decades. In this current crisis, tomorrow’s greatest ideas can and should be born. Some of the best practices we learned included:

For our public school leaders: Denver Public School’s successful implementation of providing more autonomy for schools in exchange for heightened accountability. DPS’ ProComp “pay-for-performance” compensation plans also rewards teachers for meeting and exceeding expectations, links compensations to instructional outcomes and provides a bonus structure that helps the district meet staffing needs in specific schools. The result has been improving student achievement across all demographic groups.

For our business-education partnerships: The Adams County Consortium was created a few years ago in partnership between Adams County Economic Development and all local educational systems from K-12 to colleges. In less than five years, more than 5,100 students have attended its Career Expo and 1,000 went through its “Experience 9 to 5” mentoring program. The result has been increased overall successful completion rates for secondary and post-secondary students with increased access to career choices in local industry.

For our regional transportation leaders: Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) is an interesting model for us to consider. The governing body of the RTD includes representation from throughout the region, and no one area of the region (including the City of Denver) dominates the RTD. The RTD manages the financing, planning and implementation of transit throughout the region, and operates the transit system region-wide. There appears to be a great sense of pride and ownership of the RTD in the eight-county Metropolitan Denver area.

For supporters of transit and/or roads: There has been a history of supporting both roadway and transit improvements in the area. Unlike the Atlanta region, where quite often the opinions are that the two (roads and transit) cannot peacefully co-exist, we heard the following from one of our presenters, “While it is true that roads alone are not the answer, Roads are not the enemy.” This means that the region has moved beyond the “one or the other” mindset. This vision is critical to us solving our transportation problems in metro Atlanta and throughout the State of Georgia.

For statewide transportation leaders: Denver’s model for funding its FasTracks and T-Rex transportation initiatives are also worth considering as we debate how to increase state funding here in metro Atlanta and Georgia. Their process included the General Assembly statutorily giving the region the authority to hold its own referendum allowing a special local option sales tax that would be raised in and stay in the region. They added that the best plan should be clearly communicated with voters, should include increased road capacity as well as transit and projects should be under-promised and over-delivered.

For our arts leaders: Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District is a unique collaboration between rural, suburban and urban counties in the Denver region. The SCFD is funded by a small sales and use tax (one penny on every $10 of sales and use tax) approved by residents across the region in 1988 and reaffirmed with a renewal vote in 1994. The result has been the generation and distribution of more than $591 million in grants to more than 330 arts groups of all sizes resulting in an economic impact of more than $1.7 billion.

For our regional economic development leaders: Also spawned out of the deep recession of the mid 80s, what is now the Denver Metro Economic Development Council was formed as the nation’s first and only truly regional economic development entity in which many area economic development groups have joined together to represent, and further, the interests of an entire region. Its partners include 70 cities, counties, and economic development organizations in the seven-county Metro Denver and two-county Northern Colorado region. The result has been an increase in close rates on relocations between Denver and top competitors Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona from 20 percent in the late 80s to more than 50 percent today.

For our higher education leaders and those in the 316 corridor: The Anschutz Medical Campus and Fitzsimmons Life Science District is a model of collaboration between the University of Colorado Denver and local hospitals and research institutions. Literally built from scratch from an abandoned army base, employment has soared from 200 at time of closure in 1997 to 17,000 in 2008 and resulted in an estimated economic impact of $6 billion per year at completion.

For our targeted industry marketing efforts: Denver’s light-hearted Colorado loves California campaign targeting CEOs and companies for expansion and relocation from the beleaguered, anti-business climate in California has resulted in a number of relocations and prospects while garnering positive national and international coverage. Seventy-two hours after the initial campaign went live on Valentine’s Day, 25 to 30 companies reached out to the Metro Denver EDC about possible expansion or relocation. Of that original 30, seven are currently in serious negotiations with the city.

For our CIDs and redevelopment leaders: At the Belmar redevelopment in Lakewood, strong public-private partnerships allowed for the conversion of a dying mall into a new urban downtown center. City officials had an attitude of “let’s make this work” rather than the normal “follow the rules” mentality of government. The importance of creating/allowing “out of the box” rules/regulations and tax increment funding were an important part of the equation that made Belmar and the Town Center at Aurora possible. The incorporation of green building and sustainable environmental elements such as solar and wind power was also impressive.

