One Band, One Sound

As we begin our new fiscal year as a Chamber, our theme is One Band, One Sound. The phrase comes from the 2002 film, Drumline. You don’t have to have been part of a band or drum corp to identify with the film, because the takeaway is a powerful message about leadership and followership. 

In the movie, the phrase “One Band, One Sound,” is spoken by the Band Director to the drum corp. The message is that every band is unique and has their own sound. No two bands should or will sound alike. As the Director shouts "One Band, One Sound!” before they enter the field, he is leading them by encouraging and reminding the band to be themselves, to be different, to stand out from the crowd. 

One Band, One Sound is such a poignant and inspiring phrase and one from which we can learn a lot. Being a successful business leader, a great teacher, or a difference maker in your organization or community is often much like being the Director of a band. To be a great leader of any kind, you must be a strong individual with a clear vision and understanding not only of your role, but also of your responsibility to lead. 

First-class leaders hire first-class staff. The most effective Presidents in history had the strongest Cabinets. The key to leading is to surround yourself with a strong, qualified, and teachable team. 

Share the vision and lead with the message of One Band, One Sound. 

As the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce rolls into our new fiscal year, we are blessed to do so with a very strong team.

Our new 2015-2016 Board of Directors Executive Team is led by:

  • Clay Fisher, TruVista, Chairman
  • Stacy Miller, South State Bank, Vice-Chairman
  • Bill Wheeler, Georgia Baptist Conference Center, Treasurer
  • Greg Roach, North Georgia Technical College, Past-Chair.

The Board of Directors includes:

  • Burt Holmes with Lanier Clothes – Manufacturing Sector
  • Dr. Angela Reese, Our Kids Pediatrics – Service and Professional Sector
  • Mark Smith, Eastanollee Livestock – Agriculture Sector
  • Amanda Price, Camp Mikell Conference Center – Promotions/Tourism Sector
  • Bryan Westmoreland, X-Factor Grill – Retail Sector
  • Gary Donahue – Senior Sector

And our At-Large Board members include:

  • Tommy Moon, First Citizens Bank
  • Greg Pitts, Department of Labor
  • Tammy Riddle, Northeast Georgia Bank
  • Drew Watson, Bowen & Watson.

Though it is the individual members of each band that make up the sound, it takes the whole band, coming together, with the same focus, to successfully accomplish the goal and to deliver a unified message as One Band, One Sound. This is our goal at the Chamber as we play the role of business advocate and community partner to promote, develop, and support commerce and tourism in Toccoa-Stephens County.

Together as a community…One Band, One Sound!

It Takes a Village

Summertime is here and I am happy to report that he Chamber will finish strong this fiscal year! We wrapped up with the Annual Golf Tournament on May 15th hosted at The Currahee Club. What a beautiful venue, right in our own backyard. Andrew Ward, Clark Spratlin and their fantastic staff along with the Chamber Golf Committee and fabulous volunteers all working together in one accord, helped to make the day seamless for all who participated. And of course we never could have done it without the financial support of our Corporate Sponsors and Chamber Members. Thank you to all who played a part in making the day a huge success.

We followed that right up with our Annual Chamber Meeting & Awards Banquet on Thursday evening May 21st, hosted at Georgia Baptist Conference Center. The evening began with beautiful entertainment by David Fry on the saxophone and a delicious meal. We offer a special thanks to Bill Wheeler, Ann Ash and the amazing Georgia Baptist staff, who created a perfect setting for our event. 

It was an exciting evening of celebration and recognition of many of our outstanding businesses and individuals in this community who are making a difference. What a clear reminder of the high caliber leaders that we have in Toccoa-Stephens County. Ms. Connie Gaines was the Emcee for the event, and Mr. Craig Carter, VP of Field Operations for Chick-fil-A, Inc. was our Keynote Speaker. 

And what a privilege it was to recognize so many in our great community. Mr. Roy Gaines was celebrated as he received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. What a contribution he has made to Stephens County. After joining the Navy in June 1944, and serving in two major engagements in the Pacific, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Mr. Gaines moved to Toccoa to work for the R.G. LeTourneau Radio Station, WRLC. In 1956, Mr. Gaines and his brother Chuck, established Stephens County Broadcasting Company and founded Radio Station WNEG in Toccoa. In 1984, Stephens County Broadcasting Company brought local television to northeast Georgia with WNEG-TV, Channel 32. In Mr. Gaines’ words, “In my sixty plus years as a citizen of Toccoa/Stephens County, I have always believed you have a responsibility to give back to the community that gives you the opportunities it affords. I have tried to do that through various civic and community projects.” His list of accomplishments and contributions is extensive and Toccoa is a better place because of Mr. Roy Gaines and his family.

