Meet the Team

Experienced professionals are key to the success of any economic development strategy. Our team includes experts with decades of experience in advising economic development and community leaders on how to stay competitive in an ever-changing global economy.


From left to right: Candice McKie, Leigh Hopkins, Alfie Meek, and Sam Pugh.

Alfie Meek, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Economic Development Research (CEDR) at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI²). Previously, he was the Chief Economist and Director of Economic Development for Gwinnett County, Georgia. Before that, he worked at the University of Georgia as the director of applied research for the Small Business Development Center. Prior to his time at UGA, Dr. Meek worked as a project director and economist for Georgia Tech’s Economic Development Institute. He also served as the Research Economist for SunTrust Banks, Inc.

Leigh Hopkins, AICP, is a Senior Project Manager with CEDR. As a planner specializing in economic and community development, Leigh empowers communities and economic developers with the tools to create a competitive workforce, enable sustainable development strategies, and build networks of innovation and entrepreneurship. Leigh works with her team at CEDR to help create the climate for communities and businesses to grow and thrive. Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Leigh worked as a senior urban planner for the City of Atlanta with a focus on zoning and development compliance, and also in the private sector as a planning consultant with a focus on place-based economic development issues.

Candice McKie is a Project Manager with CEDR. Candice is an economist with expertise in econometrics and fiscal and economic impact analysis. Her work includes managing and analyzing economic data, developing local economic indices for communities, researching innovative economic development strategies and conducting forecasts for local government. Prior joining CEDR, Candice worked as a program analyst for the Gwinnett County Division of Economic Analysis. Candice also worked with the University of Georgia’s Land Use Studies Initiative where she evaluated the impact of state tax reform proposals and co-authored a funding equity study of Gwinnett County and its municipal governments.

Sam Pugh is a Project Manager with CEDR. His work includes tourism investment validation studies, incentive strategy development, and an annual statewide economic outlook. Before joining CEDR, he worked for the Georgia Department of Transportation managing a team of planners guiding federal-aid projects through the environmental process. He has experience working on economic development projects such as the Governor’s Road Improvement Program and the Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail. His skills include economic analysis, environmental impact research, government relations, and communication.

Alan Durham serves as a Project Manager with CEDR. Prior to joining CEDR, Alan worked as an Economic Development Director with city and county governments to accomplish economic development and community redevelopment goals.  He conducts fiscal impact analyses, has a successful track record negotiating incentives with Fortune 500 companies and has extensive experience with tax increment financing to encourage quality redevelopment.

Don Betts (not pictured) is a Senior Project Manager with CEDR and has broad experience in developing and delivering innovative economic and community development programs.  Don works with Georgia communities on innovative healthcare strategies and helps employers operate an employer-led healthcare innovation organization called EmployersLikeMe. Other efforts have involved leading the Georgia Centers of Innovation program which unites university and industry thought leaders and uses business incubation to grow strategic industries.  Don also has developed and led programs to bolster local entrepreneurs and angel investors.