The Chamber hosted the 2018 Economic Summit on Sept. 25, as part of its quarterly Community Council meeting. The meeting was sponsored by Hargray Fiber.
Jan Brice, chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, welcomed community and business leaders. She provided an overview of the Chamber’s mission to advocate, build, connect, and promote on behalf of its approximately 1,200 members.
From advocating on a variety of legislative issues and building a pro-business environment to connecting members through networking opportunities, Brice said the Chamber provides tangible and measurable benefits.
One of the Chamber’s newest membership benefit is the Spectrum insurance program.
Tom Dorywalski with Taylor Insurance, explained that the Spectrum program leverages the buying power of the Chamber membership to provide substantial savings for employees and employers.
The Spectrum program, which started last year, is a partnership with the Chamber and Taylor Insurance. The initial success of the program has secured more than $844,000 in annualized health insurance premium savings for 30 groups (representing 309 employees) in Lowndes County.
“This is a strategic, sustainable health benefits solution that addresses the underlying causes of healthcare costs without reliance to a single carrier," Dorywalski said.
Providing an economic overview, Dr. Cindy Tori, professor of economics at Valdosta State University’s Langdale College of Business Administration, presented the 2018 Lowndes County by the Numbers report.
The annual report examines the economic, geographic, and demographic similarities of 14 peer and aspirant communities in comparison with Lowndes County.
To assess the strengths and weaknesses of Lowndes County there are 12 indicators linked to economic growth and prosperity, and then divided into two categories representing people and jobs.
Tori said the people category examines demographic characteristics while the job section captures the labor market.
“By using the indicators, we create a ranking of the 15 communities, including Lowndes, and compare how we are changing,” Tori said. “We look to see if there are improvements or declines.”
Lowndes County’s overall ranking is 11th among the 15 peer and aspirant communities. The standing has remained virtually unchanged since 2011.
While looking at 2011 to 2018, Tori said overall the Lowndes County area had seen improvement; however, relative to the peer and aspirant communities Lowndes has remained about the same in its ranking status.
“We have improved, and there are ways to continue improving,” Tori said. “The information needs to be used to identify how the community can come together and decide where to focus attention to move forward.”
Moving the community forward is the focus of One Valdosta-Lowndes, a multi-faceted and implementable strategy to guide community and economic development.
Audrey King, regional director with Georgia Power and vice chair of the Chamber's Business Division, said One Valdosta-Lowndes is a project based on community input. Approximately 80 individuals and stakeholder groups were interviewed, and more than 600 residents participated in online interviews.
Several themes emerged from the initial fact-finding and listening sessions including the need for higher-paying jobs and creation of more diverse entertainment options for residents of all ages.
“The plan is to collectively create a new vision for our Valdosta-Lowndes County community to lead it into the future,” King said. “Over the following year, the initiative of One Valdosta-Lowndes will be the effort that shapes our future by addressing our challenges and maximizing our assets.”
The 2018 Lowndes County by the Numbers report is available on the Chamber’s website at www.valdostachamber.com. Information on the One Valdosta-Lowndes initiative is available at www.onevaldostalowndes.com
The Chamber’s 2018 Economic Summit, sponsored by Hargray Fiber, had a panel of speakers including, left, Todd Tillman, Hargray Fiber; Jan Brice, chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors; Dr. Cindy Tori, Valdosta State University Langdale College of Business Administration; Audrey King, vice chair of the Chamber Business Division; and Tom Dorywalski, Taylor Insurance.