2017 GeorgiaForward Forum: Panelists Announced!

Atlanta, GA — The 2017 GeorgiaForward Forum is bringing together a diverse group of experts and thought leaders from business, government, education, urban planning and other sectors to stimulate thinking around the theme of Defining Georgia’s Prosperity. Farmers, tech entrepreneurs, teachers, community leaders, business executives and engaged citizens are invited to bring their ideas and participate in a robust discussion focused on how Georgia can realize its full potential across all corners of the state. The 2017 GeorgiaForward Forum will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta on September 28 & 29.

Featured speakers at this year’s Forum include Wendy Stewart, Atlanta Market President and Co-Head Southeast Region, Bank of America; Otis White, President, Civic Strategies; A.J. Robinson, President of Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District; Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, Chancellor, Mercer University and 2017 Georgia Author of the Year and John Fortier, Director of The Democracy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Break-out sessions and panels will explore the topics below. Following remarks by panelists, there will be a Q&A with the audience.

Technology in Agriculture. Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry. How is technology impacting the future of agriculture in Georgia?

presented by Georgia Farm Bureau

  • Moderator: John Clark, Georgia News Network and Timber Farmer
  • Panelists: Gary Black, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture; Taylor Sills, Young Farmer Coordinator at Georgia Farm Bureau; Megan Frame, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Georgia Forestry Association; Jenni Harris, Marketing Manager for White Oak Pastures

Young Leaders in Rural Georgia. Many of our rural communities are facing population decline. How can we retain, attract and cultivate the next generation of leaders to ensure that Georgia’s smaller towns have a vibrant future?

  • Moderator: Ben Young, Editor in Chief and Publisher of GeorgiaTrend
  • Panelists: Morgan Law, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Georgia Chamber; Dr. David Bridges, President of ABAC; Matt Bishop, Executive Director of the Fanning Institute at UGA; Anna Strickland, Archway Professional, UGA Archway Partnership

Georgia’s Future Workforce. A skilled, trained workforce is essential to the sustainability of Georgia’s businesses. How can we better develop connections between our early education programs and nationally ranked colleges and universities? ​

  • Moderator: Amir Farokhi, Founding Director of GeorgiaForward & Director of Strategy at BrightHouse
  • Panelists: Casey Bethel, 2017 Georgia Teacher of the Year; Odie Donald, Director of Department of Employee Services, Washington DC; Dr. Barbara Wall, State Director, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education at the Department of Education; John Green, Director, Carrollton-Carroll County Education Collaborative

Sustainability of Georgia’s Infrastructure. From our water supply, to transportation options and communications, infrastructure is vital to our economy, security, health and safety. How can we better plan for future needs and sustainability of Georgia’s infrastructure?

  • Moderator: Howard Franklin, Principal at Ohio River South
  • Panelists: Shrujal Amin, TIA Program Manager at GDOT; Burke Walker, Planning & Government Services, Northeast GA Regional Commission; Mike Robinson, Transmission Planning and Operations GM, Georgia Power

Civic Leaders: Positive Impact in Young Gamechangers Communities presented by Georgia Municipal Association and Georgia Cities Foundation

  • Moderator: Craig Lesser, Pendleton Group
  • Panelists: Dublin Mayor Phil Best, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Troup County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews, Douglasville Mayor Pro Tem Larry Yockey

Young Gamechangers: Georgia’s Next Generation of Leaders. This leadership action program is made up of young professionals between the ages of 24-40 who work on projects in communities across the state to provide big ideas and solutions to the host community’s most persistent challenges.  Graduates of the program will discuss past projects and the future of the program.

  • Moderator: Carrie Barnes, Community Development Consultant at Georgia EMC
  • Panelists: Ben Andrews, Communications Consultant: Rebecca McWilliam, Executive Director of Visit Dublin GA; Kenita Williams, Director of Racial Equity Leadership Network at the Southern Education Foundation; Scott Poag, Director of Business Development at Williams & Associates; Shemeeka Johnson, Senior Communications Specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Workforce Division

There will also be collaborative group sessions around these subjects: What is our Common Prosperity? Big Ideas for Georgia and Looking to the Future.

Registration for the 2017 FORUM is $160. For the complete schedule of events and to register click here: https://www.georgiaforward.org/the-forum/.


The 2017 GeorgiaForward Forum is presented by Bank of America and sponsored by Central Atlanta Progress/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia Cities Foundation, Georgia Municipal Association, Southern Regional Technical College, Georgia Power, Villa Rica Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ohio River South, Westobou, Bank of Dudley, Dillion & Vaughn P.C., Civic Strategies, GeorgiaTrend, Georgia CEO, NOLA Premiere Media and Georgia 10X10.


GeorgiaForward is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to improve the state of Georgia by engaging business, political, academic and civil leaders to collaboratively shape a statewide policy agenda.  For more information on their programs, and to find out how you can get involved, visit their web site: https://www.georgiaforward.org.

For more information, to request press credentials, or to set interviews, contact Karen Hatchett at karen@hatchettpr.com