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REED Summit converts to virtual event with agriculture commissioner as keynote speaker

August 26, 2020

Organizers of the Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit believe the show must go on despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all areas of life. That's why the third annual REED Summit hosted by the University of North Georgia (UNG) will be held virtually on Sept. 23.

Registration will start Sept. 1 on the REED Summit website.

As the "Growing North Georgia" event focuses on agribusiness, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black will serve as the keynote speaker. His talk is set for 9 a.m. that day.

According to Georgia Farm Bureau statistics, 1 in 7 Georgians work in agriculture, forestry or related fields. Agribusiness is Georgia's leading industry with more than $75 billion in economic impact every year. Biotechnology, drones, telematics, yield monitoring, and other precision agriculture technologies are rapidly changing how Georgia grows.

Participants may watch Black speak and attend breakout sessions that fit their schedules through the online Zoom format. Sessions will be available for a period of time after the summit.

Registration is free for high school and college students, professionals and community members. Northeast Georgia Health System is the presenting sponsor for the summit.

"We are thankful to be able to provide students an opportunity to learn about high-demand and rewarding career opportunities in agribusiness, a sector that drives our regional economy," President Bonita Jacobs said. "I appreciate the creativity and hard work of our staff in making this event available online for students, educators and other community members."

The 10 a.m. session will highlight the poultry industry. Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, and John Wright, vice president and director of operations for Fieldale Farms, are the panelists who will discuss the poultry industry's impact on the local and global economies.  

"The poultry industry has a lot of career opportunities students may not think about," said Bobbi Larson, director of economic development and community engagement at UNG.

Two sessions will be held at noon. One will address the way education increases the earning power of individuals and thereby increases a community's economic prosperity. Diane Hopkins, vice president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, will be the presenter.

The other noon session about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the American workforce will feature presenter Rachel Kerestes, executive director of the nonprofit Science is US. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit promotes science and evidence-based decision making in public policy while building federal support for research.

The 1 p.m. session will address the state's life sciences industry, which includes companies in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, life systems technologies, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, food processing, environmental services, and biomedical devices. Maria Thacker-Goethe, president and CEO of Georgia Bio, will speak as part of the life sciences industry session. Georgia Bio works to improve access to innovative technologies and grow Georgia's life sciences economy.

At 2 p.m., the final session will discuss how educational pathways in middle and high schools lead to good jobs through skill development. Panelists will include Dr. Chaudron Gille, UNG provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs, and two other speakers.

UNG began the REED initiative to help address important workforce needs in its rapidly growing region. The REED Summit brings together students, professionals and community stakeholders to learn about and discuss industry trends, educational pathways, career opportunities, and anticipated challenges businesses face in north Georgia.

Georgia Power and Rochester & Associates are executive sponsors for the REED Summit. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, Lanier Federal Credit Union and Windstream Kinetic are supporting sponsors.

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