This is Community

What a wonderful night to remember, as our community gathered to celebrate the business leaders of Toccoa-Stephens County.

Our 70th Annual Chamber Recognition and Awards Banquet was such a wonderful demonstration of the commitment and dedication of the people in this town that make this place so special and set apart!

The room was full of over two hundred and thirty guests, including our State and local elected officials, business leaders, volunteers, family and citizens of Toccoa-Stephens County. The evening is best described in the words of Christy LeCroy, who chaired the event, “What a community of team players, amazing business people, entrepreneurs, board members, teachers, farmers, volunteers, retirees, bankers, accountants, doctors, cosmetologist, bakers, journalists, pastors, lawyers, rising young adults, accomplished senior adults, leaders, life time achievers, friends and family!! Caring people that show up and tackle whatever task is at hand! We ate, met, awarded, laughed, may have shed a tear or two, prayed, praised, laughed some more and celebrated Toccoa and Stephens County!! What a great place that God has blessed us with to live, work, play and to be a part of!

Moving forward we keep in mind that it’s our privilege at the Chamber to be your advocate and community partner to promote, develop and support commerce & tourism in Toccoa-Stephens County. Just as we have seen in example after example in our community, when we decide to be intentional for the purpose at hand, we put aside personal differences and recognize each other’s strengths then, we can best work better together and accomplish the goal! 

Always remembering that we are stronger together than alone. We have passionate and gifted leaders 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, and we need your help! We have opportunities every day to make a difference. We can’t afford to let them pass us by. We all must find our 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 differences and take our eyes off the goal. Let’s not get side-tracked but instead continue to come together in one accord and be part of the plan to make Toccoa a town to remember! We are moving in the right direction. We are partners in progress!! Opportunities continue to come our way and new doors are opening every day. As we continue to move ahead together let us be sure to appreciate the gift of community that is right here among us. Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to do life!

An Evening With the Stars

You won’t want to miss an Evening with the Stars of Toccoa-Stephens County!! Our Annual Chamber Recognition Banquet is just around the corner! Plan to gather with us at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center, August 18th at 6:30pm for a night to remember! 

Together we will share a delicious dinner and an evening of community fellowship, reflection of our last year as a Chamber, the direction that we are headed in the coming year and celebration of our local Business Leaders and those who have made a lasting impression in this community. There will be live entertainment and a Silent Auction as well. You will surely want to be there!

 Some of the available items in the Silent Auction will include… 

Attorney Services for a WILL, Men’s Suit, Mountain Cabin Weekend Get-away, One week of Camp, Gas Fireplace Insert, One-year Tuition for Dance, Dental Services, Gas Grill, Gift Baskets, Surprise Money Account, Foursome Round of Golf, Lawn Mower, Home Furnishings, Gift Cards and much more. 

If your business would like to participate, please let us know. It’s certainly not too late to add to the collection of silent auction gifts. Tickets for the Annual Chamber Recognition Banquet are available at the Chamber, so plan to join us August 18th for a wonderful evening with the Stars of Toccoa-Stephens County! 

Plan to attend the premiere of Heritage Falls, the first movie ever filmed at Toccoa Falls and featuring our amazing community! This is the INSP Films movie that was filmed here in Toccoa this past spring. Heritage Falls is a dramatic comedy that follows three generations of headstrong men as they venture into the American wilderness for a rugged weekend ‘retreat.’  Family patriarch Charlie Fitzgerald is the most celebrated high school basketball coach in Georgia history, and is seen as a father figure to many of his players.  However, his adult son Evan does not share local sentiment.  In an effort to mend their relationship, Charlie plans a rustic mountain retreat for he, Evan, and Evan's son, Marky.  What follows is a touching and humorous adventure that showcases the trials and triumphs of three generations of dramatically different family members as they are forced to come to terms with longstanding differences. 

Heritage Falls will premiere at the Schaefer Center the evenings of September 8th and 9th , with a matinee on September 11th . Stay tuned for more details…coming soon! 

It’s our privilege at the Chamber to be your advocate and community partner to promote, develop and support commerce & tourism in Toccoa-Stephens County. Join the team and let’s work together for a better Toccoa. We are Partners in Progress!

Partners in Progress

So as I enjoy the fond memories of our most recent Independence Day celebrations and festivities, I have cause to reflect on just how much we so often take for granted. We live in a country where we are free to own our own business, vacation with our family, choose our path for education, all with the freedom to worship our Almighty God! As the headlines have read for quite some time now, it is more and more evident that others who live in this world are not afforded such freedoms.