As we wrap up this 2014-2015 year at the Chamber, it is my absolute privilege to be part of a team that is so determined to lead our community to new heights. The old saying, “it takes a village…” certainly applies here. It takes a village to take a community to the next level, and what an awesome village we have in Toccoa-Stephens!

It's a New Day in Stephens County!

This week we have seen the fruit of the labor of many in Stephens County. For the past nine months hundreds of followers of Jesus have united across denominational lines to work together to help spread the Gospel of Christ to all who would listen. 

Putting aside their differences, over fifty Bible-believing churches have come together as the Body of Christ for the common goal of sharing the good news. Four nights this week, thousands met at the stadium and as a result, hundreds of lives have been forever changed. There are smiles on faces that weren't there before. 

There is hope in their eyes and a peace in their souls, a peace that passes all understanding. God is so good, His mercies are abundant, His grace is amazing…it’s a new day in Stephens County! What a blessing it is to be part of a community that is so intentional about keeping the main thing, the main thing. 

Just as we have seen in this example in our community, when we decide to be intentional for the purpose at hand, we can put aside personal differences and recognize each others’ strengths then we can best work better together and accomplish the goal! We are stronger together than alone. We have strong leadership in Toccoa-Stephens County, with a like-minded goal of bringing new industry, new opportunities and new jobs to our community. Our eyes are fixed on the prize! Fully utilizing all of our resources is the solution, and you are part of the plan.

It can be done…one step at a time. But we need your help! We have opportunities every day to make a difference. Don’t let them pass by. Find a place to serve. Shop here, volunteer here, invest here, start a business here, enjoy life here!

Our enemy delights when we get caught up in our petty differences and take our eyes off the goal. Let’s not get side-tracked but instead come together in one accord and be part of the plan to make Toccoa a town to remember!

Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to do life!

Invest in Toccoa-Stephens County


Every opportunity you have to re-invest in our community makes a difference! Spending $100 at a local independent business creates a ripple effect of $68 in additional local economic activity. If you spend that in a national chain, $43 stays in the community. Spend it online and nothing comes home. (

So think local first when you have something to buy. If we would intentionally divert a large chunk of the money we typically spend out of our county to locally owned businesses, the benefits would be considerable – financially and otherwise. 

Shopping local helps to create jobs and puts our tax dollars to good use. Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms -- continuing to strengthen the economic base and helping to build a vibrant community. 

Local businesses are generally owned by people who live in this community. They are less likely to leave, and more invested in the future of Toccoa/Stephens County.

Local businesses cater to local residents and provide more customer service. They often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling who take more time to get to know customers. They select products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers. 

Our local businesses help to preserve and enhance the social and cultural uniqueness of our community. “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust. 

Local, independent businesses are the heart of any small town. They contribute to its unique character; provide diversity, options, personalized attention, and bring life to our historic buildings. Local businesses provide a unique experience for us to do so many things like get a haircut, buy a book, choose paint, make copies, get fresh produce, buy a personalized gift, find a great vintage dress, have a fresh biscuit or a cupcake, select a diamond ring, sell or buy a house, get a fishing or hunting license, cater a luncheon, have a meal, or fill a prescription.

Let’s work together to help keep our community of Toccoa-Stephens County unique. 

Each time we spend a dollar, we would do well to weigh the full value of our choice, not only for our own benefit, but also for what it means to the health and vitality of our community in the years to come.

Support YOUR home town…invest in Toccoa - Stephens County!

Turn the Page…and Make a Difference

As I am writing I am looking out the open door of my office and enjoying the beautiful weather and breeze in the air. Just last week…and the week before, the kids were out of school due to freezing rain, ice and snow! And today it feels like spring! How quickly the weather has turned the page. One of the many things I love about living in The South and particularly, northeast Georgia.

With springtime comes new life, flowers and trees in bloom, spring cleaning, a fresh start. What better time to get involved in making a difference in your community than right now.  So often we don’t realize all that is right before our eyes in our own backyard. 

