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Clayton State hosts Atlanta Tribune business conference

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

On Wednesday, the Clayton State University Student Activities Center served as the location for the 2009 Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine's "Moving Your Business Forward" conference.

It was the first time the entrepreneurial empowerment event has been held in Clayton County is it's seven-year history.

In the Atlanta Tribune's July 15 issue, the magazine featured several rising Clayton County businesses in a segment called "On the Rise: Who's Who in Clayton County Black Business."

Katrice L. Mines, editor of the business-oriented magazine, said the publication chose Clayton State University as its venue to highlight emerging economic opportunities in the county.

"I don't think [people are] informed about what is happening past the downtown area," Mines said. "Our aim with our July issue, and this conference, is to let people know of the amount of business opportunity here, especially for minority businesses. This is fertile ground for business development."

The 8 a.m., to 4:15 p.m., conference featured panels composed of local leaders, as well as business leaders from around the state. Speakers included: Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond; Jacob Chacko, dean of the Clayton State University School of Business; Clayton County Chief of Staff and Fire Chief Alex Cohilas; Nancy Flake Johnson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Urban League, Inc.; and Ron Shipman, metro south region manager for Georgia Power.

Kyle Hensel, area director of the Small Business Development Center at Clayton State University, served as a panelist for a discussion on "Unlocking Your Company's Potential by Using Social Media." He said the topic was a central theme of the conference.

"One of the most common problems that comes up now [among business owners] is how to find money for their business, and attract customers," Hensel said. "The use of Twitter and Facebook in your business is a rather new concept. I think the eagerness of business owners to try new things is really encouraging."

Stuart Caldwell, a professional development consultant for Oasis Outsourcing in Atlanta, said the conference attracted many new entrepreneurs.

"Typically [the people at the conference were] start-up business entrepreneurs ... people trying to gather information, so they can start their business," he said. "It [the conference] helps them better market their businesses, and ultimately, make them more profitable."

Wednesday's conference attracted several hundred business people and entrepreneurs. Crystal Black, director of member services for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said the conference provided "great exposure" for the county.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase Clayton ... and what they have to offer," she said. "For a lot of those attending, it will be their first time back in Clayton County in awhile. They will be able to see us in a favorable light."