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Friday February 5th, 2016 10:06PM

Business forum helps forge partnership between chambers, UNG

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DAHLONEGA - To strengthen the business partnerships that are critical to the success of today's business students, the Center for the Future of North Georgia in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia (UNG) invited the region's Chambers of Commerce to discuss collaborations that could benefit area businesses and UNG students.

The Center for the Future of North Georgia hosted a forum on Aug. 2 with 15 chamber executives representing hundreds of businesses across northeast Georgia and metro Atlanta. Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, was among those who attended. Discussions focused on opportunities for the Mike Cottrell College of Business and its centers to support regional businesses and chambers.

UNG, with about 15,000 students, has campuses in Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee County and is positioned in the fastest-growing region in the state. The Mike Cottrell College of Business is the university's most populated college with more than 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students. The Cottrell MBA program is based on the Cumming Campus. The Center for the Future of North Georgia, created through an endowment fund established in 2006 by Mike and Lynn Cottrell, focuses on regional economic development activities, entrepreneurial opportunities, internships, and regional engagement.

These initiatives support the mission of the university, as UNG is a regional institution focusing on providing students with an environment conducive to education and service. The efforts of the Center for the Future of North Georgia directly address Complete College Georgia (CCG), a recently-launched state initiative that emphasizes the importance of higher education to the state's economic competitiveness. The center's focus to provide business students with opportunity and to facilitate sustainable economic growth and development in the region supports the main initiative of CCG, which is to ensure that the state provides businesses with educated, skilled employees at all levels.

"We are more regionally focused than ever," said Dr. Ruben Boling, director for the Center for the Future of North Georgia. "We want to start a dialogue on how we can work together to strengthen our communities, offer relevant programming based on area business needs for UNG students and make our region the best it can be."

Dr. Donna Mayo, dean of the Mike Cottrell College of Business, spoke about the initiatives of the college and its centers.

"In this academic year, we are focused on providing students with a business education relevant to 2013, including expansion of our study abroad and global internship experiences that are important due to the many international companies and partnerships found across northeast Georgia," Mayo said. "Many of our graduates move on to positions within the region and the experiences they receive here at UNG directly influence their future efforts. We thank the chambers for their interest and their support of the Mike Cottrell College of Business and are excited to have such a great business community as a partner."

Chamber executives expressed an interest in identifying programs or initiatives that would be mutually beneficial, and several members offered recommendations around regional studies and other support initiatives.

Brandon Beach, president of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, suggested area chambers should work together more frequently to support the region, and not just in times of need. Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, and James McCoy, president of the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, suggested discussing new degree programs in the future.

The Center for the Future of North Georgia plans to continue exploring partnerships with business and industry throughout the region to help address the region's economic challenges and opportunities.

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