HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In response and preparation, Towns County has suspended all “non-essential” government spending due to the COVID-19 crisis plaguing the nation. As a county that depends heavily on tourism dollars, the local economy has begun to suffer significant financial loss.
“As the county continues to take measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community, there will be no unexpected expenditures. Due to the decrease of tourists’ activity and local social distancing, we also expect a significant decrease in revenues; sales tax, alcohol tax, fees for services, etc,” Towns County Finance Director Andrea Anderson announced to elected officials and department heads. “As no one really has any idea how long the country will face this pandemic event, it is imperative that we take action now in order to ensure that the county can continue to operate and protect the citizens of our community during this pandemic event.”
If an expenditure is not “absolutely imperative to operations,” it will be postponed until the pandemic is under control and the local economy increases, even if previously budgeted. Likewise, out-of-town training has been suspended unless deemed necessary.
“This is going to be very expensive,” Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said, adding that the county’s main concern is to protect the health and well-being of its citizens and government employees. “We do have a rainy day fund. The county does have emergency money that we have saved…We’re not in a panic mode, nothing like that, but it is time to start watching our money right now because we don’t know how long this is gonna last.”
Thanks to prior planning for unexpected events by the county’s former commissioner, Bill Kendall, Towns County has maintained an emergency reserve fund in excess of $3 million since Bradshaw was elected to office in 2016.
Continue to follow FYN for local updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.
YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – The Towns County & Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce has officially rebranded as the Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce. The news broke during a surprise celebration held at the chamber’s office on Jack Dayton Circle in Young Harris, Oct. 24.
“About five years ago we did some rebranding,” Lee said of the Lake Chatuge logo which was designed by community members who sought to understand what drew visitors to the area. “Top answer was the lake, second type answer was the mountains. So our board got together, the committee on the board got together, and said, ‘we’re going to go with the lake.’ The lake is what brings the people here, brings the groups here, it’s what attracts more of the visitors here to the county. Since we’ve done the rebranding, you have seen the results. We’ve had Bassmasters here. We’ve had people calling for tournaments. We’ve had five tournaments this year. I’ve got one already scheduled for next year. It has exploded just because we use the words Lake Chatuge.”
A ribbon-cutting took place at the event, cake and champagne were served to celebrate the occasion, and door prizes were raffled to announcement attendees.
“You are getting a trickle-down effect in all your businesses,” Lee told the guests, many of whom were chamber members. “No matter what you do, you are getting a trickle-down somehow in your business from tourism. Towns County, last year, got a report for 2017 tourism that saif we are 8th in the region as far as the dollars we bring in tourism. That’s huge for a 16 county region, we are 8th in our region. We are #1 in the dollars saved per person in taxes per year because of tourism.”
Lee said that the tax savings annually amount to roughly $800 per resident.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw opened his monthly meeting, Tuesday, June 18, with an update on the county’s financial health. “Right now, the sales tax collections are up around $28,000 from what they were this time last year, so we’re very thankful for that. We give that to a good economy. We give it to many people trying to do many things to promote our county, have events, and bring people here, and they spend money, and have a great time. They leave and then it’s longing to come back here again, and they do, and a lot of them come back and build a house or buy a house, and that’s what it’s all about, so were very thankful.”
Commissioner Bradshaw noted the proven economic contributions of Candace Lee of the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, who was in attendance, and officially introduced Denise McKay, who serves as the economic developer for Hiawassee, Young Harris, and Towns County as a whole, praising McKay’s initial efforts.
“Jobs are very important and this is the whole plan…,” Commissioner Bradshaw went on to say, emphasizing the appeal of a “small town” essence, including a desire to deter younger generations from relocating from the area due a lack of employment options. “But I do feel like it is our job as county government to try to promote businesses, and try to promote some growth so that we can provide job opportunities, and that’s what Denise is here for. However, and she understands, and she likes it here, that’s why she moved here, but we don’t want to lose the small town feeling.” The commissioner concluded that his pressing goal is to fill vacant buildings and empty lots within the county with economic opportunities, beneficial to all.
Hiawassee, GA – Towns County Movers and Shakers held their weekly meeting on Friday, September 22, at Sundance Grill in Hiawassee. The featured speakers were Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Hiawassee City Council candidate, Patsy Owens.
Commissioner Bradshaw updated the group on local economic developments.
“The national economy has improved and we’re seeing the effects in Towns County. Our financial state is very good. The county is on budget and in some cases, under budget. Tourism is drawing a considerable amount of income and we’ve seen an 8.9% increase since 2007,” Commissioner Bradshaw said.
Towns County benefitted from tourism in the amount of $48,780,000 in 2016 alone. Tourism provided a tax break of $862.23 per household in 2016, an increase from $735.71 in 2015.
Real estate sales have also expanded with 219 homes sold by a single agency since the start of 2017.
