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Taking Flight – November 2020

Message from the Dean

I’m using my column this month to talk about fundraising. The issue is on my mind because we recently hired a new development director. Mr. Robert Grant will come on board December 1, and I couldn’t be more excited. Robert has a strong background in development, having worked most recently with Junior Achievement of Georgia. As a result, he has a strong network of connections across the state and around the southeast. With so many good things happening, with a COVID-19 vaccine in the offing, and with so much opportunity and growth in the region, I believe the timing is right for a vigorous fundraising effort, and I believe Robert is the right person to spearhead the work for the Parker College.

All of which raises the question of why fundraising is so important in a state-supported, public institution. Well, there are a lot of reasons, but, rather than go through them individually, I’ll focus on one, overarching explanation: competition. Our competitors are not standing still; instead, they getting better at what they do. They are doing so because of donations, that provide resources on top of what they receive from public sources. Within a 300-mile radius of my office, there are no less than eight, R-1, major universities; virtually all have business schools that are named and nationally recognized. In addition are more than a dozen, regional schools, all of which want to grow, to expand, and to build market share. In that 300-mile circle are dozens of competitors, all of which graduate students who compete with our graduates, who compete with us to recruit and hire the best faculty, and who work tirelessly to attract bright students and the most supportive and recognizable corporate partners. Even if we are doing well in this competition, which we are, we will lose ground if we stand still for even a moment. So, the “why” is to remain competitive, to keep pace, to recruit the best students and faculty, and to give our graduates and alumni increasing levels of support through investing in the things that add value to their degrees. 

That brings me to the “what”; what do we do with private donations? Here again, are lots of things, all of which fall under the heading of investing in the value of our programs and degrees. For example, private gifts fund scholarships, which help us to recruit and retain the best students, many of whom would choose one of our competitors if those scholarships were not available. We use private dollars to support our faculty, with salary support, with travel funds, and with the databases, computers, and software packages they need to be successful. Again, without that support, those faculty might choose another university. We invest in programs; the Parker Business Scholars Program, for example, runs on private support that provides funds for speakers, for travel, and for professional development.  All of our major competitors offer similar programs with the support of their donors. Finally, we invest in our facility. While we’re appreciative of our building, many of our competitors have built new facilities with state of art classrooms, financial learning labs, interview and collaboration spaces, as well as cutting-edge technology. Again, we’re holding our own. But to really compete and move up, we need the support of our friends and alumni. 

So, why is fundraising important? Well, because we can’t compete without it. Which brings me back to our new development director. I am excited to have Robert join the team because he shares our passion and vision for a business school that is prominent and competitive—in Georgia, throughout the region, and across the country. We believe it’s possible, and we’re working hard, every day, to make it so. Put differently, with your support, we believe we can make the Parker College degree among the most valuable and sought after anywhere. Now, it’s time to get busy.  

Alumni Spotlight – Kenny Ciarletta

Kenny Ciarletta (ECON, 2019) is a senior analyst in the management consulting division of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Columbia, SC. Because his responsibilities vary depending on the project or client PwC is working with, Kenny describes himself as like a “magic putty” that can fit into the positions needed. Essentially, Kenny is a resource that PwC uses to help implement strategy and innovation from a management perspective for prospective clients. He holds meetings with key stakeholders of businesses to determine paths forward and where to steer teams’ conversations to better outfit the firm’s clients with proper direction and motive. Kenny really enjoys the freedom to choose the best way to tackle client problems his position at PwC affords him. He firmly believes this flexibility is the best way to learn to be an all-around professional asset because the skillsets learned have multiple applications.

Prior to joining PwC, Kenny worked in Washington, DC, for a Senator who unexpectedly had to retire due to ongoing health concerns. Unfortunately, a number of staff members left the office requiring those who remained to pick up the slack. By the end of the Senator’s term, Kenny had had a massive increase in responsibility that required him to learn at an excruciating pace. Though things did eventually slow down, and Kenny learned a multitude of new skills that he is able to use at PwC, he is most proud of having his name spoken on the Senate floor and written into the Congressional Record.

Kenny credits the Parker College of Business with teaching him accountability and preparedness, to fail and to succeed, to recover from failure without losing his confidence or dedication, and to learn and comprehend why knowledge is an invaluable privilege. From Parker, he learned how to behave in a business setting and how to work hard (and long) to achieve a goal. The connections he gained from Parker College directly led to his position in the U.S. Senate. He later used the tools he acquired while at Parker to transition into his position at PwC. Kenny believes the Parker College of Business gave him many experiences and business acumen that candidates from other schools cannot and do not leverage.

