50 Young Gamechangers start New Year with project in Albany, GA on January 29

Atlanta, GA — Some people start a diet or new hobby at the beginning of the year, but 50 of the state’s brightest young professionals will celebrate the beginning of 2018 by kicking off an ambitious new project in Albany, GA. As part of the Young Gamechangers program they’ll research the area’s industries, explore historical landmarks, learn about natural resources, and meet with business and community leaders. Over the next eight months these Young Gamechangers will create a comprehensive plan with ideas and innovative solutions for some of the area’s most persistent challenges.

The opening session of the Young Gamechangers project will kick off on Monday, January 29 at 10 am at Merry Acres Inn & Event Center, located at 1500 Dawson Road, Albany, GA 31707. Media are welcome from 9:45-11:45 am.

“The Young Gamechangers program brings together some of Georgia’s most forward-thinking young professionals from the ages of 24 to 40 who volunteer their time to help communities around the state,” states Kris Vaughn, Executive Director of GeorgiaForward.  “The 2018 Class has careers that span business, economic development, education, energy, government, media, communications and marketing, health, transportation, engineering, and finance. I am excited about the project in Southwest Georgia, and look forward to their big ideas and recommendations.”

Here is an introduction to a few of the Young Gamechangers in the 2018 Class:

Jessica Johnson has found success through a rewarding career in sales and marketing. After obtaining a Business Marketing degree from Albany State University she developed her skills in the Volunteer State working for The Hershey Company. After leaving Knoxville she relocated back to her home state of Georgia, joining the Investor Engagement team at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Jessica is one of the chamber’s key sales professionals, recruiting top performing businesses and securing corporate sponsorships. An active member of The Junior League of Atlanta and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Johnson enjoys spending Saturdays delivering meals through Meals on Wheels. She lives in Atlanta, GA.

“I spent four years living in Albany when I was in college, so it holds a special place in my heart,” says Johnson. “Working on this project will be full circle for me, and a chance to give back.”

“Rural communities are also a huge focus of the Georgia Chamber,” Johnson adds. “We just opened an office in Tifton, which is the first time this 100-year old organization has opened an office outside of Atlanta. We want to become more involved and invested in Southwest Georgia.”

John S. Inman, IV, was born and raised in Albany, GA, where his family has lived for five generations. He graduated from Deerfield-Windsor School in 2006 and received his Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Valdosta State University in 2010.  After graduation, he returned to Albany and was employed as a Financial Advisor with Morgan Keegan and Associates, which was acquired by Raymond James in 2012.  Inman is devoted to his clients, motivating him to obtain his Wealth Management Specialist designation. He received the Southwest Georgia “40 Under Forty Award” in 2013, and he and his wife, Beverly, are committed to bettering their community.

“I’m a fifth generation Albanian and have deep roots here, so one of the assets I bring to this project is insight into our community’s unique characteristics and challenges,” states Inman. “If you add my financial background to the mix, that provides me with the perspective of seeing the community in terms of economic development. I’m looking forward to having the Young Gamechangers here and hope our ideas will lead to making the area more prosperous.”

Gina Webb has served Southwest Georgia in community and economic development roles for the past 12 years. As a local chamber president and regional representative, Webb has pursued her passion for regionalism and leadership development through her various positions. She spent 10 years as the Executive Director of the Terrell County Chamber of Commerce before becoming the Region 10 Representative for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. She enjoys collaborating with a variety of agencies and individuals to shine a spotlight on Southwest Georgia and Rural Georgia. Webb lives in Bronwood, GA.

“Government and business leaders are important, but I live by the philosophy that it is committed citizens who bring change,” Webb says. “I’ve been working in this area over the last year since the tornado hit, and I saw how the community rallied to help each other. The timing is great for the Young Gamechangers program to be here. I’d love to see this area go from rebuilding to thriving.”

Harry Dabney, Jr. has been a Gamechanger in Albany, GA for the past few years. In 2013, he was named one of “SWGA 40 Under Forty” by The Albany Herald, Ambassador of the Year with the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, and nominated for Leadership Albany. He is currently the Overnight Support Manager at Walmart Neighborhood Market in Columbus, GA, but his roots are still in Albany. Prior to that he was a PR Manager for a telecommunications company. Dabney currently serves as a board member for Lily Pad Sane Center, DOCO Library, Crime Stoppers, and Girls Inc.

“I want the Albany community to flourish,” says Dabney. “While working with the Young Gamechangers to come up with new innovate ideas and strategies to improve the area, I look forward to talking about what can be, and not focusing on what we’ve always done in the past. When you put many heads together you find better results.”

Megan Barber, a native of Covington, GA, leads communications & marketing for the Emory Alumni Association at Emory University. Her team creates impactful stories and drives alumni engagement with compelling communications for the Emory community. Previously, Megan led donor engagement, partnerships, and sponsorships for Coca-Cola’s scholarship programs, and worked for the first undergraduate merit scholarship in the US at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is an alumna.

“I think what’s unique about Young Gamechangers is that it’s a leadership action program,” states Barber. “Young people really invest themselves in an area and work to create actionable recommendations specific to that community’s needs.”

“Service is central to who I am,” adds Barber.  “One of the most important ways to be good stewards of what our community gives to us, is to give back.”

Sponsors for the 2018 Young Gamechangers program includeCommerce Club Foundation, Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, Albany-Dougherty County Economic Development Commission, Georgia CEO, Georgia EMC, Leadership Institute at Columbus State University, WALB TV, Georgia Trend, Georgia Power, Adams Exterminators, AB&T, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, W&A Engineering, City of Albany, AT&T, Stewbos, Albany Museum of Art, The Albany Herald, Albany State University, Albany Technical College, Phoebe Putney Health System and Bishop Clean Care.

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 about the Young Gamechangers program and a complete list of the 2018 class, visit their web site:  https://georgiaforward.org/young-gamechangers.