Tag Archives: tourism

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.

Top 5 Reasons to Move Your Business to Blairsville

Blairsville is a beautiful town and an ideal place for raising a family, growing a business and living the life you’ve always wanted. We are confident that whether you move your existing business or build a new one from the ground up, Blairsville can give you the people and resources you need to be successful. To help start your decision making process, we’ve put together a list of our top five reasons you should consider moving your business and family to Blairsville.

  1. Find Your Perfect Mix of Business and Pleasure
    There is an old adage that goes “If you do something you love, you never have to go to work a day in your life.” In Blairsville, we want our business owners to succeed in doing what they love as much as we want them to love the place they work. Blairsville has the infrastructure and workforce to accommodate your needs, as well as vast leisure activities and an exceptionally high quality of living – making your workplace feel more like a vacation destination. Watch this video to hear from local business owner, Chris Wadle, to see how relocation to Blairsville enabled him to pursue both his career aspirations and personal passions.
  1. Entrepreneurs Welcome Here
    We love new ventures in Blairsville and will work alongside you to assist in your business needs. Blairsville offers a low tax rate and helpful resources to start and grow your business. The Blairsville Chamber of Commerce can provide assistance to members with anything from advertising to professional development. Also, the Union County Development Authority provides extensive information about being an “Entrepreneur Friendly Community,” and even has a guide to help entrepreneurs with planning, financing, and licensing.
  1. Big City Benefits, Small Town Comforts
    For entrepreneurs looking to have all the benefits of a metropolitan area without all the stresses of city life, Blairsville is the ideal location. Just a two hour drive from Atlanta and three other major cities, Blairsville is close enough to several major cities to easily accommodate work you may have in those areas – without the long commutes and concrete jungles of urban areas.Business in Blairsville comes with a slower pace of life and tight-knit community without sacrificing modern technology. Blairsville has top of the line broadband services with a 100% fiber network, meaning your internet speed will be just as great in your Blairsville office as it would be in any major city. Blairsville can even accommodate call and data centers with ease.
  1. Blairsville is Family Friendly
    Blairsville has everything you need to grow your family. With a wide range of leisure activities and a top-rated school system and hospital, relocation for your family has never been easier. Your family can thrive in a community that strives to build up a future generation of leaders. Watch this video to hear from local business owner and mom, Ilke Lander, to hear how Blairsville has a focus on family.
  1. A Growing Tourism Industry
    The Georgia Department of Economic Development reported that tourism in Georgia is a $59 billion industry. Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville has its own robust tourism industry that is continually growing and seeking new ways to increase visitors, thanks to the dedication of local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce. Blairsville has parks, trails, mountains, festivals, lakes, waterfalls, events, wedding venues, wineries, and many other exciting activities that attract thousands of visitors each year. As tourism continues to grow, so will your business and your outreach.

For more information on Blairsville or to look into opening your business in this friendly mountain town, visit www.visitblairsvillega.com.

North Georgia Farm Trail

NGFT-LogoAgritourism is a thriving industry in Blairsville-Union County. Our Chamber of Commerce is thrilled to be part of the promotion of so many tremendous assets in Union County. For those who are unfamiliar, agritourism is a beautiful blend of Georgia’s top two revenue generating industries – agriculture and tourism. Some examples of agritourism businesses include farmers markets, u-pick farms and orchards, vineyards & wineries, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and farm-to-table restaurants.

In the summer of 2013, the Chambers of Commerce in Gilmer, Fannin, Union, and Towns counties unveiled the first edition of the North Georgia Farm Trail guide. This pocket guide quickly became a popular reference for all agritourism destinations in the four county area along Georgia Highway 515. Union County listings included places like the Union County Farmers Market, Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center, Southern Tree Plantation, Logan Turnpike Mill, Sunrise Grocery, The Sawmill Place, wineries, horseback riding stables, alpaca farms, and roadside markets. On the heels of our initial success, we have recently unveiled the second edition which has grown to include even more great destinations!

The North Georgia Farm Trail 2014-2015 edition has been expanded in two primary ways. First, the new guide now covers a five county area to include Pickens County destinations as well. The increased distribution throughout Pickens County has proven beneficial for all counties involved. Secondly, the newest edition now includes handmade arts and crafts retail locations. In addition to the over 40 listings for traditional agritourism sites in Union County, we now also have eighteen retail locations listed in Union County alone!

