Chamber creates new “Chalk Ellijay” event amid isolations

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Building, coordinating, and energizing a social function can be quite difficult, but doing one amid widespread quarantines and self imposed isolation is a completely different order, such as “Chalk Ellijay.”

We are here to support our community and lift the spirits of those around us. Please tune in until the end of this video for a fun way to stay positive and brighten someone’s day. We have always said that the Gilmer Chamber is a family and now it is time to show our community what this family is all about! #ThisIsEllijay

Posted by Gilmer Chamber on Friday, March 20, 2020

Gilmer County’s Chamber of Commerce has taken on exactly that task as they began a new event over the weekend. After an earlier video post from President/CEO Paige Green promising to help coordinate resources and business in the time of need. But, the video ended on a very different note.

Green said the Chamber’s two locations, the Downtown Welcome Center on the Square in Ellijay and the main office just off 515 in East Ellijay, now have baskets of chalk. What they are pushing to do with this chalk is building community and a neighborhood feeling by using the chalk to “Chalk Ellijay.”

A later post offered more details stating,

“(We get by with a little help from our friends.) In an effort to help lift our community’s spirit, we invite you to chalk your sidewalk or driveway with an encouraging message, snap a picture, and post it using #ThisIsEllijay so the community can see! Need chalk? Visit the downtown welcome center or Chamber office! We have chalk inside buckets for you. (Please only take one or two and leave some for your neighbor!) want to go the extra mile? Leave an encouraging message in the driveway of an at-risk/elderly/immune compromised friend and give them a call afterwards to let them know you’ve been by. (Let’s maintain social distancing 💪🏻) We will get through this together in heart.”

Chalk EllijayThe idea of the chalk use is simple, but social media has been flooded over the last week from across the country with stories and videos of people do small things to build greater feeling and community.

From a man playing music in the common garden of an apartment complex for people to list to from their balconies to signs and gifts of people visiting elderly relatives outside the windows of their homes and apartments.

The local step is incorporating far more than just a few select groups though. The Chamber said, “We are here to support our community and lift the spirits of those around us… We have always said that the Gilmer Chamber is a family and now it is time to show our community what this family is all about!”

People are starting to take to social media, posting their own chalk art and messages, with even a few local businesses and restaurants joining in, too.

Chalk Ellijay

Chamber issues statement on Coronavirus

Community, News

Chamber enters 2020 with annual meeting

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber is wasting no time in 2020 preparing for another “successful” year as President and CEO Paige Green called 2019.

During their annual meeting, the Chamber recounted many of their successes and honored members with the annual awards before looking to the future with induction of new ambassadors, the passing of the chairman’s gavel, and the new board.

The Chamber did have plenty to celebrate in 2019 according to, now Past-Chair, John Marshall who noted two major projects completed in 2019 when the Chamber cut the ribbon on their Downtown Welcome Center on the square in downtown Ellijay in March and also cut the ribbon on the new CORE (Collaboration On River’s Edge) Facility in July.

Both of these ventures have already seen large numbers of support and activity in 2019 alone with more than 5,500 people visiting the Welcome Center. Additionally, the CORE Facility caught support and acknowledgement from the state the same day it cut the ribbon as they were awarded $425,000 grant for future operation of the facility.

However, these were not the only projects and ribbon cuttings in the year. Marshall went on to note the Chamber cut the ribbon and celebrated the opening of 28 new businesses and welcomed 110 new members to the Chamber.

Also recognizing the successes of 2019, the Chamber awarded several awards including a brand new award that saw its first recipient ever at the banquet meeting.

Tiffany Camp Watson, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Member of the Year Award for 2019.

Tiffany Camp Watson, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Member of the Year Award for 2019.

The Chamber awarded Member of the Year to Tiffany Camp Watson. The Chamber said, “Member of the Year is an award given to Chamber members who truly go above and beyond in service to our Chamber and the community as a whole. Tiffany Camp Watson with Endless Ink exemplifies this spirit wholly. Whether it is serving as a Chamber Ambassador, rallying our community to care for those in need, or advocating for causes that matter to her, Tiffany puts her everything into all she does. Congratulations to Tiffany for being named the 2019 Member of the Year!”

