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What Can Businesses Gain from a Chamber Membership? [Podcast]



Local business chambers are important facets of any thriving community. On today’s episode of The Capitalist Sage, Karl and Rico are joined by Steve Dorough, President and chief executive officer of First Community Development and founding member of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. Steve has years of experience working with nonprofit organizations to help them with developing their dreams and helping them transform their plans into reality. Together Karl, Rico and Steve discuss the value that local chambers bring to business owners and the entire community.


FCD Website: https://fcdusa.com
Steve’s Email: SDorough@FCDUSA.com
FCD Office Number: (678) 906-4081


[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:18] – About Steve and FCD
[00:04:20] – Importance of Chambers of
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:18] – About Steve and FCD
[00:04:20] – Importance of Chambers of Commerce
[00:09:41] – Helping Small Business Owners
[00:13:47] – Gaining Leadership Skills
[00:16:32] – Voices in the Community
[00:19:45] – Changing Times and Challenges
[00:27:45] – Helping Young Business Leaders
[00:35:54] – The Future of Southwest Gwinnett
[00:40:12] – Get in Touch with Steve
[00:41:26] – Closing

Podcast Transcript:

[00:00:30] Karl: Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors. And my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, Digital Marketing, and he’s also the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. Rico, how are you doing today?

[00:00:49] Rico: Hey, Karl. Great, beautiful day outside today.

[00:00:52] Karl: It is, it is. Spring is here and we’ve got another great podcast today, but why don’t you introduce our sponsor for today?

[00:01:00] Rico: Sure. I want to introduce our sponsor, first time within the publication, EV Remodeling. It’s a home remodeling contractor. Eliad actually owns the business and lives in Peachtree Corners, great community member. So I want to thank him for becoming a corporate sponsor with Peachtree Corners Magazine and the family of podcasts that we do. So go ahead and visit them online at EVRemodelingInc.Com and tell him we sent you.

[00:01:29] Karl: Well, that is fabulous. I know a lot of people have been doing and will continue to do remodeling on their homes. So it’s great to have a new sponsor for the family of podcasts. W ell today it is my pleasure and honor to introduce Stephen Dorough, president and chief executive officer of First Community Development and also a member of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. FCD as it’s known, works with nonprofit organizations throughout the Southeast and helps them with developing their dreams and helping them transform their plans into reality. So today we want to chat with Steve about local business chambers and the value that they bring to the business owners and the communities in general. Steve, how’re you doing today?

[00:02:15] Steve: I’m well. How are you Karl?

[00:02:18] Karl: Doing fabulous. I only gave a short introduction of all the many things that you’ve done to serve the community and in your professional career. Why don’t you tell everyone a little bit about what you do now and a little bit about yourself and how you got here.

[00:02:31] Steve: Sure. I’m born and raised over in Birmingham, Alabama. We moved to Atlanta about 30 years ago. My wife, Kim and I, and we have five kids between us, none together. And four of the five kids live here in the Atlanta area. My daughter and her family are in Homewood, which is a suburb south of Birmingham. And we have eight grandkids. So, we have been blessed to say the least. And we’re enjoying Peachtree Corners. As I said, we’ve lived here 30 years now and started the company, First Community Development back in 1994. So we do strategic planning, feasibility analysis, and we manage million dollar and up fundraising campaigns for what we describe as corporate driven nonprofits in the Southeast nine states. So that would include chambers of commerce, economic development authorities, downtown revitalization groups. Occasionally we’ll do education, fundraising, and cultural and performing arts. We have projects right now in Georgia and over in Mississippi. We just raised $15 million to help build the Mississippi aquarium down in Gulf Port. And we also raised $15 million over in Walton County to build their first YMCA in Walton. So it’s a fun business. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed doing now for, gee whiz, over 35 years. And we thoroughly enjoy helping communities kind of realize their dreams, transform their vision into reality.

[00:04:20] Karl: You are one of the key cogs in this movement that’s happened over the last probably 25, 30 years where you’re seeing downtowns and economic development happening in cities. If you go back to, when you said 1994 when you started, Atlanta, Metro Atlanta was a very different city back then. That was pre-Olympics, if I’m not mistaken. And the growth that’s happened in all of the suburbs around, has really transformed a life where everyone used to commute in Downtown, Midtown and all of this industry and living is developed outside has taken off here. I’m curious in your experience, what role have you seen local chambers of commerce as they popped up, play in their communities?

[00:05:08] Steve: Yeah, a local chamber of commerce is a great opportunity for business owners and business leaders to collaborate, to share their collective vision for a community. It’s a great opportunity for them to let their voice be heard. Obviously there’s strength in numbers and the Gwinnett Chamber is a great example of that. They’ve done a magnificent job over the decades in creating a sense of ownership, as far as the businesses here in Gwinnett County are concerned and giving them a forum from which they can plan and strategize and impact their local communities. So it’s, a chamber is it’s only as good as its membership, I guess we’ve all heard that. But the reality is that a local chamber is an opportunity for business leaders, business owners, to think outside their own businesses. To think more in terms of a community wide vision and initiative. So a number of great projects have been spawned through local chambers of commerce. And we’re pleased to have a chamber here in the Peachtree Corners, Norcross area called the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.

[00:06:39] Karl: It is. I mean, right now, when you think about legacies we are celebrating, actually this evening, 10 years of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber. And you were here when it began. Can you tell us a little bit about how did it come about? What were the thought processes? What was the vision for creating this chamber, when there was a Gwinnett chamber and a Fulton and many others? What was in the thought process of those founders when they created the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber?

