South Georgia Leads the Way in Creating Homegrown Leaders

The 2018-2018 South GeorgiaLEADS class held its graduation ceremony at Raisin’ Cane in Lowndes County.


With the focus that leadership starts at home, Locate South GeorgiaLEADS (LSGL) has graduated its second class of regional leaders. Developed as a collaboration between Locate South Georgia, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Georgia J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the LSGL is an eight-month program designed to facilitate awareness of issues that are essential to guiding South Georgia’s future.

According to Mary Beth Bass, executive director of One Sumter Economic Development Foundation and LSGL program coordinator, this year’s program was centered on economic development, innovations in agriculture, entrepreneurship, transportation and infrastructure, education and workforce development, and legislative issues.

“Networking, hands-down, is the response I hear most from our participants,” said Bass in reference to the program’s benefits. “And not just from the class participants with one another but the business leaders who take time out of their schedules to share about their companies and how locating in South Georgia, specifically, has been essential to their success.”

With 62 graduates in the past two years, Bass said the program is providing future networking possibilities.

“Many of the participants have had follow-up business opportunities just from hearing from local companies and entrepreneurs throughout the region,” Bass said. “And in return, many local entrepreneurs have gained new clients and business contacts from participants in the program.”

Bass said participating in LSGL not only enhances a participant’s leadership skills but also provides an overall professional boost.

South GeorgiaLEADS coordinator Mary Beth Bass, center, is joined by J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development Assistant Director and Public Service Associate Brendan Leahy, left, and Director Matthew Bishop at the 2018-2018 graduation ceremony at Raisin’ Cane in Lowndes County.

“An added benefit, for which I am most proud of, is the individual conversations I’ve had with participants, who told me how the program has given them confidence, knowledge of the issues, and belief in their communities and region,” Bass said. “They have taken that content home and applied it to projects and growth opportunities in their home counties.”

Bass said LSGL is impacting communities across South Georgia through the power of its graduates who are willing to invest in their communities after graduation.

“I learned a lot about how to capitalize on my strengths as a leader as well as how to manage others in a way that would highlight their strengths,” said Michael Williams, assistant dean of Academic Affairs at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, who is a 2017-2018 LSGL graduate. “The networking portion of the program was invaluable. I made a lot of good friends and contacts.”

Williams said the program provided him with a greater understanding of the importance of collaboration in improving the region.

“In addition to being a lot of fun,” he said, “this program provides real-world benefits and valuable connections that will inevitably benefit your career and help you to improve your local community and your region.”

Sponsors of LSGL include Electric Cities of Georgia, AT&T, Webb Properties, Georgia Power Company, Georgia CEO, Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Development Authority, One Sumter Economic Development, Leadership Worth, and the Sylvester-Worth County Chamber of Commerce.

Recruitment for the 2018-2019 LSGL class will open in June with the program scheduled to start in August. For more information, visit South GeorgiaLEADS website at



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