While at Georgia Southern, Kenny’s favorite classes were applied econometrics, operations management, principles of management, labor economics, and intermediate macroeconomics. He says these classes had some of the best teachers in the Parker College of Business and made it a joy and a privilege to learn. Some of his other lasting memories include preparing to go to intellectual war with the comrades to the left and right, preparing for tests or project deadlines in the Henderson Library, the Boars Head Deli Sandwiches and Bagel Fries, working at the RAC with his best friends, playing intramurals at night, and going out to Blue Room, Gnat’s Landing, and Dingus Magee’s on the weekends.

Kenny admits that when he first began working at PwC, he was assigned a project and had no idea of how to do what was required. He had to reach out to all the resources the firm had available to learn to navigate his work environment. After many hours and much learning time, Kenny was able to provide a deliverable to the client of which he was proud.

In his spare time, Kenny enjoys working out, trying out the restaurants and bars in his area, spending time with his family, investing, and reading. In the future, he plans to make his way back to Washington, DC, in some way through lobbying.

Robert Grant Accepts Position as New Director of Development

We are excited to announce that Robert Grant has accepted our offer to be the new director of Development for the Parker College. Robert’s first day with the Parker College of Business will be December 1.

Robert comes to us after serving as director of Development for Junior Achievement of Georgia for the past four years where he led fundraising efforts for the Savannah region, including a $2 million lead gift for the new Junior Achievement Discovery Center set to open next year on our Armstrong campus. 

Robert is active in the community, having served as president of the Marlow Elementary PTO (Guyton) and as a board member of Backpack Buddies, Family Connections, Family Promise, Leadership Southeast Georgia and TEDxSavannah. He has also served as an elected member of the Effingham County Board of Education. Robert is a Rotarian, a graduate of Leadership Effingham (2015), Leadership Southeast Georgia, and the Georgia Academy for Economic Development (2018). He was honored in 2012 as the Herb Jones Volunteer of the Year and in 2009 with the Effingham YMCA Spirit of Volunteerism Award.

Parker’s Fueling the Community Golf Tournament Raises Record Amount for Local Education, Healthcare


The eighth annual Parker’s Fueling the Community Golf Tournament raised a record $137,000 to support education and healthcare in coastal Georgia and South Carolina.

All proceeds from the tournament will benefit local communities where Parker’s, CStore Decisions’ 2020 Chain of the Year, operates stores.

The 2020 Parker’s Fueling the Community Golf Tournament attracted 144 registered golfers from across the region, including a number of vendors, suppliers and supporters. A popular raffle included a wide range of prizes, from flat-screen TVs to beach cruisers. Tournament proceeds directly benefit education and healthcare in Georgia and South Carolina communities where Parker’s operates retail stores.

“We appreciate all the support from the sponsors and the players, year after year,” said Parker’s Chief Operating Officer Brandon Hofmann, who organizes the annual Parker’s Fueling the Community Golf Tournament. “This is a tournament that nobody wants to miss. It’s a great experience for a great cause.”

The Imperial Dade team—which included Daniel Gerkin, Brandon Rollins, Rob Freeman and John Marzetta—earned top honors at the golf tournament. The Wilson team won second place, and the Homrich Berg team took third place.

Tom Alshouse won the Longest Drive Contest, and Tom Feldman won the Closest to the Hole Contest. The scramble-format event also featured a catered barbecue lunch, live music and an awards ceremony.

Launched in 2011 with a mission to give back to every community where Parker’s does business, the Parker’s Fueling the Community charitable initiative distributes more than $200,000 annually to public and private schools throughout Georgia and South Carolina.

Through the Fueling the Community charitable giving program, Parker’s donates one cent from the sale of every gallon of gas sold on the first Wednesday of each month at all Parker’s locations to schools across Georgia and South Carolina. The funds raised by the golf tournament will supplement the one-cent Wednesday donations to help Parker’s support education and healthcare initiatives throughout the region.

Deeply engaged with the communities it serves, Parker’s endows the Parker’s Emergency and Trauma Center at Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Ga., and spearheads the Keep Savannah Clean anti-litter campaign. In 2019, Parker’s also donated a record $5 million to create the Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University.

Headquartered in Savannah, Ga., Parker’s has a commitment to exceeding customer expectations and has repeatedly been recognized as one of the nation’s leading convenience store and food service companies. Parker’s Kitchen, the new food-centric brand under the Parker’s umbrella, serves world-famous hand-breaded Southern Fried Chicken Tenders as well as made-from-scratch mac ‘n’ cheese, a breakfast bar and daily specials. The company’s popular Parker’s Rewards loyalty program, which includes more than 150,000 members, has saved Parker’s customers more than $15 million to date.

