President & CEO

Frankie Atwater, Sr.

Email
Direct Line:
  470-355-7818


Mr. Atwater has over 25 years of experience as a Community and Economic Development professional, leading small and large government departments, and operations. Some ask, what is a Community and Economic Development professional? Community and Economic Development Professionals help people build community capacity, develop sustainable communities, enhance the local economy, improve community services, infrastructure, and work with community members to build shared visions of the future. Throughout his 25+ years of experience, Mr. Atwater had the privilege of leading a state office in administering over $700 million in federal and state resources and stabilizing an economic development loan portfolio consisting of $140 million in public funds allocated to 175 local governments. He collaborated with federal partners to create capital access to a $130 million economic development loan program for businesses and local governments. He continues to his success in leveraging resources to obtain funding for economic development initiatives, some that have attracted over $100 million in public/private investment. Mr. Atwater has served on various Boards, planning committees and neighborhood strategic planning groups, with a purpose of increasing opportunities for the most vulnerable and to stabilize economically distressed neighborhoods.

Mr. Atwater is originally from Rock Island, Illinois, a small city adjacent to the Mississippi River across from Davenport, Iowa. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with an undergraduate degree in Community and Regional Planning. Mr. Atwater obtained his master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on Business and Public Administration from Drake University located in Des Moines, Iowa. Formerly a world class track and field athlete and Division I collegiate record holder, Frankie enjoys his free time playing golf, exercising, and enjoying life with his wife Dr. Shonna Atwater and kids.


Learn More about Frankie

Mr. Atwater has over 25 years of experience as a Community and Economic Development professional, leading small and large government departments, and operations. Some ask, what is a Community and Economic Development professional? Community and Economic Development Professionals help people build community capacity, develop sustainable communities, enhance the local economy, improve community services, infrastructure, and work with community members to build shared visions of the future. Throughout his 25+ years of experience, Mr. Atwater had the privilege of leading a state office in administering over $700 million in federal and state resources and stabilizing an economic development loan portfolio consisting of $140 million in public funds allocated to 175 local governments. He collaborated with federal partners to create capital access to a $130 million economic development loan program for businesses and local governments. He continues to his success in leveraging resources to obtain funding for economic development initiatives, some that have attracted over $100 million in public/private investment. Mr. Atwater has served on various Boards, planning committees and neighborhood strategic planning groups, with a purpose of increasing opportunities for the most vulnerable and to stabilize economically distressed neighborhoods.

 

Mr. Atwater is originally from Rock Island, Illinois, a small city adjacent to the Mississippi River across from Davenport, Iowa. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with an undergraduate degree in Community and Regional Planning. Mr. Atwater obtained his master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis on Business and Public Administration from Drake University located in Des Moines, Iowa. Formerly a world class track and field athlete and Division I collegiate record holder, Frankie enjoys his free time playing golf, exercising, and enjoying life with his wife Dr. Shonna Atwater and kids.



Director of Operations

Stefani Strength

Email
Direct Line:
  470-355-7824


Ms. Strength has been in the Chamber industry for over 15 years, starting as an intern with the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau. Serving as Vice President of Operations, Strength had oversight of a $900,000 organizational budget to grow and retain members as well as develop and implement the programs and strategies to accomplish the Chamber’s goals and priorities each year. Her successes include directing and executing 13 annual Leadership Lumpkin programs and classes that cultivated 280 potential leaders; creation and launch of the Lumpkin Youth Leadership program for high school sophomores and the Inspire Women’s Luncheon series attracting well-known speakers to repeatedly sold-out events. She also served as the lead planner and director of the Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty Bicycle Ride for 14 years, raising over $3 million for the Chamber’s operating revenue. In 2017, Ms. Strength led the Chamber as Interim President for six months during a transitional period, restructuring the organization and realigning its programs and events with its mission.

Ms. Strength is originally from Waco, Texas and is a graduate of North Georgia College & State University (now the University of North Georgia) with an undergraduate degree in Business. On the weekends, you can find Stefani completing home improvement projects on her fixer-upper, hunting for treasures at antique stores, and spending time with her husband, two bonus kids, and two cats.