[00:07:07] Steve: As I mentioned a moment ago, 10 years ago, we certainly had the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and they were doing a fantastic business up in the north part of the county at Sugarloaf. And I began to talk with some of my friends over in the city of Norcross, Peachtree Corners, had not yet been organized as a city. We were at the time a part of a unincorporated Gwinnett County. But a number of us began to chat about the need for a business organization down here in Southwest Gwinnett. The Gwinnett chamber at the time had 2,500, 3,000, business members but they didn’t have a significant presence here in Southwest Gwinnett. And my experience through my company, working with hundreds of chambers of commerce around the Southeast is that that local chamber is critically needed. One chamber cannot represent, oh gosh, 40,000 businesses in Gwinnett county. As I just shared, it only represented about six or 7% of all of the businesses in the county 10 years ago. So I said, why don’t we organize? Why don’t we establish our own chamber of commerce down here in Southwest Gwinnett? There was some resistance. As you can imagine, some of the municipalities here were staunchly aligned with the Gwinnett Chamber and they said, we don’t need our own chamber of commerce. We’ve got a great chamber of commerce up in the north part of the county. And I said, I totally agree. But we need our own local chamber and we can certainly collaborate, cooperate, partner, if you will, with the Gwinnett Chamber. But let’s establish our own chamber here in Southwest Gwinnett and so I found 20 good men and women who agreed with me and they became the founding board of the first Southwest Gwinnett chamber. And we were officially incorporated in 2012. In fact, this month in March of 2012. And we had our inaugural meeting of the chamber over at Atlanta, Northeast Hilton, and a big banquet lunch and meeting and we were off and running.

[00:09:41] Karl: I find it interesting, when you look at chambers and for small business owners to look at it in a couple of different dimensions. 3 in particular. What is it for the small local business owners being affiliated, whether members are getting involved in their chamber. The guy that owns a pizza shop or the local business in this community, how have you seen over your time it helped those types of community members?

[00:10:08] Steve: Yeah, the good chambers of commerce are focused on what they can do to help their corporate members succeed. I think that first and foremost is what a chamber can and should do. That should be the chamber’s mission. They can accomplish that Karl a number of ways. Certainly there’s the networking aspect and our Southwest Gwinnett chamber has a, every Friday morning, over at the Atlanta Tech Park location where the chamber is headquartered they have a coffee. And they invite both their chamber members, but also nonmembers to come over about 8:30 in the morning and sit down together for a cup of coffee. The coffee is free, the conversation is free and you have an opportunity to meet with 25 or 30 or 35 other business leaders and owners here in the area. Talk about your product or service, learn about other’s products and services, and have the opportunity to network. Secondly, I think, as I mentioned earlier, a chamber is a place where you can make your voice heard. And that was important to me, when we founded the chamber. That small businesses are the backbone of every economy. It isn’t the big businesses. It isn’t the one to make the headlines in the newspaper. No, it’s the mom and pop businesses. They represent easily 85%, 90% of the economy in every community where they’re located. So having a chamber of commerce here in Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Berkeley Lake, those were the three communities that we had served with the Southwest Gwinnett chamber. To reach out to them and say, come join this chamber and your voice will be heard. We will certainly support you in terms of things that you’re trying to accomplish here. We’ll also defend you against things in our community that may thwart your business success. So, being a part of an organization that’s larger than just your individual business, having the opportunity to market your product or service through networking, making sure that your voice is heard throughout the community and on any particular issue with which you are supporting or combating. And then finally the opportunity to give back. We’re all blessed to live in an economy such as the one we have here in Gwinnett County and Metro Atlanta. So a chamber of commerce is an opportunity for you as a business leader, as a business owner, to give something back to your community through the chamber. So I think those are the primary ways. There’s the leadership aspect as well. Early going with the Southwest Gwinnett chamber, we offered courses in corporate leadership. So if you had an employee or a second or a third in command at your shop that you wanted him or her to have the opportunity to gain some leadership expertise, the chamber hosted a number of leadership programs over the early years to give local business owners and managers the opportunity to extend, expand, enhance their leadership skills.

[00:13:47] Karl: You’re hitting on a theme there that I think is important to note. For example, in that leadership training and professional development, there are some things that are better done as a collective than trying to do individually. And that’s a great example. If each small business owner hired managers and so on and wanted to upskill them in leadership, it probably gets cost prohibitive individually to get training and find it. But a local chamber can offer professional development in the form of leadership and others where it’s close to that community, that local Southwest Norcross. People could go after work, they can go during work and get back quickly. Upskill them where individually they couldn’t do that.

[00:14:33] Steve: Absolutely. The course that we taught was called the leadership challenge. It was a very popular course out in California. We did the math. If you as a business owner had two or three employees that you wanted to involve in a program like that you would pay somewhere in the four to $5,000 range to have those three employees participate in the program out of California. Having the Southwest Gwinnett chamber kind of purchase the rights to the program to be able to teach it here locally, we were able to charge I think it was just $800 for the full program. So you can see the cost savings involved. But again, we would have Karl, 20, 25 members in the class, each time we taught it. And there was another opportunity for them to network to get to know one another better over the eight or nine or ten sessions that we had once a week, same night of the week. Betsy Pickrin, from the chamber, and I co taught the class and it was, it was amazing. It was wonderful to see a group of people like that who wanted to expand their skillset to be better leaders. We taught things like modeling the way and feeling for your employees. Being the kind of leader that you would want to follow. We had some young people in the class, we had some older people in the class. It was a great mentoring opportunity and a great relational opportunity as well. So I’m proud of the chamber for having the initiative to put something like that together. It was Betsy Pickrin’s idea at the time. And she did a wonderful job in organizing and engaging folks here in the greater Peachtree Corners, Norcross, Berkeley Lake area, Southwest Gwinnett for the leadership challenge.