In this fast paced society of ours, it seems that we too easily overlook the privileges and the blessings in our lives while we get caught up in the challenges that we face and the circumstances that arise in our day to day life. Why do we allow this to happen? I guess it's just human nature, but something that is worth revisiting on a regular basis to help keep our eyes focused on life’s treasures.

The grass is rarely ever greener on the other side of the fence. But if it is, it is probably due to the hard work that has been invested to gain the results that everyone else envies. Success takes hard work. And generally that hard work is by a village of those willing to make the sacrifice.

We are all faced with the temptation to gripe but at the same time we are also faced with the opportunity to make a difference every day regardless of where we live or what circumstances we encounter.

Let us not take lightly the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us and those who currently serve our great Country today, to protect the very freedoms that we enjoy. Let us be careful to see the opportunities and blessings around us every day. Let us be intentional to take advantage of being part of the solution and to always be looking for ways to make this world better.

Specifically, right here in our very own Toccoa-Stephens County, we should all be looking for new ways to get involved and be part of making things better in our hometown. If you see something that you believe could be improved upon, then get on the team and share your ideas and together make it happen. That’s the way we will continue to move our community to the next level and beyond. Teamwork makes all the difference. We are stronger together than we are individually. Plus, if we are part of the solution then we own the outcome and therefore, will be less likely to sit around and critique. And our friends and family will likely follow our lead. So let’s join forces and keep moving forward. This is our Toccoa and we are partners in progress!

Discover Summer in Toccoa

What is there to do in Toccoa? Perched at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Toccoa is home to so many sights and destinations and offers recreational boating, competitive fishing, watersports, camping, hunting, golfing, and scenic drives. Toccoa Falls stand 186 feet – nineteen feet higher than Niagara. The stream that flows from the base of the falls runs through the lower portion of the college’s 1,100 wooded acre campus. Toccoa Falls is known to be one of the highest free-falling waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and attracts guests from all over the nation. is located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College.

Traveler’s Rest, also known as Jarrett Manor, which is an early 19th Century stage coach inn and plantation house located at the crossroads of King’s Highway and the end of the Unicoi Turnpike, which lead across the mountains to the west. Visitors can tour the house and see the original furnishings, artifacts, and documents. Grounds are open daily, interior open every Saturday and Sunday.

Tugaloo Bend is an 87-acre site that has four trails that meander along the Tugaloo River. It is the site of Estatoe (a Native American - Cherokee village and subsequently the site of a 19th and 20th Century operating farm, which now features a pavilion and picnic tables, as well as wheelchair accessibility.

Tugaloo Bend is the Tugaloo River Corridor Heritage Site and is located on Yonah Dam Road just before Walker Creek Access.

The Currahee Vineyards award-winning winery and tasting room. A local favorite is the Three-Mile White Wine honoring the soldiers who trained by running up and down the Currahee Mountain, which you can try for yourself, 3 miles up… 3 miles down, just like the paratroopers! You can also check out the Currahee Military Museum at the historic train depot and Camp Toccoa, which was a WWII paratrooper training camp.

For the huntsman, there is the Chattahoochee National Forest, where you can hunt small game and birds, fish, bear, turkey, and deer. Even if you are not interested in hunting, the Chattahoochee National Forest is welcome to horseback riders, hikers, bicyclists, and campers. Campers can bring their own RV, tents, or rent a cabin.

Toccoa Raceway is the fastest 1650 feet of dirt in Georgia! The high-banked, oval dirt track is the oldest operating track in Georgia. Races are every Saturday night March through September. Family fun for all ages. www.ToccoaRaceway.com

Golfers can also get away and visit The Links at Lake Toccoa, a nine-hole golf course that is newly renovated and features Tifeagle greens, a fully renovated clubhouse, and access to beautiful Lake Toccoa. Treat yourself to Ping’s Grill after your round! Lake Hartwell is renowned for its striped bass fishing, and catering to sportsmen and amateurs alike. The lake and surrounding rivers offer a wide variety of species. Public and private streams, and guided trips are also available. Swimming is also an option, and there are plenty of secluded beaches and islands. So, whether you want to set a hook off the docks, paddle around in a rented kayak, or take to the open water and cruise on the pontoon, Lake Hartwell makes a fantastic destination for a day on the water.

