ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners split their opinions on an idea to alter the Chamber and County sharing of the Hotel/Motel tax during budget sessions this year.
Brought up during the Chamber’s meeting with the board by Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch, the two entities delved into what it would mean to possibly shift the current 70/30 split to increase funding for the county as well as a boost in their own ambitions for increasing tourism and county draw.
Crouch mentioned only shifting it by 10% to a 60/40 split in the Chamber’s favor. Among several ideas, the county’s recent agreement and push for better signage at the county line arose. The idea resurfaced after a recent push from citizens to claim Gilmer as the Wrestling Capital of Georgia. The county is actively seeking funding sources for the project. However, the idea of funding it through the capital budget seems less likely as the budget meetings revealed at least two departments whose request could consume the entire budget on their own.
As members of the chamber were present at the meeting, the consistent report was overwhelming support and praise for what the Chamber has accomplished saying, “I love the Chamber, they are so engaged with my needs.”
Ultimately, Crouch noted that he has enjoyed and appreciated the Chamber’s work. Instead, he noted that as a business owner he agrees, but as a Commissioner, he sees the constant people talking about road conditions and similar needs. He went on to say that the change wasn’t by any means a reflection of a poor job by the Chamber, but rather he felt at a certain point, he was seeing diminishing returns alongside greater needs elsewhere.
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris disagreed with the idea saying, “My concern would be that we are talking about putting ourselves in a difficult situation in the future to have a better situation in the immediate. I think we have got to look at it long term.”
He went on to add later that he knows the county isn’t where it needs to be on roads. He related a story when he was tasked to go out to the road department and take pictures of junk equipment to be sold off or moved for disposal. Paris said, “When I got back into our meeting and I was showing the pictures, Jim Smith just about had a stroke because ‘No we use that. We use that. We use that.’ That’s what they had to work with.”
Paris noted that the last four years have seen increases from a 16 person crew to 22 people. He noted the equipment replacements including dump trucks, bulldozer, paving roller, road sweeper, and an equipment shed to prolong the life of that equipment. He made a point to note the progress the road department has made saying that the Road Department is continuing along the path of improvement. He said they will continue needing to reverse the department’s neglect for years to come, it can’t be solved in a single year.
Chamber President and CEO Paige Green noted that she expects a plateau at some point. While she agreed with the ideas like gateway signage and organic growth from the county’s location. She added that she understood the “tough decisions” that the board makes, but the hotel/motel money reinvested in an appropriate way would be the long-term solution as opposed to the short-term solution of decreasing funding.
Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller also commented saying he would look at the number if the budget absolutely demanded it.
However, as of now, no changes have been made in the proposed budgets split. The Commissioners still have their October 16 work session and October 17 regular session as well as expected special called meetings before the budget is balanced.
Celebrating ten years at a job is amazing in itself, but I recently learned that even five years at a Chamber of Commerce is not exactly common, much less ten.
As if meant to be, the Gilmer Chamber celebrates 40 years in the same month that its President and CEO, Paige Green, achieves a milestone rarely heard of in the business, ten years as President/CEO.
The business isn’t easy, according to Green, who admits the stress can be overwhelming at times. Yet, she seems to have made a life thriving on the energy as her experience in the Chamber business extends far past just ten years. Getting a chance to sit and think back over her career is not something she has done in a while as Green smiled remembering people and mentors from the past. A thought she continues to return to as she shares her story is just how much effect one person can have on another’s life.
People like Terry Exum, a high school friend who first introduced her to the life as she told her of a job in Green’s hometown. The position was Tourism Director in Eufaula, Alabama.
Having spent a year in college studying PR and Journalism before switching to and receiving a degree in Business Management from Troy State, Green had moved on to a Masters degree as well before spending her time teaching Business Education. It was 1998 and she had just finished her first year of teaching in Grady, Alabama. It was also the point where she knew she shouldn’t be teaching. The way she recalls her time there, she admits she wasn’t the best teacher. Yet, others would disagree, people like Ruth Bodine, who has worked with Green at the Gilmer Chamber since she became President ten years ago.