In closing, the value of regional thinking and cooperation was another best practice that all of metro Atlanta area should attempt to adopt. They truly realize that each one’s success is dependent on the success of the other.

Through the Chamber’s Partnership Gwinnett mindset, Gwinnett is taking the lead with this new way of doing business, both internally (by partnering with all of our local governments, CIDs and more) and externally (by creating Georgia’s Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership, supporting Get Georgia Moving and more). But more of this regional leadership and collaboration needs to come from downtown Atlanta (as it did in Denver) if our region wants to remain a world-class community.

Jim Maran,
Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NCR Chairman and CEO Bill Nuti to Speak at Special Edition Success Lives Here on November 12

William (Bill) Nuti, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of NCR Corporation, has a knack for achieving and finding success. Nuti's ability to find success is what led him to relocate and expand the global technology company's headquarters to Gwinnett County.

Nuti was recently quoted on the relocation of NCR by saying that the decision to consolidate functions in Georgia and build a technology-focused corporate headquarters campus is right in line with their business strategy to drive growth, improve their innovation output, increase productivity and continually upgrade their focus on the customer.

By expanding the company's existing Southeastern presence, NCR will create 1,250 new jobs for the Gwinnett community. In addition, the expansion represents yet another project win for the Chamber's nationally-recognized, award-winning, community and economic development initiative, Partnership Gwinnett.

Gwinnett is proud to welcome NCR Corporation, a global technology company with 22,400 employees and 2008 revenue of approximately $5.32 billion, to a community where success lives. Join us for a Special Edition Success Lives Here on November 12 at Gwinnett Center where Nuti will discuss his early successes that prepared him for NCR, what led him to decide to relocate NCR's corporate headquarters to Gwinnett and how he is transforming NCR into a self-service giant.

Registration is at 8 a.m. and the program begins at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $45 for Chamber members; $55 for non-Chamber members. Pre-payment required. Deadline is November 9, 2009. No-shows will be billed. Walk-ins not guaranteed a seat. To RSVP, email Melissa Britt at REGISTER ONLINE:

Monday, October 12, 2009

ARC Chairman Charles "Chick" Krautler to Address Region's Infrastructure Challenges at Gwinnett Chamber Luncheon

Krautler to discuss his views on how infrastructure is critical to long-range viability of our region at the October 21 General Membership Meeting

Duluth, GA- The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Presenting Sponsor Rocket IT will host Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Director Charles “Chick” Krautler at its General Membership Meeting on October 21 at 11:30 a.m. at The 1818 Club. Krautler will discuss his views on how infrastructure is essential to long-range viability of our region and ways that the ARC is working to ensure that water supply, water quality and transportation systems are ready to handle the demands of the region’s growing population.

Krautler directs regional planning programs in the areas of transportation, air quality, the environment, land use, water supply and quality, along with aging services and workforce development. The ARC is the official metropolitan planning organization for the 10- county, 68 city Atlanta region.

General Membership Meetings are held once a month providing an opportunity for Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce members to stay abreast of important issues in Gwinnett and Metro Atlanta, network with other business professionals and have a chance to listen to renowned speakers from all types of industries.

Additional sponsors for the event include Media Sponsor Gwinnett Daily Post, Gold Sponsor Merrill Lynch- David Cross, and Silver Sponsor Olympus Media, LLC. The cost to attend is $45 for members and $55 for non-Chamber members. Advanced registration is required. Walk-ins at the event are not guaranteed a spot at the luncheon. RSVP to Melissa Britt at 678-957-4958 or or visit

General Manager/ CEO of MARTA Dr. Beverly Scott to Present at GLOW: Gwinnett's Leadership Organization for Women

October 16 Breakfast to Feature Presentation from Dr. Beverly Scott on How to Succeed in a Male-Dominated Industry

Duluth, GA- Jump off the platform and on the train of success that is now racing down the tracks of your career. Join Dr. Beverly Scott, general manager/CEO of MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), as she helps to conduct an empowering topic on “Big Things That Move: A Woman’s Perspective in a Male-Dominated Industry” at the October 16 GLOW: Gwinnett’s Leadership Organization for Women meeting Presented by Gwinnett Medical Center. The event will be held at 7:45 a.m. at The 1818 Club, 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, Ga 30097.