Students Help Paint Local Animal Adoption Center

from the University Newsroom

The Humane Society of Statesboro and Bulloch County (HSSBC) has a fresh coat of paint for its new adoption center thanks to a group of Parker College of Business students who spent the weekend rolling up their sleeves to help the community organization.

Parker Business Scholars Braylen Dixon and Alicia Martinez, as well as Jessey Alley, Addie Spinos and Christian Tinsley, all students in the Georgia Southern chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), an honorary organization for financial information students and professionals, painted the interior of the HSSBC’s new adoption center and the neighboring fence of a thrift store. 

“I personally chose to help the Humane Society because I believe in their cause and love animals,” said Alley. “Additionally, the office in Statesboro is not publicly funded, so it can use as much volunteer assistance as possible. The Humane Society is so important for our community; the fine people that give their time to help rescue and find homes for animals that might otherwise go neglected and hungry help keep pets safe.” 

The volunteers worked with Kania Greer, Ed.D., the president of HSSBC, to complete the project. Greer is also the coordinator of the Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education at Georgia Southern. 

“It was truly a labor of love for these students, and we could not have done it without them,” Greer said. “They didn’t miss a beat and have even offered to come back and do more if we need it done. It was such a joy to have them there. I think the highlight for me was just listening to their banter and their discussions of class and of what they were going to do for internships and after graduation. They were encouraging each other about classes and passing along information to each other to help with interviews.” 

BAP is an international honor society for accounting, finance and information systems students attending universities accredited by AACSB International: The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the European Quality Improvement System. As part of the requirements of being a member of BAP, the candidates and members must participate in community service and professional activities.

Parker College of Business Teams Advance to Semifinals of National Student Challenge

from the University Newsroom

After collaborating on 30-page pitch presentations and 90-second videos to convince selected retailers why and how their businesses should collaborate, two student teams from the Georgia Southern University Parker College of Business have made it into the semifinals of this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Student Challenge. 

The NRF Student Challenge gives undergraduate students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom in a real-world setting by creating a set of products and pitching them to judges that represent a major retailer with the goal of the retailer picking up the product line for its stores. 

“Congratulations to both of our NRF Competition teams for making it to the semi-finals,” said Kristen Ruhland, faculty advisor for the teams. “This is a wonderful accomplishment and we are very proud of the work they have done thus far.”

The two teams, which are made up of four students each, created a set of products to pitch and will present them to a panel of judges between Nov. 30 and Dec. 9. From there, selected teams will move on to the final round, which is set for January 2021. The winning team members will each receive a $6,000 scholarship to apply toward tuition. 

This year, students participating in the competition include Ye’Senia Agosto-Rivera, Kahleel Morman, Nicholas Sanchez, Katherine Trice, Brynna Chin-A-Young, Toni Librud, Mackenzie Miller and Brianna Shirey. 

Student teams from the Parker College of Business won the NRF Foundation Student Challenge in 2017 and 2020, were semifinalists in 2019.

The challenge is exclusively open to students who attend NRF University Member Schools. Participating students must be sophomores, juniors or seniors. Since its launch, the NRF Student Challenge has provided nearly $300,000 in scholarship funds to students throughout the country and career opportunities.

Parker Scholars Welcome Guest Speakers Greg Parker, President Kyle Marrero and LTG Les Smith

Greg Parker fields questions from Parker Scholars students.

Fridays in November were especially informative for the Parker Scholars as three different guest speakers were able to meet with them. Greg Parker, founder, The Parker Companies, showed the Scholars a brief video depicting various advertisements about the Parker Companies. After a short speech about how he began his career, Parker spent nearly two hours answering Scholars’ questions about his leadership style; background; career advice; and the goals, strategy, and operations of the Parker Companies. The Scholars asked so many questions that Parker never even got to his fully prepared speech.

Next, Kyle Marrero, president of Georgia Southern University, came and spoke about the leadership challenges at a large institution and the career path that led him to Georgia Southern. Specifically, he explained how a musician became president of a regional university and provided insight into navigating and leading through uncertain times. Marrero imparted his secret to impactful communication and, thus, impactful leadership before offering advice about how to know oneself and to be one’s true self even under pressure to be someone else. In order to define the people they aspire to be, Marrero took the Scholars through a series of questions before giving them a closing assignment with additional questions.

Finally, LTG Les Smith (ACCT, 1985) met with the Scholars via Zoom to discuss his experiences with leadership in the U.S. Army and with the Department of Defense using the philosophy of command, servant leadership, and trust. He showed the Scholars two videos, “Why We Fight” and “Army Profession” to emphasize his points before closing by explaining the importance of relationships.