As a two-man team, Bodine says it was her and Paige when she became the President. Accomplishing everything from Taste of Ellijay to the Apple Festival, Bodine says she was often asked how the two of them did it? To which she replies, “I don’t know, we just did.”
She recalls how they would relieve the mental stress, days when they would start moving furniture at 4:30 in the afternoon. Even though the day ended at 5:00, they’d still be moving furniture at 7:00 p.m.
Bodine says it was Green’s teaching that kept her at the Chamber so long, and even now as she prepares to leave the Chamber, she looks back and admits she would never have stayed so long without Paige Green.
“I could have failed,” says Bodine who added that it was always Green behind her as she worked on the databases. She taught through partnership as they both agreed they didn’t like the database at the time and had Bodine research and look for a new database. She adds that it was this type of partnership and teaching that kept her working for the Chamber all this time.
Still, Green left her teaching in Grady to return home to Eufaula and take up the mantle as Tourism Director. Nostalgia surfaces as she recalls a tiny office, one belonging to the building’s postmaster in its former life as the post office. With pride in her voice, Green says she left the sign on the door. She calls it her first “real, grown-up job.”
Though you may not be able to notice it if you know her, Green is very introverted. She calls herself a shy girl who can’t inject herself into a conversation. After nearly 20 years of work in social situations, she may have grown out of it slightly, but she says she still retreats back into herself every day. Eufaula was the beginning of a life of going against that urge.
To say she pioneered the position in Eufaula is nothing short of an understatement. Before her, it had been a part-time position before lying vacant for a year. As she walked into her first day, the office held a legal pad, a pen, a telephone, and a typewriter.
A noticeable lack of files on anything from local businesses to statistics for recent years greeted Green as she began her five-year journey to build the tourism of the town into a flourishing economy. It took almost three years before she pitched the brain child of her and friend Ken White, a ‘fee’ added into hotels to help inject life into efforts to grow the Chamber, the tourism, and the town as a whole. Something that anyone who has been to many Board of Commissioners meetings in Gilmer will recognize as the Hotel/Motel tax.
The single change of adding the fee injected an additional $200,000 into her tourism budget. It also kickstarted a growth in fishing tournaments as she began using the funds to host larger events. What she didn’t know at the time is that it would ultimately lead to her leaving the position.
Not by any mistake or incident, but the funds and growth in the tournaments gave way to something that began the actual transition. The spark that led her away from Eufaula was a laugh.
Having worked so closely over the years with BASS (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society), Green grew closer to those she worked alongside. She found herself joking with a college roommate one day who worked with BASS saying “It’d be kind of cool to work with you guys.”
Though they all laughed, it didn’t take long for the seriousness to surface, drawing this young lady away from her hometown to Montgomery, Alabama. Though leaving Eufaula behind, Green often thinks back to both her family and her town. Yet, when talking about switching jobs and moving around, she says, “I’ve always been fortunate that I’ve never had to leave a job. It’s always been for a better opportunity.”
Starting the job in 2003, it wasn’t long before BASS, a company owned by ESPN, had Green flying to Connecticut to visit the home office. Yet throughout her time, it became rather muddy exactly what her title was. Titles like Sponsorship Coordinator and Director’s Assistant were mentioned several times over the years. But if you outlast four bosses like she did, it might be understandable that these things change a lot.
Actually, Green shares that it seemed each new boss came with a promotion for her as her title and function changed. Working to maintain relationships with clients, sponsors, event locations, and contracts, Green says, “I got to plan all of the cool parties, I just didn’t get to go.” Some of these events are widely well known even today, events like the Bassmaster Classic.
Events like these brought out a newer side of her as she began realizing the level of stress that comes with the events. For example, she calls the Bassmaster Classic ‘Hell-Week.’ It only showcases the kind of person it takes to become an events coordinator. These people not only thrive on the stress and chaos, they become addicted to it. She didn’t explicitly admit this, but after five years with Eufaula, five years with BASS, and ten years with the Gilmer Chamber, the term adrenaline junkie gets used more freely.
