Posted on September 19th, 2011

Chamber Board member Baha Zeidan had the opportunity to showcase his healthcare-related business, Azalea Health Innovations, while Gov. Nathan Deal was in Valdosta last Friday. During the Governor’s visit community leaders emphasized the strategic importance of funding for the new VSU Health Sciences Building on North Campus, across from SGMC. Pictured are Zeidan, Chamber president Myrna Ballard and Gov. Deal.
With buzz about the possibility of a new state-of-the art Health Sciences and Business Administration facility at VSU's North Campus, the future of our local economy really does look bright and exciting!

Back in 2004, Georgia Tech completed an analysis of business clusters that had high-growth potential in our community. From this research, the Chamber's Smart Community Initiative: Opportunity Central was born. This initiative focuses on faciliating the growth of jobs in the Environmental Technology, Information Technology and Medical Services and Support Sectors. Seven years later, it still seems to be a perfect fit!

A new Health Sciences and Business Administration building and a partnership with our regional medical center and other institutions of higher education could have a tremendous impact, not only on our community, but our entire region. What an exciting time!

by ReKasa Deen on September 19th, 2011

When Judy Martin Trexler (Judy Martin Trexler LCSW, LLC) describes the methods she uses in her therapy, she’ll leave you wondering, “What else does she have in her bag of tools?” With her encouraging smile and her energetic demeanor, her contagious positive attitude will rub off on you in no time. It also helped that the day I visited, her four-legged therapy assistant, Mitzi, had a patient to see as well.

Judy utilizes a range of therapy techniques. Pet therapy, hypnotherapy and play therapy are among her tools. Pet therapy helps Judy’s younger patients be more comfortable and evokes memories in her older patients. Judy uses hypnotherapy to aid in therapy for stress management, weight loss and smoking. Mitzi is a certified therapy dog and was in the office to help with a patient with low self esteem…Mitzi’s dress (yes, she was wearing a dress) said, “I love me!”

Judy first realized that she was interested in therapy when she was in high school. Her class took a field trip to a mental health hospital and she immediately thought, “Oh, I wish I worked here!” This field trip changed her life; Judy isn’t sure if she would have even attended college had she not gone on it. “I knew that in order to do what I wanted to do, I had to get a degree.” After pursuing her education, Judy stayed in the therapy field to help others, “I design a treatment plan unique to every patient. I am very skillful and experienced.”

A job opening at Greenleaf Counseling Center is what brought Judy from Tennessee to Valdosta back in 1985. “I stayed because it felt like home.” After a while Judy made friends here, and what she and what she had in mind as being a temporary location became permanent. Judy and her husband Steve, who is the Guidance Counselor at Lake Park Elementary, plan to stay here along with Mitzi and Mitzi’s brothers and sisters, all of which are rescues.

Judy Martin Trexler, LCSW, LLC is located in the AR Psychiatric & Counseling Center at 3312-D North Oak Street Ext. Judy can be reached at 229-244-2030 or directly on her cell at 229-588-0134.

Posted on September 12th, 2011

When Dr. Edwards-Conrad, founder of Conservative Neurology Services, was a medical student at the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. she noticed something about her studies. Of all of the classes she was required to take to complete her medical degree, only one was required on the subject of nutrition. She later did her Neurology clinical clerkship at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and was inspired by both Dr. James Pulliam and Dr. Gerald Fenichel to study Neurology. As she completed her fellowship in Neuromuscular Diseases and Electromyography at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City in 1996, risk factors for health issues were beginning to be viewed as conditions that could be managed and modified. By the mid-2000s, stroke prevention was on the agenda of the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting. For Dr. Edwards-Conrad, the future of American Health is the development of Health Conservation, and she has a passion for sharing her beliefs.

“No one wants to hear what they can’t do. They want to hear what they are doing right,” says Dr. Edwards-Conrad on why she chooses to refer to her approach as conserving good health instead of preventing poor health. She is so enthusiastic about educating the community on ways to promote good health, that she offers classes on how to conserve your health. Conservative Neurology Services also provides second opinions, independent neurological examinations and medical record exams. The office is located at 2935 North Ashley Street D116 and can be reached at 229-244-1192 or online at To ensure that each patient is given personalized care and fullest attention, office hours are by appointment only.

Dr. Edwards-Conrad chose Valdosta as a place to locate her neurology and health conservation practice because, “this place chose me!!!” she says. “Valdosta is family friendly, we have a church home, and I love the climate. I am a Christian physician, and I am here by, in, with and through the grace of the living God....I am here to help improve the overall neurological and medical care of our community.”

by Varian Brown on September 8th, 2011

You will not want to miss the first Chamber Small Business Conference on September 14. Registration is open and the speakers are filled with valuable information to assist you in these tough times. Here from four inspiring speakers on the following topics:

What is your banker really thinking…Lending from a banker’s perspective
Hear strategies and tips from an experienced local banker with a heart and burning passion to see local business owners be profitable and successful.

