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Guardian Centers Earns "Rock Star" Award

Kristin Moriarty/Staff Reporter•Sat, Mar 21, 2015

The Georgia Economic Development Association held its annual Small Business Rock Star Awards program Monday.

Out of 54 nominations, six businesses were recipients of the Small Business Rock Star Award. One of those was the Guardian Centers in Perry. Founder and CEO Geoff Burkart said he is flattered, honored and said it’s better than they deserve.

"The Guardian Centers is an advance training and validation center for military and civilian first responders,” said Burkart. "Our business model is structured around advanced curriculums, flexibility and responsiveness to the client. We’ve only been in business for two and a half years, and we are now being recognized in that space domestically and internationally as a destination one-stop shop for training exercises, validation and certification.

"We are very proud of that reputation and space. However, Guardian Centers personnel from the top down have to earn it every day.”

Burkhart added Georgia is a good place to be in business. He said it is "business friendly because it has an organization called Georgia Economic Development Association. They are a great sounding board to talk about doing business in Georgia. For example, how to get a business started, what are some of the things we would have to look out for, etc.

"I myself have never run a business on my own, and there was a lot I didn’t know. Thanks to GEDA, Houston County Economic Development, Perry Economic Development, all those agencies were instrumental answering our questions and helping us understand some of the expectations and pitfalls. Then when we needed assistance or exposure they were right there to help us every step of the way.”

Director of Entrepreneur and Small Business Development Mary Ellen McClanahan said the Georgia Small Business Rock Star Program started in 2013.

"We (GEDA) wanted to raise the profile of small businesses in the state,” said McClanahan. "What we wanted is for these businesses to tell us not so much their jobs and investment, but what unique approach they took. The criterion for the program is the business has to employ less than 100. Talk about their uniqueness, revenue increases, job increases, investments, and sales. How do they reach out to their local economic developer? Our message there is we want to show all of our economic developers who recruit the big companies and small. We are here to help them and they are there to help the businesses. Call for nominations go out in June/July through email, social media, and our mailing lists. You can nominate yourself or someone else can.”

"It’s not about placing the top three businesses,” McClanahan added. "There are five judges who individually score the businesses. Then we tally them up and look who stand out. This year we had 54 nominations. Six businesses won and we had seven honorable mentions. For Houston County’s winner the Guardian Centers they are unmatched with their competitors. They offer something that no one else has. With them being open for only two years they have increased jobs by 20 percent, and their revenue 400 percent. Those are some pretty big numbers. Also their revenue is generated globally and that’s something we look for is how far reaching are they. Every judge scored them very high.”

With this being the second year for the Small Business Rock Star Awards this is the first win for Houston County said McClananhan.

"In Georgia 98 percent of businesses employ less than 100,” said McClanahan. "That speaks volumes. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, through them more jobs are created, and revenue generated. They need to be recognized for the risks they take, and their passion. They supply what we need and love. Shopping at home is critical.”

— HHJ News

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