[00:16:32] Karl: I think you highlighted something great with Betsy and my first exposure to the chamber was through Betsy at our morning coffee in Atlanta Bread Company. At the time I walked in after a workout, I was picking up something and I saw a bunch of people meeting with, and a lady with a big Southwest Gwinnett shirt on, red shirt. And I walked over and I asked what was going on. And she started chatting with me and invited me to join and become involved. And I think what you’re highlighting there is the ability for folks to connect with other business leaders and exchange ideas and form friendships and bond. I always say being a business owner sometimes can be very lonely. You can’t talk to your employees about everything. Sometimes your spouse doesn’t want to hear about what’s going on. Versus when you’re in a large corporation, you go to coffee or lunch with your colleagues. A lot of business owners don’t have that. And the chamber serves as a vehicle, a platform to form those connections. To talk about marketing strategies, and HR strategies, and different ways. Because people need someone to talk to and get advice from. You also highlighted another one. That having a voice in the community. Can you give an example of ways that the Southwest Gwinnett chamber helped have a voice, bring a voice to business owners in the community?

[00:17:59] Steve: Yeah, we certainly, from time to time, we’ll get contacted by one of our chamber members who may be struggling with an issue involving zoning, involving infrastructure like sewer or water or electricity. Not getting the right power to their businesses, that sort of thing. And again, the chamber of commerce is a business collective. It’s a cooperative. It’s the opportunity for you and others to bring your issues, bring your obstacles, bring your impediments to a chamber of commerce and then allow the chamber to speak on your behalf at a local city council. At the Gwinnett County commission, other organizations in the community. So we’ve certainly had those kinds of opportunities over the last 10 years. And I was a part of some of the studies where we reached out to a local organization or to a local government to try to right a wrong that was somehow impeding, not necessarily one of our members. Though, I think the members were the ones who brought the issue to the chamber to begin with. But also to represent other businesses who are not chamber members, who are not having the clear opportunities to succeed because of a regulation, of an ordinance, a tax, or something like that, that a city or a county was trying to impose in the area. And so that’s another reason to have a business organization, like a chamber of commerce, especially in the local community. And I think the Southwest Gwinnett chamber has done its very best to represent its business constituents.

[00:19:45] Rico: Do you, Steve, do you find in the course of time, things change a little bit, right? Types of companies, some more high-tech, more service oriented versus product oriented, younger people coming into the fray. As well as actually those that were downsized during COVID maybe even, starting their own businesses. Do you find anything different, any special challenges chambers face or that chambers have found that they can provide solutions for new challenges that these particular groups of people face?

[00:20:20] Steve: Yeah. You make a great point, Rico. Obviously over the last couple of years, the entire business landscape has completely turned over. Things that we were doing back in 2019 seem completely foreign to us now. I think we’re always going to have virtual conversations, virtual meetings like this. I was on two calls this morning they were both video calls. I’m going to get to go to a business lunch in one of the communities we serve tomorrow and I’m excited for the opportunity to be face to face with some of our clients for a change. So yeah, we’re going, and every good chamber of commerce has to reinvent itself regularly or it’s going to grow stale. And very quickly it’s going to cease to serve the current needs and interests of its membership. So if anything, a chamber of commerce should be on the cutting edge. They should be leading the way in terms of this type of metamorphosis and technology overturn. Very early in my career living in Birmingham right out of college, I went to a small liberal arts college, birmingham Southern college, which is a United Methodist church supported. I was going to be a Methodist minister when I graduated from college. I changed my mind, decided I wasn’t a good fit for the pulpit when I was a junior in college for a number of reasons. But the only job that was available to me when I graduated was working for First United Methodist church in downtown Birmingham. So I was the full-time youth director at First Methodist church for three and a half years. The very next job that I took was to walk directly across the street to the Birmingham area chamber of commerce. And I worked there for the next five years as director of their membership. And the Birmingham chamber gave me an excellent introduction to how businesses should and should not be run. I learned so much as a 20 something year old in Birmingham, Alabama. And just watching all of our business leaders who came through that chamber, who served on the various committees and on the chamber board of directors. And I had the opportunity to staff a number of those committees as a chamber employee. So that when it was time for me to get my own business, I knew the type of business that I wanted to run based on what I’d seen others do. And so creating First Community Development back in 1994 was simply assembling all the pieces, all the parts that I had absorbed, that I had collected over the 20 something years of being in business. But more than that observing business. So a good chamber is able to help its businesses continue to morph to help its businesses continue to grow, to find areas that businesses need to understand as they adjust their business models to keep pace with the current economy. So the very best chambers are the ones that are not so much about winning awards or hosting big events, but they’re more about what can I do to help each of the individual businesses and industries that are members of our chamber or that reside in our communities be better, keep pace, succeed. Obviously if those businesses are succeeding, the old adage, a rising tide lifts all boats. So a good chamber of commerce is helping all of their business members to continue to succeed and raise the economy in their local community.

[00:24:47] Rico: Yeah, I agree. I think that companies that are involved in the chambers are able to support those companies well enough. The energy just from that, from the success of that. People willing to then come back to meetings, come back to events. Because it’s not just, like you said, it’s not just a party, right? Sometimes it’s learning, it’s a workshop. It’s being able to find out the little things like, how to make sure your, LinkedIn profile, your social media profiles are working for your business. Or cutting the tape, like you said. If there’s relationships within city governments that the chamber has. And a business person is opening a second location, but they need help because the red tape is choking them. Then maybe the chamber’s relationships thing can be able to help that. Yeah.

[00:25:33] Steve: Obviously Rico there’s strength in numbers in having a business organization that represents a a hundred, a hundred twenty five, a hundred and fifty businesses in the area. And that’s a very small chamber. I mentioned the Gwinnett chamber 2,500 plus members. So a very strong advocate for local business is one of the strengths of a vibrant and active and engaged chamber of commerce. So I think a chamber is certainly not the end all and be all, but I think a chamber is an important factor in any successful community. That they’re able to engage their business, their corporate leadership, but also give that voice the opportunity to be heard in local government, in regional government, in plans for the area and so forth. We’ve learned over the years that an elected official really ought to listen to their local business leadership because it’s that local business leadership that is the backbone of the economy in that community. And if a local elected leadership are going to do things that thwart their local business and industry, then it’s a recipe for disaster. And there are a lot of failed communities that if they were prudent, they could go back and say, you know, it started 20 years ago when we began to work against our local businesses. So that’s not happening here, and I’m excited about that. Peachtree Corners, the city of Norcross, are both strongly supportive of business and industry here. They get it. They understand the value of a good local retail and service oriented businesses, and they are willing to open their doors, open their committee’s open their visioning processes to include business leaders as a part of those communities and in councils.