Revenue where are you? Website optimization best practices
The South Georgia District Director of the Small Business Development Center is prepared to increase your revenue streams and assist you in optimizing your website for both your customers and potential customers.

Financial Footwork: Know your company’s financial position
Learn from the Savannah Entrepreneurial Center’s program director on valuing your company. Their program director is no stranger to entrepreneurship…she has over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur and as a consultant.

Our keynote speaker…
Bob Williamson. He has an awesome story of hope and determination. If he can turn his life around from being homeless to launching over 10 companies...there is hope and motivation not only for you, but also for your business.

If you are still reading you are certainly ready to register for this great conference! So…place your cursor HERE and join other business owners from around South Georgia for breakfast and a half-day conference at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center that is certain to help you sustain and grow your business.

For less than $6 an hour you will receive breakfast at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center

Posted on September 1st, 2011

We all know that Valdosta-Lowndes County businesses are up-to-speed on cutting-edge technology and have developed innovative ways to increase profitability and efficiency! Now's the time to let the rest of the state know it!

The Technology Association of Georgia is seeking applications for the 2011 Excalibur Awards. TAG's Excalibur Awards recognize Georgia’s “tech-enabled” companies who demonstrate exemplary competency in utilizing technology to enhance their business.

If you believe yours could be one of Georgia’s best “tech-enabled” companies or you know of a company who is, apply today!

Applications are welcome from all industries and awards will be granted to those organizations based on the following criteria:

  • Complexity of the business problem
  • Creative use of a technology solution
  • Return on Investment (ROI)/Business Results

For more information, click here. To apply, click here. Hurry! Sept. 16 is the deadline!

This is an excellent opportunity to gain exposure, be recognized for your success and celebrate your achievements among friends, clients and employees.

Winners receive:
  • Interviews on TAG Radio and a video featuring your company/organization and your solution
  • A speaking opportunity with the Business & Technology Alliance
  • An invitation to the TAG VIP Board Reception
  • An exhibit booth at the awards program
  • Logos on the TAG website and event brochure

Posted on July 28th, 2011

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber is now accepting nominations for Metro Valdosta’s 4 under 40, formerly known as “Emerging Leaders.”

4 under 40 recognizes outstanding young professionals in the Valdosta-Lowndes County community. Winners will be announced during the 4 under 40 reception on Sept. 20 at the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts. The elite four will then be submitted to Georgia Trend’s 40 under 40 program.

Candidates are selected based on professional accomplishments, experience, community involvement, leadership qualities, entrepreneurial spirit, professional and community impact.

Last year’s winners included: Nikki Forman (City of Valdosta), Anne Shenton (Nexxtep Technology Services, Inc.), Scott Orenstein (Pinnacle Prime Contractors, Inc.) and Trey Taylor (Taylor Insurance Services).

The deadline to submit nominations is Aug. 15. Click here to nominate.

Posted on June 24th, 2011

The Opportunity Central Book Club met on June 21 for its bi-monthly meeting. The selection was Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat.

Book Club members engaged in eye-opening discussion as they talked about globalization, the creative community and education in the "flat world"--and what this means for Valdosta-Lowndes County.

Summarizing the book in one word, Book Club host, Dr. John Gaston, VSU Dean of the College of the Arts, used the word, "challenge."

Below are topics and information discussed at the meeting:

It is difficult to adapt to a global economy and flat world because we do not have prior experience to deal with what we're facing.

We need to reinvent learning to make children excited about school.

We need to educate more people in engineering and technology.

Food production is an opportunity for the United State, especially the Southern U.S. We need to get the scientists and engineers in the farming field.

Are we in the middle of a cultural transformation in Valdosta-Lowndes County?

Valdosta-Lowndes County's location is a very important economic asset. Location! Location! Location!

We need to unify our community and rally together. People will rally around causes that benefit children. Other causes to rally around: supporting cluster growth, gateways, community central projects, a competition for students, youth entrepreneurship.

Themes the book brought forward were:
  • the role and control of social networks
  • democracy and responsibility
  • creativity
  • the challenges-differences between age groups
  • cultural restrictions-has this given us tunnel vision
  • reinventing yourself
  • who can participate in the "flat world", why should you participate and how can you participate
  • limited resources-who get the resources

Posted on May 25th, 2011

Vote Valdosta!

Valdosta is a finalists for Rand McNally's Best of the Road. We're up for Friendliest Town in America.

