Sunday June 4th, 2023 1:59PM

REED Summit goes virtual, focuses on Georgia's agriculture industry

By AccessWDUN Staff

The University of North Georgia is not going to allow the ongoing coronavirus pandemic put a stop to its annual REED Summit - this year, the event is going virtual with a focus on Georgia's agriculture industry. 

This is the third year for the Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit, and according to Ben Jarrard, the Executive Director of Government and Economic Development for UNG, registration is already underway for the Sept. 23 event.

"This year the theme is 'Growing North Georgia' and we'll be talking all things agriculture and agribusiness for the Northeast Georgia region," Jarrard said. "Agriculture is Georgia's number one industry. It has more than a $75 million economic impact on the state and according to Georgia Farm Bureau statistics, one in seven Georgians work in agriculture, forestry or other related fields."

With that in mind, UNG has invited several speakers to facilitate online sessions for the day-long event with Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black delivering the keynote address at 9 a.m. 

"[We're] bringing together economic development professionals, business and community leaders, and educators and students from the high school and post-secondary levels," Jarrard said.

The 10 a.m. session will highlight the poultry industry. Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, and John Wright, vice president and director of operations for Fieldale Farms, are the panelists who will discuss the poultry industry's impact on the local and global economies.  

Two sessions are scheduled for noon. One will address the way education increases the earning power of individuals and thereby increases a community's economic prosperity. Diane Hopkins, vice president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, will be the presenter.

The other noon session about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the American workforce will feature presenter Rachel Kerestes, executive director of the nonprofit Science is US. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit promotes science and evidence-based decision making in public policy while building federal support for research.

The 1 p.m. session will address the state's life sciences industry, which includes companies in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, life systems technologies, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, food processing, environmental services and biomedical devices. Maria Thacker-Goethe, president and CEO of Georgia Bio, will speak as part of the life sciences industry session. Georgia Bio works to improve access to innovative technologies and grow Georgia's life sciences economy.

At 2 p.m., the final session will discuss how educational pathways in middle and high schools lead to good jobs through skill development. Panelists will include Dr. Chaudron Gille, UNG provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs, and two other speakers.

Participants may attend any part of the event via the Zoom format. Jarrard said sessions will also be available to view for a short time after the summit is over. 

Registration continues up until the day of the event on the REED Summit website.

Jarrard said thanks to Northeast Georgia Health System, the presenting sponsor for the REED Summit, registration is free for anyone who wants to attend. Georgia Power and Rochester & Associates are executive sponsors for the REED Summit. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, Lanier Federal Credit Union and Windstream Kinetic are supporting sponsors. 


  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News, Submitted News
  • Associated Tags: Georgia agriculture, agribusiness, University of North Georgia , Agri-tourism, REED Summit, Ben Jarrard
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