Category Archives: Chamber of Commerce

http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/explore-blairsville/solar-eclipse-2017/

Eclipse Recap

Remember the eclipse? It’s hard to believe that Blairsville-Union County got national news coverage and had thousands of people flock to our area for a once-in-a-lifetime lunar event, but here we are! For many of us, August 21 probably felt a little chaotic with all of the visitors and events going on. Now that the moon dust has settled and no one can find the eclipse glasses that they scrambled to buy at the last minute, we can take a step back and see just how big this experience was for our community. Here’s a quick look at the Blairsville Eclipse Experience by the numbers:

  • Over 15,000 visitors
  • 18,655 Glasses Sold
  • 2,820 Shirts Sold
  • 4 events Hosted by the Chamber: Astronomy Night, Totality Tailgate, Moon Over Meeks & Viewing at the IP
  • Nearly $4,000 raised for Civic Clubs and the Recreation Department
  • Estimated economic Impact: $200,000+

Who knew that a couple of minutes in total darkness would have such a bright impact on our community?

http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/explore-blairsville/solar-eclipse-2017/

Blairsville Has You 100% Covered for the Eclipse

On Monday, August 21st, a once in a lifetime experience will occur in the US. For the first time in 99 years, a Total Solar Eclipse will be crossing the country from central Oregon through South Carolina in a 70-mile-wide path. Fortunately for us, Blairsville is in the path of totality and we will experience 1 minute and 58 seconds of totality! Don’t settle for less than 100% coverage for this incredible lunar experience!

We’ll be celebrating this incredible event all over Blairsville-Union County leading up to the eclipse, with several viewing parties and other events that will be taking place on August 21. Here’s just a taste of what we have in store (you can find the totality of our eclipse events here).

Sunday, August 20th

Astronomy Night
3 – 4 pm, Union County Fine Arts Center
Admission is $3 per person or $1 with a Union County School ID.

Learn about the Total Solar Eclipse and everything you will experience during the totality. Astronomer David Hearn will be providing a well-rounded overview to educate and prepare you for the Eclipse.

Event sponsored by North Georgia Technical College, Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, and UC Schools.

Monday, August 21st

Meeks Moon Party
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Meeks Park

Spend the day at Meeks Park with your friends and family. Bring your chairs or blankets. Food trucks will be onsite for your dining pleasure.  

Sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of Towns/Union, Union County Recreation Department, and the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce.  

Viewing @ The IP
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM EDT, Blairsville Industrial Park

Enjoy a clear unobstructed view of the sky surrounded by stunning mountains. The Viewing at the IP will feature plenty of parking, food trucks, music and a perfect location to enjoy this once in a lifetime event! Bring your chairs/blankets.

Sponsored by the Union County Rotary Club and the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce.

Totality Tailgate
11:00 AM – 4:00 PM EDT, Union County Schools Fine Arts Center

Join your friends and neighbors for a viewing party at the Union County Fine Arts Center. This is a fun way to experience this once in a lifetime event with your community! Bring your chairs/blankets or tailgate from your vehicle. Food trucks will be available for your dining pleasure.

Sponsored by United Community Bank Junior Board, Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, and UC Schools.

Have a boat? Lake Nottely, with its 4,180-acres will be an ideal place to enjoy the eclipse. Three marinas, which will all host events, will have boats and jet skis available to rent. With ¾ of our county protected by US Forest Service land, almost every location you can find in Blairsville-Union County offers wide open spaces for viewing with a stunning mountain backdrop.

The Blairsville Eclipse Experience is presented by North Georgia Technical College – Blairsville Campus in partnership with the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about the eclipse and to locate viewing parties and other local events, visit the official Blairsville Eclipse Experience website. Blairsville Eclipse Experience safety glasses and commemorative t-shirts are available at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Glasses are $2 each and shirts start at $13.

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Preparing for Social Media Lift-Off, Part 1

You are just a few days away from opening your business, and the punch list seems to grow. It’s late at night, and you can’t sleep. You rise, grab a hot cup of tea, and open up your laptop. It just dawned on you that you need a Facebook page for your business.