Learn More about Stefani

Ms. Strength has been in the Chamber industry for over 15 years, starting as an intern with the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber & Visitors Bureau. Serving as Vice President of Operations, Strength had oversight of a $900,000 organizational budget to grow and retain members as well as develop and implement the programs and strategies to accomplish the Chamber’s goals and priorities each year. Her successes include directing and executing 13 annual Leadership Lumpkin programs and classes that cultivated 280 potential leaders; creation and launch of the Lumpkin Youth Leadership program for high school sophomores and the Inspire Women’s Luncheon series attracting well-known speakers to repeatedly sold-out events. She also served as the lead planner and director of the Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty Bicycle Ride for 14 years, raising over $3 million for the Chamber’s operating revenue. In 2017, Ms. Strength led the Chamber as Interim President for six months during a transitional period, restructuring the organization and realigning its programs and events with its mission.

 

Ms. Strength is originally from Waco, Texas and is a graduate of North Georgia College & State University (now the University of North Georgia) with an undergraduate degree in Business. On the weekends, you can find Stefani completing home improvement projects on her fixer-upper, hunting for treasures at antique stores, and spending time with her husband, two bonus kids, and two cats.


Membership Director

Carlandria Hayes

Email
Direct Line:
  404-378-8000 Ext. 226


Ms. Hayes is a versatile leader with over 14 years of experience in strategic partnerships, program/event management, media production and client relations.

Before joining the Chamber, Ms. Hayes served as an Area Executive for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta where she recruited and engaged troops and leaders in Bartow, Floyd, Paulding, Haralson and Polk counties. Prior to relocating to Atlanta, she was a Partnership Specialist for the US Census Bureau in Missouri where she developed strategic relationships with local governments, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based and educational institutions to encourage their stakeholders and the public to support the 2020 Census. Ms. Hayes also served two terms at Explore St. Louis, lastly as Director of Partnership, leading the membership team in generating over $550,000 in revenue and engaging over 800 hospitality organizations. Other companies Ms. Hayes served at include FOCUS St. Louis, St. Louis Healthy Families, and KMOV-TV. Recognitions include the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta’s Performance Award – Outstanding Project (2021), two US Department of Commerce’s Performance Awards (2020), North County Inc.’s “30 Leaders in their Thirties” Award (2013) and St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission’s Hospitality Hero Award (2007).

Ms. Hayes holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University with dual minors in entrepreneurship and entertainment technology. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in digital and multimedia studies from Lindenwood University. Currently, Ms. Hayes serves on the board for A Seat at the Table in St. Louis and is an active volunteer at The dReam Center Church of Atlanta. A native of Atlanta, Ms. Hayes spends most weekends being a tourist in her hometown with her daughter, Chakira.


Learn More about Carlandria

Ms. Hayes is a versatile leader with over 14 years of experience in strategic partnerships, program/event management, media production and client relations.

Before joining the Chamber, Ms. Hayes served as an Area Executive for Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta where she recruited and engaged troops and leaders in Bartow, Floyd, Paulding, Haralson and Polk counties. Prior to relocating to Atlanta, she was a Partnership Specialist for the US Census Bureau in Missouri where she developed strategic relationships with local governments, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based and educational institutions to encourage their stakeholders and the public to support the 2020 Census. Ms. Hayes also served two terms at Explore St. Louis, lastly as Director of Partnership, leading the membership team in generating over $550,000 in revenue and engaging over 800 hospitality organizations. Other companies Ms. Hayes served at include FOCUS St. Louis, St. Louis Healthy Families, and KMOV-TV. Recognitions include the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta’s Performance Award – Outstanding Project (2021), two US Department of Commerce’s Performance Awards (2020), North County Inc.’s “30 Leaders in their Thirties” Award (2013) and St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission’s Hospitality Hero Award (2007).

Ms. Hayes holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University with dual minors in entrepreneurship and entertainment technology. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in digital and multimedia studies from Lindenwood University. Currently, Ms. Hayes serves on the board for A Seat at the Table in St. Louis and is an active volunteer at The dReam Center Church of Atlanta. A native of Atlanta, Ms. Hayes spends most weekends being a tourist in her hometown with her daughter, Chakira.