So when you’re asked, what is there to do in Toccoa…here is the answer…Toccoa means more than beautiful! Whether you want to picnic for an afternoon or take off on a trail around the lake on a horse and come back to a campsite, there are gorgeous sights to see and all kinds of adventure to be had!

Discover Toccoa…a beautiful place to live, work and play!

Toccoa Meets Hollywood!

Lights…camera…action! Our very own Toccoa is going to be in the movies! As you may have heard by now, it’s happening! INSP Films, a division of INSP Network out of Charlotte, North Carolina produces films that are inspiring, heartwarming and family-friendly is currently wrapping up the filming of their next feature film here in Stephens County, called “Heritage Falls.”

I have the privilege to be the Stephens County contact for Camera Ready Georgia and have had the distinct pleasure getting to work closely with the team from INSP. We are excited and certainly grateful that they have chosen our community for their next film. This process began in early March…of this year! When I met INSP Producer and Director, and they had a hit list of things that they were looking for before deciding where to shoot their next film. Of course, this was our opportunity to show off our community, and off we went to work our way through the list! It started off with “Would you happen to know of where we could find a remote cabin? And that was just the beginning…

Everywhere we went in this town… I was so very proud. Not only did we have the pieces of the puzzle that they were looking for, everyone was so excited to hear about the possibility of what might be coming our way. In the words of Gary Wheeler, VP of INSP Films,“We are thrilled to have an opportunity to work in Toccoa. The site has a natural beauty that makes it the perfect backdrop for this project. With location playing such a central role in the film, it was critical that we find the right environment. Toccoa and the surrounding area has exceeded our expectations.”

From the first day on location with gorgeous lake views, a breathtaking mountain top, to our quaint shops and restaurants on Main Street, Toccoa Falls, Trembly Bald, beautiful local homes, to caterers, lodging, you name it, we were happy to be able to show off this town. And as always, our local leadership with the City of Toccoa and Stephens County have all been so intentionally accommodating and welcoming. Our merchants and residents have shown such warm customer service. But that’s who we are in Toccoa-Stephens County! The people in our community set us apart…southern hospitality at its best!

Heritage Falls is a dramatic comedy that follows three generations of headstrong men as they venture into the American wilderness for a rugged weekend ‘retreat.’  In an effort to mend relationships, the family patriarch plans a rustic mountain getaway. What follows is a touching and humorous adventure that showcases the trials and triumphs of three generations of dramatically different family members as they are forced to come to terms with longstanding differences.

Of course, the production of Heritage Falls will generate income into our local economy. But in addition to that, we are thrilled that we have this opportunity to showcase our wonderful community and all the resources that are right in our midst. The word is getting out that Toccoa really does mean …more than “beautiful!”

Every Vote Counts

What a privilege we have in this United Stated of America to vote. That right was fought for and we must not take it for granted. Voting is our voice in the process of growing and improving our community, State and Country. With that in mind, The Chamber would like to provide the taxpayers and residents of Stephens County the opportunity to get to know the candidates of our 2016 Republican Primary a little better.

Join us tonight at The Schaefer Center for the first of two Town Hall Meetings. The Government Affairs Committee of the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce and WNEG Radio are sponsoring the events. The format of each meeting will be such that each candidate will take the platform alone and will be given 2 minutes for an opening statement, then each candidate will be asked a series of questions and have two minutes to respond. Each candidate of the same race will be asked the same questions. The candidates will have 15 minutes to field questions and address the audience.

Questions must be submitted to The Chamber ahead of time or put in writing, signed and submitted before the beginning of the Town Hall Meeting to be considered. Please take advantage of this event to ask relevant, issue-based questions so that when it comes time to place your vote, you will be better informed.

Tonight the Town Hall Meeting will be held at The Schaefer Center and begins at 6pm (doors open at 5:30pm) the candidates will be welcomed to the stage from the following races:

  • Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney
    • Honorable George Christian
    • Bruce Russell, Jr.
       
