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Business owners help others through financial education and opportunities

POSTED: March 8, 2013 1:06 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Georgia Mountain Food Bank board member David Sargent chats with Executive Director Kay Blackstock, right, and University of North Georgia President Dr. Bonita Jacobs on Thursday evening during the Junior Achievement of Northeast Georgia's Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame event at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

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Sometimes business owners don’t measure success by profits and sales, but by the doors their enterprise can open for others.

Three local business owners were inducted into Junior Achievement’s fourth annual Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

The three laureates were recognized for their involvement in the economic and civic development of not only Northeast Georgia but the entire state.

The awards were presented by area students to Tommy Bagwell, owner of American Proteins Inc.; Jan Cooley, CEO of Pro View Foods; and Bob Swoszowski, an owner and operator of 11 McDonald’s restaurants.

The lives and accomplishments of each winner were highlighted in a brief video presentation before the awards were given.

All the winners shared a common thread with their desire to help young people reach personal success through education and opportunities.

Swoszowski was recognized for his efforts to encourage financial success in students. This fall he sponsored JA Personal Finance at Gainesville High School. The program taught more than 360 seniors about savings, credit, budgeting and identity protections. He has been supportive of Challenged Child & Friends and provides Happy Meals on his visits to the center.

Swoszowski said he was a little intimidated when he learned he won the award, especially considering the accomplishments of previous recipients.

“But I am very honored, and very humbled too,” Swoszowski said. “When you get a reward like this you don’t think you’re ever going to get something like this, but you feel undeserving. Its just such an honor I feel stupefied.”

Bagwell said he was a bit surprised when he learned he’d won the award because he lives outside of the Gainesville area.

His business reaches across the state and into Alabama. American Proteins’ biggest operations are in Cumming, South Georgia and North Alabama. It includes the largest rendering plant in the world.

Bagwell has been involved in a number of local organizations including the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts and Forsyth County Rotary Club.

Bagwell said he felt flattered and honored to be recognized.

He said his company tries very hard to use philanthropy to meet the needs of the community closest to its operations.

“Since we know it’s a heavy industry, we try to give back as much as we can to a local community,” Bagwell said.
Bagwell encouraged the people in the audience to “build something.” He said it’s important to help people by enabling them to help themselves.

One way he and his company are able to do that is through annual scholarships to students.

Cooley also imparted some wisdom he’s picked up over his years in business.

He reminded the audience that they are only as good as the people they surround themselves with and explained that’s why he keeps good people at his company.

Cooley grew up “across the tracks” in the Gainesville Mill village. His father worked as a loom fixer there. Cooley started working in the poultry industry when he was a high school student and worked his way up to become the owner of his own poultry processing business.

He founded Kings Delight in 1987, which employed more than 1,000 people. He later sold the company in 2002 and opened Pro View Foods in Gainesville in 2008.

Cooley said it’s been a great experience being able to grow his business in the community and help others through his company. But he admitted he didn’t really want to accept the award because he’s a “low-key person.”

“Do I deserve all this?” Cooley said with a chuckle. “Probably not. I’m sure there are a lot of people in Gainesville that deserve it more than I do. But I’ll take it anyway.”


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