Though it is never too late to take such action, you can certainly take steps to avoid this situation.

Let’s rewind the scenario.

The calendar indicates that your scheduled launch date is in three months. Your business plans are just starting to take shape. It’s 6am on Saturday morning, you’ve risen early and the kids are still in bed. The hour is peaceful and quiet, except in your head. The clattering of ideas for preparing for your business adventure is making such a racket. You decide to open your laptop and prepare to begin executing your marketing plan by taking the first bite of the social media elephant.

This morning you are going to focus on which platforms of social media you are going to use to market your business and create your brand. Let’s start by looking at local businesses and seeing where they are having the most success.

The little country store out near the state park has nearly 7500 followers on Facebook. How is that possible? They post something nearly every day, not necessarily about their business, but by their business. They typically post three videos a month, and they average 1500 views each.

Impressive.

You are not opening a country store, but you are launching a service business, one with several competitors in the tri state area. You now search them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. You look for the following:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • What are they posting about?
  • Are their posts mostly internal (company-based) news, blog posts and articles; mostly external news, blog posts and articles; or a mix of both?
  • What’s their brand voice?
  • How often do they post?
  • How many likes/comments/shares do they get per post?
  • Do they run any polls, contests or fun games with their brand?

Today you’ve done your research, and you can now decide which social media platforms you want to set up on before your launch in 3 months.

Saturday morning, one month later.

Now it’s time to design your guidelines for your social media do’s and don’ts. As you grow, you won’t have time to be the only one posting for your business. This is the time to iron out what your plan is and how it is to be executed, so you are prepared to hand it off when the time comes. Your social media helper will be able to follow the method to secure your branding in the ways that you have intended.

Begin designing your guidelines by asking these questions.

  • Does your brand refer to itself as “we” or “I”?
  • Are any words off-limits?
  • Does your brand have a political leaning? How comfortable is your company with offending followers of a different political leaning?
  • Will you respond to comments and how often? We can’t impress on you enough how important this decision is when you begin the social media marketing journey. How do you respond to reviews, even negative ones? What tone will you use to address negative comments? (There will be haters. It’s a public forum after all.) Are you apologetic, is your policy to address or ignore? Just as importantly, how quickly will you pledge to respond to positive remarks and reviews?
  • If your social media account were a person, what would he or she do for fun? How would he or she talk? What wisdom do they want to impart? Do they have a pet or another animate object that can be the business mascot?

Here at Blairsville-Union County Chamber of commerce, we analyze our social media impact every single day. We look forward to sharing your business with our followers. Stay tuned for Part #2 of our preparation list. Are you getting excited about making your dream come true?

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A few months ago, as you were on your way into town, you noticed that your neighbors had two pickup trucks in their driveway with three workmen entering the house with boxes. You didn’t slow down to read the logo on the side of the trucks, lest they think you a nosey neighbor. By the time you came home that night, the trucks were gone. What you did notice that evening was a yard sign indicating that “A Walk on the Woods” was proud to announce they were installing new wood flooring in your neighbor’s home.

A couple evenings later, while walking Goliath, your 150 lb. mastiff (he being the main reason you even have to consider pulling up the carpeting and putting down wood floors), you happen upon your neighbors. He’s pruning his bushes, while his pregnant wife is sitting in the shade, supervising. You remark that you couldn’t help noticing the sign in their yard, and you wondered if they would recommend this business, and more importantly, would they use them again. The neighbor chuckles and tells you you’re the 5th neighbor who has stopped to ask him this same question. He indicated they were going to ask the flooring manager for a commission.

And why shouldn’t they get one? Their yard has been used to house a billboard for the flooring company’s business. That billboard, all 24×36 inches of it, cost the flooring company $25. Installation of the sign took 30 seconds. Seven days later, as they had promised to do when their client agreed they could post the sign, they came back and removed the sign. When they came to pick up the sign, no one answered their knock on the door. They left a “thank you” card and a bottle of wood floor cleaning liquid. The bottle of cleaner had a sticker on the back with the flooring company’s logo, their contact information and a quote that expresses how much they appreciate referrals.

