University of Georgia’s Public Service and Outreach is dedicating a staff position to south and central Georgia to support business and leadership development efforts in the region.


Jessica Walden, a native of Macon, Georgia, started April 1 in a position shared jointly between the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.  


“Our collaboration with the Fanning Institute will positively impact the university’s public service and outreach efforts throughout south and central Georgia,” said Allan Adams, state director of the UGA Small Business Development Center. “This position provides critical support in the areas of small business assistance and leadership training and development.” 


In her new SBDC role, Walden is responsible for identifying consulting, training and research resources as well as assisting communities in areas of leadership development and business creation, retention and expansion. 


In addition, she will continue to build relationships with chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations and the Fanning Institute’s other partners in central and south Georgia, identifying opportunities to develop and enhance leadership development programming throughout the region.


“Jessica provides a dedicated presence in the region day in and day out, enabling us to quickly respond to the leadership development needs communities and organizations across central and south Georgia face,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “We believe this will help us work with our partners to build a stronger Georgia through leadership development.”


Walden is a small business owner and long-standing supporter of south Georgia’s business and leadership community. 


Her previous experience includes the formation of a Macon music history tour company, Rock Candy Tours LLC. Since founding the company, Walden, along with her husband Jamie Weatherford, have conducted nearly 1,000 tours to visitors, locals and VIPs in their community of Macon. Their music history tours have received statewide recognition and national media attention through outlets like National Geographic, C-Span and National Public Radio. 


In addition to being a small business owner, Walden is a freelance writer and community engagement consultant. She is a graduate of Leadership Georgia and Leadership Macon and and Georgia Trend Magazine previously awarded her a “40 Under 40” recognition.