b'Heather Thomas|BAINBRIDGEDowntown Advocate When Heather Thomas moved to Bainbridge, she saw potential in the downtown area. In 2017, Thomas and her husband, Tyler, opened The American, and are in the final stages of construction for a downtown boutique hotel and caf. Wanting to create more Saturday business, Thomas worked with the downtown merchants to host a Saturday Sip & Shop. I created, marketed, and orchestrated an event that would bring people to shop, eat, and explore Downtown Bainbridge, says Thomas. The event was more of a trial run to see if something similar could be supported. A Second Saturday event has since been created.As a corporate sponsor of The American Bluegrass and Folk Festival, Thomas is an integral part of promoting the annual festival, which this year welcomed approximatelyor genres. We also want to continue to give people 1,300 people to Downtown Bainbridge. things to do; this has been something that especially A lot of work goes into an event like this one, says Thomas. We felt like we neededyounger folks have struggled with here in the past.more diverse types of events than were previously being offered and that these events needed to reach younger people, millennials. Thomas is a member of the Bainbridge Downtown Development Authority board, Merchants Thomas says the festival creates a regional awareness about Bainbridge. The musicAssociation, and serves on the Georgia Municipal scene has loyal followers, she says. People will travel to follow their favorite bandsAssociation Placemaking Collaborative.Shelley Zorn|THOMASVILLEBusinessZorn, who came to Thomasville in 2014, says one of her most Boom With recentrewarding projects is Check Mate Industries. Not only are they announcementscreating 230 jobs in the next three years, it will mean $7.2 million in of new industries,annual payroll that will go into our community. Every person who retail and dining,works at Check Mate will eat, shop, and buy things, helping each and a downtownbusiness in Thomas County. hotel, everything inShe adds that the Sweetgrass Dairy expansion is another personal Thomasville is cominghighlight. They have been working on their expansion for five years up roses. and worked so hard. They have put Thomasville on the map. Great Helping lead thecheese, and so well known. economic boom,In addition to recruiting new industry, Zorn visits Thomas Countys is Shelley Zorn,existing companies, which have created more than 800 new jobs in the executive directorpast two years. of the Thomasville Payroll Development Authority. In the past year, Zorn has guided sevenThe best part of my job is helping people find a job, she says. That economic projects to Thomas County, creating approximately 775 neweach person supports a family, they are not just a number. Second, is jobs and more than $125 million in capital investment. helping businesses grow and succeed. They do it, not me.The list of new and expanding projects includes: Check Mate Industries,An active member of the Thomasville Rotary Club, Zorn is also Wal Mart, Brandt Information Services, Southern States Insulation,involved with the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce Sweet Grass Dairy, Red Chamber Seafood, and the Marriott. as an advisor with Project Purpose, a program that targets graduating seniors for employment in local industries. 46 SG MAGAZINE| FALL 2019 BUSINESS + CULTURE47'