  • U.S. House, 9th District
    • Congressman Doug Collins, Incumbent
    • Bernard Fontaine
    • Mike Scupin
    • Paul Broun
    • Roger Fitzpatrick
       
  • State Senate, 50th District
    • Senator John Wilkinson, Incumbent
    • Roy Benifield
       
  • Stephens County Sheriff
    • Sheriff Randy Shirley, Incumbent
    • Jim Davis

Next Thursday evening, April 21 st again at The Schaefer Center, 6pm (doors open at 5:30pm) we will host the candidates for the following races:

  • Chief Magistrate
    • Donald Tabor, Incumbent
    • Ralph Stowe
       
  • Stephens County School Board, At Large
    • Tony Crunkleton, Incumbent
    • Len Stovall
       
  • Stephens County School Board, District 3, Post 2
    • Jim Ledford, Incumbent
    • Mark Smith
       
  • Stephens County Commission, Post 2
    • Debbie Whitlock, Incumbent
    • Jonesy Haygood
    • Larry Krul
    • Henry Moore
    • Kenny Yearwood

We should all be aware of the challenges that exist in our community. We must see it as an opportunity to involve ourselves in the resolution process and elect the right leaders who will work hard on our behalf and forge through the challenges that we face. When we take advantage of our right to vote, we send the message that our Community, State and Country matter! Be a difference maker and VOTE!!

See you at the polls May 24th; early voting begins May 2nd.

Did you know...?

It’s always fun to spend the day touring Toccoa-Stephens County, but last week I had the privilege to be included on this month's Stephens County Development Authority (SCDA) Industry Tour lead by Tim Martin (Executive Director for the SCDA), Tammy Caudell (Georgia Department of Economic Development), Danette Smith (Georgia Department of Labor), and Dennis Bell (SCDA board member and County Commission Chairman). We met with Trachte, Team Metal Finishing, Toccoa Machine Products, Cotton Conversions, Robertson Furniture, and Morgan Concrete. Here are a few things that I learned.

Did you know...
that right here in Toccoa…Trachte…(pronounced Trock-tee) is a company that designs, manufactures, and erects a full line of durable, pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems and is one of the largest manufacturers of steel self-storage systems in the industry. They got to Toccoa by deciding to open a satellite office to better serve their customer, Patterson Pump Company (which is one of the world's leading suppliers of quality pumps for the Fire, Municipal, Industrial, Flood Control, Plumbing, and HVAC Markets). Growth breeds more growth!

Did you know…
that Team Metal Finishing (TMF) is one of the largest and most respected metal finishers in the Southeast? TMF is a World Class metal finishing operation. Their quality and customer service are unmatched within the industry. Combined with competitive pricing, flexible turnaround, and over 150 years of combined experience! They provide services for Porsche parts too, from right here in Toccoa!

Did you know…
locally owned and operated, Toccoa Machine Products has been in business for over forty years providing quality fabrication, CNC work, welding, and machine work for manufactures and textile companies throughout the region. 

Did you know…
that when you buy online from Amazon.com or purchase a computer from Apple, Inc. that it very well may arrive packaged with materials produced from right here in Toccoa from Cotton Conversions?

Did you know…
Robertson Furniture began in 1946, when George Robertson rented an old cotton warehouse and started making restaurant booths? It was a small operation, serving a local market, but what his company lacked in size, George made up with quality and service. Over the years, Robertson has grown from that small local company into an industry leader providing furnishing from the small coffee shops to popular national chain restaurants to the featured restaurant in an international hotel. So take note the next time you’re eating out at one of your favorite restaurants, you may be enjoying furnishings produced from right here in Toccoa.

Did you know…
The “Family Grown, American Owned” difference is what Morgan Concrete Company was founded on? Since 1975 as a family owned and operated ready-mix company.  They have grown from two employees, including founder Ferrell Morgan, running one batch plant and one mixer truck to now over one hundred fifty employees, nine batch plants, over one hundred mixer trucks, and a fleet of cement tankers and dump trucks, to insure the quality and service levels we have built our reputation around.

We also had the privilege to have lunch at North Georgia Technical College and see the new expansion in the Industrial Systems Technology Department and tour the Culinary Arts Kitchen, not to mention enjoying their awesome lunch! What a terrific resource and asset North Georgia Tech is to our community and to this region!

It was a fun-filled and extremely interesting day to see behind-the-scenes of local industry. We also managed to squeeze in a visit to the NIFCO-KTW plant. Such an impressive facility and HUGE! One hundred fifty-five thousand square feet with room to grow!

As we know, new business brings new business. Toccoa-Stephens County…Here we GROW!

Leaving a Legacy

As we wrap up our 2015-2016 Chamber sponsored Leadership Toccoa and Youth Leadership Program in a couple of weeks, it raises some questions:

  • What legacy are we leaving and what future are we establishing for the generations to come?
  • What we do today will lay the ground work for all who come behind us? 
  • How can we each have a positive impact for the generations to come?