Indeed, she began showing her best efforts when facing 50 anglers on a lake, 50,000 people attending a weigh-in, sponsors and anglers whose rooms didn’t get booked, and other unforeseen errors. In fact, Green has never had an event in any job that didn’t have logistical problems. It reminds you of the old phrase, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
“Anyone who ever says ‘Oh, the event went so smoothly,’ they are lying,” says Green. The difference is that where most people would be freaking out over the logistical mistakes, Green says, “That’s the cool part, is fixing the problems you didn’t know you’d have.”
Now, that’s not to say the stress doesn’t get to her. By her own admission, she has come ‘unglued’ at times. “The difference,” says Green, “is being able to stay glued in front of people, and coming unglued in your hotel room that night.”
It is in these moments that one can find the real chink in the armor of this lady. It is the less visible moment that one finds their own humanity. It came in 2005 for Green. In 2004, BASS announced they were moving their company to Orlando, Florida. Though not everyone got an offer to move with the company, she did. As she deliberated the choice of moving, the fear began to settle.
Before you can simply pass this off as a simple choice that should not have had such weight, think about a small-town girl who has never lived more than 80 miles from where she grew up. Though she had traveled, she never moved that far. Think also about a girl very close to her parents, very attached to her life. It’s like walking a tightrope without a safety net for the first time. No short ride to visit with the parents who loved and helped her through the majority of her life, indeed it was new people, a new place, a new climate, a new house, and even new changes to the job.
She had made her decision to leave the company. The only problem was that she never told the company that.
It was in early 2005 that she had decided she was going to teach again. She had full plans to work for Troy University. She was so sure, in fact, that she had the paperwork ready. She had just left the university after accepting the position. It was decided.
It was a simple moment when she pulled off the road into a McDonald’s parking lot. Pulling out her phone, she called the same man she had checked in with for her entire life, her father. It was a simple moment… which changed everything.
She didn’t pull over and call him to question anything about her decision. Yet, as they spoke, Green says she could hear something in his voice. “Do you think I’m making a mistake?” she asked.
Not being the type of father to influence her decisions, he didn’t say whether he thought it was or not. It was her decision.
“I lost it,” says Green, “I just remember sitting in the parking lot at that McDonald’s at Troy and bawling my eyes out because I didn’t know whether to zig or to zag.”
She traveled home to her Montgomery apartment and sat staring at the wall for three hours. It wasn’t until a knock at the door finally pulled her from her trance that she got up. Answering the door, she found her parents standing there. Driving eighty miles through a storm, they had come to help her choose.
Laying everything out and discussing the options, a decision still could not be reached. Sending her parents home without a conclusion, Green says she woke up the next morning and called Troy to say she wasn’t taking the job. She was moving to Orlando.
As the years progressed, she began traveling more and more. She found herself on the road for 23 weeks out of the year saying, “I had a really nice house for my cat…” Having moved to Orlando in April of 2005, she spent the next three years with the company.
Though she enjoyed traveling and seeing the country, it was a constant suitcase being packed and unpacked. The continuous movement never really allowed roots to grow. She loved the job, but things began to add up to a need for change. It wasn’t just the constant traveling, though. Green says things began changing and people began leaving as rumors grew that the company might be sold.
Searching through options for positions with boat manufacturers to stay in the industry she knew and chamber positions to follow the what she began earlier in life, Green happened upon a posting on the internet about a position with a North Georgia county where she had visited as a child. She had found the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce.
She had, unfortunately, also found a 17-page application for the position. Something she jokes about to this day and even had in the temporary museum for the Chamber’s 40-year celebration.
Interviewing for the job proved to be far more difficult than just a 17-page application, however, as she first submitted her resume to Tim Chason, the ‘headhunter’ who was hired to find someone for the position. She then had a phone interview with him. After he approved of her as a potential candidate, he provided the 17-page application. He then narrowed down the candidates to four, including Green.
Coming in to interview with a committee meant facing eight people simultaneously. She met them in a boardroom on the second floor of New Horizons Bank, now South State Bank. To this day, she admits she refuses to sit at the head of the table as it was her spot for the interview.