“This seminar is a great chance to hear and learn from a woman who has won in a male-dominated industry,” commented Nicole Wright, program manager, Gwinnett Chamber. “Backed by her tremendous experience, Dr. Scott will address how to accomplish your goals by working together and reaching a consensus.”

Those interested in the October 16 meeting are encouraged to visit GLOW’s blog and write about how they thrive in their industry. “Every woman has her own tried and true ways to flourish,” said Wright. “We would love to hear your ideas. Make sure to check the blog regularly to read all the perspectives of your fellow women and peers.”

Dr. Beverly Scott is the first female general manager and CEO of MARTA with a seasoned and distinguished career in the public transportation field. She is known in her profession as a progressive leader with extraordinary skill and foresight. Dr. Scott was named the 2008 Woman of Excellence by the Atlanta Business Chronicle Magazine. She earned her doctorate in Political Science with a specialization in Public Administration from Howard University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Fisk University graduating Magna Cum Laude.

The event is also sponsored by Gold Sponsor Saint Leo University. The cost to attend is $35 for Chamber members and $45 for non-Chamber members. All no-shows will be billed. Walk-ins are not guaranteed a seat. To RSVP, please contact Nicole Wright at 770-232-8816; e-mail; or visit

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gwinnett Student Leadership Team: A Community of Leaders

Each year, the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, Inc. (GSLT, Inc.) graduates approximately 60 students into the community. While the student leaders are in school, they enhance and develop the function of leadership throughout their school in various roles spreading their knowledge and skills. Upon entering the real world, they go on to achieve great things.

One of many GSLT success stories is that of Captain Daniel Hwang who graduated with honors from South Gwinnett High School in 2002. Captain Hwang, who participated in GSLT from 2000-2002, went on to graduate in the top 3 percent of his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point. His rigorous work at West Point and in the military eventually landed him a promotion in January 2009 to captain for Charlie Company while serving in Samarra, Iraq.

Captain Hwang’s story goes beyond his high accolades with an act of kindness that reflects deep principles and strong leadership skills. While in Iraq, the U.S. Commander in Samarra requested commissioned officers to restore essential services. Captain Hwang chose education.

With deep ties to Gwinnett, Captain Hwang reached out to his home community for help in providing learning materials for 25,000 children. Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City schools responded to his challenge by collecting materials to fill 520 boxes which are now ready for shipment to Iraq.

GSLT Executive Director Nancy Ward said that Captain Hwang has inspired the students and adults alike who are involved in GSLT. Ward reported Captain Hwang specially arranged his annual leave from the military so that he would be in Gwinnett during GSLT’s Fall Retreat to speak to the current class. Ward said that Captain Hwang told students at the Retreat that he traces his success back to Gwinnett and GSLT. He left the students with a special message to explore the world, but to come back to Gwinnett, which is where he plans to return one day.

GSLT, with graduates including Captain Hwang and many other like him, began by chance or by fate when Nancy Ward, Gwinnett County Public Schools, and David Seago, Georgia Power, were seated next to each other in their first class of Leadership Gwinnett in 1993. During the program, they both discussed the fact that there was a leadership program for every community member with the exception of students. After they graduated from Leadership Gwinnett in 1994, Ward contacted Seago and said, “Let’s begin a class for students.” From there, GSLT was born.

The Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, Inc. (GSLT) is a two-year student leadership program that provides a learning experience for high school juniors and seniors in Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City Schools. The program is sponsored by the Gwinnett County Public School System and Buford City Schools in conjunction with other community agencies, institutions, and businesses. GSLT, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt initiative, is under the direction of a ten-member Board of Directors: David Seago, President, of Georgia Power Company; John Upchurch, Vice-President, of Scholastic Images/Balfour; Randy Dellinger, Treasurer, of Jackson EMC; Nancy Ward, Executive Director, of Gwinnett County Public Schools; Peter Boyce, Attorney-at-Law; Thomas Boyce, Innovative Outdoors; Renee Byrd-Lewis, Cisco; Dr. John Green, Gwinnett County Public Schools; Gail Macrenaris, Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce; and Dale Robbins; Gwinnett County Public Schools.

“GSLT provides an opportunity for students to develop personal and organizational leadership skills and an awareness of issues facing the community in which they live,” said Ward.

“The success of the program is truly measured by the success of the students upon entering the real world,” said Ward. “Their accomplishments say it all.”

