This year for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards dinner, the Chamber created a new award category in honor of one who consistently and tirelessly worked to make a positive difference in the lives of those not only in this community but also throughout the region and state -- one who went about his work without any desire to be recognized nor expectation of accolades. Rather, his motivation ran much deeper and without a doubt, was acknowledged with “well done thy good and faithful servant” at the time it mattered most. This award is named the Garland Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Garland Thompson was a true giant within the fields of economic development and agriculture. He played a direct role in the economic development of Douglas and Coffee County and was instrumental in recruiting and/or relocating numerous businesses to the area, including Fortune 500 companies. In 2007, Georgia House of Representatives created a resolution recognizing and commending Garland for his tireless efforts as an advocate for economic development in Douglas and Coffee County. Among the dozens of accolades he received during his lifetime, Garland was inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Garland passed away on Dec. 17, 2018, following a brief illness, leaving a void in Coffee County and throughout the state that will not soon be filled.
The Garland Thompson Lifetime Achievement award will be bestowed upon a deserving individual whose contributions to this community align with those of his own. This year the individual who is well-deserving, one who also works tirelessly for the good of his community, one whose passion continues to help drive economic development in the Douglas-Coffee County area, and one whose impact can be seen simply by driving through the city.
The first recipient of the Garland Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award is Francis Lott.
Francis is a native and lifelong resident of Douglas, graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology 1959 with a degree in Architecture. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Francis Lott served five years as an officer in the United States Air Force, then returned to his hometown of Douglas, where he joined family-owned Lott Builders Supply Co. Beginning in 1981, he established Lott Properties Inc. and led his family’s diversification into real estate development, which grew to over 40 properties, many in Douglas. In addition, Francis was a founding board member of Douglas National Bank, and he served for 22 years on the Board of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He currently serves on boards for the Community Foundation of Coffee County and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Foundation.
A former chair of the local chamber of commerce, he has tirelessly volunteered his time and money to help drive improved economic growth for Coffee County. In the late 1970s, Francis initiated a community-funded speculative industrial building program in Douglas, which has developed four 100,000 square foot buildings, to date, to help attract industrial prospects. He has developed shopping centers, restaurants, apartments, single-family subdivisions, self-storage facilities, and more. He has been cited as a “driving force” behind formation of the Douglas-Coffee County Jobs Development Council and actively involved in helping recruit industries to the community for 40 years, helping create more than 3,800 new jobs, over time.
In 2004, Francis established an Economic Development Fund, with a $1 million endowment to the Community Foundation of Coffee County (CFCC) to help drive improved economic development and community growth. Francis purchased the abandoned downtown Belk Hudson building in 1998 and completely renovated it in 2004 as a mixed-use business facility. Renamed The ATRIUM, he gifted the building to the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Development Authority in 2014, then designed and built new state-of-the-art Chamber of Commerce offices with 4,000 square feet and a 260-seat event center in the basement.
Mr. Lott’s community efforts haven’t gone unnoticed statewide. Francis is one of only two people to ever receive the Volunteer of the Year award twice from the Georgia Economic Developers Association, in 1995 and again in 2015. He’s also long been a champion of higher education and Georgia Tech, in particular. In 2015, Francis and his wife, Diane, endowed $500,000 to the G. Wayne Clough Georgia Tech Promise Scholarship Program to help provide a debt-free Georgia Tech education for students who otherwise could not afford to attend, with priority given Coffee County residents. Francis also makes frequent visits to local schools, where he’s inspired several high school students to attend college and to apply to Tech, if they do well in math and science. Numerous CHS graduates are enrolled at Georgia Tech with several on Promise Scholarships endowed by Francis and Diane. Most recently, Mr. Lott was honored at the 2018 Gold & White Georgia Tech Alumni Gala as the recipient of the Dean Griffin Community Service Award which recognizes alumni who have performed exemplary community service.
- Wilkes family celebrates grand opening of State Farm agency
- Chamber of Commerce names Coffee County School System its Community Partner of the Year
- Premium Waters receives Industry Partner of the Year Award
- Kayla Sellers: Small Business Partner of the Year
- David Varnedore receives Entrepreneur of the Year Award