Gilmer Foundation’s new CORE in business

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – New life is springing from an older foundation in Gilmer County this week with the CORE Facility on River Terrace, just off of Maddox Drive.

Called the CORE (Collaboration on River’s Edge), the facility will host business offices and incubation locations for entrepreneurs and start-ups in need of an office or workspace without the hassles of long-term investment. Created by the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, Kent Sanford Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority) and member of the Greater Gilmer Foundation, tells FYN the idea began with a visit to Carrollton, Georgia. Inspecting a business incubation center there, he began dwelling on the idea.

However, concerns about the project’s feasibility in Ellijay stalled the idea and the plans never saw action. Seven years have passed since the idea began at Carrollton and the Greater Gilmer Foundation was created. Now, as Sanford noticed the building for sale on River Terrace, the owner, Edgar Land, originally wanted to sell the place. Kent says negotiations allowed them to lease-purchase the building and begin renovations to revolutionize the early life of small businesses in our area. Sanford went on to say the just like in fitness when they say strength comes from your core, “CORE will be where the future strength of Gilmer County comes from.”

While the facility will host 13 offices and 2 conference rooms during its launch by the end of the first quarter in 2019, Sanford says the facility will be both an incubator for new businesses and a co-working space for small businesses.

As an incubator, CORE stands to be a resource center for new businesses. As they take up residence in an office, they will grow and learn through cooperation with the foundation and educational sessions the CORE facility puts on. Additionally, the future plans of the CORE facility would also provide for business mentors to advise these start-ups on everything from day-to-day operations to faculty to financial decisions.

Sanford went on to say, “Not only are incubated businesses about twice as successful as ones that don’t have that mentoring help, but you also have about 80% of all businesses that start in a community stay in that community.”

As a co-working space, CORE will provide an office to a small business that may not need much space, but does need something like access to better internet than they may have at home. With utilities and furnishings provided by the CORE facility, this could give small businesses access to larger benefits to better present themselves to clients. With conference rooms and special areas available for scheduling, it also provides the amenities of a large office to be shared among those in office.

The amenities would not just be for those residing in the office spaces, though. Sanford says they are looking at a membership idea for other businesses with their own small offices that may still be in need of space temporarily for training seminars or business conferences. Looking past the businesses, Sanford said that other things like civic clubs and organizations could also find a use for the spaces.

The idea flows that as new and old businesses alike start to grow in the CORE facility, they would reach a point and need for larger space, as the move to other larger locations, the offices open up to other new businesses.

Additionally, Sanford says he hopes to see a variety of businesses utilizing the space to grow so that they benefit each other. For example, one Accountant next to a web designer could share services providing financial services o the web designer and a website for the accountant. In this way, the community feeds itself and strengthens each while maintaining close proximity for convenience.

Sanford also noted that the resource center was not just for Gilmer County businesses. He wants CORE to become a Regional Resource for Fannin, Pickens, and Gilmer for those who need only to drive a short time to take advantage of the CORE facility.

Working on their fundraiser right now, the Foundation hopes to see three phases of the CORE facility.

In Phase I, the renovations will complete with the fundraising and open to the public by the end of the first quarter in 2019.

In Phase II, the foundation will continue renovation onto the second floor to open up a larger open space for education and training in a 1,200 square foot space upstairs.

In Phase III, hopes for the CORE Facility could extend into the schools for things like STEM Classes, STEM Saturdays, or other forays into education connection. Consolidating resources for these could include shared STEM kits or a shared expense for a STEM subscription service involving 3d-printing necessary components. However, specific details into PHASE III have yet to finalized, but Sanford said the general idea is to grow into partners in education in the county.

As a part of the connection for education and incubation for new businesses, Sanford says he hopes the facility will ultimately have a real impact on the growing trend of educated students leaving the community for careers elsewhere.

As it is still in the fundraising stage, plans for the facility could shift, but Sanford states he already has people looking to rent space in the building.

For more information on the campaign and growing the CORE Facility, contact the Greater Gilmer Foundation at 706-635-2673 or check out the Greater Gilmer website.

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Addressing disconnects following Light Up Ellijay

News
Crowds flood Downtown Ellijay for Light Up event

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The downtown area of Ellijay was rocked by an historic crowd for its Light Up Ellijay festivities, which echoed throughout the county.

Citizens have responded in various ways and have voiced opinions as to the success or detriment of the Return to Whoville themed event. However, they are not the only ones responding to what some merchants called “Who-mageddon,” a jovial moniker made possible by a lack of major incidents during the event. Indeed, with additional responses from not just Ellijay’s police force, but county fire and rescue personnel as well, the event had only one reported incident, which involved a missing child. According to officials, the child was found within 15 minutes of searching.

This was an outcome Ellijay City Police Chief Edward Lacey said the town was very lucky to have accomplished. While acknowledging the unanticipated crowd, Lacey said his officers performed “admirably,” going so far as to say they gave “150 percent.” Lacey also confirmed with FYN that despite their efforts, the event would have been a lot worse had they not received backup from firefighters helping out with crowd control.

According to the permit issued by the city of Ellijay to the Downtown Ellijay Business and Community Association (DEBACA), the organization expected a maximum of 5,000 people at the event. While no one could confirm details, reports have varied as to the cause of the dramatic increase.

From a few viral videos to a radio station picking up the story in Florida, rumors continue to swirl with no real specific answers. However, DEBACA reported they noticed over 70,000 clicks for Light Up Ellijay in the week leading to the event. After the night was done, license plates were seen from over nine states, according to officials on scene.

Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle declined to comment about the meetings and processes involved since Light Up Ellijay, but he did speak about the people who attended saying, “That paints a very positive picture of Ellijay. The name ‘Ellijay’ is known, obviously, and it drew that big of a crowd, and that’s great.” He went on to comment that with the quality, he sees future events growing as well.

People already began spilling into the street as earlier as 4:30 p.m. an hour before the tree lighting.

People already began spilling into the street as earlier as 4:30 p.m. an hour before the tree lighting.

Speaking with DEBACA Chairman Steve Cortes, he echoed the sentiment that attracting the crowd was a success on its own. This is the first time the association has hosted the event after transferring the event from the Downtown Development Authority.

Stepping beyond the event itself to identifying the effects a week later, Lacey stated about back-up received, “I think it showed that we were able to admit that we were overwhelmed … A lot of times, agencies that are not willing to ask for help are the ones that get in a lot of trouble … We were able to admit that we needed help and actually request it.”

In fact, not only did the Ellijay Police receive help during the event but also invited members from the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office, Gilmer Fire and Rescue, the Gilmer Chamber, DEBACA, East Ellijay Police, Ellijay Fire, and others to an after action meeting that is usually only held with Public Safety. Lasting more than three hours, the meeting saw members from each entity delving into the event separating out things that did happen versus things that should have happened during the event. Specifying the disconnection between those two ideas led to discussion and thoughts on future events.

A few specific issues came to light in the meeting regarding logistics for things like the addition of vendors for the event, the opening of bathrooms for the event and parking and traffic due to the crowd. Chief Lacey told FYN that the meeting and input from all involved will be considered as he creates his report and in moving towards future events.

Cortes also commented with FYN saying another issue with the crowd comes with future events. Not knowing if they should prepare for a similar crowd to this year or preparing for something lower is part of the stresses of planning. Cortes suggested they would be looking at the upcoming events throughout the year, such as St. PETrick’s Day and Independence Day, to gauge the response they might see at Light Up Ellijay.

One of the bigger points in the meeting  addressed a lack of communication and response from parties involved. Addressing understandings of the permit process and amending it paired with controlling and coordinating the multiple entities became a larger focus. Suggestions on dealing with these issues led towards future events seeing use of Instant Command Structures (ICS) and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

EOC is a fusion center of resources that officials say are used to manage and communicate across the different entities of public safety. Fully activated EOC’s could also include members from all sorts of other entities; in Ellijay, this could include mayors, council members, DEBACA members, or more. As explained in the meeting, this would allow instant access to cross-force resources.

The EOC concept also answered issues with traffic. A crowd of the size seen downtown not only gridlocked traffic after 5 p.m., but also clogged emergency access through the area. One hypothetical example of the EOC given at the meeting suggested an issue arising on Hwy. 282. The EOC could coordinate a nearby sheriff’s deputy to the location faster than any other. A more immediate response from a sheriff’s deputy in the area means far lower response times in the face of gridlocked traffic for citizens.

Somebody tracking and directing all requests would streamline services and resources in that instance to better control and guide arising issues, whether they be safety-focused or logistically focused through those involved.

In addition to the EOC, pre-made ICS would be available to handle situations where pre-planned events escalate to any sort of emergency, for example if a driver had grown so frustrated with the crowd that he or she ran people down.

Crowd size sends one child up the clock downtown in an attempt to see the nights events.

Crowd size sends one child up the clock downtown in an attempt to see the nights events.

While this may seem extreme, Lacey told FYN  these are the issues that police deal with everyday. They must prepare for the potential issues that could grow out of events with crowds like we witnessed this year. An approach that imitates an old saying, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” is one that the city police face daily in protecting and preparing for situations despite a common thought that such instances would not happen in our town.

In fact, part of Lacey’s research into parades garnered 56 total headlines in newspapers, with 55 of those occurring since July 2001, involving parade incidents and injuries. Crowds like the one at this year’s Light Up Ellijay further intensify the possibility of incidents.

While the entire week was spent identifying issues and areas for improvement, Chief Lacey declined to comment further on the entities involved saying, “It’s enough to say that there was a disconnect, and that we’re going to fix that.”

Cortes echoed approval of the cooperation and coordination found through the meetings held in the week after the event. Noting an increase in involvement as DEBACA continues to grow, Cortes tells FYN that he would love to see representatives from the Chamber, the cities and police forces at their meetings and events. He went on to comment on the meeting saying it answered questions: “What can we do if a big event comes to Ellijay? How can we handle that?” He went on to say, “There’s no finger pointing, everybody knows that a lot could have been done better, and a lot needs to be done if we’re going to work together in the future.”

Though Light Up Ellijay is firmly in the city’s rear view, progress and meetings continue as the response and preparation for next year continue. Continuing in growth and popularity, citizens and officials alike will be closely watching downtown over the coming year in anticipation of another night like Nov. 24.

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New Executive Director Officially Takes Office Today

Business, News

EAST ELLIJAY, GA – The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) has gone months through its process of looking to replace its executive director after its previous director resigned.

Today marks the end of that search. While we have known for a while now that Kent Sanford, formerly of Park Sterling Bank, would be taking the position, it is today that the transition has been completed and he officially takes office.

With the job ahead, Sanford told FYN, “As I watched the sun come up from my new office this morning, I was reminded of the bright future Gilmer County has before us.  We have a great deal of work to do, but I am excited to get started and humbled to be part of the process and working with an excellent team of professionals.”

As he begins moving around town, introducing himself to the businesses and beginning to attract more growth to the county, the JDA will hold their fourth quarter meeting this Monday, November 6, at 8 a.m. Also, stay with FYN as we continue updates and sit down with Sanford later this month.

Also, be sure to check out more with our previous article, “JDA Announces New Executive Director.”

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