Although GSLT began in 1995, the program is just now beginning to see dividends. “Many of the students who went through the programs in the early 90’s are just now getting settled into the workplace after completing post-graduate and medical degrees,” said Ward. “The payoff we are seeing is truly amazing. You can find GSLT graduates all over the country and the world. They are running businesses, producing award-winning films and operating non-profits in third world countries.”

From the fall of 1995 to June of 2009, 13 GSLT classes have completed the two-year leadership development experience with 379 graduates. During 2005-2009, over 18,000+ students participated in 700+ leadership development sessions designed and led by GSLT students and high school principals.

“Our hope is that students go back to their schools and communities to spread their knowledge and skills. The numbers show that this is occurring and that it is paying off in so many different ways,” said Ward.

Whether producing films, serving our country, attending acclaimed universities, starting businesses, or leading communities, GSLT graduates are leading the way and achieving greatness in Gwinnett County and beyond.

For more information on how you can support and get involved with the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, contact Gail Macrenaris, Director of Leadership and Education, Gwinnett Chamber at 770-232-8803 or

Business After Hours: Put Your Networking Skills to Work

Networking is all about being a good listener, according to veteran Business After Hours attendee David Brackman who is the president of Self Defense ATL. Brackman advises business owners to listen to what other people say about their business and personal lives and to also share your story when time permits.

“It is important to put yourself out there and expose your business as much as possible,” said Brack­man. “You never know who you may meet that could develop into a personal relationship that could help you personally and profes­sionally.”

Brackman puts his network­ing skills to work at the Chamber’s Business After Hours where he purchases a display booth almost every month. “By having a booth at Business After Hours, I have been able to make a tremendous amount of contacts who have provided me with business leads,” said Brackman. “By having a display booth and just by attending the monthly networking events, I have increased the amount of people to share my product with while also learning about other people’s businesses.”

Business After Hours, Gwinnett’s largest networking event with an average of 250 people in attendance, offers the perfect opportunity to develop business relationships and sharpen your networking skills in an atmosphere that is new, fun and ever-changing.

For Brackman, Business After Hours allows him to meet as many people as possible, learn about other businesses, and share his business with fellow business professionals. “I always look forward to Business After Hours,” said Brack­man. “Being involved in Business After Hours and in the Chamber makes a difference for me personally and profes­sionally.”

Held on usually the third Thursday of every month, Busi­ness After Hours is the perfect event to generate exposure for your company and is ideal for promoting new locations and grand openings. It provides a way to develop new business contacts and gather business ideas and network with fellow Chamber member. It is also the perfect opportunity to show off a new business and gain valu­able leads in a relaxed, after-work setting.

BAH is hosted by various members around the county at a different location each month from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. The member company that hosts the event provides food, bev­erage and entertainment for Gwinnett Chamber members and guests.

A limited number of display booths are also available for members to purchase for $125 to display their products and services to the attendees.

For additional information on attending a Business Af­ter Hours or to help sponsor one, contact Kim Jones at 770-232-8805 or

This Chamber is in Business For You

Each fall marks the beginning of our volunteer-driven total resource campaign for the Gwinnett Chamber and we are excited to have nearly 40 teams and more than 200 volunteers participating this year. These volunteers are being led by our 2009 Campaign Co-Chairs Ron and Laurie Garrard with Garrard Construction and will be recruiting new members and sponsors to the Chamber as we continue our successful efforts to enhance Gwinnett and metro Atlanta’s reputation as one of the best places to live and work in the U.S.
Considering Gwinnett averages more than 20,000 new residents each year and there are more than 400 new firms that are members of the Chamber since January alone, it’s important from time to time to share what many may not know about their Chamber and our vision for the future.

So, if you’re reading this and not a member, we hope you’ll join us and invest in your business growth and the community in which you live or do business. If you already are a member, we hope you enjoy what you’ve helped to create and we look forward to our continued partnership.

The Gwinnett Chamber’s vision is simple – it’s about success. To help you as an individual succeed, help your company succeed and help our community succeed. That’s why our community’s motto is “Success Lives Here.” And the Chamber’s servant-leadership role in creating opportunities for success is evident in our motto, “In Business For You.”

Named one of the top three metro chambers in the United States by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Gwinnett Chamber is one of the largest and most dynamic business and regional economic development organizations in the Southeastern United States. In fact, the Gwinnett Chamber is the 6th largest Chamber in the Southeast.

