2017 Forum

What is true prosperity? How does it affect your life and community…from what you eat, to where you go to school, work or live? The 2017 GeorgiaForward Forum will focus on how Georgia can realize its full potential across all corners of our state from agricultural communities, to port cities, mountain resorts and metropolitan hubs.

Join thought leaders from business, government, education and other sectors to discuss emerging trends and explore new ways to improve the future of Georgia. Bring your ideas and don’t miss this opportunity to participate in robust and interactive discussions to Define Georgia’s Prosperity. The GeorgiaForward 2017 Forum will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta on September 28 & 29.

September 28-29, 2017

Georgia World Congress Center, Downtown Atlanta

Presented by Bank of America

Thursday, September 28

12 noon – Registration

1 pm – Welcome and Remarks, AJ Robinson, GeorgiaForward Board Chairman

Economic Mobility and Relevance for Georgia, Wendy Stewart, Atlanta Market President and Co-Head Southeast Region, Bank of America

Georgia’s Changing Demographics: A Look at Our Future, John Fortier, Director of The Democracy Project, Bipartisan Policy Center

Interactive Discussion: What is our common prosperity? by Otis White, President, Civic Strategies


Break Out Sessions:

  • Technology in Agriculture. Presented by Georgia Farm Bureau Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry. How is technology impacting the future of agriculture in Georgia?
    • Gary Black, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture
    • Taylor Sills, Young Farmer Coordinator, Georgia Farm Bureau
    • Megan Frame, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Georgia Forestry Association
    • Jenni Harris, Marketing Manager, White Oak Pastures
    • Moderator: John Clark, Georgia News Network and Timber Farmer
  • Young Leaders in Rural Georgia. Many of our rural communities are facing population decline. How can we retain, attract and cultivate the next generation of leaders to ensure that Georgia’s smaller towns have a vibrant future?
    • Dr. David Bridges, President, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
    • Matt Bishop, Executive Director, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at University of Georgia
    • Morgan Law, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Georgia Chamber
    • Anna Strickland, Archway Professional, UGA Archway Partnership
    • Moderator: Ben Young, Editor in Chief and Publisher of GeorgiaTrend
  • Georgia’s Future Workforce. A skilled, trained workforce is essential to the sustainability of Georgia’s businesses. How can we better develop connections between our early education programs and nationally ranked colleges and universities?
    • Odie Donald, Director of Department of Employee Services, Washington DC
    • Dr. Barbara Wall, State Director, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education, Georgia Department of Education
    • Dr. John Green, Director, Carrollton-Carroll County Education Collaborative
    • John Tibbetts, 2018 Georgia Teacher of the Year
    • Moderator: Cole Posey, Director of Marketing, PR and Communications, Southern Regional Technical College
  • Sustainability of Georgia’s Infrastructure. From our water supply, to transportation options and communications, infrastructure is vital to our economy, security, health and safety. How can we better plan for future needs and sustainability of Georgia’s infrastructure?
    • Shrujal Amin, Transportation Investment Act Program Manager, Georgia Department of Transportation
    • Burke Walker, Planning & Government Services, Northeast Georgia Regional Commission
    • Mike Robinson, Transmission Planning and Operations General Manager, Georgia Power
    • Jeff Davis, President, Alterra Networks
    • Moderator: Howard Franklin, Principal, Ohio River South

Interactive Session: Big Ideas

5:30 pm – Adjourn

6-8 pm – Cocktails at the Commerce Club

7:30 pm – Dinner & Discussions


Friday, September 29

8:30 am – Networking and Breakfast

9 am – Welcome Back

Prioritizing Big Ideas


Civic Leaders: Positive Impact in Young Gamechangers Communities presented by Georgia Municipal Association and Georgia Cities Foundation

  • Dublin Mayor Phil Best
  • Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis
  • Troup County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews
  • Douglasville Mayor Pro Tem Larry Yockey
  • Moderator: Craig Lesser, Pendleton Group


Keynote Address by Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, Chancellor, Mercer University

Young Gamechangers: Georgia’s Next Generation of Leaders

  • Ben Andrews, Communications Consultant
  • Rebecca McWilliam, Executive Director, Visit Dublin GA
  • Kenita Williams, Director of Racial Equity Leadership Network, Southern Education Foundation
  • Scott Poag, Director of Business Development, Williams & Associates
  • Shemeeka Johnson, Senior Communications Specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Workforce Division
  • Moderator: Carrie Barnes, Community Development Consultant, Georgia EMC

Interactive Discussion: Looking to the Future

3 pm – Adjourn