 

 

Chattahoochee Technical College, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Business of the Year Award for 2019.

For 2019’s Business of the Year, the banquet saw Chattahoochee Technical College receive the award. The Chamber said, “Chattahoochee Technical College’s investment in Gilmer County and commitment to equipping Gilmer citizens to enter the workforce is something that we are so thankful for. We consider this awesome institution of energized individuals a true partner in developing Gilmer’s workforce. Congratulations to Chattahoochee Tech for being named the 2019 Business of the year!”

 

 

 

Merle Naylor, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Citizen of the Year Award for 2019.

Awarding the Citizen of the Year award highlights one specific citizen and their accomplishments in service through the year. This year’s recpient was Merle Naylor. The Chamber said, “Congratulations to our 2019 Citizen of the Year Merle Naylor! With decades of service to Gilmer County, we can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. Thank you, Merle, for all that you have done for our county and all the children and families who call Gilmer home. Welcome to the COTY family!”

 

 

 

Dr. Shanna Downs, recipient of the Gilmer Chamber Community Champion Award for 2019.

Usually, these three awards are the major awards the Chamber gives for the year. However, 2020 saw the introduction of something new. A brand new award honoring an especially dedicated community member with exceptional genorosity in their communal efforts. In it’s first year ever, the award was given to Dr. Shanna Downs, Superintendent of Gilmer County Schools. The Chamber said, “This year, we unveiled a new award: The Community Champion award. This award is intended to recognize an overall commitment to Gilmer County through collaborative efforts, philanthropy, investment or humanitarian efforts. These four categories that the Community Champion Award encompass come together in the commitment of it’s Inaugural recipient: Dr. Shanna Downs. Since becoming Superintendent of the Gilmer County Charter School System, Dr. Downs has shown an intense commitment not only to her staff and students, but also to our community at large. Thanks to Dr. Downs’ tireless work and dedication, Gilmer County will have a steady pipeline of hardworking and highly-qualified citizens who are ready to pour back into our community for years to come. Congratulations, Dr. Downs!”

Past-Chair John Marshall, left, passes the Chairman’s Gavel to Chris Wang, 2020’s Gilmer Chamber Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Transitioning from 2019 to 2020, the Chamber introduced new Ambassador, a new board, and a new Chairman. During the meeting, Past-Chair John Marshall introduced and then officially passed the Chairman’s gavel to the new Chairman, Chris Wang, agent for State Farm Insurance. Marshall passed the gavel saying, “Chris Wang is wise beyond his years, he has a servant’s heart, and he is brimming with innovation and creative ideas to continue to move our Chamber and  community forward. We are excited about the future with Chris at the helm.”

Additionally, the Chamber later took to social media welcome Wang saying, “We are so excited to have our 2020 Chairman of the Board, Chris Wang, on our team. Chris brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does and always gives 100%. Chris has been actively involved with the Chamber since he started his business here several years ago and has been investing in our community from day one. Chris has previously participated in Leadership Gilmer, the Ambassador program, and was named the 2017 Member of the Year. Chris, we are so excited to have you on board and can’t wait to see what you do this year!”

 

Apple Blossom Festival Cancelled

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber and involved parties have officially announced the cancellation of this year’s Apple Blossom Festival.

A mainstay of the spring season for what would have been its sixth year, this will be the first time the festival has been cancelled since it’s start.

According to the Chamber, they have been consulting with local officials and Emergency Management. However, due to weather concerns they stated, “The safety of our vendors and patrons is of the utmost importance as well as the protection of personal property. Given the consistent and worsening weather forecast within the critical 48 hour window we feel this is the best decision for all involved.”

The festival was set to be held this weekend, May 4-5, 2019. Chamber representatives said they could not reschedule the event due to many of the vendors already have full schedules of their own and attempting to reschedule would be prohibitively difficult.