With more than 2,500 companies representing a combined employment of more than 750,000 employees and more than $200 billion in revenue, the Gwinnett Chamber is a leader in job creation and retention, community development, and in growing local businesses for Gwinnett County, metro Atlanta and the Innovation Crescent regions of Georgia.

Unlike most Chambers our size, we are focused on entrepreneurial and growth-stage companies and nearly 85 percent of our members are small businesses with less than 50 employees. We are also regional in scope with approximately 32 percent of our members headquartered outside of Gwinnett County.

The Gwinnett Chamber works in six key areas: economic development, small business and entrepreneurial development, education, public policy, membership development and communications. Community development efforts also include programs to promote the arts, revitalization, law enforcement and leadership development.

The Gwinnett Chamber leads what has been recognized nationally as one of the best job creation efforts in the nation, the community’s long-term, public-private economic and community development strategy called Partnership Gwinnett. Since its launch, more than 100 companies relocated or expanded major new facilities in Gwinnett including the corporate global headquarters for two Fortune 500 firms – NCR and Asbury Automotive. These announcements accounted for more than 6,000 new high-wage jobs and hundreds of millions in new capital investment in spite of the current recession.

The biggest benefits to membership include networking opportunities, community involvement, image enhancement, political advocacy, information access, numerous discounts, and heightened credibility. Most of the 200+ programs offered each year to members are focused on these areas.

All of this could not have been accomplished without the voluntary investments of our members and as a non-profit all revenue is re-invested back into membership or community development programs.

More detailed information about the Chamber can be found on our award-winning Web site at We hope you’ll take the time to explore and discuss new opportunities to become engaged with your Chamber with our staff or campaign volunteers.

Join the Chamber, get engaged, and let us help you become Gwinnett’s next great success story.

By Jim Maran

Engage Gwinnett

Much of Gwinnett’s future lies in the hands of 42 people who are involved in the citizen-led initiative called Engage Gwinnett: Citi­zens Committee for the Future of Gwinnett County where they will spend approximately six months looking at the community’s needs for current and future government services and proposing funding strategies to pay for those services over the next five years. The Engage Gwinnett Citizens Committee, which includes representatives of 30 stakeholder groups and 10 self-selected citizen leaders, will prepare budget recommendations to be presented to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in early spring 2010. Co-chaired by busi­ness leaders McKenna Long & Aldridge’s Michael Levengood and Cisco’s Bill McCargo, Engage Gwinnett could be one of the most im­portant initiatives Gwinnett has ever undertaken.

According to McCargo and Levengood, the county is in good hands. “As I observed the process at the first public forum, I was very impressed with the level of discourse among the attendees,” said Le­vengood. “They were respectful of their neighbors and they listened to each other.”

Commenting on the committee and the first public forum held on September 9, McCargo said that he was excited about the diver­sity of people who attended as well as those who were selected to serve on the committee. “The people who were selected by their peers to serve on the committee are strong leaders who are engaged in the community in a variety of ways.”

Now that the committee has been formed, the task at hand, ex­plained McCargo, is to decide what services the county should pro­vide and at what level.

“Engage Gwinnett is an opportunity to inform county citizens about how the county budget works, including revenues and mandat­ed expenses, and get their views on how government should prioritize county services and spend tax dollars,” said McCargo. “Our objectives are to serve as a collaborative group targeting both broad-based and specific constituency groups and audiences to offer a means to help citizens understand complex problems and engage those who normally don’t become involved in policy debates. The constitu­ency or stakeholder groups were identified as a ‘broad stroke’ attempt to ensure that the committee was a general reflection of our community. Now that we have the publicly self-selected members, we feel good about beginning our educational and citizen-led public involvement process.”

Part of the mission of Gwinnett County is to “deliver supe­rior services in partnership with our community” and included in its vision is a “commitment to partnering with others in our community who share a dedication to making life better for our citizens.” The Engage Gwinnett process will be an effective tool in accomplishing those objec­tives.

“We believe that Engage Gwinnett will prove over the next several months to be an impressive piece of democracy,” stated Levengood. “The com­munity input we gained from the first public forum - what our citizens think about how Engage Gwinnett should go about doing its work and assuring the public that its recommendations are reasonable and fair - was invalu­able. To observe citizens groups select their committee represen­tatives was truly inspiring and gave me even more confidence that Gwinnett citizens do have a sense of shared responsibility in planning for the future.”

