Category Archives: Presidential Wisdom

Take 5 with Tommy Drake

allstateThis week’s Take 5 is with Tommy Drake of Allstate. Tommy is a member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce and is active in the Blairsville Downtown Development Authority. He and his team are eager to assist you with your insurance and financial services needs. Let’s take a moment to get to know him better.

  1. What is your job title and what do you do at your Allstate Agency?

I am the owner of the Enotah Group, an Exclusive Allstate agency. Many people think of us as just insuring cars and houses, but we also offer insurance for businesses and commercial vehicles, builders risk, general liability, umbrella policies, off road vehicles, motorcycles, tractors, boats & collectable vehicles and even pets. We also a full range of financial services including life insurance, retirement savings, mutual funds, IRAs, annuities and college savings plans. We cover Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

  1. What is one of your favorite quotes?

My favorite quote is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emmerson (among others) although many versions of it have been circulated for quite some time:

“Watch your thoughts for they become words, watch your words for they become actions, watch your actions, for they become habits, watch your habits for they become your character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”

  1. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?

A few years back I crossed over into the “dark side” of fifty. This has been a very liberating age – full of changes, challenges and growth. Something happens when you hit the half century mark: you realize that it’s none of your business what other people think of you. When you get that, you’re free to think about other, more productive, things. I’m really enjoying my fifties.

  1. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I’d get my private pilot’s license – something that I’m planning to do in 2015.

  1. Have you ever met a famous person? Who and Where?

About fifteen years ago I met Joan Rivers. She was speaking at a fundraiser for the Orlando Coalition for the Homeless. Many people don’t know what a great motivational speaker she was. And she kept saying that no matter how bad today is, you will wake up tomorrow and it will be different. And she was right. You’ve got to wake up every day and start anew. Otherwise you might miss something wonderful.

To reach Tommy Drake, your local Allstate agent, call (706) 745-4400 or email His office is located at 44-B Town Square, Blairsville, GA 30512.

How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions in Blairsville

BEST-Logo-window Decal (2)January is the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions. Almost all of us have made them at some point in our lives, and probably the same number of us have had trouble keeping them. Not to worry! The Chamber is here to help you make and keep your New Year’s Resolutions while living or visiting Blairsville-Union County.

Resolution #1 – Lose Weight. This is such an easy one for those in Blairsville-Union County. Besides several great fitness centers who offer a variety of indoor equipment and classes, we live in the most perfect area to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Two of my personal favorites are hiking the many wooded trails throughout the county and walking the recreational trails at Meeks Park. No matter what your preference for activity level, Blairsville-Union County offers it all.

Resolution #2 – Save Money. Looking to save money in 2015? The Chamber is happy to help! Saving money begins with shopping local. Not only will you save on gas money, but our members are also always offering great deals. Start by checking out our hot deals on You can sign up to have them sent directly to your email as they are posted. Also consider signing up for our Buy Local Coupons and Events newsletter that will send you information on our annual events that help you save time and money by shopping with our local merchants.

Resolution #3 – Volunteer. Blairsville-Union County is well known for is community minded citizens. If you have not had the opportunity to experience volunteerism in our community, this is the year to start. Local nonprofit organizations serving a variety of interests are ready to put your talents into action for the good of others. These interests include kids, elderly, animals, festivals, and businesses. Contact the Chamber for a list of places who could use your services!

Resolution #4 – Learn Something New. We are blessed with an abundance of talented people in our community who are willing to share their skills with others. Always wanted to learn to crochet or paint? Ready to learn to play guitar? Interested in calligraphy? Whatever new skill you are hoping to learn, we likely have someone who can teach it to you through educational classes right here in our town. Let us help connect you with your future instructor.

Resolution #5 – Join The Chamber. Oh, this is not one of the most common resolutions? Well, it should be! Being a member of the Chamber, whether you are associated with a business, organization, or as an individual, is one of the best things you can do for yourself in 2015! Becoming a member of the Chamber demonstrates your desire to help grow your community. Through our programs and services, you will feel more involved and connected to your community. You will be given opportunities for personal and professional development. You are almost guaranteed to be happier and more successful in the new year!

