December Face of Manufacturing

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Wes Jones, Khatera Ballard, and Jackson Smith

‘Friends since elementary school, they each had ties to working in education.’

Jackson Smith and Wes Jones have been friends since second grade. The pair attended the same elementary, middle, and high schools, and even went to college together. They met Khatera Ballard in their early adult years, when she married one of their high school friends. They each began their careers on different paths. After attending Harvard University for her graduate studies, Ballard aspired to a career in higher education. Smith enjoyed writing, taught school in China for two years, and knew he wanted to use his creativity in a future career. Jones said he jokingly longed for a future in sports. “I wanted to be a basketball player, but my height and skills didn’t match up,” he said, laughing. “So I majored in business and began working for Teach for America.”

‘I basically talked my way into a job with a leader in the Gelato business.’

After leaving China, Smith moved to New York City in 2010 and began working as a tutor for the No Child Left Behind program, while searching for a permanent job. Finding work in the economic downturn was difficult and after applying and never hearing from hundreds of postings, Smith saw an ice cream production manager position on a local job board. Though he had an interest in the food industry, Smith did not have a culinary background, making him a long shot to receive a response to his application. To stand out, he filled the cover letter with his personality, including his wit and a hint of sarcasm. He was shocked when he received an interview and ultimately the job.

Impact 11

Helped Georgia companies create or save an
estimated 11,850 jobs

Impact 10

Helped Georgia companies secure $592 million in
government contracts

Impact 9

Helped ATDC companies achieve more than
$1.6 billion in revenue

Impact 8

Helped form 30 new companies based on GT intellectual property

Impact 7

Evaluated 235 GT faculty member research innovations

Impact 6

Served 505 technology startup companies

Impact 5

Assisted 96 minority entrepreneurs resulting in $93 million
in new contracts, sales, and financing

Impact 4

Helped Georgia Manufacturers slash operating costs
by $40 million

Impact 3

Helped Georgia Manufacturers increase sales
by $219 million