Charles Tarbutton elected chair of state’s economic development board

By Maria Saporta

The Georgia Department of Economic Development elected a new chair — Charles Tarbutton — at its board meeting on Sept. 16.

Tarbutton, who has been serving as vice chairman of the GDEcD board, is assistant vice president of the Sandersville Railroad Co., a short-line freight railroad primarily serving kaolin, forest products and plastics industries in Central Georgia.

In 2008, Tarbutton served as chair of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Tarbutton succeeds Ben Hinson, who is president and owner of Mid Georgia Ambulance in Macon. He had served on the economic development board since 2007.

The board also named Paul Bowers, president and CEO of Georgia Power, as the vice chairman. Incidentally, the day before, Bowers was named as the 2013 chair of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

At the same time, the board welcomed four new board members:

– Eric Johnson is former president pro tem of the Georgia State Senate and former gubernatorial candidate who is a an architect in Savannah. Johnson served 17 years in the Georgia legislature, and he served on Gov. Nathan Deal’s transition team. He also serves on the board of the Savannah Economic Development Authority;

– Allen Gudenrath is a senior vice president of wealth management for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Gudenrath received an associate’s degree fro Reinhardt College and bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Georgia;

– Richard Kevin Jackson Sr. is president and owner of EnvironVac Holdings in Savannah. Jackson is the finance chairman for U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston’s capital cabinet, and he also serves on the board of the Savannah Economic Development Authority; and

– Philip Tomlinson is chairman and CEO of Total System Services which is based in Columbus. Tomlinson also has served on the board of the Synovus Financial Corp. since 2008. He also is chairman of the Columbus State University Foundation board. He also has served on the board of the Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle was the honored guest at the GDEcD board meeting. When he took questions from the department’s board members, Cagle first passed over Eric Johnson’s question, mentioning that he was a former gubernatorial candidate. At one point, Cagle also had been planning to run for governor, but then he decided to run for re-election.

Cagle, however, agreed with Johnson on the importance of the downtowns in cities across Georgia, saying he is working on ways on “how we can transform our downtown communities and make them economic engines.”

One goal should be to try to get more businesses to locate their operations downtown, Cagle said, adding that it would be a “noble cause “to make downtowns places where people feel welcome.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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