Monthly Archives: August 2013

Welcome to Union County!

Blairsville, the county seat of Union county Georgia, has something for everyone and each season you will find something new! Here you will find a town filled with southern hospitality and breathtaking landscape! Blairsville is an idyllic setting to raise a family or enjoy your hard earned retirement. We welcome you to discover “U” in Union county!

For families, vacationers, locals, and retirees alike, Blairsville is host to many fairs, craft shows, and festivals through out the year! The creative spirit soars proudly in this mountain town and you will discover handmade crafts by local artisans, the perfect quilt, and a wide variety of rustic furniture. A special treat in the summer is at the local farmer’s market where you can find a huge assortment of fresh produce, local honey and jellies, and fresh flowers!

Outdoor adventurers and nature lovers will find an abundance of activities to enjoy while you escape the big city hustle and bustle. Take advantage of a wide variety of water sports on one of our three pristine lakes, Nottely, Winifred Scott, and Lake Trahlyta located in Vogel State Park. Enjoy a picnic on top of Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia. Hike the foothills of the Appalachian Trail, or brave Blood Mountain on motorcycles and road bikes. Experience first hand the natural beauty and abundant wildlife while you fill your lungs with fresh mountain air and let go of your everyday stresses!

Blairsville is a perfect example of the past meeting the present in perfect harmony. We boast of exceptional schools, a wonderful sense of community, and a thriving local economy. With a rich mountain heritage you will enjoy bluegrass concerts, unique crafts, and a good old fashioned glass of sweet tea!

Union County Georgia is an idyllic environment to live, play, and conduct business! If you are looking to relocate or just need an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle, you will discover everything you need right here! There are plenty of seasons and plenty of reasons to explore Blairsville and Union County. Let us help you plan your visit today!

8 Simple Tips To Get Your Business Noticed

One of the primary goals of our Chamber of Commerce is business education which leads to business growth.  Over the years, I have been fortunate to hear numerous speakers share a wealth of information on business marketing.  This week I want to share a few key points that stand out to me in regard to getting your business noticed.

  1. Use Social Media – Although these are sometimes dreaded words, social media offers unique opportunities to reach broad audiences.  Build business connections on LinkedIn or try posting your next event on facebook.  Do not let it overwhelm you, but be aware of the key offerings of social media.
  2. Be A Source Of Information – That’s right.  Do not be stingy with what you know.  Teach others about your area of expertise.  One of the best ways to win their confidence and their future business is to teach them something beneficial.
  3. Connect With Other Business Owners – Call it networking or call it therapy, either way, you will need mentors and partners along the way.   Make an effort to connect with others who share a passion for business.
  4. Develop Relationships With Your Customers – Treat your customers like friends rather than a source of money.  Greet them warmly, ask about their interests, and make special recommendations just for them.  Human nature is to want to do business with friends first.
  5. Offer Something Unique – Find what makes you special and tout that aspect of your business.  Whether it be unique advertising, exceptional customer service, a dynamic storefront, or a unique spin on your business model, differentiate yourself and be memorable for something.
  6. Share Your Successes – Do not be afraid to brag a little.  Sharing your success builds confidence in your customers and helps build a positive image for your brand.  Utilize all media outlets to spread the word.
  7. Get Involved – Getting involved in a charitable organization or with a local project is not only a great way to meet new people but more importantly, it demonstrates your commitment to the local community and the people who are part of it.
  8. Learn From Others – Never miss an opportunity to learn a lesson.  Study the methods of other successful business owners and listen to the feedback that your stakeholders are giving you.  No one is perfect, so always be ready to adapt.

If you are interested in learning more about the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce or any of the ideas mentioned in this week’s column, I invite you to give us a call at 706-745-5789 or email me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com.  You can find us online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Education Means Business

As Chamber President, I often find myself encouraging others to look at the big picture, to realize that the journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step, and to consider the ripple effect that one action can create.  These common theories apply not only to chamber membership and business development, but also to so many other aspects of personal and community development.  This week I want explore the impact of education on our business community and the community at large.

