Business managers say it will be an important year for the chamber and its new leader. Following the past year that was filled with success, leaders with the Valdosta Chamber of Commerce has big goals for 2004.
Directors say one of the most important goals is reaching the 1,400-member mark, and now the group is less than 20 members away from that goal.
The chamber's incoming board director, Judson Rackley, is hoping to create the "home grown entrepreneur program" to help retain more local college graduates.
"Through this program we're going to try and reach young people that may have a job somewhere else, but are interested in starting their own business," says Rackley.
Rackley says keeping highly trained students in the area is important for the economic future of the region.
"The more of them that we can keep, the economic impact on the community would be tremendous over a period of time."
Other business leaders and chamber members agree, saying this program is essential.
"Of course, work force is always an issue when it comes to businesses. That's one of the resources that's very short in south Georgia. Our unemployment is also very low, and we are developing higher skilled workers here," says Jennifer Powell, Fresh Beginnings administrator.
If the nearly 1,400 Chamber of Commerce members can continue to grow with the new program, the results should be good for the entire south Georgia area. Leaders with the Valdosta-Lowndes County chamber will also be working to help secure the future of Moody Air Force Base as another base closing list is due out in 2004.