Chamber still searching for president/CEO


The Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce will receive the first quarterly installment of payment for economic development services, however, County Manager Kevin Poe wants to discuss the proposed contract with new Chamber board chairman Mark Valentine and – hopefully soon – a new President/CEO.

The contract calls for payment to the Chamber for $100,000 to be paid to the Chamber in quarterly installments on Jan. 1, April 1, July 1 and Oct. 1 for economic development services, similar to the 2012 contract. The Chamber has recruited and promoted economic development in Jackson County to foster job growth and enhance the tax base.

The Chamber board’s search committee, now chaired by Valentine, is working with the search firm Spherion Staffing to locate a new president and CEO. While the search committee had previously narrowed potential applicants to three for interviews, the board agreed in December after much discussion to allocate a maximum of $20,000 toward recruitment of a new CEO.

Chamber treasurer KathyWilbanks said interviews may be conducted later this week for the position, and Vice President of Member Services Linda Foster is currently interviewing for someone to assume the marketing role at the Chamber.

Valentine presided at the Jan. 19 board meeting held in the board room at Jackson EMC.

Serving with Valentine are incoming chair Emily Howell of Howell Orthodontics; secretary diAna Huckins of Buhler Quality Yarns and treasurer Kathy Wilbanks. New board members are Charlie Schrauth of BSI Management Search & Consulting, Tracy Jordan of West Jackson Medicine Center, Josh Griffin of Wellspring Camp, Bill Cornell of Precision Planning and Van Yath of Spherion Staffing. To serve on the executive committee will be Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner, Larry Cole of First Commerce Bank and Schrauth.

The Chamber is holding down spending as income is below budgeted amounts. Expenditures are also being held below budget. Without a CEO, there has not been sufficient staff to be out actively recruiting new members and renewals have been down.

Committee chairman appointments include Jim Joiner to the Alliance for Economic Development, Beth Laughinghouse to the Tourism Development Council, Lisa Stephens on Education, diAna Huckins for Women in Business and Theresa Kenerly of Legislative Affairs.

The Economic Development Council will be restructured back to that way it previously was with the superintendent or school board chairman from the Commerce, Jackson County and Jefferson School Systems being represented along with chairman of the water and sewerage authority. Two and a half years ago, the EDC’s structure was altered to have Ronnie Hopkins serving in an at-large seat.

In his new role as chairman, Valentine spelled out his vision of a challenging environment to engage board members and to support Chamber members. A focus will also be placed on financial forecasting and measurable goals, both monetarily and in membership. He challenged each board member to invite two businesses to join the Chamber before the next board meeting.

Director of Economic Development Courtney Bernardi said Jackson County has 26 open projects including 12 manufacturing, three distribution and a call/data center. Some of the projects have been on the radar as far back as 2010. She said she is working with the State Department of Economic Development to continue to build relationships.

The Feb. 6 Chamber breakfast will feature a health care reform informational session presented by Brett LaTourette of Purchasing Alliance Solutions. The meeting, sponsored by Greener Accounting & Tax Service, will be held at 7:30 a.m. at the Jackson EMC Auditorium. Breakfast is $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

Foster said she is hopeful a future half-day session on the topic will be of interest to Chamber members.

A Feb. 28 Business After Hours Social will be hosted at Anytime Fitness in the Publix shopping center in Hoschton where a ribbon cutting was held Jan. 10.

On Feb. 25, the STAR and Teacher of the Year reception will be held at 5 p.m. at Lanier Tech in Commerce.

Leadership Jackson is hosting Plunge for Paws on Feb. 23 at Crow’s Lake. Other community announcements were also made including the need for donations to the Banks-Jackson Emergency Food Bank, located at 111 Atlanta Ave., in Commerce. Call 706-335-5143. Pantry hours are 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A fundraising golf tournament will be held March 30.