[00:27:45] Karl: Steve, can I ask a question? So in a couple of hours, there’s going to be a big party in downtown Norcross at the Brunswick location for the tenth anniversary. And folks like yourself will be there and will meet some people. If a young businessperson, leader, I’m going to use the word leader, comes up to you in the community and he’s says, where do you see, based on your history, where do you see chambers like the Southwest Gwinnett need to go into the future? What wisdom would you impart to a young up and coming business leader?

[00:28:17] Steve: We started this chamber 10 years ago Karl, with the idea that we wanted to support small and medium sized businesses in Norcross, Peachtree Corners, and Berkeley lake. And I think the Southwest Gwinnett chamber has done exactly that. We can do more. I teach a Sunday school class at Simpsonwood United Methodist church and we talk about the fact that the church is full of sinners as it should be. And we’re all trying to do better each and every day. So it is with the Southwest Gwinnett chamber. Beth Coffee is our executive director over there, Marty Acef is our current chair woman. They’re doing a fantastic job of continuing to try to build this chamber to be all it can be for our community. So 10 years from now, I would say if you join the chamber today, 10 years from now, your business will be in a better place. You will be more knowledgeable of all the things that are going on around you. Hopefully you’ll be a better corporate leader as a result of mentoring with other corporate leaders through the chamber. I think there’s a great opportunity for us to be more engaged in our community, more focused inward as well as outward here in the Southwest Gwinnett corner of our county. So yeah, I think the Chamber’s in a great place. There are occasions that I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a chamber meeting here in the last several months. We have a First Friday breakfast every first Friday of every month. We have that Friday coffee on every other Friday morning during the month, except for first Friday. And Karl I’ve been able to sit in those meetings. And again as a Christian, I try real hard to monitor my sense of pride, but I’m proud as to where this chamber is, where it’s come over the last 10 years. I look around me in those meetings, and I think yep. This was the idea we had in mind. This is why we started our local chamber here.

[00:30:39] Karl: So one of the things that essentially I’ve been having conversations with folks when it comes to chambers, and if you read most literature on chamber of commerces, and most conventional wisdom people would think people join chambers to network. And the answer is to that, I think it’s very true. What I think people miss and may not appreciate it as much is one, as you started to mention about leadership development, I remember working in large corporations where when people were going for promotions they would have to talk about their achievements. They would have to talk about ways in which they’ve led. And if they’re an individual contributor in a company, they may not have had the opportunity to lead people in their company but they’re going for a promotion to do that. So the question we were trained to ask, other ways in which you’ve led. Whether it’s in your church, it could be in sports, it could be in the community. The chamber for those out there that may have their own company or even work for small, medium size, larger company. It’s a great way for individual leadership skills. You’re networking, you’re working on projects, you’re there collectively. You’re doing those things that people are looking for behaviors and evidence of before you get that promotion. So I’d say to all those companies in the Southwest Gwinett area, if you’ve got leaders in your company and you want to develop them it is a great avenue in partnership to help not only through formal professional development and opportunities to lead in activities. And I’ll point to a few, just to highlight the Gwinnett Chamber. You talked about making a difference and the impact they can have in the community. Sometimes it’s tough for companies on how to integrate with some of the great nonprofit schools, the different areas. The chamber has a long track history with vetted organizations that provide opportunities to mentor, lead, volunteer support. And the local high school Norcross, Wesleyan, Great Atlanta Christian, Cornerstone and others there are career nights and events that the chamber members are asked to participate in. If you think of junior achievement, which is a beautiful component of the education system here in Gwinnett and all around. The chamber volunteers at the local middle schools several times a year. And even more specifically there is right now, currently, if you go to the chamber website, there is a current campaign, for cell phone charger in hospital, partnering with Northside Hospitals. And when people are in there for extended stay and they need to charge their cell phone, there’s a station so the nurses don’t have to lose all their chargers and look for them after patients are going. And we’re partnering with them to raise some funds, to put those in North Side. One of our local members and hospitals to do that. So that’s where collective action really has an impact. And really you don’t get into that unless you’re engaged, you’re participating in the chamber.

[00:33:41] Steve: Yeah, I agree Karl. I think on a very basic level, the chamber is kind of a win-win, win-win situation. If you think about the fact that, if you’re a young businessman, business woman here in the Southwest Gwinnett area and you’re, you’re stuck in your business. I’m saying stuck loosely, but you’re nine to five or you’re in this day and time, your eight to six at the business. Here’s an opportunity for you to get out and see the rest of the community. Here’s an opportunity for you to get out and meet other business leaders, other business minded people, your business certainly gets a benefit from that. The business that you represent, their brand gets out into the greater community as a result of your participation. You personally have opportunities to grow as far as your experience, as far as your expertise, as far as your leadership is concerned by participating in an organization like the chamber. And then obviously it’s an opportunity for you to represent a business that may need its voice heard on a particular matter. And it gives you the opportunity to pursue some leadership roles in the chamber. If you want to serve on the board of the chamber, if someday you would like to be chairman of the chamber. Again, all of that is available through an organization like the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber. And I think people should take that opportunity. It’s not expensive. It’s a very reasonable membership fee, but at the same time, you get a wealth of knowledge and understanding, and experience, and expertise. And you’re giving back to the greater Southwest Gwinnett community in the process. So all of the things you mentioned are something that you probably would not experience if you were not a part of the chamber and didn’t have access to all of those kinds of opportunities.

