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Small business group honors businesses, community standouts

The Small Business Assistance Corporation hosted its 26th annual luncheon and awards ceremony Wednesday at Savannah Golf Club honoring businesses and community members dedicated to the area’s small business growth and success.

“In this country, there are 28 million small businesses and they account for 63 percent of net new jobs,” said Tony O’Reilly, SBAC president.

“Today we had the great honor of recognizing those in our community who are contributing to the area’s well-being in economic growth strategies and financing programs.”

The group recognized Gabe Thomas at SunTrust as the Small Business Lender of the Year. Small Business Lender of the Year goes to the loan officer most active in SBAC loan originations. For fiscal year 2017, Thomas partnered with SBAC on projects totaling $9 million, and since 2009, has originated SBA 504 loans with total projects of more than $30 million.

The Micro Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to the business Trinity J and D, owned by Deborah A. Oliver-Roberts, a foster child-placement service that is currently managing the cases of 33 foster children.

Oliver-Roberts and her manager, Janice Walker, came to SBAC in June of 2007 to get funding for their new business, and since then, have grown and returned to SBAC for some growth capital which would close the gaps in their accounts receivable and update their offices.

Ledesma Sports Medicine was presented with the Michael Bunn Sr. Memorial Rising Star Award. In 2010, Ernest Ledesma, Jr. and Kristina Bartiromo, co-owners of Ledesma Sports Medicine, LLC, came to First Chatham Bank and SBAC for a loan.

After five years of growth and success in their leased facility, they approached the bank and SBAC again – this time for the purchase of land and construction of their own, customized physical therapy center. SBAC teamed up with Dee Pinkney at First Chatham Bank to fund the $2.3 million dollar project which allowed the company to expand and own their own facility.

The T. McCoy Cornerstone Award, which recognizes the strength administration professionals impart to the many organizations they support, was presented to Zelda Mae James, MPA, director of the College of Business Administration’s Administrative Services for Savannah State University. Described as “the cornerstone of COBA’s Administration and chief consultant for faculty and staff,” she is known as a good listener, very organized and able to create solutions for the variety of challenges faced day-to-day in the diverse atmosphere in which she works.

In addition to the annual SBAC awards, the following retiring board members were recognized: Heather Coleman, Casper R. Callen Trust; Brendan Ferrara, Savannah Technical College; Charles Gillis, Georgia Banking Company, Dr. Carlton Middleton, Urban Family Chiropractic; and Rob Sparks, First Citizens.

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