Chamblee firm chosen among Georgia’s Small Business ROCK STARS

Small businesses are the backbone of Georgia’s economy, according to Gov. Brian Kemp, who added that small businesses represent 99 percent of all businesses in the state. At the Georgia Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and in other settings, he noted that one of Georgia’s strengths is that its economy is built on both a variety of major corporations and a strong network of small businesses.

“Some states depend on two or three major industries and if one of them fails huge numbers of people in that state are out of work,” Kemp said. Georgia, he said, is not in that position thanks to its wealth of small businesses.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development—the state’s sales and marketing arm and the lead agency for attracting new business investment—recently recognized five small businesses that it calls Small Business ROCK STARS, explaining, “The awards salute risk, innovation, outreach, and impact.” Among this year’s ROCK STARS is Shear Structural in Chamblee, which was selected from Region 3, which includes DeKalb County.

The state’s only 100 percent women-owned, women-managed structural engineering firm, Shear Structural calls itself “a force in structural engineering.” The firm since its founding in 2017 has been involved in 26 award-winning building projects. Founders Karen Jenkins, Holly Jeffreys, and Malory Atkinson, according to the state, “intentionally brought three different perspectives to a very male-dominated high-tech industry.”
Representing different generations and career paths, the founders—including two who are the mothers of dependent children—say they are committed to diversity, flexibility, and empathy, the value of which was affirmed during the pandemic.

“We see value in having different backgrounds and perspectives at the company,” Atkinson commented in the announcement. “These qualities just make us better because we’re designing environments for people of all shapes and sizes, so we are able to address and problem solve for a variety of clients and preferences.”

Shear Structural, according to its owners, selects projects they feel will positively impact the community and the next generation. Their primary market sectors are education, healthcare, municipal work, and the area they say they are best known for—adaptive reuse—which is redesigning a building to make it suitable for a purpose other than the one for which it was originally built.

The company’s values, its owners said, also include giving back to the community. A “Go Beyond Profit” participant, Shear Structural pledges 10 percent of its profits to the community and does at least one free project annually for a community nonprofit. In 2022, the firm renovated the Chamblee Boys and Girls Club at no cost to the organization.

Of the 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, only 1.7 percent generate at least $1 million in annual revenue—considered in the business world to be the benchmark signaling legitimacy and success, according to the state. Shear Structural reached that milestone in its first year in business.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Small Business team, along with the Georgia Economic Developers Association, report that each of this year’s winners have fewer than 300 full-time employees, are involved in charitable programs in their communities, and were founded in Georgia. Shear Structural has 15 full-time employees and is licensed to operate in 11 states.

Georgia Economic Developers Association President and CEO Grant Cagle commented that companies such as the ROCK STARS “reflect the diverse interests and opportunities that make each Georgia community unique. This year’s winners represent a variety of industries and regions across the state, and we look forward to continuing to support these businesses and others like them.”

“From providing niche services to exporting in markets across the world, Georgia’s small businesses have an oversized positive impact in their communities,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Through an impressive 4,000 nominations, we have had the privilege of recognizing 50 Small Business ROCK STARS since the program’s inception. We’re excited to congratulate these special businesses as they are named ROCK STARS in Georgia.”

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