[00:35:54] Karl: Absolutely. I’m curious Rico, as you’ve seen Peachtree Corners grow and evolve as a city and as a chamber, you’ve been here for all of the time, all the 10 years of both the chamber, as well as the city’s time here. I’m curious in like your perspective as someone that, I consider you someone that watches things around you and able to present it to people in creative ways. What do you see as the future for chambers in general, and Southwest in particular?

[00:36:25] Rico: Interesting, because I was just thinking about that the other day, as far as what is a chamber? What traditionally does a county chamber, business chamber do? Which is a grand thing they do, right? Because they’re lobbying state legislators as well as doing work in the county level, a little different right there. They’re bringing in businesses, their soliciting, they’re enticing businesses to relocate into a county. A little different, right? Southwest Gwinnett Chamber, I don’t see that way. So it has a different mission, like Steve has been saying. So I, it is challenging out there. Certainly in the last two years, I have seen different businesses have so many challenges. How to prospect, how to reach out to a customer base that normally would be reached out by phone or reached out in an office visit that couldn’t be done over the last two years, really for the most part. So how does a chamber evolve to be able to address some of those needs of their membership? Pretty much in the last two years, you know, looking to find direction on how to do these things. I think the networking part of that has helped more greatly than anything else, because I think that as you mentioned before, call us a collective. We can bounce ideas off each other or we find ideas that we didn’t know about. All of a sudden from a different member that has, is doing something, is reaching out in a different way. We’re all, think we’re the center of our own universe, but we don’t know everything. And it’s good to be able to find. I’ve found so many different ways to do business over the last two years that I never thought of before. And part of that came out of sharing information with you, Karl, and with a lot of the business leaders that we’ve met with. Just little kernels of things that you pick up. Things that I think we’ve all evolved and learned from. So it’s challenging. It will never end. There’s more challenges ahead of us. But I think if we’re working together and we’re willing to keep an open mind, I think that the chamber and these types of organizations like the business association, can provide a lot. You don’t have to Google these things or YouTube it. You can just go right through the chamber meeting and meet up with some friends. Good stuff there. Just have to dig for it, that’s all.

[00:38:44] Karl: Yeah. Especially as you think of millennials and other parts of generations coming in, I think morphing to find their platforms and how to communicate and engage with that demographic is going to be something that the chambers in the forefront are going to wrestle with and figure out. And all those home-based businesses and technology-based businesses, let’s listen to what they need, how it’s different? And how can we serve that portion that is growing in every city, every community around. Especially here in Peachtree Corners, we’ve got Atlanta Tech Park, we’ve got the whole Curiosity Lab. These tech businesses are coming fast and furious and chambers have got to learn how to embrace that type of business as well and provide value there as well. Well, Steve, I want to thank you so much. Let me reintroduce Stephen Dorough, who is the president and chief executive officer of First Community Development, and one of the founders of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber. I want to thank you personally, and for the community, for the service that you did. It’s hard to create a thing and to start it. And I think you were one of the right leaders to do that based on your experience. And I hope you could take some pride, humble pride in what it has evolved in over ten years. And more importantly, what it’s going to do over the next ten. So thank you. Thank you for your service and sharing your insight on the chamber.

[00:40:11] Steve: My pleasure.

[00:40:12] Karl: One thing Steve I want to ask is if someone wanted to reach out to you, what is the best way to get in contact, to learn more about First Community Development and, or just meet you for a cup of coffee.

[00:40:23] Steve: Sure. Reach me at SDorough, and that’s spelled just as you see it on the screen. S D O R O U G H @ F as in Frank, C as in cat, D as in dog, USA dot com. SDorough@FCDUSA.com and our office number is (678) 906-4081.

[00:40:52] Karl: Excellent. Thank you so much. Anything you got planned over the next, let’s say five hours. You want to share with everybody?

[00:41:02] Steve: We’re looking forward to the 10th anniversary party for the chamber tonight. And that’ll be a nice affair and we’re looking forward to participating in that. Other than that, I think two of our granddaughters are coming over and spend the night with us tomorrow night. We’re looking forward to that. This is a great time of the year, to Rico’s point, we all need to get outside and enjoy this nice weather.

[00:41:25] Rico: Yeah.

[00:41:26] Karl: Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business is working with local business owners, whether they’re looking to improve their business, whether they’re looking to grow their business, especially through acquisition or when they’re ready to exit their business to go on to do other things. You can schedule a consultation at K Barham, that’s K B A R H A M @TWorld.com. Or visit our website at www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. There is a business valuation calculator on there. You put in information, get an idea what your business is worth, and also a special tool for those looking to become their own boss. We call it buyer match. You can go in there put in information of the type of business you’re looking for, and you will get a whole series of opportunities. Not only here in the Metro Atlanta area, across the country, businesses that might be the right thing for you. So you can then become a member of a local chamber and help to grow your business and your community. Rico, what have you got going on?

[00:42:36] Rico: Sure. Well, before we get into that, I just want to give a plug for you actually, because I’ve learned a lot over the years from you, Karl. I’ve learned a lot about preparing my business for exit, if I want to get there. How to grow the business, what to be looking for when hiring for this business. I mean, just shooting, just even just talking and shooting ideas off you. I mean, it’s just been, it it’s been a good, two, three, actually going on four years, maybe? It’s been four years almost, right. So a lot. So people should check you out because they can learn quite a bit more. And if they continue watching these podcasts, like Steve here. I mean, there’s a lot of good knowledge coming out of these podcasts. As far as what I’m doing, we’re working on the next issue. So it doesn’t stop, right? Peachtree Corners Magazine, we’re putting that to bed by the end of the month. We have faces of Peachtree Corners, is our main feature. So we picked out twenty people that are faces of Peachtree Corners. Different age groups, different experiences to just to give their mini profiles about who they are and just some of the people that make up this community. Plus we’re covering stuff like the purchase of the Forum on Peachtree Parkway. So that just closed last Friday, we’re putting together an article. We’re interviewing one of the owners of North Atlanta Properties today I think. And we’re going to be putting that article out shortly. We’re covering stuff more so than ever before, online at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. So if you want to find out what’s going on in the city, certainly feel free to, you know, sign up for that. As far as other work Peachtree Corners Magazine is just one of what we’re doing. We’re launching Southwest Gwinnett Magazine in about another month or so. That’ll be out in the beginning of May. So that’ll be covering Southwest Gwinnett area. Peachtree Corners, Norcross and Burkley Lake, parts of Duluth, unincorporated Gwinnett County. So that’ll be a bimonthly also. So that’s alternating between Peachtree Corners Magazine and Southwest on different months. So a lot going on there and by the way, if you need social media content. If you need online management of your content or your social media or your brand work. You can reach out to me. My company’s Mighty Rockets. I’ll certainly be able to speak to you about that and follow Capitalist Sage. The Instagram handle that we have along with Peachtree Corners Life on Instagram as well. When you find out all sorts of things going on.