Are you ready to start making your 2015 resolutions a reality? Contact the Chamber today at 706-745-5789 and let us start you on your way. Happy New Year!

Thank You!

hdr-logo-001As 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.

Merry Christmas

merryMerry Christmas from the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce! To all who believe, there is truly something magical about this time of the year.

All around Blairsville during the month of December, we have witnessed the hustle and bustle of frantic shoppers, children eager to sit with Santa and express their wishes, Christmas party goers, lights being hung on rooftops, and wreaths and trees put up in windows. Yet, among the midst of all the excitement, the words to “Silent Night” seem to keep playing in my mind, “All is calm. All is bright.” Just around the corner, across all the land, there will be a calmness that descends. No more lights to hang, cards to send, or presents to wrap. On Christmas Eve, the night before the birth of Jesus, all who are aware will feel it too. Its’ a time of reverent calmness that sweeps the town as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

My hope is that each one of us take time to celebrate the gifts of Christmas and the joy it brings. If you too have been caught up in all of the chaos, it is not too late! I encourage you to take a least a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life and all the wonders of Christmas.

From our hearts to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas! Thank you for being part of our Chamber and this wonderful community.

Take 5 with Dustin Rogers

gmrecThis week’s Take 5 is with Dustin Rogers, Research Technician 3 at the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center (GMREC). In his role at the station, Dustin is responsible for the oversight of test crops including apples and wine grapes. He also works with row crops and cattle and is responsible for ground maintenance. The grandson of Neal Moon, former Union County Extension Agent, Dustin has a long history of working around agriculture and farming and has early memories of spending time with his grandfather on the grounds of the Experiment Station as it was formerly known.

  1. What do you like best about working at the GMREC?

The first thing that comes to mind is the awesome views that I enjoy every day and the great crew that I get to work with on a daily basis. I also love the variety of jobs that I am able to do such as spraying pesticides, pruning apple trees, mowing, weedeating, and bailing hay.

  1. What is your favorite type of music?

I honestly like all kinds of music. My mom loved southern rock like Skynyrd and ZZ Top and my dad was more a fan of Alabama and Charlie Daniels. I had a lot of southern influence growing up, but Hank Jr. has always been my favorite.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is, “I’m Your Huckleberry” by Doc Holiday from the movie Tombstone.

  1. If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do?

That’s a tough one. First I would take care of my family and friends. Then I would probably go to Vegas and try to double my money. Just kidding. I would take a long vacation though.

  1. What is your favorite hobby?

I love the outdoors. Hunting and fishing are my favorites. Also I love sports (Go Dawgs, Cindy). I play a lot of softball and basketball and enjoy coaching with the Union County Recreation Department.

For more information on the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center call 706-745-2655 or go online to The GMREC is located three miles south of Blairsville on Highway 129.

Debra Edwards Announces Retirement

Debra Edwards, Information SpecialistOnce upon a time, eight and a half years ago, there was a brand new Chamber President in Union County. Her name was Cindy. One of the first tasks that Ms. Cindy was given by her Board of Directors was to hire a full time Information Specialist who would run the county’s Welcome Center. Being new to the job, Cindy was a little nervous about her first hire. She knew this person would often be the first face visitors would see when they came to Union County and to the Chamber, and she certainly wanted them to make a good impression. Ms. Cindy wanted this person to be warm, friendly, and kind. She wanted them to be fun and engaging. She wanted them to be passionate and knowledgeable. She wanted the perfect employee and the Lord saw fit to send her just that. That blessing came in the form of Debra Edwards…

In 2006, Ms. Debra Edwards, whom I call Debbie, was hired as our Chamber’s first and only, full time Information Specialist.   She had previously worked with the Chamber in a membership and events capacity and came highly recommended. For eight years, I have worked alongside this amazing woman, and I cannot recall a single person who has ever had anything but nice things to say about her.   As an employee, Debbie is steady, dependable, and trustworthy. As a person, she is delightful, charismatic, and caring. The Chamber has been most fortunate to have her as an employee. I have been most fortunate to call her friend.