Thank you to Mr. Parker, President Marrero, and LTG Smith for their insights on leadership. For more information on the Parker Scholars program, please contact Danielle Smith, director, Experiential Learning & Student Engagement, at

Finance Association Hosts Alums as Guest Speakers

The Finance Association welcomed alumni Sydney Wiley (FINC/ECON, 2019) and Nicholas Farmer (FINC, 2019) for the third Guest Speaker Series event of the semester on Wed., Oct. 28. Sydney is a financial analyst with Equifax, based in Atlanta, and Nicholas is a global markets intelligence analyst with IHS Markit in Raleigh, NC. Sydney was a member of the Eagles on Wall Street 2019 class, and Nicholas was a member of the Southern Investment Association (SIA) among other campus activities.

Sydney provided an overview of Equifax and her role within the company, outlining her primary job responsibilities that include profit/loss preparation, modeling, and analysis in the M&A area. She also reiterated how important networking and connections were for her in obtaining her internship prior to graduation, as well as landing her position with Equifax. She is in the firm’s rotational program, which covers three years and three different rotations, allowing her and other participants to get exposure to different parts of the company and really hone in on where they would like to specialize going forward.

Nick explained how his approach and route to IHS Markit differed from Sydney’s. Nick completed school in less than three years. As such, it was difficult to obtain an internship. In lieu of an internship, he focused on getting involved on campus and building his résumé in other areas. Nick is also an avid artist and has an interest in programming. He said all of these skills, but the SIA in particular, helped him during the interviews, stressing the importance of learning from mistakes made during the interview process to improve going forward. Further, he talked about the importance of being prepared to answer basic interview questions about yourself and how stressful it can be to have flyouts to several interviews while finishing the semester. Nick also spoke briefly about his company and what it does as well as his day-to-day responsibilities.

To wrap up, Nick and Sydney answered questions from students on topics ranging from where they see themselves in the next few years to what college classes and programs were most helpful in preparing for their jobs.  

Equifax is an American multinational consumer credit reporting agency, based in Atlanta, and is one of the three largest consumer credit reporting agencies, along with Experian and TransUnion. Equifax collects and aggregates information on more than 800 million individual consumers and 88 million businesses worldwide. Equifax has a presence in 24 countries around the world and employs approximately 11,000 individuals. To learn more, visit  

IHS Markit is a British information provider based in London, which was formed in 2016 with the mergers of IHS Inc. and Markit Ltd. The company has approximately 13,000 employees and customers in more than 140 countries around the globe. IHS Markit works with the investor relations teams of public companies and aids them in understanding how Wall Street reads their message and acts as an information broker between investors and their clients. For more information, visit

Parker College Supply Chain Management Students Participate in National Women in Supply Chain Symposium

Whether it was a high school internship, a parent working at the port, an informal career path conversation with a peer, or overall curiosity regarding the numerous intricacies necessary to deliver quality products on time, women are choosing to engage in the field of supply chain management (SCM). These examples are the motivations behind four current Georgia Southern women pursuing an undergraduate degree in SCM. Yet, these Parker College women find themselves outnumbered in their program as females account for approximately one out of every five undergraduate SCM students in the College today.

This statistic, however, is not unique to the Parker College SCM program as many undergraduate SCM programs work to attract more females. Unfortunately, the underrepresentation does not stop there since women in the supply chain management workforce are outnumbered by their male counterparts as well. More specifically, data compiled through Gartner’s 2020 Women in Supply Chain Survey revealed just 39% of the total supply chain workforce is female. Nonetheless, Gartner reports that SCM women have been identified as “underutilized resources” in the “war” for talent.

While professional organizations like AWESOME and CSCMP support efforts to engage and network women in SCM, a student-led organization at the University of Arkansas, Women Impacting Supply Chain Excellence, or WISE, is actively working to close the gender gap earlier in the pipeline. Georgia Southern alumna Stephanie Thomas (Ph.D. in LSCM) serves as WISE’s executive director.

WISE extended an invitation to Georgia Southern and 22 other institutions to participate in the “WISE Future Leaders Symposium 2020.” The day-long virtual event was held on October 24 and brought together 87 top undergraduate SCM students from across the nation in addition to several industry leaders from companies including JB Hunt and Johnson & Johnson, along with SCM faculty. The Parker College was represented by two seniors, Alecia Breen and Ana Ortiz-Contreras; two juniors, Allison Pickens and Kenlaysia Brown; and a faculty member, Amie Ellis.

Allison, a cooperative education student at Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, valued the advice shared by the speakers. “One of the biggest takeaways from the symposium was to take risk and to ‘run towards the fire.’ Be willing to do the jobs that others aren’t willing to do. Not only are you proving your abilities to handle any situation, but you are showing that you can handle whatever is thrown your way and in turn new opportunities open up for yourself that may not have been there before.”