Gilmer Chamber Tourism Manager Accepts New Position

Community
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber has confirmed that Tourism Manager Karla Roper has accepted a position as Executive Director of the Georgia Wine Producers Association.
Paige Green, President & CEO of the Gilmer Chamber, said,“Karla brings a level of professionalism along with a passion and creative talent to everything she does. Her talents and infectious spirit will be missed. However, we wish her well and look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.”
Roper started with the Chamber on June 10, 2013. She was originally hired as Communications Manager. Now, she leaves just under six years later.
A search will begin soon for a new tourism manager and the job will be posted at www.gilmerchamber.com.
The Chamber offered the following regarding Roper’s new position, “We are grateful for her many years of dedicated service to our organization, our members and our community.”

Chamber opens Downtown Welcome Center

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County is celebrating a five-year-long project completion today with the opening of the Downtown Welcome Center in Ellijay, Georgia.

From left to right, Chamber President Paige Green and Commission Chairman Charlie Paris listen as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston speaks words of congratulations for Gilmer.

From left to right, Chamber President Paige Green and Commission Chairman Charlie Paris listen as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston speaks words of congratulations for Gilmer.

A new branch for the Chamber and a “needed presence” downtown according to community leaders like Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris and Gilmer Chamber President Paige Green, this new building will work across town from the Chamber home office and welcome center on Craig Street, just off of Highway 515 between the Waffle House and Advance Auto Parts.

Today’s celebration marks the completion of the preparations and renovations, according to Green, who said the day also serves as the beginning of the Chamber’s return to downtown. A “homecoming” of sorts as the Chamber has been in the Watkins House before, located on the downtown square next to the courthouse.

Green said it wasn’t only the Chamber’s efforts, but a collective involving the Chamber, the Board of Commissioners, and State Legislative involvement from Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston. This alliance’s dedication has pushed the project across the year’s to come to today’s fruition.

While that dedication has stretched five years since conversations first began about the Chamber re-opening the Watkins House as a Welcome Center, Green noted that the Board of Directors’ recent Chairman Trent Sanford and current Chairman John Marshall have made the major push through these last two years to begin and finish the actual renovations on the building.

Back left to right, John Marshall, David Ralston, and Trent Sanford. Front left to right, Dallas Miller, Karla Roper, Charlie Paris, Karleen Ferguson, and Paige Green.

Back left to right, John Marshall, David Ralston, and Trent Sanford. Front left to right, Dallas Miller, Karla Roper, Charlie Paris, Karleen Ferguson, and Paige Green.

As a part of the Chamber’s return to downtown, Green said publicly that the Chamber is planning more downtown events through their new center and extended hours. She stated, “We do intend to be open Wednesday through Saturday. We want to be a leader in hoping that our merchants will join with us in opening until six or seven o’clock to greet our guests on the weekends as well.”

Green went on to say that the Downtown Center will also be opened for meeting space needs, or for those visitors who simply need a place to sit and rest. She wants the Downtown Welcome Center to be open in this sense for both tourists and locals.

The celebration also saw visits from each of the Gilmer County Commissioners, Chairman Charlie Paris and Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Karleen Ferguson, as well as Speaker Ralston. Paris offered his thanks to Ralston as well saying that without his help, the community might still be waiting for a downtown center.

Paris spoke about the many “dominoes” that needed to fall in order to accomplish what they have. From relocating the Planning and Zoning Office on the other side of the square to needing help from the Department of Transportation and Ralston for logistics. Paris praised the Chamber and community volunteers and merchants who were integral in making the Welcome Center look as amazing as it does now.

Ralston also offered a few words as he congratulated the county on the facility. He spoke about the history of the Watkins House and its journey through generations and his personal memories of hanging out at the courthouse and walking past the Watkins House everyday after school. Ralston went on to note the significance of the statement the Chamber is making to the citizens of Ellijay and the investment they are making in the community.

Brenda Davis, former Director of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, poses with her picture from the early 90's in front of the Welcome Center.

Brenda Davis, former Director of the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce, poses with her picture from the early 90’s in front of the Welcome Center.

However, the day held more meaning than most understood, as they sipped wine from local vineyards and snacked of food from local restaurants, one family shared a moment around a special picture as former Chamber Director Brenda Davis, the lady in the picture, returned to her former offices and joined the celebrations of the changes and growth the building has seen since her last days in it.