Last week, Debbie announced her retirement as of December 31, 2014. In the remaining weeks, I invite you express your appreciation to her for all of her contributions to this community, its businesses, and its people. We will host a public reception on Thursday, December 18 from 3 to 5pm at the Chamber of Commerce located at 129 Union County Recreation Road. All are welcome to attend. Additionally, she can be reached by phone at 706-745-5789 or by email at

…After eight and a half years of camaraderie and friendship, Ms. Cindy could not help but smile when she thought about all the good times and laughs that they had shared and all that they had accomplished together. And although she couldn’t deny the twinge of sadness over the change that was coming, Ms. Cindy was even more ecstatic that Ms. Debra was about to go live her happily ever after.

Catch The Christmas Spirit!

co2jpeg (3)We are entering the most wonderful time of the year, and I couldn’t be happier. Coming off of a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family, it is time begin the preparation for the Christmas season and all the magnificent joy it brings. The Blairsville-Union County community will be offering many great opportunities to celebrate the season. The following are three such events brought to you by the Chamber of Commerce.

Jingle Bell Buys: In case you missed last week’s article or need a last minute reminder, our Jingle Bell Buys event happens this weekend. For three days only, Thursday, December 4 through Saturday, December 6, 30 local merchants are offering a variety of Buy One Get One Free items or 50% off items to help you save time and money this holiday season. Find and print the full list of coupons on the homepage of our website at   This event is cosponsored by Busy Bee Printing & Signs and Huddle House. The Chamber reminds you to shop local this Christmas!

Tour of Trees: Our very popular Tour of Trees has begun. Our local businesses have put their creativity into action, and we now have over 35 Christmas trees and wreaths on display at the Union County Community Center located at 129 Union County Recreation Road. The trees and wreaths will be on display throughout the entire month of December. Stop by anytime to explore and enjoy. People’s choice winners will be voted on and awarded at our Holly Jolly Christmas event. Winners will be announced in each category. Thanks to our sponsors Union General Hospital, Inc and Union General Wellness Center.

Holly Jolly Christmas: On Saturday, December 13, make plans to visit the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road from 3-6pm for our free Holly Jolly Christmas community event. Bring your family and enjoy refreshments, kids’ activities, and community musical performances. Santa will also be onsite for personal and/or professional photos. Those who attend the Holly Jolly Christmas will be given the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice awards for our Tour of Trees. Another thanks for our sponsors of this event, Union General Hospital, Inc and Union General Wellness Center.

In addition to these great Chamber of Commerce events, there are a number of community happenings over the next few weeks including the Christmas Parade, Breakfast with Santa, Kris Kringle Mountain Market, Christmas Tree Lighting at Vogel State Park, Christmas shopping events, open houses, and church musical performances. Be sure to check out our events calendar online at or call 706-745-5789 to plan your Christmas activities.


jingle bellsNeed a reason to shop local this Christmas?  How about 30 of them!  The Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce invites you to take part in our Jingle Bell Buys weekend event.  Thirty local merchants are offering discounts on hot Christmas gift items during normal business hours on Thursday, December 4 through Saturday, December 6.  For three days only, savvy shoppers can take advantage of a variety of “buy one get one free” deals and featured 50% off items.  Whether you are a newcomer to the area ready to discover all that Union County has to offer, or a long time resident who believes in supporting the businesses who make our local economy strong, this event is for you.

The Chamber would like to say a special thanks to Busy Bee Printing & Signs and Huddle House for sponsoring our Jingle Bell Buys event. Just to give you a taste of the great deals, Busy Bee Printing will be offering 50% any size satin or canvas photo print and Huddle House will be offering buy one get one free Smokehouse Breakfast Platters!  To receive a full list of this year’s coupons, simply go to or call the Chamber of Commerce at 706-745-5789.  If you would like to subscribe to future email coupon promotions, and never miss another great sale, go to, click Newsletter Signup and subscribe to Buy Local Coupons & Events.