Visitors to our area love to explore the North Georgia Farm Trail, and you will too. Fall is a great time to get out and experience all that this great county has to offer. Please stop by the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center located at 129 Union County Recreation Road to pick up your copy. If you have any questions regarding the North Georgia Farm Trail or other offerings by the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, you may call us at 706-745-5789 or visit our website at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Engage Your Senses This Fall

Fall DriveAutumn is my favorite season of the year. There are so many wonderful, fun, exciting ways to engage your five senses right here in Union County and enjoy experiences of which city folk can only dream! Here are a few of my suggestions for great autumn activities.

See – Take a ride along any of our scenic byways or mountain roads and delight in the explosion of autumn color – Richard Russell, GA 180, and US 129 South are a few of my favorites. This is a great time of year to make your way to the top of Brasstown Bald and see unmatched natural beauty. Finally, everyone will be able to enjoy the many scarecrows around town as part of our Scarecrow-Ville event.

Touch – Why not take a trip to an alpaca farm and pet these lovable creatures?   You’ll find a great selection of alpaca fiber clothing and accessories to keep you warm as the temperature drops.

Taste – This will be your last chance to pick up fresh, local produce at the Union County Farmers Market to make your own perfect autumn meal. Contact the Chamber for a list of old time general stores where you’ll find the perfect ingredients to complete your recipe.   Or if you are like me and prefer someone else do the cooking, try one of our many delicious restaurants including our newest Farm To Table restaurant, The Sawmill Place. Stock up on Sorghum Syrup to enhance your morning biscuit or make your way to our local winery or craft beer shop for a sip of the season.

Smell – Stop by a local retailer and pick up your favorite scented candle. The smell of apple or pumpkin pie will lift your mood. Step foot into one of our local bakeries and inhale autumn yumminess!

Hear – This is a great time for music in the mountains. Visit one of our many upcoming festivals – the Indian Summer Festival in Suches, the Sorghum Festival at Meeks Park, and the Fall Hoedown at Vogel State Park. There are concerts each Friday night at the Historic Courthouse on the square or check out our online events calendar for local music events around town.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the North Georgia Farm Trail guide in the Chamber of Commerce/Welcome Center and explore all of the agritourism sites in the area. This is the perfect time of year to get up, get out, and get happy!

For additional shopping, dining, lodging, and attraction information, contact the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce at 706-745-5789, online at wwwVisitBlairsvilleGA.com, or me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com.

Tropical Costa Rica

The Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce is happy to costaannounce our next great travel opportunity to Costa Rica in April of 2015. Tropical Costa Rica is being offered by the Chamber in partnership with leading tour operator Collette Vacations.

The Tropical Costa Rica tour departs April 25, 2015 for a nine day getaway. Enjoy lush forests and stunning waterfalls, exotic wildlife, and endless coastlines.   Visit San Jose, Guanacaste, Monteverde, and Arenal. Tour the Doka Coffee Estate, the Moteverde Cloud Forest where trees grow to heights of 100 feet, and Selvatura Park with more than 30 species of tropical butterflies. Relax as you take a delightful cruise on Lake Arenal and enjoy a guided, leisurely-paced “Hanging Bridges” walking tour. Still not enough? Extend your vacation with an optional 4 day jungle adventure at Tortuguero National Park to include a wildlife boating tour, bird watching excursion, and a spectacular boat cruise through the canals.

In addition to the remarkable stops on the tour, Collette Vacations is including a variety of services to make this trip one of pure leisure. Transportation will be provided to travelers from Blairsville to the Atlanta airport and back. Collette will handle all flight and hotel arrangements as well as luggage transfers between hotels. Fourteen total meals are also included in the tour pricing which starts at $2,499 per person for double occupancy if you book before October 24, 2014.

Interested travelers can learn more about the tour by attending an upcoming, free and informational presentation on Tuesday, August 5, 2015 at 9am at the Union County Community Center. Please note that this trip is open to the entire community – business owners, families, retirees, etc. For more information about the Tropical Costa Rica tour and to RSVP for the presentation, please call the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce at 706-745-5789 or email travel@blairsvillechamber.com.

And She’s Off!