The photo, taken in the early 90’s according to Davis. She said it feels good to be back in the building as she pointed out the meetings she held in the large front room and secretary’s office in the room with her photo. She recalled how here entire family got recruited to “volunteer” for events and needs when she held the office and the Welcome Center was there. She chuckled as she pointed out she had an intern, at the time, named Sandy Ott. Now working for University of North Georgia and its expansion campus, Davis recalls her working for the Gilmer Chamber stuffing fliers and mailers for the Chamber.

Davis also recalled a special memory at the Watkins House as they prepared for the Olympics in Atlanta. Davis said it was two years prior and Gilmer was hosting visitors from all over the world. They had received one foreign visitor whose interpreter was not available. He sat on the square as C Lloyd Smith began speaking with him and trying to make him happy with his visit despite the lack of a translator. Davis recalls Smith trying so hard to make this visitor feel welcome despite the major hurdle of language.

Memories like this are built into the bricks of the Watkins House. It seems anyone who lived or worked in Ellijay at the time has some memory tied to the building. As the Chamber returns to its former home, employees, citizens, and even those who no longer live in the county, will return with them to revisit old times, old memories, and tie them together with a new gateway in our community and new visitors creating new memories.

Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber’s Board of Directors, John Marshall offered his thanks for the legacy and the generosity that the Watkins’ family showed years ago when they had donated the building for the public good. Marshall stated, “It is altogether fitting and appropriate that the formerly private residence of this pioneer and progressive family has been transformed into a place to welcome the public.”

Auto-Renewal will go forward with Chamber Contract

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A not-unexpected turn of events saw the Board of Commissioners (BOC) strike the two items from their agenda on Thursday that involved an Audit and a Contract Termination for the Gilmer Chamber.

Despite this, it doesn’t mean the end of this issue between the two entities. With both sides having agreed that the Hotel/Motel Tax usage by the Chamber is required to have an audit, and moving forward imposing that requirement, a major issue is being resolved. However, it doesn’t mean that citizens won’t be hearing about the issue again in coming sessions.

As Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson stated in their work session, she is wanting to look deeper at the Chamber, the date of the automatic contract renewal, and the Hotel/Motel Tax split. Though most of the discussion at the work session centered on clarifying “if” and “why” a termination would be required to renegotiate the contract and look at some of the expectations from both parties, the lasting issue is still persisting.

Chamber President Paige Green provided a prepared statement on behalf of the Chamber which asked them to reconsider the termination. But much of its points also addressed the issue of changing the split. One sentence stated, “Defunded or reduced funding towards those efforts or even extended negotiation period without resolution will have immediate and long term effects on the great work that has been done to bring us to this point in time.”

Her statement also reaffirms the Chambers commitment to “an open dialogue this year and to answer any questions you have in regards to our efforts.”

The commissioners did not vote down the termination, however. As previously reported in “Chamber Contract in question at BOC,” Ferguson stated several times during the work session that she thought termination was the only way to renegotiate the contract with its pending automatic renewal. Instead of voting down the termination, all three commissioners unanimously approved an agenda change to remove the items from the agenda with the clarification that it was agreed that the audit was required and would start being provided.

This leaves the state of the Gilmer Chamber in a flux of moving forward with an automatic renewal schedule to take effect next week, but knowing that 2019 will be a year in review as the Commissioners look closer at the Hotel/Motel Tax and the Chamber in general.

Ferguson noted during the work session that the Gilmer Chamber holds one of the highest Hotel/Motel tax split-percentages in the state. It was also noted by several chamber members and chamber board members that the Gilmer Chamber was also noted by people across the state as one of the best and most effective chambers.

As both entities move forward in the year, the discussion of the underlying issue will arise. For now, the preamble comes to a close avoiding what Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said would have been “a very, very serious mistake for Gilmer County.”

Chamber contract in question at BOC

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the vote still set to be made, current indications are saying that the Gilmer Chamber may dodge a termination of their contract with the Board of Commissioners (BOC).

The vote is set for tomorrow’s, January 10, Regular Meeting agenda. The subject matter, however, is a layover from the recent months when former Post 2 Commissioner Travis Crouch began questioning the Hotel/Motel Tax Split during the 2019 budget process. Now, new Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has taken up the banner to continue the discussion and added an item to the agenda for termination of the contract.