The top 20 towns will be featured on Randy McNally's Atlases, maps and GPS units. The top 20 towns will also recieve a feature article by USA Today!

The deadline has been extended to May 30.Click here to vote!

Posted on May 18th, 2011

It’s the Mix that Matters was the title of the Chamber’s 2011Economic Summit held Tuesday at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center. A room full of top leaders came together to discuss the economic health of Valdosta-Lowndes County at the event sponsored by Express Employment Professionals.

Dr. Cynthia R. Tori presented the VSU Center for Business and Economic Research
study, Lowndes County by the Numbers: How Do We Compare With Peer and Aspirant
Communities? and a panel of local economic development organizations discussed their
economic development strategies and solicited questions and ideas from participants.
Myrna Ballard, Chamber of Commerce President; Michael Jetter, Interim Executive
Director for the Valdosta-Lowndes Conference Center and Tourism Authority; Amanda
Peacock, Valdosta Main Street Manager; Allan Ricketts, Valdosta-Lowndes Industrial
Authority Project Manager; and Jane Shelton, Valdosta-Lowndes Airport Authority
Member were panelists. “The economic development organizations represented here
today can come together as a team and have more impact on our community,” said

Economic Summit participants raised substantive questions for the panel and shared
ideas for moving forward during the facilitated discussion portion of the Summit led by
VSU Center for Business and Economic Research Director, Scott Manley. Lowndes
County Planner, Jason Davenport posed the question, why does Valdosta-Lowndes
County lose businesses? Ballard replied, “Having a pro-business environment is the most
important part of the economic development process. The Chamber has partnered with
the local governments on our SORT initiative, and the local governments have been
extremely responsive. We’re on the right track.” Ricketts replied with an answer
regarding maintaining a competitive edge over other communities and playing to our

A few main ideas brought to light during the facilitated discussion were the need for a
combined strategy and effort to market Valdosta-Lowndes County, the need for a
commitment and strategic effort to develop the healthcare industry in ValdostaLowndes
County and taking full advantage of Valdosta-Lowndes County infrastructure
as a tool for economic growth.

Chris Miller with Illuminomics ended the day with a keynote address over lunch. “Let’s
not get stuck on this first step,” said Miller as he encouraged the crowd to take action
on what they heard at the Summit, “Economic development is about increasing quality
of life and quality of place—it’s about making your community better. Valdosta-Lowndes
County should be doing better, needs to do better and can do better.”
Miller challenged the group to not let the Economic Summit be just another meeting
where everyone talks about what needs to be done and never does anything about the
issues. “Let us look back on today and say this was the day that Valdosta chose a
different path.”

To ensure that Valdosta-Lowndes County moves forward, each of the economic
development organizations will discuss how they can plug the ideas and suggestions into
each of their respective strategies and programs. As a follow up to the meeting, the
Chamber is also hosting an interactive workshop on Oct. 13 with Peter Kageyama,
creative community consultant and author of For the Love of Cities. For more information
about the Summit or workshop, contact ReKasa Deen at

A full report of Lowndes County by the Numbers: How Do We Compare With Peer and
Aspirant Communities? and details from the Economic Summit can be downloaded at

Posted on March 2nd, 2011

Check out what's going on in Roanoke, VA. A recent contribution to the arts, reiterates the importance of promoting cultural interests and active lifestyles.

Funding the arts and our future

Posted on February 10th, 2011

On-the-job experience is more essential today than ever. In a job market flooded with qualified applicants, experience is a must. Don't take our word for it; check out this recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article:

Internships are a great way for students to gain experience and for employers to have an extra set of hands at little to no cost. For ways to obtain local internships or offer internships in your business, visit the Talent Connection at

Posted on November 5th, 2010

Opportunity Central recently partnered with Wiregrass Georgia Technical College and Valdosta State University to develop an online portal to connect the talent from local colleges and the university to the business community. How can you benefit from this?

If you're a student, you can visit to learn the benefits on interning, valuable tips and find out how to secure an internship at your educational institution.

For businesses, interns are a great way to introduce fresh ideas to your business, test drive a possible future employee and help mentor a college student. By visiting the Talent Connection, you can not only learn benefits and steps to starting an internship program in your business, but you can also sign up to offer internships to student at both VSU and Wiregrass with one easy form.

The Talent Connection hosted a forum to educate the business community on internships. Click below to view clips from the event.

Posted on November 4th, 2010

One of our very own technology service companies was named one of the best places to work in Georgia! For all of you unemployed folks in the information technology field, look for jobs in Valdosta, Ga.!

"Who does a small- to mid-size company call when technology questions rear their bewildering heads? If that company is in Valdosta or the surrounding south Georgia region, chances are they’ll call Nexxtep Technology Services." Read more...

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