VALDOSTA -- City Manager Larry Hanson said Valdosta will receive between $715,000 and $750,000 in housing and urban development entitlement funds a year earlier than expected.

Speaking to the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Wednesday, Hanson said the city was initially not expecting the money until Oct. 1, 2004, but instead will receive the funds this year to improve substandard housing in the community. He said the city is receiving the funds early "because of all the preparation work we've done." The entitlement funds are directly tied to the city's new metropolitan status.

The Board also heard reports from Clarence Parker, chairman of the Airport Authority, and Vicki Hughes, assistant director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority.

Parker stated that the Valdosta Regional Airport is undertaking more than $1 million in improvements to the air field and is continuously looking for ways to make flights from Valdosta more competitive with other area airports.

Hughes updated the Chamber board on several projects, including Letica Corporation's new site and the recently dedicated Lake Park Incubator Park. She also requested that a member of the Chamber board visit an Industrial Authority meeting to keep them apprised of current projects.

In other business, Chamber Board Chairman Andy Deal welcomed new board member Hiram Rivera of MAAX Southeast, who replaced Joe Capers, the manager of J.C. Penney, who was recently transferred out of state.

The Board also heard updates from several Chamber committees:

Fred Wetherington of the Governmental Affairs committee said the Chamber is nearing completion of an agreement with the city and the county regarding the annual Legislative Bird Supper;

Kevin Griffin representing Leadership Lowndes said the group is accepting nominations currently for the 2004 year and is asking all alumni to submit at least three names. All nominations are due by Sept. 15;

Jennifer Powell, vice chairman of the Membership and Marketing Committee, said the Chamber has recruited 137 new members year to date, for a net gain of 24. Total membership stands at 1,333;

Kelli Davis of the Hahira Committee said the community has several events planned, including a Business Card Social on Aug. 28 at Chancy Drugs on Main Street from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Hahira will host the Chamber board at its October meeting;

Carla Penney, vice chairman of the Economic Development Division, said the annual Salute to Manufacturing will be held Nov. 13. Several new awards and recognitions have been added and in addition to the Manufacturer of the Year, awards will be presented to a Drugs Don't Work sponsor, a World Class Employee of the Year in manufacturing, and the first Well Workplaces will be recognized;

Steve Cooke of Triple Crown Hometowns said the program is seeking a $50,000 grant from the OneGeorgia Authority;

Randy Cox of the Technology Resources Committee said the Fourth Annual Technology Forum is scheduled for Oct. 14. He said the city of Valdosta's technology committee is interviewing four companies to conduct a feasibility study concerning the city's interest in entering the telecommunications business.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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