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Savannahians among Georgia Trend’s ‘most influential’

  • Special photo W.Todd Groce, President and CEO Georgia Historical Society.
  • Special photo W.Todd Groce, President and CEO Georgia Historical Society.
  • Griffith V. Lynch Executive Director, Georgia Ports Authority
  • Trip Tollison President and CEO Savannah Economic Development Authority
  • Jaimie Hebert President, Georgia Southern University

Georgia Trend magazine’s much-anticipated annual list of the 100 Most Influential Georgians is out – and area leaders are well-represented in 2017’s version.

“For this, our 19th list, we have included many of the usual suspects — politicians, CEOs, college presidents — but we’ve also added a number of new names and faces to the list,” the magazine said.

“All are people who inspire, exasperate, lead — and influence us.

“Some work behind the scenes and some are recognized in every corner of the Peach State. But they have one thing in common: Each has an enormous impact on the daily lives of Georgians.”

Making the top 100 list from the Savannah area was Todd Groce of the Georgia Historical Society, Georgia Southern University President Jaimie Hebert, Griff Lynch of Georgia Ports Authority and Trip Tollison of Savannah Economic Development Authority.

Making the “Notable” list was Holmes Bell IV of the Savannah engineering firm of Hussey Gay Bell, Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach and Jannine Miller, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics.

W. Todd Groce, President and CEO, Georgia Historical Society

One of the leading public history executives in the country, Groce was named executive director of GHS in 1994. In 2006, he was elected the institution’s 43rd president, where he is responsible for guiding the premier independent statewide institution charged with collecting, examining and teaching Georgia history.

Last spring, he led the society in celebrating the publication of the 100th volume of the award-winning Georgia Historical Quarterly. His organization, along with the Office of the Governor, also manages the annual Georgia Trustees program, the highest honor the state bestows.

“The essence of what it means to be an American can be found in our history,” he says, “When we understand the story of our unique democratic institutions and traditions, how they were created and the sacrifices that have been made to expand our liberties, we understand America. That’s why it’s crucial that we teach our state’s and nation’s history. The survival of the republic depends upon it.”

Jaimie Hebert, President, Georgia Southern University

Hebert, former provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sam Houston State University in Texas, was named president of Georgia Southern University in July 2016. He joins at a key time, with a record 20,673 full-time students this fall. The university, which has a regional economic impact of $846 million, offers 125 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree programs. He will also be a major player in the merger of GSU and Armstrong State University.

“The economic potential in Savannah is enormous, and we want to be players in that economic growth. We want to be the catalyst. We have an opportunity here to create an institution that can join the strengths of these two campuses together.”

Griffith V. Lynch, Executive Director, Georgia Ports Authority

Formerly GPA’s chief operations officer, Lynch was named executive director of the nation’s fastest growing and fourth-busiest container terminal in 2016. The state’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals contribute $20.4 billion in income, $84.1 billion in revenue and $2.3 billion in state and local taxes, while supporting more than 369,000 jobs across Georgia. Lynch has the GPA firmly on an upward trajectory with his first major initiative, the Mid-American Arc, which sets the stage for GPA to capture market share well beyond its perimeters. Dovetailing with the completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project in 2020, the Mid-American Arc will grow the ports’ rail capacity, creating economic benefits to the area, the state and nation.

“The enhancement of our rail capacity is a game-changer in the market that serves cities ranging in an arc from Atlanta to Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and the Ohio Valley. The construction of the Port of Savannah International Multimodal Connector will create the largest on-port rail facility of its kind on the East Coast - all within the terminal’s current footprint.”

Trip Tollison, President &CEO, Savannah Economic Development Authority

As head of SEDA, Tollison’s mission is to create, grow and attract jobs and investment to the Savannah area. In 2015, the organization helped bring 17 new projects, 667 jobs and $204.7 million in investments to the region. Last year, SEDA’s successes included the creation of the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, a four-county development group committed to working projects along I-16; more than $61 million in direct spending by the entertainment industry and the launch of the Savannah Entertainment Production Rebate Incentive; the purchase of a 685-acre parcel in west Chatham County for a new business park; and the return of 14 parcels of improved land to the county tax digest, resulting in nearly $3 million in additional property tax revenue.

“Think about it - 10 years ago, these 14 properties collectively were paying less than $225,000 annually in property taxes. So we take 10 years, help the companies get established and grow without the burden of property taxes. Today, those companies are back on the tax digest, where their collective tax bill is now nearly $3 million on an annual basis.

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