A quality education for our local youth might easily be overlooked by those who do not have children in the local school system or those who do not have children at all.  The common adage, “What’s in it for me?” applies here.  The reality, however, is that we all live, work and play in a community that is in so many ways dependent on our future generations.  After reviewing a RAND Corporation study from 2008 which looked at “The Impact of Educational Quality on the Community,” I thought you might be interested to hear some of their findings.

According to the research, high quality education impacts three distinct areas:  individuals, the local community, and the larger community.  From an individual’s standpoint, higher quality education usually means greater opportunity for employment and earnings as well as an increased quality of life in terms of physical and mental health.  Fewer financial concerns mean less stress. While one could definitely reason that happier, healthier individuals within the community are good for everyone, let’s take it even a step further.

The study shows that a higher quality education has a significant impact on other aspects of the local community.  These include increased housing values as many homeowners are willing to pay more to live in a community served by quality schools, lower crime rates as studies have consistently  shown this inverse relationship, increased tax revenue to be used for local projects – those who make more spend more, and finally, increased civic participation and a stronger “give back” mentality.

Taking the concept one step further and one ripple wider, we can examine the impact on the larger community.  A strong school system is a key component of economic growth for an area and one that potential employers are certain to ask about in their pursuit of an ideal location.  With greater hiring potential, greater likelihood of productivity and increased competitiveness, our economic growth is dependent upon the education of our youth.

Just by scratching the surface, it is easy to see how vitally important our schools and our youth are to the current and future health of this beautiful place we are so fortunate to call home.  I encourage you, in your daily journeys to take a moment to consider the big picture.  There’s almost always more then what meets the eye.  If the Chamber can be of assistance to you, please feel free to call us at 706-745-5789, email me directly at president@blairsvillechamber.com or check us out online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Listening…The Lost Communication Skill

When a wonderful publication such as the North Georgia News allows you the opportunity to write a column for their paper, sometimes you cannot help but share a message that you hope will change the world. Well, I doubt that will happen, but I’ll share my message anyway. This week my soapbox, ahum, I mean column, is about listening or the lack thereof in today’s society and ways we can all improve our listening skills.

Do you have a tendency to do all of the talking in a conversation? Do you interrupt others before they finish a thought? Do you quickly make assumptions or take offense to what someone is saying before hearing them out? If so, you need to be aware of the negative signals you are sending to others.  I find that all too often, we become consumed with our own thoughts. We hardly hear what the other person is saying and therefore completely misinterpret their intentions. Everyone wants to feel not only heard, but valued and respected. Listening accomplishes all three and, not surprisingly, is often more valuable for the listener than the talker.

Let’s apply this to a business scenario and assume an upset customer has come to you to voice a complaint. The best thing to do is to be quiet and listen. You usually stand to learn a thing or two. I know I have! Oftentimes allowing someone the opportunity to talk is enough to make them feel better. However, interrupting them or quickly becoming defensive is a sure way to cause bigger trouble.

Here are few easy tips for improving your listening skills. 1. Stop what you are doing and give your undivided attention to the person speaking. 2. Look at the person as they speak. Make eye contact. Watch their non-verbal cues and body language; it often says more than their words. 3. Zip your lips! Avoid the temptation to interrupt, offer an opinion, or come back with a story of your own that is bigger and better.

Implementing these simple techniques into your daily life will help you better connect with others and literally transform your relationships. I wish you all the best. If the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce can better serve you, please contact us at 706-745-5789 or me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com. You can visit us online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Cindy Williams, President

Cindy Williams, President

Drug Free Workplace Saves Money

In the State of Georgia, employers have a unique opportunity to save 7.5% on their worker’s comp premiums by implementing a drug-free workplace program.  For many companies, this could mean big savings which comes with surprisingly little burden.  The following information provides an overview of the drug free workplace program and interested companies can contact the Chamber for more details.

