Sunbelt Expo helping to grow Agri-business - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sunbelt Expo helping to grow Agri-business

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MOULTRIE, GA (WALB) -

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) --  In good times and bad, Agriculture is Georgia's top industry with a 65-billion dollar annual economic impact.

The Sunbelt Ag Expo is the industry's biggest annual event. This year's Expo is focusing on bringing more agriculture jobs to Georgia.

One in seven Georgians works in agriculture, forestry, or a related field.   In a years time, a former Colquitt County teacher has traded her classroom for a growing Ag business and she says if she can do it, anyone can.

Lauri Jo Bennett didn't know her fledgling canning business, Southern Style Canning in Norman Park would grow so fast.

"It has been a whirlwind. We're actually celebrating our year anniversary this week," said Bennett.

In that time she's quit her teaching job and grown her three products into eight. Now she's moving from 18 states to nationwide.

"This past Thursday we got a contract with Whole Foods and all 8 of our products have been approved for all of their stores," said Bennett.

All 399 grocery stores. The Center of Innovation for Agribusiness has helped. They're being featured this year at Expo as the one stop shop for any farmer or entrepreneur looking to create Agribusiness in Georgia.

"We're looking at growing Olives here in this state a new crop, blueberries look at them, they in the past were just grown in the garden now blueberry production has surpassed peach production in the state," said Donnie Smith, Center of Innovation for Agribusiness Director.

State officials say that's what it's going to take to grow Georgia jobs, looking at industries like bio-mass and bio-energy crops that still remain untapped.

"There's so much technology that's out there that's available and this renewable energy source is really creating great opportunities for job creation in our state," said Georgia's Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The help Lauri Jo's business has received has her planning to build a processing plant in Norman Park after the first of the year.

"It's very humbling I can't believe that this has happened, but we just have good products and lots of faith and the good Lord has just blessed us in every way," said Bennett.

Promising more jobs to come.

Lauri Jo Bennett has the land and they're working with the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness on the funding. She says when her business grows, so does the business for local farmers where she gets her products.

The Center of Innovation for Agribusiness will be available to talk about opportunities all week at the Expo. They also have an International Trade Division to connect Georgia suppliers with international exhibiting companies.


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