[00:44:57] Karl: Wow, that sounds fabulous. Well, thank you Rico for your service as well. And putting out this great information and, and being a great member of the community. We need all these different types of creative minds and influences to build a strong community. And if you watch the news and you see what’s going on, Southwest Gwinnett is the place to be. Norcross, peachtree Corner, Berkeley Lake and surrounding areas is on fire. And so I’m looking forward to celebrating some of that tonight with everybody. Thank you again for joining the Capitalist Sage, and then continue to follow us on all of our social media and platform links. And we look forward to chatting with you again in the future. Take care, everyone.

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Business Association and City Work Together for Community Success



Peachtree Corners Business Association

Peachtree Corners Business Association celebrates 10 years of making us better

Asking which was established first, the City of Peachtree Corners or the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) is kind of like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. While philosophers, religious scholars, scientists and the like ponder the chicken and egg question, there is a correct answer to the former. PCBA is a few months older than the city itself.

Lisa Proctor and Toby Anderson receiving proclamation from Mayor Mike Mason (right)

That’s significant because they are interdependent.

“When the City of Peachtree Corners was founded in 2012, the PCBA and the city recognized the importance of having an organization focused on our business community,” said President Lisa Proctor. “The PCBA was established as an integral part in growing and developing our business community with all businesses that want to do business within our community.”

Peachtree Corners Business Association is a business membership organization that focuses on innovative approaches, programs, shared resources, community outreach and opportunities for its member businesses and professionals to connect, develop, grow and prosper.

Just like its motto says, it’s “Where Businesses Come to Grow!”

Local businesses strengthen the community

Any Economics or Political Science course will point out the symbiosis of local businesses and local governments. Cities need businesses to contribute expertise and resources in support of public/private funding solutions for special projects.

Locally owned businesses provide many economic benefits to a community, such as:

■    Local businesses are owned by people who live in the community and are less likely to leave. They are more invested in the community’s future.

■    Increasing local businesses means creating more jobs to encourage more people to stay in the area. This not only allows people to work closer to home, but also improves the quality of life for the community by increasing city revenue, creating a more self-sustainable community and connecting the community together.

■    Locally owned businesses also build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships and contributing to local causes.

The list of positives can go on and on. It’s important to note that these benefits from supporting local businesses are at risk of being measurably reduced by the increase of national chain competition.

PCBA strengthens local businesses and the city

The PCBA is made up of businesses of all sizes and types who want to expand their reach and grow their business within Peachtree Corners and the greater metro-Atlanta area. According to its website, PCBA affords its members the opportunity to:

■    Gain exposure and brand awareness for their businesses,

■    Highlight their businesses,

■    Generate new customers and forge relationships,

■    Support local businesses, and

■    Give back to the community.

That last item on the list, giving back to the community, is a huge part of what the Peachtree Corners Business Association does. Through its Community Outreach Program, it has donated over $115,000 and awarded 15 scholarships to deserving charities and students over the last 10 years.

10th-anniversary celebration

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, PCBA is pulling out all the stops to raise as much money as possible to help three more charities. “This year, we’re focusing our fundraising efforts on local charities that are addressing three important needs — community, health and education,” said Proctor.

The annual charity event, Celebrating 10 Years and Touchdowns Charity Party, is set for Sept. 22 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

“It’s going to be our best one yet and we would love for [everyone in the community] to be a part of it,” said Proctor. “There will be plenty of time for business networking, enjoying tailgating activities including a cornhole tournament, a live auction, drawings, food and adult beverages as we raise money for three great causes and award a check that evening to another local charity.”

Tickets for the fundraiser are on sale now and there are sponsorship opportunities. Perhaps best of all, a silent auction is underway that features one-of-a-kind items, such as a football signed by Peyton Manning and another signed by Rob Gronkowski; a boxing glove signed by Mike Tyson; trips to Hilton Head, The Biltmore and more distant destinations like Sydney, Australia and Greece.

There are also adventures, including a supercar driving experience and a chance to swim with sharks. Visit peachtreecornersba.com/about-charity-event to get details, register for the charity party or place bids for the silent auction.

Focus on Local Charities

The Peachtree Corner’s Business Association is proud to focus its fundraising efforts on three local charities.

Corners Outreach has a mission of equipping Atlanta’s underserved students of color and their families to lead full lives through educational development and economic opportunities. It offers three paths to impact the community: volunteering, donating and becoming a customer. All three paths change lives and are accomplished through: Corners Academy — early learning, elementary tutoring and teen development; Workforce Development — basic needs, life skills, job skills and educational advancement; Family Engagement — adult workshops, food assistance and health services; and Corners Industries & Staffing — sustainable living wage and career advancement certification. More at cornersoutreach.org.