The future leaders of this community need valid reason to come back to Stephens County after they complete their college education. For those who chose to further their education locally or to move directly into the workforce after high school, what will keep them here? How can we encourage them to invest their talents back into the community that poured into them?

As our community leaders work hard every day to increase job opportunities in Toccoa-Stephens County, the work doesn’t stop there. We must all help to establish relationships and a sense of ownership and pride in our community to encourage the next generation to commit to give back to the community that raised them. How do we do that? We can start with the opportunity we have to connect and build relationships with our youth through Mentoring, Internships, and Scholarships. 

Becoming a Mentor in the Middle School may make a difference in one child's life. We, as Mentors, expose these children to a caring, dependable adult who will be there for them each week. A Mentor is a role model, a coach and a listener. Mentors also are a link to other cultures and attitudes, we can show these students an alternate lifestyle that may help them break this destructive cycle. Mentoring is a commitment of ONE. One student, one hour each week and for one school year.  

This school year we have a shortage of Mentors for our Middle School students. As of today we are lacking 18 Mentors for 16 male students and 2 female students. You CAN make a difference! Contact the Chamber for more details on how you can become a mentor for one of our Middle School students in Stephens County. 

Help a student get experience in the workplace by offering them an internship. Internships can provide a great transition between the education process and a career. By bridging the gap between learning and finding a career, internships can speed up the process of moving students toward their career goals. Interning will help teach responsibility, develop skills, create relationships that may lead to a business mentor, sources of job opportunities and references. 

We must raise the next generation of leaders to be catalysts of change and prosperity in Toccoa. We must invest in their cultural preferences and not limit them to ours. Our students today are the business leaders of tomorrow…let’s look for ways to keep them! They are our greatest resource!

Looking Back & Looking Ahead...

There's a good chance that over the past few weeks you have spent time reflecting over the events of 2015 and possibly looking ahead to the opportunities that 2016 will bring. 

Have you written out a list of New Year's Resolutions? There is much to be learned from our previous experiences. One benefit of writing out our goals and dreams is that we then have a measure to look back on, to see when we have actually reached those goals. We can learn from our achievements as well as from our shortcomings. We should always ask ourselves what went well? What could we have done differently? Did we accomplish what we set out to achieve? 

This holds true in our personal life, our professional life, and as a community as a whole. One thing that I have found since I have had the privilege to serve as president of the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce is that our community has strong leadership. Across the board, there is a combined effort to come together and get the job done. There is a joint mindset that we can accomplish much more as a team than we can trying to go it alone. Recognizing the strength that exists in a community with joined forces is key to growth. This concept is our motto at The Chamber...One Band, One Sound. 

I have been in many a regional meeting and heard the challenges that other communities face with leadership that cannot get on the same page. It can be detrimental to the growth and strength in a community. We must be careful not to take for granted the blessing we have in Stephens County with leadership that works together. There is compromise and a win-win mindset and most importantly a mutual respect among the community leadership that keeps us on the same side, working hard for Team Toccoa!

We have so much to be excited about in Toccoa-Stephens County. We hear all the time as people visit our Welcome Center..."there is so much history here," "Such a quaint Main Street and historic downtown," "There is so much to do outdoors, hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, lakes and mountains."

Our natural resources here are abundant! Our visitors see it! We have such a solid balance between our agriculture, industry, service and retail business, strong healthcare, and school system. The opportunities here are endless! We often hear from those visiting our community, "You have everything here!" 

The year 2015 was a big step in the right direction for Stephens County. We have seen growth and expansion in our existing industry, as ASI is expanding their operations. There is also much excitement with new industry, choosing to make Toccoa their home; as SARK Wire and NIFCO-KTW open their US facilities here. Stephens County IS on the map! Every new year brings new opportunities. Let's keep the momentum going! 

Come together, get on the team for 2016 and help make a difference. Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even great place to do life!

A Time to Give…

After spending another Thanksgiving in Nicaragua, working with locals in outlying villages (which I have had the privilege to do for the past 7 years), I am once again so clearly reminded of the great need that exists not only in our community but around the world.

As we are in the midst of the holiday season a spirit of generosity surrounds us. There are many ministries that provide food for our hungry, clothes, shelter, and counseling for those in need. Please take a look at our website's Business Directory and click on the Family, Community & Civic Organizations to see how you might volunteer your time and donate funds to help support these organizations. This is such a busy time of year and the need is so great, please don’t miss the blessing of giving generously.