In a remarkable turn, she shares a story that Melinda Hadden loves to tell. After the interview ended, Green walked out to her Toyota truck wearing a pencil skirt. Green says, “I’m a girl from South Alabama, so I yanked up my skirt to climb up into the truck.”
The catch is, the entire committee she had just interviewed with was standing at the window of the second floor watching her get into the truck. The twist came as Green shares the story saying that Hadden told the committee as soon as she saw her hike up her skirt, she knew that she was the one.
The job offer came on the very same day.
In perhaps one of the biggest ‘buts’ in Gilmer history, they hired her, but she started the job on October 1. Those of you who have lived in Ellijay know what October means. It 2008, when she was hired, October 1 fell on a Wednesday and one of the largest festivals in North Georgia fell on the following weekend, she had ten days to prepare herself for the Apple Festival.
Again, thriving on the chaos and stress, she has grown into a leader and logistical machine gathering her 20 years of experience into the position’s needs as president. It is a strength only she has access to according to Gilmer’s Tourism Director, Karla Roper.
It is her leadership that sets her apart for Roper. Another veteran of the Chamber world, Roper confesses that what ultimately drew her in with Paige Green was that “she saw me.” The faith and the encouragement is one thing, but the ability to share Roper’s vision and her support for ideas that may seem crazy was the key for Roper.
More than that, she says it is Greens experience that sets her in awe sometimes. The way she intuitively knows who to call and what to do to get things done. It is the thing she seeks on a daily basis to grow in, to gain that knowledge base and the experience that Green holds. Calling her the ‘Mama Bear’ of the Chamber, Roper notes its more than just dealing with issues, Green makes it look effortless and supporting and teaching her staff in the process.
It’s a shared feeling as both women separately noted the energy they get from each other. The growing relationship that feeds the family community is one of Roper’s favorite parts of working with Green.
With Roper echoing the point of how stressful the job has been over ten years, it becomes apparent that a desperate need to decompress is inherent with the position. Green says she has her family and friends to be with at times, but she shares a lesser known secret that is far more consistently used. A ‘quiet room’ furnished with books, comfortable chairs, and a lamp provides her solace. A literal refuge to hermit herself inside. As Green tells it, it is the one place in the world that people know, if she is there, don’t talk to her. It has no tv, she doesn’t take her cell phone there, it has no computer, it holds the world at bay for a few moments to release and simply be.
It is a blanket fort made solid.
But outside of this place, the job awaits, the complaints build, the economy shifts, and the staff rolls on. Teaching a point as President so uncommonly done, the ten-year mark has allowed a look back at how she has made it. Bodine and Roper agree it is the way she treats people that garners success, that it is her inspiration to people that has built the Chamber to what it is today.
Green, on the other hand, says it is the moments that fuel her. In a business with so many intangibilities, it is easy to get lost without something to hold onto as a goal or an achievement. The Chamber sells something that isn’t tangible. It sells memberships and the benefits involved. Likewise, when the Chamber meets a goal like a number of memberships, there is always a higher goal, more to be done.
Such a business is more difficult to run, says Green. That’s why you hold onto the moments that happen. Moments like establishing the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority) or being nominated to the USA Today’s Nicest Places in America become the validation needed for her position.
What exactly is that position? Green says she is the ‘head cheerleader’ for the county. Understanding that every community has something great about it is the first step, but the long and arduous process of marketing and growing that community is the part that needs cheering.
While it can be frustrating as such a public position, most local people see the Chamber cut a ribbon and that’s it. They don’t see many of the posts, marketing ads, and business deals that you would only know from listening to her reports during Commissioner Work Sessions.
Accomplishing success in this kind of market requires a double-edged sword. Simultaneously a great strength and a great weakness, Green says she was told by a friend that she was never satisfied. Despite what she has accomplished, she still feels like there is more to do in Gilmer County, more she can give.
With roots set in the county, Green says she doesn’t want to leave anytime soon. However, as she looks ahead she confesses a desire that she ends where she began. With no clear plan set, she does want to return to teaching someday. Whether its at Troy or Auburn or anywhere, the draw is undeniable.
