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Student group honors 2 local businessmen
Organization began in Gainesville in 1998
Gus Whalen, right, and Jim Walters chat Thursday evening at the Chattahoochee Country Club during a Junior Achievement banquet. The organization inducted both men into the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame.

Jim Walters and Gus Whalen do more than just impact the local economy.

Junior Achievement honored the two local men's accomplishments Thursday night as they were inducted into the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame.

"They've given so much back to the community," said Tanya Applebaum, director of education for Junior Achievement, which puts on the event honoring the inductees. "They've done a lot, socially and economically. ... I think they're great role models for students."

Walters is president and CEO of Gainesville-based Walters Management Co. Whalen is one of the founding partners of the Featherbone Communiversity. But their involvement extends far beyond those offices.

Walters has lived in Gainesville since 1970 and serves on boards for the Department of Natural Resources, the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation and Elachee Nature Science Center. He's been awarded an honorary doctorate in law from Brenau University for his work as secretary of the Board of Trustees, and the local J.A Walters Family Branch YMCA was named in his honor.

Nonetheless, Walters said he was surprised when he learned he had been selected for the hall of fame.

"I'm certainly humbled," he said. "It's nice to be honored this way."

Whalen, a Gainesville resident since 1956, became the president of his parents' business, The Warren Featherbone Co., at age 29. In 2005, he transformed the company into the Featherbone Communiversity, which has served as a community education center ever since. Whalen also serves on boards for Gainesville City Schools, North Georgia Health System Inc. and the Georgia State Workforce Investment Board.

"I've been involved in business for many years," Whalen said. "And I've also been fortunate to have been able to be involved in many different areas of community life as well. ... Over a lifetime, the community gives all of us so much. So it's important for all citizens to give back to the community and hopefully make it better for future generations."

A crowd gathered at the Chattahoochee Country Club not only to honor Walters and Whalen but also to support the efforts of Junior Achievement.

Since its beginning in Gainesville in 1998, Junior Achievement has worked with more than 80,000 North Georgia students, grades kindergarten through 12th, teaching them about financial literacy, global markets and entrepreneurship.

"We are an enhancement to what the teachers are already teaching," Applebaum said. "When students hear our programs, they see they can get out there, get educated, get a job and have a successful life also."

The proceeds from the event will fund future Junior Achievement programs.

"(The event aims to make) people aware of Junior Achievement and what we do as far as educating and inspiring young children," Applebaum said, "as well as getting more funding for our programs so we can impact more students."