December 25th is rapidly approaching, and you need to check everyone off your Christmas List with a gift that is personal and just right for each of your loved ones. Before you shop out of town, make the intentional choice to visit our local shops here in Toccoa to help you accomplish your mission. You will find that just-right, unique gift for that special someone. On Main Street and beyond, we have so many lovely shops for specialty gifts, monogrammed accessories, art galleries, locally made items, beautiful dress shops and clothing stores. So fill the space underneath your tree with presents perfect for the ones you love most. You can find a list of many options to choose from at the Chamber website www.VisitToccoa.com under the Business Directory and Shopping and Retail. Wrap up a bit of Toccoa for Christmas!

When your house fills up with friends from out of town and you don’t have enough beds to accommodate, how nice that we have options here in our community to help you with your accommodation needs. Whether it’s a bed and breakfast, hotel, motel, conference center or camp and cabin setting that you’re looking for, Toccoa-Stephens County has it all. Take a look at the Chamber website www.VisitToccoa.com under the Business Directory and Lodging to find comfortable accommodations for those friends and family visiting over the holidays.

And if cooking is not your favorite pastime, we have wonderful restaurants to choose from too. Don’t spend all your time in the kitchen. Take the family to enjoy the many restaurants we have in our town. From our Historic Downtown Toccoa on Doyle Street, to Big A Road and beyond. Spend less time driving and more time visiting over a delicious meal served up fresh and hot right here in Toccoa. 

There’s just something special about a small town Christmas! The street s of Toccoa are beautifully decorated and there’s a feeling of Christmas in the air! The holiday festivities kick off Thursday night Dec. 3rd at the Paul Anderson Park Tree Lighting and Silent Auction.

ChristmasFest begins Friday, Dec.4th, and Downtown Toccoa will be all the rage with the addition this year of a Holiday Ice Skating Rink to add to the Festival of Trees, Live Nativity, Carriage Rides, Santa Claus visits and Santa’s Express Train, Christmas Sage Market, lighting of the City of Toccoa Christmas Tree and so much more! Most of the local shops will be open for business and there will be handmade arts and crafts available for purchase as well. This weekend is the perfect time to get your Christmas shopping done right here in Toccoa while you enjoy the benefits of the holidays in a small town. Re-invest in our community and wrap up a bit of Toccoa for Christmas!

In all the hustle and bustle and excitement of the season, let us be sure to remember the most generous gift ever given. The Gift, the Lord Jesus Christ; given to us by the Father, to redeem us back to Him. May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

Thankful...

As the season of Thanksgiving is upon us, we naturally reflect on the things for which we are grateful. We live in a community full of reasons to be thankful. This has been a year full of progress for Toccoa-Stephens County. Good things are happening…and I am thankful. 

With a continued effort working together with the Stephens County Development Authority, leadership from the City of Toccoa, Stephens County and the Chamber of Commerce were thrilled to see new opportunities for our community begin to come together. An increase in commerce goes hand in hand when new jobs are added. Even when some of those jobs are filled with individuals from outside our county lines, we cannot overlook the money that is spent during the workday by those who work here. It sure has a positive impact on our local economy.

With SARK Wire and Nifco-KTW both choosing to locate in Stephens County, ramping up construction and build-out, planning to be up and running full steam in 2016. Our local employment agencies and the Georgia Department of Labor are working hard to fill the many jobs that have already been created from these companies. New industry breeds more new industry. Who knows what other companies will be drawn to Toccoa-Stephens County because they work closely with a business that is already in our community. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

We all recently celebrated as the sign went up for the coming Holiday Inn Express at the corner of Big A Road and Rose Lane. With that will also come a new restaurant to serve the guests and community. That news comes right on the heels of the totally renovated Country Hearth Inn downtown. As we continue to add to and improve our local accommodations, how nice it will be to have the ability to meet the needs of those visiting Toccoa, instead of having to send them elsewhere to stay the night. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

Existing industry growth also plays a huge part in the growth and stability of a community. Quite a few of our local companies are continuing to invest in Toccoa-Stephens County and they choose to expand their operations here. ASI Corporation is one clear example. They are adding thousands of additional square feet to their Clary Connector location and will soon be adding more jobs to help meet the needs of their existing demand. Carter’s Recycling has also expanded operations with Southeast Metals & Recycling out Highway 123. Also, Cotton Conversions, Inc. has added additional shifts in an effort to meet the increased demand for their products. Just to name a few. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

To date, we have added fifty three new members to The Chamber since December of last year. I am grateful to work with an amazing staff, it’s a joy to come to work each day. Our staff, along with our outstanding Chamber Board of Directors, Ambassador Team, countless volunteers and Chamber members is what makes the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce a success. We are One Band…One Sound all working together for the same goal. Join the Chamber and help make a difference in our town. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

Leveraging Social Media

Hello fellow Chamber of Commerce members! 