“I’m just asking for time,” said Ferguson as she explained that she fully respects the Chamber and what they have accomplished but feels that something is wrong. Stating that she wants the time to look into the Chamber further before an automatic renewal date comes next week, Ferguson did later clarify that it was her understanding from legal counsel that termination was the only way to renegotiate the contract.

With nothing short of an uproar of concern from present Chamber Members and Board Members of the Chamber, a heated debate began regarding the impact and possible outcomes of a termination of the contract, even if later renegotiated. Several citizens commented on the subject including Chamber Board Chairman Trent Sanford who noted that negotiations could come without termination. He also noted an occurrence when this happened three years ago when the contract was renegotiated without a termination.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris noted that he was adamantly opposed to terminating the contract.

Post 1 Commissioner Dallas Miller was more in favor of changes to the contract, but did note he wanted to find a way to do it without terminating the contract.

Ultimately, it’s not even clear if Ferguson will push the issue of termination as she repeatedly stated she thought that was the only way to renegotiate the contract with its pending automatic renewal.

Citizens may not need to wait long into the meeting to find out, though, as Paris said he felt the issue was resolved and would be seeking to remove the item of contract termination from tomorrow’s agenda while leaving the item regarding Chamber audits and discussions of contract renegotiation open.

Both entities, the BOC and Chamber Board, agreed that the contract did stipulate that Hotel/Motel Tax Audits be done. The Chamber stated they have already begun the process to adhere to the imposing of that contract requirement.

Follow FYN as we go deeper into the subject’s details after tomorrow’s vote at the 6 p.m. public meeting open to all citizens.

Chamber names Citizen of the Year

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce held their Annual Meeting this week to both look back and forge ahead in the community.

Part of preparing for the new year includes announcing awards that span both years in their importance. Winners are awarded because of so much they have contributed to the community, honoring the life achievement these citizens and businesses have accomplished. Yet, moving into the new year, they stand as leaders and examples the community may follow.

 

 

This year, Gilmer’s 2018 Member of the Year was named Sally Daniels.

 

 

 

 

 

Piedmont Mountainside received the award for Business of the Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2018 Citizen of the Year award went to Steven Purvis.

 

 

 

Purvis later took to social media saying, “I want to begin by thanking God for giving me the ability and the opportunities that have been laid before me. I want to thank my parents for giving me my work ethic and teaching me that the things you do everyday impact many more people than you will ever know. I want to thank my wife for putting up with me and all my crazy ideas over the years and my kids for challenging me to be a better father and a better person every day. I want to thank the staff at Huff’s and Huff’s Express for all the support and encouragement they have given me over the years and for covering for me all the times I was out and about occupied with different groups. Thank you to all my patients who have supported Huff’s Drug Store over the years and given me the opportunity to practice pharmacy in Ellijay for the last 20 years. I am very humbled by this honor and can only hope that I live up to the standards set for such a prestigious award.”

The day also saw the official transition as Board of Directors Past-Chairman Trent Sanford passed the gavel and position to Chairman John Marshall. The formal transition came mid-meeting before the awards were handed out.

Gilmer Chamber to hold Annual Meeting

Community

The Gilmer Chamber will hold it’s 40th Annual Meeting on Thursday, January 17th, 11:30 AM at First Baptist Church of Ellijay located at 164 Dalton Street. The Chamber is honored to have Georgia State University’s Head Baseball Coach, Greg Frady as the guest speaker. Coach Frady is an Ellijay native who graduated from Gilmer High School in 1981 where he was voted most valuable player on both the baseball and basketball teams his senior year. He was inducted into the Gilmer High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. In 1987, Coach Frady graduated from Troy State where he received a bachelor’s degree in education and recreation. Coach Frady continued his education at Columbus State where he received his master’s degree in administration in 1989.

Additionally, the Citizen of the Year, Member of the Year and Business of the Year will be announced along with a look back at 2018. The annual meeting will also see the new chamber board and officers installed.

Registration is available online at www.gilmerchamber.com or call 706-635-7400. Business attire is suggested. Cost $25 per person. All are welcome.