Though there is future in the Chamber as well. Green is seeking certification as a CCE (Certified Chamber Executive) and looking at the possibility of getting the Chamber accredited. With only the top 2-3% in the country reaching accredited status. Wanting the status to build trust, she wants to show how strong the Chamber and the County can be.
The funny and energetic social introvert that is Paige Green, she says her shyness only lasts so far. It’s all about home-field advantage because if you catch her in comfortable situations, in her line of work or something she is familiar with, the introversion ceases and she becomes the person she has been for ten years in the Chamber. In control, the master of her domain.
A brand new EV (Electric Vehicle) Charging Center is open and fully functional at Gilmer County’s Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center.
Members of Georgia Power along with Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim G. Echols cut the ribbon for the two stations early Friday morning, December 2. The ceremony also hosted members of the Board of Directors for the Chamber as well as Representatives from both Ellijay and East Ellijay.
The New Charging Center houses one “Level 2 Charger,” according to Brad Norman, Electric Transportation Market Specialist for Georgia Power, “which can charge an average EV in about three to four hours.” However, the second charger at the station is a 50k Watt DC Fast Charger. A newer system that can charge the same vehicle in roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Both stations will charge your vehicles on a similar cost as the DC Charger costs 25 cents a minute and the Level 2 Charger costs one dollar per hour. The level 2, Norman stated, will actually convert is costs to 10 cents a minute after the first three hours. This is set to encourage drivers not to linger at the stations so other drivers can make use of the two plugs on the station.
Additionally, a driver’s cost to “fill up” is managed through Georgia Power via a key tag drivers receive to manage and monitor their use. The tags can keep track of when and where you charge your car and deliver that information back to you, the driver, through an account set up online. This means you never even reach for your wallet as you charge your car. You simply scan your tag and leave your vehicle plugged in as you visit inside the Chamber or take the short walk to a local restaurant or shopping outlet.
While Norman chose not to comment on the exact costs of installing the two stations, he did indicate between a $50,000 and $100,000 investment made by Georgia Power enabled the stations as a part of partnering with the Gilmer Chamber. As part of the agreement, these stations are set to be 24 hour access everyday. Further, this places Gilmer County in the eye of EV Drivers across Georgia through connections such as PlugShare, a Mobile App that will locate charge stations and help travelers plan trips accordingly.
However, it is not just the initial cost that Georgia Power is investing as the power bill for the stations will also be paid by Georgia Power.
President of the Gilmer Chamber Paige Green also lauded the extra aid this will give to the Chamber as they continue to market our County stating, “It opens access to Gilmer County. There is already a community of these people who follow the announcements on new stations and the PlugShare App definitely helps.”
The addition of these charge stations not only expands access to Gilmer County for regular tourism, but makes us a part of Georgia Powers larger plan to “electrify the state” according to Norman. Georgia Power has already established 33 of the Community Charging Centers and plans on several more across Georgia to enable access through all the main corridors.
Cars like the Tesla and the Chevy Volt that were at the Stations today are just the beginning as Norman stated these stations allow and encourage what could eventually become a common option on all car models by 2020. The next step has to be making these model cars affordable to everyone, but before that is making the state accessible to these cars.
Green echoed the sentiment stating, “This trend is not going away, and this puts us in the front of it.” In fact, the stations have already been used three times in the last five days according to the PlugShare App. Green stated even on the very first day the station became active, they had a visitor come to charge up on the Fast Charger before heading to Gilmer’s Apple Houses.
Georgia Power Northwest Region Vice President Murry Weaver noted this DC Fast Charger is the first of it’s kind in Gilmer County, but also the first one on Highway 515. Weaver stated, “As we move forward, we continue to see more opportunities like this, and we think the collaborations between entities like us and the Gilmer Chamber will continue.”
Commissioner Echols also spoke a moment about how people who live here in North Georgia can get used to the views, the streams, trees, and mountains, but these people who drive the EV cars make a sacrifice to drive them. Careful plans must be made for trips to monitor locations for recharge and those plans can sometimes limit destinations. They must accept the inconvenience that they can’t drive to places like ours, until now.