Less than two months in her new position and Tourism Director Tobie Chandler is leading Union County’s growing tourism industry in a big way.  Because tourism brings people and their money to our county to support our local businesses and sustain jobs, the efforts of the Chamber to promote this leading industry are vital. Here are a few exciting things happening on the tourism front.

  • Hop along the History Trail.  The Chamber is working with a number of county partners including the Union County Historical Society and the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center Community Council to compile a list of historical assets in Union County and organize them into a visitor friendly trail.  Historical businesses, cemeteries, attractions, and structures will all be included. 
  • Homegrown and Handmade can mean only one thing. The second edition of the North Georgia Farm Trail pocket guide to agritourism will hit the stands this week.  The Chambers of Commerce in Towns, Union , Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens counties have just released the second edition of our ultra popular guide to farms, orchards, wineries, and all things agritourism along the Georgia Mountain Parkway.  The just released second edition now includes even more places to experience our authentic mountain treats including retail outlets that primarily offer locally made gifts and treasures.
  • We made the news!  Thanks in large part to the Chamber’s tourism efforts, we have seen recent articles in Northeast Georgia Living on The Sawmill Restaurant and a feature on the Blairsville Scottish Festival and Green Bean Festival in Georgia Magazine.  Additionally, Tobie hosted a film crew at the recent Blairsville Scottish Festival that was shooting a pilot show for The Travel Channel!
  • The Chamber is now on Instagram. This photo and video sharing social media tool will be used for the primary purpose of enticing visitors to come, visit, and stay awhile.  Photos have become the easiest and most valuable way to sell the beauty of our county and lure visitors to come experience all that we have to offer.  Find us on Instagram by searching BlairsvilleChamber.  Use #iheartblairsville to tag your posts or email your photos to tourism@blairsvillechamber.com and we will likely use them in our promotions.
  • And we’re blogging!  The Chamber’s blog can be found at www.ExploreBlairsville.com.  This blog allows us to have candid conversations with the world about who we are and what we have to offer in Blairsville-Union County.  Those who follow our blog will soon be treated to the explorations of our good friend, Lottie, who will experience Union County in fascinating ways and recap her adventures.  

In addition to these great accomplishments, the Chamber is fulfilling daily information requests that come from a variety of sources about all the great things to see, do, and experience in Blairsville-Union County. We are working hard on behalf of our 560 members and a community that we love. If you have ideas, suggestions, or feedback please call our office at 706-745-5789 or email me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com.

Spring Itinerary

Helton Creek Falls

Helton Creek Falls

The weather has warmed and the sun is shining over Blairsville-Union County. Spring is finally here! Are you ready to spend time in the great outdoors? Here are a few ideas for putting together a wonderful spring itinerary.

Venture out on one of our three lakes, Nottely, Winfield Scott, or Trahlyta, and choose your activity. Boating, fishing, skiing, kayaking or pedal boats make great lake activities. If waterfalls are more your style, we have plenty of those too. A waterfalls guide can be obtained in the Chamber’s Welcome Center or requested online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Are you ready to see Union County from a new perspective?  Try taking in the views atop Brasstown Bald or exploring the lovely countryside while horseback riding. Many of the hiking trails that wind throughout the county offer incredible views that just might take your breath away. If history is your cup of tea, Union County has a lot to offer. Have you ever toured the Historic Union County Courthouse or the Mountain Life Museum? Have you seen the Trackrock Petroglyphs up close? How about the Byron Herbert Reece Farm & Heritage Center or the CCC Museum at Vogel State Park? Here is one you might not have thought of – the historic cannery and interpretive displays at the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center.   While you are there, you can browse the ethnobotanical and native plant gardens.

There is definitely no shortage of festivals and events to attend this time of year. Weather you prefer arts and crafts, green beans, or bagpipes, you need not look any further than right here at home in Union County. Also, consider one of a host of other local events that offer music, dining, gift items, and educational activities. Those can be found on our online Chamber events calendar or by signing up for our weekly or quarterly events newsletter.

The Chamber is always ready to assist with planning your next weekday or weekend escape right here in Union County.   Check out our preplanned itineraries online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com or call us at 706-745-5789.

The Real Value of Chamber Membership

While approximately 550 local businesses and organizations already understand the value of being a member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce and therefore are currently active members, there are many more that probably have not considered the true impact membership can make. Allow me to share the results of a 2012 study by The Schapiro Group, an Atlanta-based strategic consulting firm, on the real value of joining a local chamber.