Chamber seeking Citizen of the Year Nominations

Community

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – As 2018 prepares to enter the final month, year end events across the county are gearing up. Along with this, the Gilmer Chamber’s Citizen of the Year Award is calling for nominations.

It’s not too late for citizens to place your final nominations by downloading the COTY 2018 nomination form in order to recognize an individual who has demonstrated a high level of service through their professional, community and civic involvement in Gilmer County.

Of course, citizens cannot nominate themselves, but your nomination does not have to be a chamber member. Just ask the question of who you believe has made the biggest difference to our county this year. The chamber does ask that the nominee has contributed to a minimum of two different organizations, entities and/or programs and has lived in Gilmer County at least five years.

The deadline for submitting your nominees application is next Friday, December 7. Applications are to be delivered to the Chamber or mailed in to the address on the application. Find out more at the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year page.

Board splits on Hotel/Motel

News, Police & Government

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.”

Chamber President/CEO Paige Green

Chamber President/CEO Paige Green

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.

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.

Fetching Features: a look at Chamber President Paige Green

Community, Lifestyle

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.

Paige Green, right, poses with Bass U.S. Open Champion Byron Velvick, left, in New York City in 2004.

Paige Green, right, poses with Bass U.S. Open Champion Byron Velvick, left, in New York City in 2004.

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 spent five years in Eufala, Alabama, Paige Green, right, leaves to join BASS.

Having spent five years in Eufaula, Alabama, Paige Green, right, leaves to join BASS.

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.”

Paige Green holds a catch from Lake Toho in Florida.

Paige Green holds a catch from Lake Toho in Florida.

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.

Paige Green, right, grew up in Eufaula, Alabama with her parents, John, left, and Ellen, middle, Green.

Paige Green, right, grew up in Eufaula, Alabama with her parents, John, left, and Ellen, middle, Green.

“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.

Paige Green stops to pick her first ever Gilmer Apple in 2008 when she joins the Gilmer Chamber.

Paige Green stops to pick her first ever Gilmer Apple in 2008 when she joins the Gilmer Chamber.

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.

Decompressing for Paige Green usually involves a visit to her quiet room, pictured, here.

Decompressing for Paige Green usually involves a visit to her quiet room, pictured here.

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.

Paige Green, right, attends the weigh in for a tournament held just off Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada.

Paige Green, right, weighs the halibut she caught on a sponsor trip just off Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada.

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.

Gilmer Chamber Awards Attendance Bonus to School Staff

Community
instructions, budget

ELLIJAY, Ga – The June Meeting of the Gilmer County Board of Education saw 10 lucky winners of a bonus as a reward for their attendance levels through the year.

Sponsored by the Gilmer Chamber, the drawing awarded $500 to nine of the winners before the tenth name was drawn as the winner of a $2500 bonus.

Gilmer Chamber President and CEO, Paige Green was on hand at the meeting to draw the names alongside Gilmer Schools Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Stuart Sheriff. Entry into the drawing was given to eligible employees who missed two or fewer days out of the whole school year.

The drawing hosted 126 names in the bowl as eligible.

The $500 winners were:
Nancy Waters
James Stanley
Natasha Eubanks
Aaron Evans
Carl Day
Teresa Hall
Natasha Curtis
Kees DeVente
Wendy Wells

The grand prize winner of $2,500 was Sherrill Davis.

According to Sheriff, the winners will receive the bonus attached to their June paychecks.

CF Printing and Promotions Gilmer Ribbon Cutting

Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber welcomed another member this week with CF Printing and Promotions.

The Ribbon Cutting represented the opening of their new location in Jasper in the same lot as Appalachian Gun & Pawn, at 140 Shelby Lane. The official location is the latest step in the company’s growth as they not only spread business across county lines into Gilmer and the surrounding area, but also hosts a North Carolina office.

Commenting at their ribbon cutting, Keely Chalk said, “We do anything with your logo.”

Having started in the business over 20 years ago, Geoff Chalk meets in person with clients to maintain a face to face connection with people instead of an online-only separation.

Check out the Gilmer Chamber’s video of the ribbon cutting below or see more photos on the FYN Facebook Page.

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