Check out more by visiting Georgia Power’s #DriveElectric Campaign, watching the speeches of Georgia Power Northwest Region Vice President Murry Weaver, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, and Gilmer Chamber President Paige Green below, or you can also read the Gilmer Chamber’s Official Statement and visit their Facebook Page for more on the EV Charging Stations:
The Gilmer Chamber is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Georgia Power Company to bring the first DC fast charger to Gilmer County and the first one along the 515 corridor. With the addition of this charger, we have extended the range for EV motorists and have made travel between the metro communities and the North Georgia mountains possible. This is an infrastructure program that Georgia Power Company has entered into and is making charging your electric vehicles easier. Guests can stop at the Gilmer Chamber and fully charge their electric vehicle in 15-30 minutes. While waiting for their vehicle to charge, guests can visit our welcome center or dine at a nearby restaurants. If you own an electric vehicle you can use the PlugShare app to find this charging station along with other charging stations throughout the United States.
As we arrive in late October, Gilmer is feeling the aftermath of the ever popular Apple Festival held over our last two weekends.
The annual event often brings in much of Gilmer County’s tourism and is widely held to be among the largest events in North Georgia. This year however brought in a few more visitors than expected along with local people visiting the fairgrounds. In fact, the first day of the festival, Saturday October 8, ended as the second largest Apple Festival day in its history according to Gilmer Chamber Director Paige Green.
Though the crowds and traffic poured into Ellijay to visit the festival, the Gilmer Chamber was a part of the coordination efforts along with the Gilmer County Charter School Systems, several members of local law enforcement and medical services, and even volunteers from local Boy Scout Troops to help with both foot traffic and vehicle traffic to maintain the status as Investigator Greg Arp said, “It’s gone very smoothly this year.”
It wasn’t just the first weekend, however, as the Apple Festival overall attracted over 60,000 people through both weekends. According to Green, this festival also boasted the largest gate admission since the 2010 Apple Festival.
With 267 booths just at the fairgrounds, the Festival utilized twelve school buses contracted the the Board of Education to further facilitate access to Ellijay’s square for more vendors and our own local shops downtown and back to the Festival grounds for one of the roughly twenty entertainment acts held on the stage over the two weekends.
Green also repeated Investigator Arp’s sentiments saying the Festival was “One of the smoothest running we’ve had.”
Karla’s April Fools Day Show!
The 2016 Gilmer Chamber Annual Meeting was held at the First Baptist Church on January 14. The member of the year passed from Barbara Barbara Simmons to Barbara Paris. Beth Bennett and Crystal Nadolski of H & R Block, recipients of the 2014 Business of the Year award, announced this year’s winner Ronnie Thompson Ford.
Ben Kiker 2014 Citizen of the Year announced this year’s Citizen of the Year, Mr. Sam Burrell.
Following the announcement of the Citizen of the Year, the Chamber’s 2015 Chairman of the Board, Dave Richey, highlighted some of the successes of 2015.
The Chamber also presented those directors leaving the board with a token of appreciation. Those board members who will be greatly missed are:
- Abby Tredway
- Jim Fox
The Chamber also recognized it’s 2016 Board of Directors:
- Chair, Alan Davenport
- Chair-elect/Vice Chair, Lex Rainey
- Past Chair, Dave Richey
- Secretary/Treasurer, Hubert Parker
- Mario Benitez
- Ellen Grant
- Sandy Ott
- Scott Chastain
- Rachel Reece
- Betsy Sheppard
- Roy Smith
- Hannah Towns
- Trent Sanford
- Penney Trentman
- Russell Williams
The board of directors then took their oath of office before Dave passed the gavel to 2016 Chair Alan Davenport who spoke about the upcoming year before adjourning the meeting.
The JDA (Joint Development Authority) met Wednesday night, June 24, to officially become a full entity. (more…)
The Georgia Department of Labor released its monthly employment report this week. (more…)