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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (L) and Georgia's First Lady Sandra Deal (R) listen to Americus resident George Bryce (not pictured) explain the future Americus Motorsports Complex. Scott Phillips - See more at: http://www.americustimesrecorder.com/x493497032/Governor-Nathan-Deal-and-wife-visit-Americus#sthash.eNtMpCis.dpuf

Governor Nathan Deal and wife visit Americus
Tuesday May 13, 2014
By Scott Phillips
Americus Times-Recorder
Governor Nathan Deal visited Americus with his wife Sandra on Monday for a Community Roundtable Discussion at South Georgia Technical College (SGTC). Deal spent approximately an hour speaking with local community leaders, students and business owners while also listening to local success stories from community members.
The discussion started with SGTC President Sparky Reeves thanking Deal for visiting Americus and for his commitment to growing jobs in the state of Georgia and seeking a trained workforce.
State Rep. Mike Cheokas, R-Americus, then introduced Deal to the large crowd, highlighting several of the Governor’s accomplishments during his time in office. “I’ve gotten to know and work with the Governor and the first lady, and it has truly been a great experience for me,” Cheokas said. “Governor Deal set a goal of making Georgia the number one state in the nation to do business, and he did it. He has never been afraid to take on the difficult challenges, and he successfully steered our state forward. He has balanced the budget while cutting taxes for all Georgians, eliminated wasteful spending and streamlined agencies, and saved the HOPE Scholarship from bankruptcy while maintaining it’s integrity and making sure that it serves the purpose that it was intended to do.”
Deal then addressed the crowd. “Thanks to so many of you for being able to come out,” he said. “You’ve heard some of the things that I am most proud of. I believe that the technical college system is and will continue to be a very important part of the preparation of the workforce that we need, not only now, but that we are going to need in the future.”
Deal also explained that the reforms of the HOPE Grant Program now include seven areas of study that they have identified as the areas that have jobs available but don’t have workers to fill them. “With those seven areas now being identified and agreed to by the General Assembly, 100 percent of the cost of tuition for anyone who pursues a degree in any of those seven areas will be paid for through the HOPE Grant.
“In addition, the Zell Miller HOPE Grant is for students that maintain a 3.5 grade point average without regard to the area of those studies. I think all of these are going to be the kinds of settings that we need in order to make sure that we continue to have the workforce that we need for current business as well as those who are coming our way.”
Deal said that we are rapidly approaching a quarter of a million new jobs created in the private sector since he took office, and that several other states are jealous of the job creation Georgia has experienced.
The Governor then gave way the floor to several students and local business people. SGTC Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner Jenilee Johnson and National Champion Phi Beta Lambda winner Ethan Johnson led off the discussion.
“I’d like to say thank you for saving the HOPE Grant and the changes that you have made to make it more available,” Jenilee said to Deal. “When my brother and I started college here, one reason we started is because it was affordable and because it contributed to the work force. When we started, we were so thankful to know that with the changes you made in the HOPE Grant we would be able to graduate and gain employment without loans with us.”
Ethan, Jenilee’s twin brother, said, “In closing, I would like to thank you for this. When Mr. Smith called me first and mentioned that he wanted students to represent the college, I thought ‘What an honor to be able to represent the Technical College System of Georgia, and especially when you know that the Zell Miller was going to come into effect and that it started at a 3.5 or higher.’ I thought that was perfect because that views everyone willing to work and strive together to make a better career. That is what Georgia needs.”
Eshonda Blue and Jessica Wright, co-owners of Innovative Senior Solutions, spoke next about starting their business in an incubator program at SGTC, and Clinic Drug Store’s Faith Pinnell gave her thoughts on owning a small-town drug store supported by a great local community.
Brad Lafevers, president and CEO of Heart of Georgia Railroad; George Bryce, owner of Star Racing, and Mark Michael, owner of Americus Glass and Southern Wholesale Glass, also thanked the Governor for his support and shared their success stories and future plans. Deal then thanked the participants for their input and shared stories of his personal experience in each of their various industries. He also talked about the effect that deepening the Port of Savannah will have on jobs and economic growth in Georgia when it is approved by the President, which he expects to happen any day.
Following his roundtable discussion in Americus, Deal traveled to Columbus where he gave the commencement address at Columbus State University. - See more at: http://www.americustimesrecorder.com/local/x1535387140/Georgia-Governor-first-lady-visit#sthash.cEcpTDhE.dpuf

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