What are your interests? Where does your passion lie? You have gifts and talents that are needed right here at home in Toccoa/Stephens County! Toccoa has so many opportunities to volunteer whether it be at the Boys and Girls Club, Keep Toccoa Stephens County Beautiful, Neighbor 4 Neighbors Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Currahee Military Museum, Traveler’s Rest just to name a few. Discover what opportunities are available to you, determine to get involved and make a difference.

We can also help strengthen our local economy by making a commitment to shop local first. Let’s do our best to reinvest our hard earned money back into our community and keep it local. Whether it be for healthcare, retail,  construction, groceries, restaurants, pharmacies, gasoline, furniture, automotive, home and garden, sports and recreation and so much more. Anytime we can re-invest back into our community, the faster and stronger we will grow. 

Another way to invest in Toccoa-Stephens County is to support our local events. We have so many wonderful sources of local entertainment. The Toccoa Symphony, Northeast Georgia Community Concerts, Main Street Events throughout the year, Sage Market, Summer Movies at the Schaefer Center, Ida Cox Music Series, Currahee Military Weekend and the list goes on and on. What a perfect way to expose our children and grandchildren to the wonderful heritage and benefits of living in a small town. 

Since we live here…let’s really LIVE here! Each one of us can make a difference… one choice at a time. Of course, there will be times when we must venture out of town. But every chance we get, let’s commit to first look at how we can support our own community and our neighbors buy shopping local!

Find a need and help meet it. Buy local and make Toccoa stronger. Toccoa Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to do life!

Finding Comfort in Discomfort

In light of the recent news in Stephens County, it would be easy for us to blame and criticize but instead we need to look for solutions. Sometimes we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The reality of our circumstances is that we face some very difficult challenges. Life has gotten a little harder in Stephens County. We can choose to dwell on our circumstances or choose to focus our energy on finding solutions to our challenges. 

An even greater accomplishment would be to figure out what part we can each play in the solution. We often look outside of our community for our sources of relief but this is what I believe… I believe Stephens County is full of great people; these people are smart, strong and willing to persevere. What I’m saying is, the greatest resource we have in Stephens County, is our PEOPLE! We need to learn to work together, live together and rally together to face the challenges that are in front of us. 

I am a firm believer that attitude determines direction and we need to stay positive and encourage the people of our community. One of the ways we can do this is to patronize our local businesses, encourage and support our entrepreneurs with our business. If you have the means to invest, invest locally. Maybe all you can afford to do is speak words of encouragement and help those who are hurting.

I want to be known as part of the solution, not part of the problem. I would love to meet with each of you. Please stop by the Chamber office anytime and chat. Let’s work together to help make our town better! Because Toccoa Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to live!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! As 2014 draws to a close, we move into 2015 with anticipation and reflection. We can certainly learn from our past and should. We must be sure to see the positive take away in all that happens both in our personal lives and also in our business world. There is always something to be learned that we can apply moving forward. 

Often times we might have had the best of intentions but things just didn’t happen like we thought that they would. At that point, we have a choice to make, do we let it shut us down or will it motivate us to keep going? This quote caught my eye the other day, “Giving up on the goal because of a setback, is like slashing the other three tires because you got a flat.” There is a lot of wisdom in that little phrase. Be encouraged and even more determined when unforeseen things occur that shake –up the plan. Get back up, brush off and press on, one step closer to the goal!

Being intentional about learning from our life experiences is paramount to success. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same ole thing and expecting different results! So if “different results” is what we’re looking for, then we have to make sure that our plans intentionally lead us in that direction. So with that being said, here is a question to consider as we turn the calendar year, did we take full advantage of all the opportunities we were given in 2014 or did we miss a few…or many?

It’s a new day, a fresh start and though we can’t change what has already happened, we can learn from it and be determined to make a difference within our own circle of influence. This is the time of year for hope…because of new beginnings, we have hope. There must be a willingness to press on and to entertain new opportunities with a can-do mindset!  I am grateful for the opportunity that I have as the new Chamber President. Established in 1945, our Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce is a business organization dedicated to furthering the interests of our Members. Our mission is to be a business advocate, a community partner, and an economic development stimulator. In accomplishing that task, I am looking forward to connecting and building relationships with our existing members as well as with those who are not yet part of the team. We can surely accomplish more together than we can individually. Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to do life!