What does GFB represent? “Good For Business”.

There is a gap in coverage of business-related news, highlights and business education pieces between what is so well covered by the Triad Business Journal, the Charlotte Business Journal and the UpState Journal (UBJ) (Greenville, SC and Asheville area). The Unifour and surrounding areas rarely appear in those publications.

GFB Connect, Inc. the parent not-for-profit corporation fills that gap with an innovative approach to highlighting, looking behind the scenes and promoting small businesses, entrepreneurial enterprises and innovative businesses of any size.

While economic and business development has been thought of, by many, as only the recruitment to our area of larger, employee-heavy and tax advantaged companies, the stellar work of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation goes much further. The CCEDC promotes and facilitates local development and growth along with recruiting larger companies from outside Catawba County.

Still, a concentrated focus on small, local-ownership, family-owned businesses, innovative, and budding / seasoned entrepreneurs in our own Unifour area appear to be overlooked areas.

In addition to the no fee publications, GFB Connect will issue (i.e., GFB Monthly; GFB Now, and soon, Living Well In the Valley), the GFB Connect Board of Directors will be awarding “Great Start” Grants to both CVCC and LRU graduating (or recently graduated) high performing students as enticements to live and work in Catawba County. Additionally, a significant “Acceleration Grant” will be awarded annually to one entrepreneurial firm demonstrating good growth potential (being at least two years old) along with assurances to continue their residency and firm’s growth in Catawba County.

Our commitments are:

About Tony Jacksons – Managing Director of GFB Connect

Anthony K. Jackson, more commonly known as “Tony”, has been a fixture in the business and entrepreneurial scene in Catawba County since returning to Hickory in 1973 following his graduation from Lenoir-Rhyne University and short stints in the real-world.

Admittedly “not so good working for anyone else” Tony started businesses, partly for that reason and partly because he simply wanted to create something. While completing an M.B.A. at Wake Forest University’s Babcock School of Management, his first venture was named “A. K. Jackson & Associates, Inc.” (though it was just him for many years, no “associates”, just sounding bigger than it was) – a general purpose management consulting firm, “working for anyone that would hire me as a young 28-year old self-declared ‘consultant’”.

Still looking his age, Tony soon realized engaging a young consultant with no gray hair was a tough road, so naturally he took the most expedient route creating trust – “simply telling people I was 32”. That seemed to help as Tony’s solo practice as a consultant took shape by focusing on Leadership Development workshops, speeches and consulting with leadership teams. The firm grew rapidly. Strong recognition in the healthcare field encouraged him to focus on that area, resulting in a 40-year existence of the firm, 160+ client healthcare systems, over 50 employees, a broad array of services, the purchase of two related firms, and eventually the sell of the company then known as “The Jackson Group, Inc.” in 2015 to a high tech firm in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina.

During that 40-year run of the Jackson Group, Inc., Jackson also was instrumental in the growth of Jackson Creative, LLC (a full-service creative services firm), DriveLeadership, LLC, (a firm with a creative business model for developing individual leaders in organizations), Jackson Investment Group, LLC, and the short-lived Jackson Resource Group.

Supposedly retiring after 40 years of leading The Jackson Group and its antecedents (three name changes), Jackson found the stability of retirement annoying. So he ventured into “the second half of his life” by “re-treading” himself and starting a totally different venture, GFB Connect, Inc. This new venture, a not-for-profit entity, focuses on promoting growth and development of small, entrepreneurial and innovative companies in the “mid-western” section of North Carolina with its business-journal-like publications. In addition, GFB Connect, Inc. will fund entrepreneurial “Acceleration Grants” and new-graduate “Great Start Grants” as means of retaining talent in the Catawba Valley area.

Married for 50+ years to Margaret H. (Maggie) Jackson, who is enormously skilled in tolerating Tony, and who, for 40-years of The Jackson Group, Inc.’s life was a company co-owner and V.P., and amazingly shared an office with Tony for 40 consecutive years with only minimal spats, disagreements and space-hogging. She was often referred to by staff who knew them both as “Saint Margaret” for reasons Tony could not understand.

Their union produced three offsprings who are, each in their own ways, entrepreneurs. Alan as owner and major consultant with Footcandle, LLC, (a film society, producer of film festivals and consultant to budding filmmakers) and Jackson Insight, LLC (a consulting and survey services firm).

With his independent and entrepreneurial sister, Mary-Margaret Baker, they share leadership and creativity of Jackson Creative, LLC and the MESH, a podcast production company. Mary-Margaret is Creative Director and majority owner while managing and growing the company remotely from Washington (State).

Brian Jackson, PhD, Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Pacific University, Oregon, shares ownership of Jackson Creative/ MESH and Jackson Investment Group, LLC as well as serving as a consultant and Advisor to GFB Connect, Inc. Despite his teaching, coaching and Department Chairmanship duties, Brian is a contributing writer with GFB Connect and a podcast producer.

Tony says, “helping companies in our region develop, grow and acquire the talent so well-produced by both Lenoir-Rhyne University and Catawba Valley Community College is important to me. Even more so is our focus on small, locally owned, entrepreneurial and innovative businesses inevitably founded and managed by creative, resourceful, independent and committed people. From them we can learn a lot. We should highlight them, support their growth and applaud their existence. They are our economy’s greatest resources.”