A drug free workplace establishes parameters for providing a safe working environment which discourages alcohol and drug abuse, encourages treatment and recovery, and educates employees as to the problems related to substance abuse.  According to the Council on Alcohol and Drugs in Georgia, nearly 77% of illegal drug users are employed in full and part-time jobs. Consequently, when the effects of alcohol abuse are added, the result is a large impaired portion of the national workforce. For the typical employer, that means unhealthy employees, unsafe working conditions, loss of productivity, smaller profits, more accidents, higher medical claims expenses, and a host of other negative effects for the employer and the employees. It is estimated that absenteeism, increased healthcare costs, and decreased productivity due to alcohol and other substance abuse can cost a company $1,000 per employee per year.

It is easy to see the benefits of a drug free workplace in terms of employee health, performance, satisfaction, and safety.  It is also easy to understand the positive impact on a company’s bottom line when implementing a drug free workplace program.  Therefore, let’s take a look at the State components required of companies who are interested in becoming a certified drug free workplace and will therefore save 7.5% on their Worker’s Compensation.

There are five simple steps required to achieve certification.  1. Have a substance abuse policy.  2. Conduct limited drug tested.  3. Complete employee education.  4.  Complete supervisor training.  5. Have an Employee Assistance Program or a free list of counselors.  Many of these tools can be provided to you by the chamber at no cost which makes implementation very manageable.

Many companies in Union County are already reaping the benefits of certification.  The Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Council on Alcohol and Drugs is available to assist companies meet the above requirements.  If you would like to learn more, please contact our office at 706-745-5789 or me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com.

Exploring The Appalachian Trail In Georgia

The lovers of hiking would also love to agree that the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly known as the AT, is the most famous hiking trail in the world. It forms the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the United States along with the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

The 2,174 miles that stretches through fourteen states of the US has remained a favorite among both passionate and casual hikers. The northern terminus of the AT rests in Maine and the southern terminus is in the fascinating state of Georgia. In between, unfolds one of the most enticing trails in the world that takes one through breathtaking natural beauty and is the home to a few rare animal and plant species.

Typically, hikers prefer hiking the trail from North Georgia to Maine than vice-versa and most commonly begin in March or April. They are known as the ‘north-bounders’ or NOBO and also GAME (Georgia(GA)-to-Maine(ME)) while those taking the opposite direction are known as SOBO or MEGA. Thirty trail clubs and multiple partnerships maintain the trail, which is managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit organization known as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The state of Georgia houses seventy-five miles of the trail, which includes the southern terminus at Springer Mountain that stands at an elevation of 3,280 feet. The long winding trail that begins eight miles north of the Amicalola Falls is literally a journey through North Georgia’s macrocosm of natural history. Through mountains like Blood, Trey, and Big Cedar and gaps like Addis, Neels, and Woody, The Appalachian Trail promises a whole new world when in this part of North Georgia.

Although there are many individual favorites of the hikers taking this route, most concede that the Blood Mountain is definitely one of the most-loved places in the long trail. The name still brings to the mind thoughts of a battle that was fought between the Cherokee and the Creek Indians. But history is not the only appeal of the Blood Mountain. It is also the highest peak on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and the sixth highest spot in the entire state. The Blood Mountain is a part of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains where one finds the most amazing variety of temperate climate plants in the world. The species that thrive in the northern US blends with their southern kin right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The winters clad most of the trail with snow. But with the arrival of spring, the whiteness all around melts away bringing a world of colorful flora and fauna to life. Wildflowers such as the bloodroot, trillium, and azalea can be found most commonly in the region. And summers brings with them the laurel and rhododendron.

But what brings the North Georgia Appalachian Trail to life during the warmer months are not the motley collection of known and unknown plants but hikers who give the trail a new identity every day through their undaunted spirit and thirst for adventure.

Union County Georgia is a great place to stay during your vacation to hike the Appalachian Trail and explore its extravagant beauty.