Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Look Ahead

One thing I love about my job with the Chamber is that things are always hdr-logo-001progressing. New ideas are abundant, opportunities often present themselves, and the impact that we are making on our member businesses and our community is never hard to see. As promised last week, I want to share a couple of exciting announcements made at our recent Membership Meeting.

The Chamber strongly believes in the economic impact of tourism. Tourism creates and retains hundreds of jobs in Union County and pumps valuable sales tax dollars back into our local economy. This helps everyone. With this in mind, the Chamber is planning to add a Tourism Director position in the near future. This new staff member will work diligently to promote the benefits of travel to Union County. Whether it is for leisure or business purposes, we want to tout Union County as a great travel destination.

Another exciting, upcoming change for the Chamber will likely be the introduction a new membership investment structure. Currently, we operate under the “fair share” structure which means that members pay a set price based on industry type or number of employees. Under the current structure, all members receive the same benefits whether they need them or not. Under the proposed new tiered structure, members will be able to opt in to membership at a packaged level that based suits them and their needs, no matter what industry or how many employees. We believe that ultimately, member satisfaction in their direct benefits will increase.

I look forward to sharing more about these and many other future offerings of the Chamber. If you would like to discuss the value of being a member of the Chamber, please contact our office at 706-745-5789. We look forward to working with you!

Annual Meeting Recap

Annual Membership Meeting, place setting.

Annual Membership Meeting, place setting.

The Chamber held our Annual Membership Meeting and STAR presentation this week. What a great event! Over 125 members were present to recognize this year’s STAR students and Teachers. Major kudos to the recipients: Alice Francis, UCHS STAR Student; Amy Payne, UCHS STAR Teacher; Logan Wood, Woody Gap STAR Student; and Althea Cantrell, Woody Gap STAR Teacher.

As part of the program, I was able to share some of our wonderful Chamber accomplishments from the past year. Some examples include:

New Chamber Website – In October 2013, the Chamber unveiled a new look to our website with stunning photography and enhanced features.

Hotel/Motel Tax Improvements – Continuing to work with County and City leadership as well as local lodging partners, we were able to increase our Hotel/Motel Tax revenue by approximately 15% in 2013.

Established the FERST Foundation in Union County – The Chamber’s Education Committee established the FERST Foundation for Childhood Literacy in Union County which provides free, monthly books by mail for children from birth to age five.

Agritourism Trail – Chambers of Commerce along the Georgia Mountain Parkway (Highway 515 from Gilmer County to Towns County) successfully launched the North Georgia Farm Trail, a joint promotion of agritourism sites in the four county area.

Travel Trip – The Chamber hosted its first ever group travel trip to Ireland. The 2014 group trip will be to Italy! Email for more information!

Holly Jolly Christmas & Tour of Trees – Greater than we could have ever expected, the first ever Holly Jolly Christmas community event, hosted by the Chamber drew over 600 people to celebrate the Christmas season to tour over 30 beautifully decorated wreaths and trees.

Participation and excitement surrounding the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce is at an all time high. Serving over 560 members, we are eager to carry forward the great work on behalf of our members. Next week, I will share with you some of our exciting plans for the next ten months. In the meantime, if the Chamber can be of assistance to you or your business, please contact us at 706-745-5789.

Business Roundtables

Running a business is challenging. Many business owners started becauseMembers Only Logo1 they had a passion for their product or service or have a particular skill or talent that they crafted. They may or may not have any training in the management of a company. Even those with a business background or degree will likely face regular dilemmas that are hard to navigate. This is especially challenging for a small business because they may feel isolated or alone in the decision making process. For this reason, the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce offers a Business Roundtable group for our members.

A Business Roundtable is similar to an informal Board of Directors. Participants in the Roundtable are encouraged to generate topic ideas according to their particular challenges. The goals of the Roundtable are to: 1. Support each member to make better decisions so their business prospers even more. 2. Set priorities and take consistent effective action to achieve goals. 3. Achieve personal and professional growth with a group of colleagues who build high degrees of trust.

At no additional cost to our members, we are delighted to offer this great benefit. The Roundtable meets on the third Wednesday of the month, excluding July and December, from 7:30am to 9:30am at the Union County Community Center. This year’s Roundtable is being facilitated by Rick Siefken of Budget Blinds. For more information on the Roundtables or to sign up to attend, please contact the Chamber at 706-745-5789 or me directly at

Meet Our Board of Directors

For those who have ever served on a Board of Directors, you understand

Chamber Board Chair, Rita Gunter

Chamber Board Chair, Rita Gunter

the tremendous amount of responsibility and dedication that is expected. Members of any Board of Directors are the top level leaders of the organization that are responsible for determining the overall direction and course of action for their organization. With this in mind, I would like to introduce you to our 2014 Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and thank them for their commitment.

The 2014 officers who make up our Executive Committee are as follows: Rita Gunter, United Community Bank – Chair; Joey Swanson, Woodmen of the World – Chair-Elect; Joe Garner, Southeastern Farmers Co-Op – Immediate Past Chair; Janet Hartman, Blairsville Downtown Development Authority – Secretary; and Steve Rowe, W. Steven Rowe, CPA – Treasurer.

Joining our Board this year are Doug Davenport, Administrator at Union County Nursing Home; Chris Kelley, Director of Operations at Blue Ridge Mountain EMC; Chad Lariscy, Realtor with The Mountain Life Team; and Dr. Jeremy Williams, Assistant Union County School Superintendent.

Returning Board members are Luke Colwell, Colwell Construction; Amy Harper, Tugaloo Home Health Agency; Patrick Malone, The PAR Group; and Chris Wadle, Lamin-x.

Our Ex-Officio members are Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris, Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley, and Union County Development Authority Executive Director Mitch Griggs.

With gratitude, we thank these individuals for their service to our organization. Contact information for our Board Members can be found on our website at If you are interested in being a future member of our Board of Directors please email me at