Paint Gwinnett Pink 5K is a celebration of survivorship, while raising awareness and funds for breast cancer programs at Northside Hospital Gwinnett. Community support and donations fund Northside Hospital Institute cancer patients in Gwinnett County by providing improved access to cutting-edge imaging technology for earlier diagnosis, mamograms, transportation and other assistance needed for cancer treatments. Funds raised in 2022 will go to the installation of additional imaging units.
The event is the largest 5K supporting breast cancer in Gwinnett County. The annual Paint Gwinnett Pink 5K Walk/Run is held at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville every October. The 2022 event will be held on Saturday, October 15. More at paintgwinnettpink.com.

A. Worley Brown Boys & Girls Club provides an environment where all youth feel safe and secure to dream, discover and develop. It works with hundreds of kids and teens each year to help them reach their full potential. The programs focus on helping kids succeed in school, live healthy and become leaders.

The club focuses on a variety of programs including culinary arts and gardening, STEM, computer coding, music studio/music production, photography/film production, visual and performing arts, fashion and design, creative writing/comic book creation, science, career readiness, a Diplomas to Degrees program, tutoring and homework support, toastmasters, sports and character and leadership development clubs. More at bgcma.org/club/aworley/.

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A Little Italy in Peachtree Corners
Makes Extending an Olive Branch a
Symbol of Health



The medical and business participants of the virtual conference stream at Atlanta Tech Park

Conceivably, one day soon, we’ll be driving through Peachtree Corners taking in views reminiscent of the Italian countryside. As our gaze falls upon stretches of olive groves, we may think we’re in Italy for a second — until we realize this phenomenon in our ever-avant-garde metropolis is due to its ideal geographic location, favorable to the cultivation of olive trees, and the ingenious collaboration of forward-thinking Italian and American researchers working to extract from olive oil its most beneficial molecules, a gift as precious as gold for our health.

The newest virtual member of Atlanta Tech Park is the brainchild of Dr. Matteo Bertelli, founder and president of the Italian MAGI Group since 2006. MAGI specializes in the research, diagnosis and treatment of rare genetic diseases. His spin-off at Atlanta Tech Park, MagisNat, unites academics on opposite shores of the Atlantic in a promising mission to combat disease using natural molecules.

Capitalizing on the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Applying molecular genetics and metabolomics in the study of natural substances extracted from foods typical of the Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet), MagisNat is finding ways to zero in on its long-known health benefits and make good use of its disease-preventing properties. The active components of polyphenols and flavonoids found in olives, tomatoes and citrus fruit for example, can be extracted to produce dietary supplements scientifically proven to prevent an array of pathologies.

The fledgling company has already produced two supplements which will be available soon, Garlive Oral Spray and Garlive Recovery tablets with vitamins, both formulated with hydroxytyrosol derived from olive extracts to support a healthy immune system.

The international launch

On June 23, 2022, a MagisNat conference took place in the press room of Palazzo Montecitorio, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome, Italy. Atlanta Tech Park simultaneously hosted the event stateside. Professors from both sides of the pond spoke at the official launch about this promising collaboration to further investigate the disease-preventing properties of the MedDiet.

Bertelli said he appreciates the staff at our local accelerator whose role he considers invaluable. “Without opportunities like those provided by this business incubator, small companies like ours could never start,” he said. “I cannot express how grateful I am to those who conceived and developed this organization called Atlanta Tech Park in Peachtree Corners.”

We’ve all heard about the health benefits of the MedDiet but what exactly is it?

Let’s begin with what it’s not. It’s not a rigid, calorie-counting, restrictive fad diet, but rather a modo di vita, or a lifestyle approach consisting of more traditional meal preparation using a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, and the prioritization of physical activity, social gatherings and relaxation.

The MedDiet was actually coined in the 1950s by American physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys. Keys was dedicated to studying the influence of diet on health. After his famous Seven Countries Study, he concluded that replacing dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces cardiovascular heart disease.

In 2013, the MedDiet was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity because of how and what the diverse populations along the Mediterranean Sea Basin eat. In turn, the World Health Organization has classified it as a diet that protects against cardiovascular disease.

Apparently, coming together with a network of family and friends to enjoy meals consisting of fresh, seasonal and local food, mostly fruits, herbs, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, legumes, fish and seafood and olive oil with moderate amounts of milk and wine — mainly red, with meals — improves heart health, body mass index and cognitive function, while decreasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers. It’s also important that sugar, red meat and processed meat are consumed sparingly.

Perhaps the old adage needs a little tweak: “You are what and how you eat.”

Natural molecule-based treatments show promise across a variety of diseases

In Rome, Italy, Dr. Pietro Chiurazzi, affiliated with the University Polyclinic Foundation A. Gemelli, discussed how olive mill wastewater (OMW) could be used to create supplements containing powerful antioxidants. Instead of the idiomatic expression, ‘Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,’ think: ‘Don’t throw out the hydroxytyrosol with the OMW.’ Chiurazzi studies the treatment of the rare, late-onset neurodegenerative disease FXTAS, characterized by tremors and an ataxic (uncoordinated) gait.

At the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) Institute of Ophthalmology, Dr. Benedetto Falsini has a pilot study underway to rescue retinal cells before they succumb to inherited degeneration.

In Sacro Cuore’s Department of Internal Medicine, Dr. Amerigo Iaconelli aids patients with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, osteoporosis and obesity.

Dr. Sandro Michelini of San Giovanni Battista Hospital scrutinizes pathologies that cause lymphedema, a blockage in the lymph system causing swelling of the arms or legs.

The President of the Macula & Genoma Foundation in New York, Dr. Andrea Cusumano, employs this new and unusual approach to rescue photoreceptors in a pursuit to prevent and reverse blindness. Cusumano advances the field of ophthalmology in Italy, Germany and the U.S.

Bertelli credits Dr. Stephen T. Connelly with getting this venture off the ground, “He devoted an enormous amount of time to the birth of this spin-off,” Bertelli said of Connelly, Associate Clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco, who is eager to embark on the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Emory University Dr. Peng Jin chairs the Department of Human Genetics, School of Medicine in Atlanta. He too examines neurodegenerative disorder treatment, especially Fragile X syndrome with tremor/ataxia. “Professor Peng Jin agreed to test the effects of olive tree polyphenols on fruit fly models in preventing FXTAS,” Bertelli shared, extending a personal message of thanks to Jin.