Praising the efforts of Gwinnett County’s leadership and staff, McCargo commented that “Gwinnett County is an ex­ceptionally well-run county government. You don’t get a triple AAA bond rating by accident. It is something to appreciate when a job is done well.”

“Engage Gwinnett is an attempt find out what we can do now to maintain our world-class quality of life in Gwinnett while providing Gwinnett County’s leadership and staff with the opportunity to succeed with our limited resources,” contin­ued McCargo.

Levengood added that the staff at Gwinnett County has done a great job under difficult circumstances. “Engage Gwin­nett will serve to provide recommendations of what services the citizens want that can be provided under these circumstances.”

For those who are not serving on the committee, McCargo encouraged those interested to attend the committee meetings which will be open to the public and will be held at Gwinnett Center. In order to provide Gwinnett residents with the oppor­tunity to follow the process at their own convenience, materials and presentations given to the committee will be made available to the public on the Web at and on TVgwinnett, the County’s government access cable channel. The Engage Gwinnett Web site also feature Facebook and Twitter links as other ways to follow the process.

The general public will have opportunities to provide input online during certain times throughout the process. Engage Gwinnett will also host several more public meetings during the next six months to give the community an opportunity to review preliminary committee findings and offer feedback.

“We have asked the stakeholders and the citizens serving on the committee to keep an open mind and to listen to each other and to our citizens so that Gwinnett can achieve its full potential,” said Levengood. “In addition, we are determined to do the best job we can to reach out to public.”

“I look forward to listening to the committee members’ thoughts, dreams, and aspirations for Gwinnett County. I am especially looking forward to learning from them,” con­cluded Levengood.

Getting More From Your Web site

This morning Giant Impact Metro Atlanta Council for Entrepreneurship (MACE) Strategic Partner, Network Solutions, conducted an interactive and informative presentation on the best practices for your Web site. The discussion provided many insights that small businesses can use in order to address the ever changing world of the Internet. There were five key categories to enhancing Web site, so start taking notes…

Domain Name- This is the first identifying mark of any company. The domain name creates the branding for your company so you want to make sure it gives the right message. Two helpful tips…register multiple domain names and extensions, this way you can stop the competition from encroaching on your territory. Tip two; register your domain name for multiple years because it makes you more credible to search engines like Google.

Hosting- This is when you need to be prepared to answer questions like where is your file server going to be located? How much space will you need? How graphically intense will your Web site be? How many visitors will the site be able to handle? Helpful tip, try a hosting company for a month to make sure that they have incredible customer service, support and reliability. If your Web site ever crashes you will be glad to have them on your side.

Web site Design- Of course, great website design is the most important aspect of any Web site. Four seconds…that is all the time you have to sell somebody to continue looking at your website. Better make it good! How do you keep people’s attention then?

Don’t try to entertain. People do not want to be bombarded with sounds, flashing lights, videos and graphics flying over the screen. Keep it simple. Show that you are credible and trustworthy. Provide clear and organized information in a pleasing easy to read format.

People do not want to hunt down information. Make sure that any information is only four to five clicks away from the home page. Also, make sure there is an easy way to get to the home screen and other important screens at all times. The most important tip is to keep it easy, simple and engage the public.

Purpose- The purpose of the Web site should be decided on long before the Web site is live. Make sure that the “Call to Action” is front and center. This is what the entire Web site is for, so do not make it hard to find.

Marketing- There are two primary methods to marketing your Web site. The first method is search engine optimization and the second is pay-per click advertising. Search engine optimization is the most effective method because you can control the process and it is free. However, you will need to do successful work in encoding keywords throughout your Web site.

The key is consistency and repetition. Uniformity in the title tag, description tag, keyword tag, headline, alt text, body copy and even in links will increase your search engine results. A helpful tip in keywords is to make sure they all target the end of the buying cycle. This means make the keywords as specific as possible.

Links are extremely important. Seven out of 10 reasons for rankings on search engine result sites are because of how many links a Web site had. Links that are rich in keyword anchoring are the most effective.

Remember that you are not against the search engines, but against your competitors. So keep a watchful eye on their Web sites and make sure to stay one step ahead of them. If you have any additional questions you can ask them at Now take all these tips and make your Web sites stronger and more effective.

Sorry you missed this incredible event! To learn more about MACE, so that you don't miss out again, visit