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REED Summit connects students with business leaders

September 12, 2019

Johnson High School junior Jesus Vazquez and his classmates in the Upward Bound Program didn't know Gainesville Mechanical Inc. offers its employees hands-on training. And the company's Sara Carmichael was surprised to learn about the predicted population explosion of Hall and Forsyth counties.

"The population growth estimates in 2050 were astounding," Carmichael said. "This tells us Gainesville Mechanical is in the right area and we can know where to expand and push for those workers."

The students, business professionals and industry experts were enlightened with these nuggets of knowledge about economic development and its impact in north Georgia during the 2019 Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit on Sept. 10 at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus.

Titled "North Georgia Means Business," the unique one-day event focused on logistics and supply chain management, cybersecurity, financial technology (FinTech), and how emerging technologies drive business in today's global marketplace. Listening to these experts during panel discussions and breakout sessions were high school students, chief financial officers and business owners.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan delivered the keynote address about the future of business in Georgia. David Tanner, associate director of the State Services and Decision Support division within the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, followed a few hours later with the north Georgia economic outlook.

Together these stakeholders networked to share information and build future connections. For example, Johnson High School student John Robles heard Georgia's Rural Center offers internships.

"They figure out how to help the community and where it is most needed," he said. "Now, I am interested in the work that they do."

Sarah Wahn and Ryann Gibson, both 2018 UNG alumnae, spread the word about their employer, The Lab Depot, and the work it does. They also reiterated the lab equipment distribution company is based in Dawsonville, Georgia.

"There is a lot of opportunity for us to connect with people here," Gibson said. "And they didn't realize we are local."

Gibson and Wahn also illustrated the variety of employees needed at companies like The Lab Depot. Gibson has a degree in marketing while Wahn has a degree in biology.

Anna Speessen, Upward Bound counselor at Gilmer High School, said this exposure to career and education pathways opened her students' eyes to the possibilities in north Georgia.

"You wouldn't think that UPS would need a meteorologist, but we heard they do," she said, indicating she plans to attend the REED Summit with her students next year.

Coleman James, a 16-year-old from Ellijay, Georgia, was glad he attended the summit. With aspirations to study culinary arts and business, it proved beneficial for him to hear from Rob Hathy, plant manager for King's Hawaiian in Hall County, and Shannen Oyster, owner of Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods in Fannin County.

"She told us to be persistent and connect now with people who are doing what I want to do in the future," James said.

Students from Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega, Georgia, also attended.

Based on the feedback, Bobbi Larson, UNG's director of economic development and community engagement, deemed the second annual event a success.

"The attendees said our presenters were great and provided usable content for their purposes," she said. "And I think we will be able to build upon this one for next year."

2019 REED Summit sponsors

  • Northeast Georgia Health System
  • Gainesville Mechanical Inc.
  • Georgia Power
  • Jackson EMC
  • Branch Banking & Trust Company
  • GIS WebTech
  • Rochester & Associates Inc.
  • Blue Ridge Mountain EMC
  • Tri-State EMC

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