As we bring another great year at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce to a close, I want to express my very best wishes and sincere thanks to all who have been part of the success of our great organization including our Board of Directors, staff, members, and community supporters. The past 12 months have been marked by noteworthy achievement and exciting change. As I reflect on the past year, I believe that we have many reasons to have enormous pride in our accomplishments and look forward with enthusiasm to next year.
One of our most outstanding achievements in 2014 was the addition of a fifth full time employee in our Chamber. Tobie Chandler was promoted to the newly created Tourism Director position and has only begun to open the lines of communication with our local tourism partners and various media outlets. Even so, we have already seen an approximate 15 percent increase in our lodging tax receipts from 2013. This is an incredible start to growing tourism related revenue for our local businesses.
Membership remains strong. Our Membership Coordinator, Erin Huffman, is to be commended for bringing in over 100 new members to the Chamber in 2014. Our total membership is on the rise and now stands at 575. This is incredible for a community of our size and speaks to the valuable partnerships that we have cultivated with our members.
Yvette Hansen joined our team as Office Administrator and has done a tremendous job of keeping our membership and community informed of Chamber and community events, while Debra Edwards did an amazing job running the friendliest and most beautiful Welcome Center in the State of Georgia.
Our organization has also continued evolving to meet the demands of a growing, changing business environment. We have put a greater focus on promoting buy local programs that are so important to our local businesses. We have offered many social media classes to help our businesses understand the value and importance of connecting with customers through various platforms. We also provided leadership growth opportunities for our businesses owners and are already seeing those efforts reap rewards through remarkable community service projects and volunteerism on behalf of the participants.
In 2014 our Chamber was proud to unveil the second edition of the North Georgia Farm Trail agritourism guide. Many owners of businesses along the trail have reported increased visitation and sales directly from this four county guide.
Finally, I was personally honored to accept the designation of Certified Chamber Executive from the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. I accepted the honor on behalf of a hard working staff, dedicated Board of Directors, and engaged membership.
Indeed, we have so many reasons to be proud of our outstanding organization. Even without room to list them all here, we have more than enough to justify enormous optimism as we move forward. Our Chamber, and all of you who are part of it, will continue to make Blairsville-Union County proud in 2015. We will maintain our momentum and actively work to shape our own future as one of the best Chambers of Commerce in the state. We will continue to make a positive impact on our community and members through tourism and economic development.
This is a great Chamber. Thanks for being part of it, and thanks so much for helping to make the past year so memorable. I invite you to join me in anticipating what we will accomplish together in the year to come.