Likewise, Ana, a graduating senior, focused on another message shared by session speakers as she is set to begin her career as an operations manager with Target Corporation in January 2021. “Something that I took away from the Symposium is to always think big. To be brave and bold in pursuing any goals or dreams no matter how challenging they may be. I will never know how great I can become unless I allow myself to try.”

Kenlaysia, a junior, will be embarking on her first SCM internship in Summer 2021. After attending the symposium, she is encouraged by her career choice. “Hearing women that are not only in leadership roles but have been in those roles for years is very inspiring.”

Alecia, an upcoming December graduate, will begin her career in January 2021 with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation as an associate buyer. Alecia appreciated the vast network she joined by participating in the symposium. “One valuable thing from the symposium was the ability to connect with others and hear new perspectives ranging from women who have been in the industry for a while to those who are just beginning.”

As events like the WISE Symposium fuel nationwide network growth, women like Ana, will continue to encourage more women to join her. “Women should major in supply chain management because of the wide range of career opportunities available. There is no limit to what can be achieved and how much someone can grow.”

SIA Stock Pitch Saturday and Nathan Ashcroft Scholarship

Nathan Ashcroft presents Kinley Stubbs with the Fall 2020 Nathan Ashcroft Scholarship.

On November 14, the 20 students of the Southern Investment Association and their advisers held the Fall 2020 Stock Pitch Saturday. The group was extremely excited to be back in-person. The students presented 11 stocks and discussed their potential inclusion into the portfolio. After careful deliberation, the group decided to include 8 stocks into their portfolio, which was rebalanced on Monday November 16. The students also said goodbye to three graduating officers (Wesley Martin, Tyler Collins, and Connor Lawson). Their dedication to the group over the past semesters was exemplary, and they will be greatly missed.

Additionally, Nathan Ashcroft (BBA, 2017; MAcc, 2018) personally presented Kinley Stubbs with the Fall 2020 Nathan Ashcroft Scholarship during the SIA’s Stock Pitch Saturday. This scholarship is awarded to the most influential SIA student of each semester. Kinley Stubbs serves as an energy sector analyst and is active in the marketing committee of the SIA. She has previously received several honors and awards and serves as the treasurer of the Finance Association. Nathan, CPA, CMA, is an SIA alumnus who works in the auditing department of Hancock & Askew’s Savannah office. Thank you, Nathan, for your generous support of the SIA and congratulations, Kinley!

MBA Students Polish Up Their Social Intelligence Skills

On Wed., Oct. 21, the MBA Program at the Parker College of Business hosted Perfectly Polished, an etiquette school founded in 1986 that promotes leadership, confidence and a higher level of standards, to campus as part of the new Parker Professional Enrichment Program (PEP), an initiative to bring experiential learning opportunities directly to MBA students who might otherwise be unable to participate.

MBA participants walked away with an elevated level of social intelligence that will lead to enhanced business relationships. The main component of the evening was to teach participants how to create and strengthen relationships in business and life. The Perfectly Polished presenters’ approach to modern day etiquette was not stuffy. 

“The passion for texting, emailing and social media has dulled our ability to hold quality, face-to-face conversations. When we increase our knowledge of social intelligence, our confidence and comfort levels grow to better establish a rapport and connect with our friends, family and community,” said Debra Lassiter, one of the evening’s presenters.

Through practice, the students learned that a good communicator knows how to put others at ease. The 90 minutes of laughter and hands-on interaction provided MBA students the knowledge for effective networking and professional success.
To learn more about the Parker College of Business MBA Program, visit, and to learn more about Perfectly Polished, visit

Virtual Business Abroad: Australia

Thanks to the travel limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, this semester’s Business Abroad trip to Australia had to be re-vamped. Fortunately, Danielle Smith, director of Experiential Learning & Student Engagement, and Michael Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Economics, were able to convert the “physical” trip to a “virtual” one. With the enthusiastic participation of the 20 students who signed up for the program, preparation classes began in October in order to familiarize the students with the countries and companies they would be “touring.”

Beginning with AIG Australia’s Lokesh Thondavada, head of Client Engagement, on November 2 and ending with Specialists in Business Analysis’s (Australia) CEO Tim Coventry on November 22, the students enjoyed a hectic schedule of mostly evening meetings with representatives from twelve companies and four countries. In order to accommodate the 14-hour time difference, most company meetings began at 5 or 7 p.m. Eastern.

Although the “trip” primarily focused on Australia, students also met with business leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region including those from Hong Kong (China), New Zealand, and Singapore. From these leaders, students learned about the greater missions and goals of each company, their current challenges, adjustments needed to successfully operate in the region, and the ways that cultural differences influence business practices in different countries. In addition, the students received professional and career advice, insight into the day-to-day activities and career paths of each speaker, and additional information about the various fields the speakers represent. Each student is also able to network by connecting on LinkedIn to remain in touch with the speakers.