I want to encourage you all to embrace and dominate social media marketing. It is time to stop pretending that social media marketing does not matter to your industry. It does matter. We can put our Chamber of Commerce and our community on the map for FREE. I know you love free! 

If you already use social media, great! If you do not currently use social media marketing for your business, you can start by creating free accounts on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. These social media platforms are new ways to market your businesses and our Chamber of Commerce. 

So, what kind of content is good to share with your newfound followers? 

Here are a few quick and easy ideas that you can use to share your business with your followers and customers: 

  • Post candid photos of your business, products, services, and employees
  • Create informative posts on your social media platforms
  • Ask your audience questions
  • Share quotes 
  • Share reviews about your products
  • Share short “behind-the-counter” videos. 
  • Be personable and professional

We want people all over the world to know about our businesses, community, and our Chamber! Social media can help us do that.

On every post, on every social media platform that you exercise, please use the hashtags: #ToccoaChamber and #VisitToccoa. Every time someone types in these hashtags on the social media platforms, every single post with the same hashtag pops up all in one place! Using these hashtags will create and show a unified effort to bring more tourists, workers, and citizens to our community, Stephens County. You don’t always have to spend money to make money. Sometimes, it just takes a few minutes of your workday.

I am happy to answer any social media marketing questions you all may have! I have shared my email address below.

Caitlin Ayers, Proprietor & Publisher
Purple butterfly Pages, Chamber of Commerce member
Email: caitlin@purplebutterflypages.com

Caitlin Ayers, Proprietor & Publisher Purple butterfly Pages, Chamber of Commerce member

Caitlin Ayers, Proprietor & Publisher
Purple butterfly Pages, Chamber of Commerce member

A Glass Half Empty is Half Full...

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A glass that's half empty is half full. Having that perspective in life is a choice. We can celebrate our history and work together towards a great future. The history is set, we can’t go back and change it. 

As we move into this weekend of celebration and recognition, let us reflect on what life might have been like back then and how that compares to today in Toccoa-Stephens County. 

Toccoa, 1942: 
“Come on men. Let’s go. One foot in front of the other. 3 miles up. 3 miles down. You, grab that man there. We never leave anyone behind. You are the newest weapon for the Army. You are strong and brave. You are Airborne.” 

Toccoa, 2015: 
Toccoa-Stephens County, home of Camp Toccoa, made famous by the 101st Airborne and made more famous by the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers does have its share of military history and adventure. Currahee Mountain is still there and yes, if you want, you can climb 3 miles up and 3 miles down the mountain. Granted, you will feel and hear old soldiers on your trail but I am sure they will be encouraging you. For a more relaxing time in some air conditioning, visit the Currahee Military Museum which has plenty of artifacts from the many divisions that trained here. 

Toccoa, 1943: 
“Wake up boys...wake up. Rifle training today. Need to make sure you can shoot straight and true at the enemy. You know the drill...just a small walk to the rifle range at Clemson University. 30 miles away but we are Airborne. The best. Let’s go men. It doesn’t matter that it is 98 degrees outside because when the fighting is around you, the heat doesn’t matter. Grab your gear and fall in line.” 

Toccoa, 2015: 
Toccoa Falls, higher than Niagara. Panther Creek Trail in Toccoa-Stephens was listed as a “Top 100 Hikes in America” by Backpacker Magazine and Outdoor Life Magazine listed us among the “200 Best Towns for Outdoorsmen.” Water sport enthusiasts love us because our entire eastern border with South Carolina is water. Lake Hartwell, the largest man-made reservoirs east of the Mississippi, awaits you. Here you can delight in fishing, boating, swimming and all things refreshing and relaxing.

Toccoa, 1944: 
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, towards which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you...Your task will not be an easy one....We will accept nothing less than full Victory.” CURRAHEE……”Stand Alone.”