The following local businesses are participating in the Jingle Bell Buys event: Busy Bee Printing & Signs, Huddle House Restaurant, Snack Wagon, Cornerstone Thrift Store, Candles By Jean, Early Bird Antiques Emporium, Ugly Mug Café, The Vacuum Store, Jerae’s Unity Alpacas, Mary Kay Cosmetics – Roberta Ford, Black & White Antiques, Logan Turnpike Mill, Origami Owl – Sharon Penner, Thirty One – Rebecca Erwin, Natural Treatments for Brain & Body, Pat’s Hallmark Shop, Mountain Hope Pottery & Sculpture, Hi Country Shops, Alpha Drug Testing Services, Sundance Gallery, Galaxy Bowling of Union County, Grandaddy Mimm’s Distillery, General Supply, Mountain Crossings, Curves of Blairsville, Austin Blu, SafeGurad Lock and Vault, Aspen Hearth & Home, and Origami Owl – The Lauras.

As you are out and about, be sure to stop by the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce located in the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road.  During the entire month of December, you will be able to enjoy approximately 40 beautiful Christmas trees and wreaths that are decorated by our local Chamber members as part of our annual Tour of Trees presented by Union General Hospital, Inc and Union General Wellness Center. There is no admission fee to this event.

It’s A Great Time To Join The Chamber

Community Guide 2014Each year, the Blairsville-Union County Chamber prints a membership directory as part of our Community Guide. The Community Guide is a professional, full color publication that serves as an all inclusive marking piece for visitors and new residents in Union County. A complimentary business listing in the business directory section is a valuable addition to your chamber membership, but you must be an active member in good standing on the directory deadline of December 12, 2014. If you or someone you know has been considering chamber membership, let me encourage you to act now so that you will be part of the 2015 Community Guide and Membership Directory.

All businesses, organizations, and individuals who have a vested interest in the prosperity and wellbeing of Blairsville-Union County are invited into the membership of our chamber. Business memberships start as low as $150 per year! For a nominal investment, members gain access to a variety of advertising tools, invaluable resources and educational opportunities, and a network of likeminded business people, all of which contribute to the personal and professional success of the member. Through benefits such as special event invitations and marketing and promotional avenues, membership provides opportunities for your growth and development.

Whether you are looking to join the chamber for the first time or rejoin after a period of inactivity, we are ready to partner with you. It is time to join forces with over 550 local businesses and individuals who are part of our membership. Contact the chamber at 706-745-5789 to schedule an appointment or go to and fill out the online application. Membership can start working for you today!

Take 5 With Jay Burks

jayThis week’s Take 5, puts the spotlight on Jay Burks, owner of Jay’s Medical Equipment. Jay’s Medical provides equipment for in home use such as beds, oxygen, and wheelchairs. The business opened in May of 2007 as a way to serve the needs of Union County by a locally owned company. Over the past seven plus years, Jay’s Medical has been an active member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce as well as an invaluable member of the Union County business community.

  1. Tell us your favorite thing you do in your position?

I love being able to work with our patients and providing them solutions to their problems.

  1. Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you work before opening Jay’s Medical?

I worked with a national company doing the same type of work. Being a national company, profits were more important than patient care. That is why I decided to start my own company with some great employees that wanted the same.

  1. What was one piece of inspirational advice you received growing up?

Growing up, my parents taught me to always help someone in need. That has definitely been great advice as I have pursed my own business.

  1. Superman or Batman?


  1. What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?

I have always been a big fan of sports. I enjoy watching, playing, or coaching any sport.

Jay’s Medical Equipment is located at 77 Wayne Colwell Drive in Blairsville. Jay and his team can be reached by calling 706-835-2233 or online at Thank you, Jay for being part of this week’s Take 5!