In spite of the challenges, the students who participated in this virtual study aboard experience had many positive things to say. Kelly Patterson, marketing major, joined this “trip” because “even though we wouldn’t see each other in person, it was still an incredible experience to get to meet some Australian professionals and, maybe, one day meet them when the circumstances change.” She was especially moved by the plight of Rain Yang, finance director, The Coca-Cola Company (Hong Kong), who, thanks to COVID-19 is rarely able to see her husband because of Chinese quarantine rules. Her husband works 30 minutes away from their home in Hong Kong, but he cannot return home to see his wife and daughter because, to leave the Chinese state in which he works, he must quarantine for a full month first. Ms. Yang’s plight gave Kelly a new perspective on the impacts of this pandemic. Kelly also commented that she had “learned from multiple speakers … to not be afraid of failure. The more you fail at something the more you learn and the closer you are to achieving.” Kelly plans to take this lesson into her future endeavors.

Ye’Senia Agosto-Rivera, marketing major, noted that one thing that Scott Stuckmann, business executive officer, Nestlé Professional Oceania (Australia), said will stay with her throughout her career, “Luck favors the prepared. One of the steps to becoming unstoppable is to plan—to set the direction of where you want to go; and make choices along the way that you think will get you there. When you’re following your own course in life, it’s like a final exam every day, except there is no teacher telling you whether or not you made a mistake. The only way to keep track of what works and what doesn’t is to have a plan.”

Parker College would like to thank the business leaders who made the Fall 2020 Business Abroad: Australia program such a memorable experience for the student participants: Lokesh Thondavada, AIG Australia; Pat Williams, managing director, Edwards Lifesciences (Australia); Scott Stuckmann, Nestlé Professional Oceania (Australia); Rain Yang, The Coca-Cola Company (Hong Kong); Ann Lavin, senior director of Public Policy and Government Relations Asia Pacific, Uber (Singapore); Juliet Hull, general manager/country director, Johnson & Johnson (New Zealand); Arpan Banerjee, director strategy & operations, Deloitte (Australia); John Coombe, executive director, Jana Investment Advisory (Australia); Ciaran O’Shaughnessy, manager–Casualty, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (Australia); Nish Vithlani, CFO & company secretary, Costco Wholesale Australia; Rose Herceg, chief strategy officer, WPP AUNZ (Australia); and Tim Coventry, Specialists in Business Analysis (Australia).

Georgia Southern Releases Economic Monitors Q2 and Q3, Show Signs of Recovery in Savannah

from the University Newsroom

Georgia Southern’s Economic Monitor Q2 reports economy slammed by pandemic, slow recovery expected 

Georgia Southern University’s latest Economic Monitor, which analyzes Q2 2020 data and identifies trends affecting the regional economy, reports that economic activity in the Savannah metro area plunged during the second quarter. 

“Unprecedented declines were recorded in data characterizing the tourism and hospitality industry and more broadly, in the service sectors of the economy,” stated Michael Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway professor of economics. “The goods-producing sectors, which include construction and manufacturing, along with the logistics sector, experienced more modest declines by comparison.”

He also noted that while all six leading indicators declined in the second quarter, the worst appears to have passed. The regional housing market shows signs of strength, and total employment is beginning to bounce back.

Notably, the regional economy will begin to expand in the third quarter, he said, and while the percentage growth rates will seem exceptionally large, expansion to pre-pandemic economic activity will require quite some time. Substantial economic recovery, particularly in the service sectors with intensive levels of person-to-person interaction, will be delayed until an effective COVID-19 vaccine that increases the confidence of consumers is widely deployed.

Regional economy suffers

The Savannah metro economy severely contracted by 11.2% during the first full pandemic quarter. The coincident index of economic activity decreased to 170.2 from 191.8. As the effects of the pandemic reverberated through the regional economy, all coincident indicators of economic activity declined significantly during the quarter.

The sharpest declines, unsurprisingly, were in the regional service sector wherein tourism indicators and retail trade plummeted in unprecedented magnitudes. Total employment fell 10% while port activity declined 8%. Electricity sales to residential, commercial and industrial users were down modestly, falling 2% below year-ago levels.

Employment trends

Employment in Savannah’s three-county metro area was 167,100 for the quarter, a decline of 19,000 workers. At the low point in April, employment stood at 159,600 and recovered to 174,300 by June. In the service sector, which was hit the hardest by COVID-19 operating restrictions, leisure and hospitality recorded the largest decline of 10,300 jobs while retail trade lost 1,800 workers. Professional and business services sustained another blow, losing 1,100 workers, bringing the 12-month loss to 2,500 jobs.