About a month later, you are in the parking lot of your favorite fast food joint. You realize that the truck parked next to you has the “A Walk on the Woods” logo, along with their phone number. There’s also a little camera icon, and the words “shoot me with your cell phone, and call us when you need us”.

“Wow,” you think. “This is much easier than writing their number with my finger in the dirt on the trunk of my car.”

“A Walk on the Woods” has invested in their marketing wisely. First, they came up with a creative name that most people will not only remember, but will likely share the clever moniker with others.  Secondly, they invested $25 in a yard sign for each of their installers to carry with them, installing them on the customer’s lawn. They secured permission to do this in writing at the time the customer signs the agreement to purchase.  Then, they not only make sure that they are there to pick up the sign at the end of the seventh day, but they add a token of their appreciation, which of course, also has a sign on it. They’ve also invested wisely in moving billboards, having vehicles with their logo and contact info, and even ensuring that potential clients will take that information home with them via their cell phones.

Yesterday, you drove by that same neighbor’s house. This time there were pink balloons on the mailbox, signifying that there was a baby girl born to the lovely young couple. Standing in the yard was a large wooden cut out of a stork. Hanging from its beak was a basket of pink silk flowers. At his feet was a yard sign that read, “Amy’s Flower Pot just delivered this baby girl a welcoming bouquet”.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

Looking for more great ideas to grow your business? Check out our schedule of workshops on our website at  http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/blairsville-union-county-chamber/chamber-programs/

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Growing Without New Customers

Most small businesses spend more energy and expense trying to enlist new customers than they do trying to retain those who have already chosen to do business with them. Depending on what industry you are in, research indicates that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5% to 25% more costly than keeping an existing one.

But how does a business grow by focusing on retaining the same customers? The answer is by focusing on growing their goods and services for their existing customers. Let’s take a look at Apple. In 1976, when they first introduced their computer technology, they targeted the graphic art industry. Around the world, graphic artists would only own a “Mac”. Next came the Apple printer, the Apple Powerbook, the IBook, the IMac and within 25 years there were ten generations of the IPod. At 32 years they introduced the IPhone and then the IPad.  

Granted, those original graphic artists haven’t been the only customer base for this zillion dollar company, but most of those original customers are still buying that brand exclusively. From the very beginning Apple kept a record of every customer who bought their product, and continued to give them the customer support they needed to win their loyalty. Once they secured that allegiance, they then had a base to sell each new product and service, year after year. That has led to generation after generation.

As a small business owner in our mountainside community, securing loyalty is just as important to your growth as it has been to Apple. Every customer that does business with you, or even inquiries about your goods and services, should become part of your business family. You should secure their email address and any other contact information they will share. If you can’t get their birthday, then note the date they first did business with you and email them a Happy Anniversary card, for they joined your business family 1 year ago, 5 years ago and before you know it, 25 years ago.

Though some industries have found loyalty programs (buy 5 cups of coffee and get your next beverage purchase free) to be quite beneficial in customer retainage, most small businesses can secure that same loyalty by treating their customers like family. Keep in touch. Share good news. Let them always know how much you appreciate their business. Always thank them profusely when you know that they have referred business your way. Reach out to them if you know they are at a crossroad in their lives, such as sickness or other devastating challenge.

Keeping this database also gives you the opportunity to track your churn rate, or those customers that no longer do business with you. By understanding who has left the fold and why, you’ll be better able to serve your loyal customers and your new clients. You will begin to understand the roadblocks of your business and you can begin to unlock the value of your product to more customers.