Toccoa, 2015: 
Toccoa….means more than beautiful. 

Let us never forget where we have been and what history rests right here in our community. How wonderful that the glass is half full, and each of us has the opportunity to help fill it up and share with others all that there is to experience in Toccoa.  And as we come together this Currahee Military Weekend to celebrate what has happened in the past, we look forward to what good is coming in the future.

The Little Things We Say

There is power in the little things we say!

Do the little things we say really matter? Yes they do! What is being said by John Q. Public in Smalltown, USA matters a lot. What is the affect of one drop of color into clear water? Does it make a difference? Does a second drop, and a third drop strengthen the color of the first drop? Of course it does! If we all do our part we will send a beautiful message. 

Here is a real story from Toccoa-Stephens County…One of our strong, successful and growing companies here in the community that has a great reputation of taking good care of their employees and has continued opportunities for advancement was in the process of hiring an upper level manager. He was excited about the opportunity and the final step of the process was to have his family come to town to check out Toccoa.

As they visited a local establishment, they took the liberty to ask the locals what they thought of Toccoa-Stephens County. The bulk of what they heard was negative, negative, negative, when there is so much positive that is worthy of mention. It may be human nature to dwell on the negatives, but I beg to differ.

Instead of seeing the glass half empty, let’s look at it as half full! Because in doing so, each of us can have a huge impact on the message that is delivered. The take away from that specific experience was that the gentleman turned down the opportunity based on the fact that the comments shared with his family were so negative that they didn’t want to live here. Just to think that the result could have been completely different based solely on the comments of a few people who could have shared the great things about our town as opposed to the negative. Let’s learn from this experience.

All communities have areas that need work, and by all means let’s be careful to address those issues as they arise. But if our goal as a community is to make a difference and leave a positive lasting legacy, then let’s take every opportunity we are given to speak the positive truth about where we live. Maybe we need to take a few minutes to consider the blessings that we have here. So that when we are asked, then those positive and unique treasures of Toccoa are the things that pop into mind and will be the first impression that others hear.

Let’s be intentional to help promote our community and help to make it a better place to be. What does that look like on an everyday basis and how can that involve everyone? Encourage a neighbor or co-worker when you hear complaining. Brag about the things that we might otherwise take for granted. We can all make a difference by having an arsenal full of the reasons why Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to do life!

Be a Servant

Helping others is not only a cure for those who are in need, but for us as well.

Toccoa- Stephens County is full of giving and serving folks. I want to share the most recent example of just how easy it is to make a huge impact and meet a need right here at home:

At a recent Chamber Business After Hours event, hosted by Neighbors 4 Neighbors food bank, a few of our local businesses shared their interest in helping this charity. The ideas were creative and generous. Others expressed a desire in helping and volunteering on a personal level. It was exciting to see our community rally around for the greater good.

One local business, Toccoa Raceway, offered to host a food drive on behalf of Neighbors 4 Neighbors. They went to Quality Foods to see what they could do to help. Quality Foods put together $5 bags of canned goods at their cost (so it was actually of even greater value) and had those available for purchase. Toccoa Raceway offered the public half off the entry ticket to last Saturday night’s races for all who showed up with a $5 bag of canned goods.

By the end of the night, the back of a pickup truck was full and we had collected over 550 lbs. of food to be served to the hungry people in our very own county. Every month, Neighbors 4 Neighbors feeds 800 people from our community. The need is real. 

There are so many wonderful charities working hard every day to serve the people right here in Stephens County. This is just one example to show just how easy it is to make a difference. What a joy it was to see how our local businesses and the residents pulled together to meet a need. 

We can always find a way to be of service to others. From a business standpoint, quality customer service jumps out as the most obvious opportunity. However, that should actually originate from the owner or manager of the business being of service to his/her employees. Be the example that your employees learn to follow. 

Though it is a great thing to be in a financial position to help others in a big way, it is also just as important to take advantage of helping in the little things of life. It doesn’t take any special talent to serve others. No additional gifts are required to stay after a meeting to pick up the trash or stack chairs…that is serving…anyone can do it! 

Words of wisdom from Anne Frank, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  So let’s be intentional about how we can serve those around us. As a local business or as an individual, there are opportunities to help others every day. Mother Teresa once said “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” I can promise you the blessings are endless and probably even more so to the giver!

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

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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. (CivicEconomics.com)

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!