Savannah metro area

The tourism economy suffered heavily in the second quarter. The 10,300 jobs lost represent a 38% decline in employment. In one quarter, the sector fell from its ranking as the largest sector to the fifth largest sector. Continued operating restrictions will constrain recovery even as business strategies evolve to confront the current reality of a severely hamstrung tourism economy. 

Of total new claims for unemployment insurance since March, 35% were filed by workers in the tourism sector, nearly three times the rate of the next two hardest hit sectors, health care and social service (11.9% of total claims) and retail trade (11.7% of total claims). Airplane boardings fell 86% from a monthly average of 104,000 boardings in the first quarter to about 15,000 boardings in the second quarter. Rental car tax receipts fell 65% while the fees collected from visitors on tours in Savannah plummeted 96% to less than $5,000 for the entire quarter. These are stunning and unprecedented declines. 

In the goods-producing sectors, manufacturing lost 1,500 workers, and construction lost 400 workers. On a relative basis, goods-producing sectors fared far better than service sectors. New claims for unemployment insurance in manufacturing were 4.2% of total claims filed since March, while construction’s share was 1.5% of total claims. The regional logistics industry shed only 200 jobs in the quarter, and the sector’s share of total new unemployment insurance claims was 3.5%. Manufacturing, logistics and construction employed 17,900 workers, 14,500 and 8,100 jobs, respectively.

Hourly wages in the private sector increased 2.7% to $22.47 as the regional economy shed a disproportionately higher number of lower wage service sector jobs. The length of the private sector workweek shortened 1.3 hours to 31.9 hours, which represents a 4% decline.

Modest recovery expected

The Savannah area business forecasting index plunged 17% during the second quarter of 2020. All leading indicators declined, primarily due to exceptional weakness in the labor market. Improving conditions in the housing market partially offset the fall in the forecasting index. 

In the regional housing market, the seasonally adjusted number of single-family homes permitted for construction increased 19%, rising to 743 units from 549 in the previous quarter. Average valuation per single family unit increased 2% to $224,300 from $219,700. This is approximately $1,000 less than the average during the previous four quarters. 

In the labor market, the average number of monthly initial claims for unemployment insurance increased to 24,917 from 2,942 in the first quarter. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 11.9% from 3.7% in the first quarter. The comparable unemployment rate from the previous year was 3.2%.

Wide swaths of the regional economy have been affected by the pandemic, but the distribution of economic pain is not uniform across sectors of the economy. The pullback in consumer spending and travel severely slammed the regional tourism and hospitality sector along with retail trade and services. Manufacturing and logistics have been spared the worst and are likely to recover more quickly than service sectors. 

As to the future, tentative signs of economic recovery should begin to emerge in the third quarter of 2020. The speed of rebound and recovery will be influenced primarily by how people react to governmental easing of restrictions on business activity and how employees and consumers navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic economy.

Toma said to anticipate seeing the beginnings of a modest economic recovery in the third quarter, but a more robust recovery will be delayed into 2021, more likely toward the end of the year for the consumer-based service sectors.

Savannah shows signs of recovery in Georgia Southern’s Q3 Economic Monitor report

Georgia Southern University’s latest Economic Monitor reports that Savannah showed signs of recovery in Q3, buoyed by increased real estate and regional employment, yet tourism, hospitality and retail industries will not return to pre-pandemic levels until there is wide deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine.            

“Economic activity in the Savannah metro area began to stabilize and rebound during the third quarter,” stated Michael Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway professor of economics. “More substantial recovery will be delayed, however, until the regional hospitality industry, and the service sector in general, return to early 2020 levels. There is little change in the forecast for those sectors: continued recovery will be slow until an effective COVID-19 vaccine is widely deployed.”         

Total regional employment increased notably along with port activity, but continued weakness in the tourism industry and retail trade undermined the recovery, Toma said. The service sector remains hobbled by the pandemic, and manufacturing unexpectedly tailed off during the quarter after standing up quite well initially in the recession. Growth continued robustly in the logistics sector.               

Regional economy still struggling

The business forecasting index declined for the third consecutive quarter. While the labor market appears to be rebounding, initial claims for unemployment insurance remained highly elevated. Notable strength in the housing market prevented the forecasting index from falling more severely. 

The business index for the Savannah metro economy declined 1.7% during the third quarter. The coincident index of economic activity decreased to 167.0 from 170.0.  The more general indicators of economic activity such as total employment, port activity and electricity sales improved, but the index was weighed down by continuing weakness in the tourism economy.   