Your client database is where you first introduce new goods and services. How does a small business grow their goods and services like Apple? By listening to the needs of your satisfied customers as well as understanding why some customers have left you, you’ll be able to identify how best to grow and develop. If you clean carpets, but you are asked often if you can clean and repair leather furniture, you now have a direction to grow. If you install white picket fences, but find that your past customers’ only dissatisfaction is that they can’t find someone to pressure wash, paint and repair them, there’s an additional service on the horizon. If you serve a mean grilled cheese sandwich, and your servers tell you that they often get asked if you serve tomato soup or chili with that sandwich, it’s time to consider adding these to your menu.

And remember to always let the Chamber know of your growth, as well. We want to share your evolution with the community.

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Launching from the Mountain Tops

You may have been dreaming about your new business for the past twenty years, but in order to launch that vision successfully, there are certain steps to cover.

Revising Your Business Plan. Ok, we are assuming you’ve created a detailed business plan. Before you execute that plan, it’s time to share it with experts in the community in order to get their valuable feedback. Chamber staff, a CPA, a loan officer, a retired business owner and a Rotarian will ask you questions you hadn’t previously considered. Now, before you launch, go back to your plan and revise your goals, your expectations and your finances.

Are You The Expert? Fixing lunch boxes for your kids over fifteen years of their schooling does not constitute expertise in operating a sandwich shop. If you are recognizing that you need an expert, start to consider a coach/mentor, a partner or an employee with significant experience and knowledge.

Put It To The Test. The first days, weeks and months are critical to your reputation. You need to refine your model before you hang that “open for business” sign. Talk to people who might be your customers before you launch and get their views and opinions. Let them “taste test” and “test run” your menu of products services. If your list of services includes cleaning bird feeders, and no one indicates they’d likely use that service, nix it from your list. (Now, did you find out what services they would take advantage of that are not on your list?)

Where’s The Bullseye? It’s essential that you have identified, understand and know how to reach your target market. Who is likely to buy your product or contract for your service? How do you best reach these potential customers? How often are they likely to take advantage of your service or repurchase your product? Where are they procuring that product now and what do you need to do differently in order to secure them as your client? The success of your launch hinges on getting customers right out of the gate. You need to accurately project who they are going to be and understand what drives their decisions to purchase. Your starting marketing message needs to convey to them how your offering differentiates from your competition, and what benefits they will receive as your customer.

Identify Your Cash On Hand. “Potential” capital doesn’t count on day one. Ask yourself, will the cash on hand take me through the next six months of expenses without any additional revenue? Is there enough to cover the projected costs of my marketing plan? Will I be able to financially replenish depleted inventory in that period of time?

Are All Your Ducks In A Row? Is your accounting system up and running including your POS system? If you’ve hired employees, are they versed on your entire product line and services? Even if they are in charge of housekeeping, once they are out in their sphere of influence and they mention they work for your business, people will ask them questions. Be sure they have the answers. Is your website fully functional? Is all of your initial marketing in place? Do you have all the proper licensing? Have you considered and taken appropriate action to limit legal and tax implications?

Become a Member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Our Chamber staff is here to help assure that your business isn’t just launched, but that it successfully soars.  

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Spring Festival Season 2017

Spring has finally sprung and so has festival season in Blairsville-Union County! With the warmer weather upon us activities abound in these here hills. 

Make sure you don’t forget Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 14th. Several restaurants around town will have specials so you can treat your Mom and make sure she knows how important she is to you. Later that week on Thursday, May 18th the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce hosts their annual Buy Local Extravaganza! This is an opportunity for Union County businesses to showcase themselves and to remind residents how important it is to Buy Local. The event will be held at North Georgia Technical College with FREE parking, FREE admission, and something for every member of the family to enjoy from 4pm-7pm.

Saturday, May 20th features an Armed Forces Day celebration in Downtown Blairsville at 11am. In the afternoon, enjoy the sounds of the flamenco guitar as only Curtis Jones can play them at Paradise Hills Winery. End your day perusing classic cars at the Cruise In on the Square hosted by the Blairsville Cruisers. This is a great way to enjoy the Downtown Blairsville area dining around town, shopping at the stores, and enjoying music in a lively atmosphere!