Dr. John Paul SanGiovanni of U. Arizona’s BIO5 Institute explores chemistry of Mediterranean foods linking this information to receptors in the body that keep cells working optimally, showing promise for those afflicted with blinding age-macular degeneration (AMD). He’s identified links between the AMD-related MMP-9 protein and ferulic acid, a chemical found in fennel, oregano, olives and chickpeas.

With locations in Tucson, Arizona and Beverly Hills, California, Medical and Research Director
Dr. Karen L. Herbst of Total Lipedema Care, is passionate about helping patients with connective tissue disorders. Lipedema is an inflammatory disease resulting in the deposition of fibrotic subcutaneous adipose tissue characterized by excess fat accumulation in the lower part of the body.

As varied as their areas of expertise and as geographically dispersed as all the participating researchers may be, they’re linked in the intent to employ the science behind MagisNat, the application of natural molecules to cure maladies and improve patient health.

Under the Georgia sun

There’s much yet to be discovered about the beneficial effects of using these natural molecules in living organisms, but the stage is set and conditions are promising for fascinating developments in science and research at MagisNat in Peachtree Corners.

Consider the MagisNat spin-off, yet another component of la dolce vita in our innovative city. Mangiate bene (eat well) and let’s toast to medical breakthroughs that once seemed like science fiction becoming a reality on our own turf.

Salute! (Cheers!)

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PTC Anchors ATL Unlocked Event



ATL Unlocked

One of the ‘smartest’ cities in the world welcomes start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators to join the future.

Anyone who knows anything about technology has heard of Silicon Valley. But how many people, especially those right here in Metro Atlanta, have heard of Silicon Orchard? Did you know that you are in the midst of it?

Peachtree Corners has become the epicenter for smart technology startups and is one of the few locations in the world where smart city technology — including driverless cars, smart cameras, an artificial intelligence-controlled infrastructure and millions of internet-of-things sensors — come together in one place. And the technology is not just in a lab; it’s being deployed throughout the city.

There’s an autonomous shuttle that takes riders on a 1.5-mile loop through Technology Park. Even the electric scooters, which anyone can borrow to get around town, automatically show up when called and then drive back to their home base after their human riders have been dropped off.

So it’s no wonder that Peachtree Corners is the last leg of the ATL Unlocked event.

ATL Unlocked is a groundbreaking partnership between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the region’s leading innovation and entrepreneurship centers. It transforms metro Atlanta into an accessible ecosystem where creators, innovators, founders and entrepreneurs thrive. It opens the doors to the region’s diverse community and connects people, resources and spaces, according to organizers. As it does, ATL Unlocked encourages knowledge sharing across diverse perspectives and greater access to the vital resources our region has to offer.

Literature explaining the event said that ATL Unlocked is activated through the ATL Unlocked Tour, a series of events that invites entrepreneurs to experience different innovation centers and districts across the metro and connect with the people within them. Entrepreneurs visit centers outside of their home space so they can get to know the offerings and communities of different innovation centers and districts while building familiarity and mutual trust.

“We are honored to host the final leg of ATL Unlocked in Peachtree Corners. This event showcases metro Atlanta’s innovative ecosystem of which we are proud to be a leader,” said Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason. “I look forward to welcoming the diverse group of innovators, entrepreneurs and business owners to the wonderful things we are doing in Peachtree Corners and at Curiosity Lab.”

The Tour

Buckhead: Hosted by Atlanta Tech Village

The tour kicked off on May 23 in Buckhead, home to the fourth largest entrepreneurial and startup tech community in the country. Atlanta Tech Village (ATV) is a thriving innovation community that has launched two unicorns. The area has deep connections to Atlanta’s business and investment community and is engineered to increase a startup’s chance of success.

Downtown / Westside: Hosted by Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

This area is becoming home to numerous global technology companies, including Microsoft, and to major universities, including Georgia State University and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) located in and around the Atlanta University Center (AUC). It hosted the second part of the tour on June 21. It’s the heart of Black entrepreneurship in the south. The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE) is at the center of this area, providing an economic mobility engine that offers space and resources to help Black entrepreneurs and small business owners innovate, grow and build wealth.

Midtown: Jointly hosted by ATDC and CreateX

Midtown Atlanta has been called the hottest innovation neighborhood in America. The third stop on the tour took place here on July 21. The area mixes technology and creativity. It’s home to countless startup, corporate innovation centers and incubators — and top ranked universities, including Georgia Tech and SCAD. ATDC, Georgia’s technology business incubator, is fostering technological entrepreneurship through curriculum, coaching, connections and community. Create X extends that support to Georgia Tech students, empowering them to launch successful startups.

Alpharetta: Hosted by Tech Alpharetta

Located just north of Atlanta, the Alpharetta suburb is a thriving corporate innovation, e gaming and technology community that includes nearly 35% of ‘Where Georgia Leads’ technology companies. The fourth installment of the tour takes place here on August 18. At Tech Alpharetta, some of the leading technology companies in the district are working together to shape the future of the technology industry in the region.

Peachtree Corners: Hosted by Atlanta Tech Park

A suburban community where infrastructure and local government have facilitated innovation for years, Peachtree Corners rounds out the tour. Curiosity Lab is an economic development city initiative to provide space and resources to advance intelligent mobility, IoT and smart city technologies. Neighboring Atlanta Tech Park is a collaborative workspace and accelerator that offers connections, advising and resources for growth phase companies.

ATL Unlocked at Atlanta Tech Park

107 Technology Parkway Northwest, Peachtree Corners 30092

Thursday, September 22, 5-7 p.m.

Admission is free. Reservations are required. Register at atlantatechpark.com/product/atlunlocked-event-ticket/.

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