Bulloch County is one of just nine in the state and the only Southeast Georgia county selected to participate in a pilot program aimed at developing a broader and deeper network of leaders.
Called GeorgiaLEADS, the initiative was created by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce as part of its 100th anniversary.
The mission reflects the local and state Chamber’s belief that leadership is key to economic success and those communities that embrace leadership development gain an inherent competitive advantage. The selected pilot communities were invited to the program with the goal of ensuring a continuum of leadership development opportunities at the youth, adult and regional levels throughout Georgia.
“Part of why we were selected was our good reputation for Leadership development, including the Chamber’s long-standing Leadership Bulloch and Youth Leadership programs. There is a growing, active Leadership Alumni group in our community, and the area’s regional program is one of only two in the state,” said Phyllis Thompson, president of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce. “Our community is fortunate to have these well-known programs, and I was pleased to see that recognized.”
The local Chamber was approached in late 2014 about participating and agreed to help organize a working group to undertake leadership program assessment, identifying gaps and sharing best practices with other programs across Georgia.
“The Chamber’s board was excited about the opportunity to learn how we can expand and fine-tune our own programs as well as share our recipes for success with other communities to benefit us all,” she said.
Focusing on needs and issues unique to Bulloch County, the committee represents a diverse group of stakeholders who are assessing the community’s leadership strengths and seeking to further understand the issues and challenges central to Statesboro and Bulloch County’s continued growth and development.
Dr. Todd Deal, director of Georgia Southern University’s Office of Leadership and Community Engagement and owner of TD Learning, immediately volunteered to serve as the group’s coordinator.
“Bulloch County’s GeorgiaLEADS working group is privileged to have Dr. Todd Deal chair this exciting initiative by the Georgia Chamber for our community,” said Chamber vice chair Per Holtze. “His invaluable facilitation experience keeps our group focused on the right priorities, his encouragement inspires input and creativity, and he has the leadership gravitas to ensure we stay on task with assignments delegated and team members engaged.”
Committee members are public and private sector representatives from education, faith community, small business and industry, agribusiness, leadership programs, law enforcement and the Chamber’s executive committee. Among these are Holtze (Chamber) ; Dr. Bill Perry (faith community); Elliott Marsh (agribusiness); Erica Sellers (Leadership Bulloch Alumni president); Fred David, (small business); Fred Hill (industry); Brandy Taylor, Kim Burnette and Julie Mizell (collectively public, private and higher education as well as workforce development and Leadership Bulloch); Justin Samples (law enforcement); and Mike Jones (non-profits).
“This group is the hands-on taskforce that will help shape the leadership legacy of this community for years to come,” said Dr. Todd Deal.
The committee is utilizing surveys, hosting focus groups and using individual interviews to assess what leadership opportunities are already in existence, who they target, what skills are taught and any other data that can help determine strengths and gaps.
“As members of the local group were reminded at an initial meeting in Atlanta early this year, some highly effective leadership programs exist in certain areas of the state, but there are many communities that offer limited or no opportunities for children, young adults or those in the workforce to acquire the skills needed for them to be successful contributors to our economy,” Thompson said. “State organizers of GeorgiaLEADS recognize that availability of a quality workforce is paramount to attracting jobs to any location, and this deficit will continue to be a factor in corporate location or expansion decisions.”
GeorgiaLEADS plans to open competitively to communities and regions across the state in 2016 and 2017, with a target of including an additional 10 communities and two regions each year.