May wraps up with the 2017 Blairsville Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival! On Saturday, May 27th and Sunday, May 28th from 10am to 5pm, downtown Blairsville will be bustling with arts and crafts vendors, delicious food, an endless amount of musical performances, quaint shops to visit, restaurants to sample and the friendliest people in the mountains! Saturday morning there will be a Memorial Day Parade at 10am and immediately following will be the first annual North Georgia Bed Race benefiting Habitat for Humanity. It is going to be a hoot and a half, y’all!

For more outdoor fun consider exploring a waterfall, visiting Vogel State Park, or hiking up to Brasstown Bald – Georgia’s highest peak! The Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce is happy to help build you a custom itinerary. For local area information, lodging, and additional upcoming events please stop by The Welcome Center located in the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road, or call 706-745-5789, or visit us online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com.

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3 Questions with Commissioner Lamar Paris

Commissioner Lamar Paris is a very visible figure in Blairsville-Union County as he has served as the Union County Commissioner for the last 16 years and counting. As someone born and raised in the area, Commissioner Paris has seen the County grow and develop over time and works to continually improve his hometown for the better. We caught up with Commissioner Paris to get his thoughts on where Blairsville-Union County has been and where he’d like to see it go in the future.

As the Union County Commissioner and a lifelong resident of Blairsville-Union County, you have seen a lot of change and development in the area over the years. How do you feel that this growth has affected Blairsville-Union County?
As a 9-year-old riding my bicycle to town every day, to gathering with friends in the summer on Wellborn Mountain, to hunting and playing all day, it was a wonderful place to be raised.  Unfortunately, almost everyone was poor because there were so few employment opportunities.  Many people had to leave for Michigan and other areas of the United States to find work.

So, while everyone may not agree, I feel the growth that has happened in our County has mostly been positive. There are more jobs now, a great hospital, a great school system, and exceptional recreation opportunities which would not have been possible if there had been no growth over the years. This allows more people to grow up here and then stay and raise their own families here also.  

Blairsville-Union County is a place that supports businesses that support the community. What would you recommend to current or prospective business owners in the area looking to get involved in the community?
I would recommend they join one of our exceptional community service organizations and participate from a business perspective. By doing this, business owners can meet others who can assist with their business or with simply getting to know our community. We are a very newcomer friendly community and welcome new residents and businesses. In addition to joining a civic organization newcomers can join Butternut Creek Golf Course, boat and fish on Lake Nottely, or simply enjoy the many miles of trails to better understand our community and its citizens.

What would you like to see happen in Blairsville-Union County in the next 5-10 years?
I would like to see Blairsville and Union County continue on the path we are currently following. If a community is not growing, it is usually dying, so progress is part of a vibrant community. Naturally, we hope growth is steady so that it does not overwhelm our infrastructure, but continuing to provide jobs and better employment opportunities should always be part of the focus. At the same time, we do not want to destroy what makes people want to move to Union County and the City of Blairsville. We are blessed with over 50% of our land being owned by the National Forest or TVA which is a real advantage in helping maintain a rural atmosphere as we continue to grow.

 

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The State of Tourism in Blairsville-Union County: Part 2

In 2016, the Tourism Division of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce began the implementation of the Community Rebranding project. A well-rounded and detailed plan was designed and ready for execution. There are many parts and pieces that go into re-branding a community. Internally, all of our literature and collateral needed to be updated. Some of these include name tags, business cards, signature tags and promotional pieces like t-shirts, hats, and pens. We also updated the Visitor’s Guide and postcards that are sent out to all of the Welcome Centers around the state, other Chambers, and to leads that we receive from advertising.

Externally, there was a mandatory refresh of our website. From color scheme to layout and verbiage, an overhaul was completed in early May. Filming began for seven videos highlighting three of our local entrepreneur success stories: Sunrise Grocery, Paradise Hills, and Lamin-X, three highlighting our community’s assets: Mountains, Lakes, Families, and one commercial. We increased our presence in printed publications with messages geared towards enjoying our natural resources like Helton Creek Falls, Vogel State Park, the Appalachian Trail, Lake Nottely, etc. We proudly shared information about our many festivals and the fine dining, shopping and lodging establishments located within Union County.