The national survey of 2,000 adults revealed that being active in a local chamber of commerce is an effective business strategy because two-thirds of consumers believe that such companies use good business practices, are reputable, care about their customers, and are involved in the community.  When consumers know that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 49% more likely to think favorably of it and 80% more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future.

Small businesses stand to gain significantly if consumers are aware that the business is involved with its local chamber.  For example, if respondents know that a small business is a member of its local chamber, the business enjoys a 49% increase in its consumer favorability rating, a 73% increase in consumer awareness, a 68% increase in its local reputation, and an 80% increase in the likelihood that consumers will patronize the business in the future.

With survey results like these in addition to a long list of member benefits, it is easy to see the value of being a member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce.  If you are a business owner and would like to learn more about how you can benefit from membership, contact our Chamber at 706-745-5789 or me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com.

Irish Splendor

Community travel trip to Ireland. Pictured: Cindy Williams

Community travel trip to Ireland. Pictured: Cindy Williams

This month, eleven local travelers returned from a wonderful group tour of Ireland, the first of its kind offered by the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. The trip was organized as an opportunity for interested travelers to broaden and expand their horizons and challenge their perspectives. Through vacations and travel, we often begin to engage our mind in ways that stretch our imagination and almost always reap great rewards. This was absolutely the case in Ireland as well.

After joining others from the states of Oregon, Minnesota, Texas, and Tennessee, our group set off for an adventure of a lifetime. The eight day tour included stops in Dublin, Cashel, Killarney, Dingle, Cong, and Tullamore. Among the highlights of the trip were the awe-inspiring views from the 700 foot high Cliffs of Moher, an overnight stay at the magnificent Ashford Castle, two outstanding music and dance shows, a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and numerous opportunities to explore the local shops, restaurants, and pubs.

The Irish culture is one of loyalty, gratitude, and hospitality. In the southern part of the country, where we toured, the site of an Irish flag is not uncommon and there is no shortage of Irish coffee, Celtic symbols, or St. Patrick souvenirs. The amount of pride they appear to take in their heritage is admirable. The locals also seemed very grateful for tourism and the positive impact it has on their economy. Through this gratitude, their hospitality shined. Many in our group were offered assistance in navigating the cities and towns simply because we were observed studying a map!

After having experienced international travel this year, I highly encourage those who are able to take the opportunity to experience the world. For me, many things have changed. I am more enlightened and educated as to the cultures and customs of the places I’ve traveled, and I am inspired to appreciate new things. However, one thing never changes. I am always happy to return to what I consider the most beautiful and perfect place in the world, right here in Union County.

If you would like to be informed of future travel opportunities through the Chamber, please contact our office at 706-745-5789 or me directly at President@BlairsvilleChamber.com.   You can see photos from this year’s trip on the Chamber’s facebook page.


FM13As we approach November 5th, the day when voters in Union County will have the opportunity to cast their ballot on the continuation of the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on past SPLOST projects and what they have meant for the tourism industry and therefore in turn, local businesses and citizens.

The existing SPLOST was approved by Union County voters in 2008. Among the projects completed since that time were the construction of the Union County Community Center, now home to the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce; the Farmers Market and Cannery; a Meeks Park expansion; the Covered Horse Arena; and the Library renovation. Each of these projects may be utilized by both residents and visitors to our area. As we all know, visitors bring tourism dollars to our community.

Many may wonder why tourism matters and even go so far as to say that they would rather not have tourists to our area, but allow me to explain why tourism should matter to everyone. In its simplest form, tourism matters because it creates jobs and saves us money. Visitors come to Union County and spend money in local businesses. These businesses collect and remit sales tax. The sales tax helps to pay a significant portion of the important and necessary services that all residents enjoy such as quality roads and bridges and safety services. Additionally, it allows for county resources that we all enjoy, but would not otherwise be available. These items then no longer have to be paid for strictly out of property taxes. Everyone can appreciate lower property taxes.

The decision to vote yes or no for the continuation of the SPLOST is yours. I encourage you to ask the appropriate questions that will lead you to an informed decision. I also want to remind you that while the current SPLOST is in effect, your local purchases in local businesses are one of the easiest and best ways you can show your support for your neighbors, for your community, and for your own well-being.