2019 Regional Education ad Economic Develiopment (REED) summit: Connecting students with business leaders


Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan highlighted opportunities for Georgia to become the technology capital of the East Coast at UNG’s 2019 Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit. Duncan was the keynote speaker for the second annual summit, where he spoke about the future of business in Georgia.

With the theme of “North Georgia Means Business,” the unique one-day event in September focused on logistics and supply chain management, cybersecurity, financial technology (FinTech), and how emerging technologies drive business in today’s global marketplace. The event brought together industry experts, community leaders, and students to feature career and educational pathways for students to consider.

Additionally, participants benefited from networking and an economic outlook presentation by David Tanner, associate director of the State Services and Decision Support division within the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Sara Carmichael of Gainesville Mechanical Inc., one of the event sponsors, 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.”

Likewise, 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.

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.

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 Blue Ridge.

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

Based on the feedback, Bobbi Larson, UNG’s director of economic development and community engagement, is already looking ahead to next year’s summit.

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