We had a few “firsts” in 2016. Blairsville-Union County ventured into outdoor marketing with our first ever billboards. We also debuted our first TV commercial through Comcast in the Roswell and Cherokee markets which was aired more than 4,400 times over 22 networks including Fox news, Bravo, ESPN, HGTV, CNBC, CNN and more. Also new was the opportunity to host the Cabella’s crew at they spent three weeks here doing a photo shoot for the 2016 fall catalogue. Not only did they contribute to our economy by renting cabins, buying gas and groceries, eating at our restaurants and shopping in our stores, they also used local children and dogs as models as well as local residents’ bass boats, drift boats and canoes.

Some other notable successes include our community being designated as “Four for the Future” for Georgia Trend. We hosted renowned travel writer Bill Vanderford who experienced our community and wrote a great article in Lakeside on our behalf. Additionally, we had a media request picked up for Roadside Attractions which featured the World’s Largest Amish Chair at Owl Town Market and four films/tv shows filmed in our area; The Hunted, Moonshine Still, Beacon Point, and Logan Lucky.

Our statistical numbers have soared as well this year. Phone calls to the Chamber increased more than 22%, visitors to the Chamber increased more than 39%, and our website hits increased by more than 50%! Additionally, the quantity of leads we send out to prospective visitors increased by 89% and our social media presence saw a whopping 180% increase!

In Part 3 we will discuss why it is important to advertise our community. For more information about the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, call 706-745-5789 or go to VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

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The State of Tourism in Blairsville-Union County: Part 1

If you remember, in 2015, Union County along with the City of Blairsville, Union County Economic Development, Downtown Development Authority, and the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce procured the professional services of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to develop a new Branding position for our community. Through an in-depth process including a full market analysis and public input, it was determined that there are two target markets we are wanting to invite into our area. The first key market segment is Fast Track Families.  This is demographic is defined as: Upscale Middle Age with Kids. With their upscale incomes, numerous children, and spacious homes, Fast-Track Families are in their prime acquisition years. These middle-aged parents have the disposable income and educated sensibility to want the best for their children. They buy the latest technology with impunity: new computers, DVD players, home theater systems, and video games. They take advantage of their rustic locales by camping, boating, and fishing. Secondly, the focus is entrepreneurs/small business. Entrepreneurship is defined as someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced. To be concise, the goal is to have a younger family demographic move in and have small businesses creating jobs simultaneously.

The next step was to create an internal mission statement and an external tagline and logo. The Positioning Statements guide our marketing and operating decisions. Our Positioning Statement reads: The growing entrepreneur or small business owner can escape to a thriving community surrounded by natural beauty.  Blairsville-Union County offers everything you need to grow your family and your business–– delivering strong business support, a top five school system, and endless community and recreational amenities.  The growing entrepreneur can escape, discover, and thrive in Blairsville-Union County.  A tagline is a succinct phrase situated under or alongside your logo that communicates a single but powerful brand message designed to resonate strongly with an intended audience. #BelieveIt

Arriving in Blairsville always makes one stop and say “I can’t believe this.” Ice Climbing, the Appalachian Trail, an airport in the valley, near a big casino, new businesses opening every week, unparalleled views, moonshine, wine & grits, high speed fiber optic cable, Farmers Market, trails, a Georgia Top 5 School system, an award-winning hospital, a preserved and growing downtown, golf, farm to table, lakes, streams, headquarters for a large bank, friendly people. This list goes on.  Well, it is not unbelievable. In fact, all you have to do is believe it.  All this can be your story as you grow a business, plant your family, expand your opportunity, and improve your life.  Blairsville – Union County.  Believe It.

Part 2 will recap the implementation of the rebranding project. For more information about the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, call 706-745-5789 or go to VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.