Employment trends

Employment in Savannah’s three-county metro area averaged 177,100 for the quarter, a gain of 10,000 workers. At the low point in April, employment was 159,600 but recovered to 179,800 by September. The September job figure is 97% of its pre-pandemic level. Leisure and hospitality recorded the largest increase of 4,200 jobs while professional and business services recovered 2,100 workers. 

Job growth was limited to the service sector as the goods-producing sector shed 300 workers. Manufacturing fell to 17,500  jobs while construction gained 100 workers. The regional logistics sector added 800 jobs and employs 15,300 workers.   

Savannah metro area

The tourism economy continues to struggle. After falling to 13,600 workers in April, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector jumped to about 21,000 by July and inched up to 21,400 by the end of the third quarter. Even with this 25% one-quarter recovery, sector employment remains 23% below the pre-pandemic level. Airplane boardings increased more than200% from the second quarter, but any rebound from a very low bottom will yield an exceptionally large percentage gain. Boardings remain 63% lower than year-ago levels. Hotel room rentals remain down by roughly the same amount, and rental car tax receipts remain down by 39%.  

The rebound in the regional economy varies by sector. As noted in the attached chart, third quarter employment in Savannah’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is at 95% of its 2019 Q4 level. Tourism was hardest hit, dropping to 62% of its 2019 Q4 level and subsequently recovering to 77%. Manufacturing initially was relatively protected from the slump but extended the downward trend into the third quarter, falling to 91% of its pre-pandemic level. Logistics employment is fully recovered and is at 103% of the 2019 Q4 level. Retail trade largely mirrored total MSA employment and remains 5% below its pre-pandemic level.  

Hourly wages in the private sector increased to $23.18 from $23.03 in the previous quarter. The length of the private sector workweek shortened one tenth of an hour to 31.8 hours.      

Regional recovery will continue

The Savannah-area business forecasting index fell 3.7% during the third quarter of 2020. Part of the decline, however, is an artifact of the index methodology. Several of the underlying leading series rebounded from the previous quarter plunge, but the lag structure built into the index will delay the effects of the reversal from fully appearing in the trajectory of the forecasting index until the fourth quarter. 

The good news is exceptional strength in the regional home construction sector and improving conditions in the labor market appeared in the third quarter.  

In the regional housing market, the seasonally adjusted number of single-family homes permitted for construction surged 54%, rising to 743 units from 549 in the previous quarter. Average valuation per single-family unit jumped 16% to $260,900 from $224,300.  

In the labor market, the average number of monthly initial claims for unemployment insurance decreased 72% to 11,218 from 24,917 in the second quarter. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 6.9% from 11.9% in the previous quarter. The comparable unemployment rate from the previous year was 3.1%.

Near-term (six to nine months ahead) prospects for the Savannah metro economy are muted. The labor market recovery of the third quarter is unlikely to be repeated with the same magnitude in the fourth quarter. The easiest gains have already been recovered. Strong conditions in the housing market and logistics industry will support the regional economy, but constrained tourism and service sector growth along with emerging weakness in the manufacturing sector will limit upside potential. As before, more robust recovery will be delayed into 2021, more likely toward the end of the year, especially for consumer-based service sectors. 

A note from the analyst

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About the indicators

The Economic Monitor provides a continuously updating quarterly snapshot of the Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area economy, including Bryan, Chatham and Effingham counties in Georgia. The coincident index measures the current economic heartbeat of the region. The leading index is designed to provide a short-term forecast of the region’s economic activity in the upcoming six to nine months.

Faculty/Staff News

Jackie Eastman, Ph.D., professor of marketing, and Kevin Eastman, Ph.D., professor of finance, had their paper, “Reaching the Price Conscious Consumer: The Impact of Personality, Generational Cohort and Social Media Use” accepted by the Journal of Consumer Behaviour for a special issue on Personality and Consumer Behaviour (special issue editors Nina Michaelidou and Nikoletta-Theofania Siamagka). The Journal of Consumer Behaviour was rated as an “A” journal by the ABDC in December 2019. Congratulations, Jackie and Kevin!

Jackie Eastman, Stephanie Thomas, a Parker Ph.D. alum, and Monique Murfield, Ph.D., have had research accepted by the Journal of Supply Chain Management. The journal is considered a Level 4 journal in the Parker College of Business journal list, and the paper is due to be published in 2021 (Volume 57). Well done!

Richard McGrath, Ph.D., professor of economics, has provided expert commentary for MoneyGeek in regard to studies on affordable Georgia car insurance. To read his commentary, visit and Nice job, Rick!

Arda Yenipazarli, Ph.D., associate professor of operations management, had his manuscript, “The Marketplace Dilemma: Selling to the Marketplace vs. Selling on the Marketplace,” accepted for publication in the special issue of Naval Research Logistics on analytics and operations of online reading. Congrats, Arda!

Last updated: 3/12/2022