Commissioner Bradshaw says he’s working closely with the Towns County Chamber of Commerce as well as the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds and hopes to see events held every “good weather weekend.”
Grace Howard, President of Hamilton Gardens, praised the Commissioner’s “unbelievable cooperation” and announced a fundraiser will be held at Hamilton Gardens on Monday, October 23, sponsoring the “Daffodil Project.” The Holocaust Commission hopes to plant a daffodil in memory of each of the 1.5 million children’s lives lost. Hamilton Gardens would like to meet a goal of 500 bulbs planted in the Garden’s Memorial section by December. A dedication ceremony will be held on December 10, 2017. It is a nonpolitical, nondenominational event, and a survivor of the Holocaust is expected to speak.
The Hiawassee City Council candidate forum will take place on Monday, October 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Towns County Civic Center, located adjacent to the Towns County Courthouse. Fetch Your News will provide coverage of the event along with information on each candidate.
Early voting begins on October 16, 2017.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at [email protected]
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The 2017 tourism figures have been calculated, and Towns County’s direct tourism spending increased by nearly $3 million dollars in a single year. Data revealed that $51.71 million dollars were the result of local tourism in 2017, relieving individual taxpayers of an annual $840 average.
Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee stated that although Towns is one of the smallest counties in Georgia, the chamber has reached an impressive 417 members. Lee shared data, confirming the high level of interest in the area through the chamber’s website.
“Last year we had 320,000 member views,” Lee said. “That means 320,000 people went to members’ websites. Out of that, we also had 1,869 people that clicked on the job tab on our website, 60,000 people looked the calendar, and then from our social media, which is probably Facebook because Crystal (Fairless Wagner) does a fantastic job with our Facebook page, we had 157,000 people who went from our Facebook page directly to our website. We are proud about that. We are a small chamber. We compete with a lot of the bigger guys.”
Lee informed that out of 17 counties in northeast Georgia, Towns County ranked the eighth highest in tourism. “We’re busy,” Lee said, “This county is booming
Last year, Towns County Chamber of Commerce fulfilled leads by delivering 1,549 informational packets, 187 packets on area relocation, and 667 visitor packets during the month of December alone.
Lee listed exciting, upcoming events, including a Bass Nation tour which will lure 120 boats to Lake Chatuge in late September, following an invitational fishing tournament that will coincide with the final days of Georgia Mountain Fair in July – both positive effects of the wildly popular Bassmaster Tournament hosted last fall – as well as the second annual Made in Georgia expo, scheduled for the weekend before the Fourth of July, and a new event, Rust and Roses, which will feature an array of antique and vintage clothing vendors in early September.
Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw praised the dedication of Chamber President Lee, General Manager Hilda Thomason of the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, and Chair of Hamilton Gardens, Grace Howard, for their hard work in increasing the county’s economy through tourism.
“The more people we bring here, the easier. It lightens the load on us who live here every day. They spend their money. The more people who come here, my belief is, the more people who’s going to come back, buy a lot, build a house, hopefully maybe buy a commercial lot and build a business or start a business,” Commissioner Bradshaw explained. “I have many goals, but this is one of the bigger ones.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Lake Chatuge was the site of the 2018 Bassmaster Angler of the Year (AOY) point series tournament, and Towns County’s decision to host the sporting event yielded a high economic return.
According to Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee, over 10,800 visitors traveled to the area for the September event, generating approximately $2.1 million dollars in revenue. The expected return, cited by Bassmaster, was slightly underestimated at $1.5 to $2 million dollars.
Towns County extended a host fee of $60,000 to secure the Bassmaster series finale, a commitment both Lee and Towns County Commisioner Cliff Bradshaw said did not come without much consideration and contemplation. In addition to the revenue obtained from the event, a total of 5,434 local jobs were supported by the wise investment.
Lee and Bradshaw explained that the tournament will reap long-lasting results as familiarity with the Towns County area is better known due to exposure from the popular bass fishing event. During the week of the tournament, coverage of the AOY drove over 798,000 visitors to the bassmaster website, with more than 336,000 unique visitors, and 6.8 million page views. Video coverage delivered more than 269,000 views.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.
ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) attended President Trump’s infrastructure announcement at The White House this morning. Speaker Ralston was one of several local and state elected officials invited to participate in a series of discussions with the President as well as members of his cabinet and senior staff about the plan and the infrastructure needs facing our nation.
“I appreciate President Trump’s emphasis on public-private partnerships, as well as rural areas of America, as we look to address the nation’s infrastructure needs,” said Speaker Ralston. “Much like his Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, this measure will make a real difference in projects of profound economic importance like the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project or long-overdue efforts like expanding broadband infrastructure into rural areas. This is another example of President Trump focusing on creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity across our country. I am honored to represent the State of Georgia at this important announcement.”
President Trump’s infrastructure plan looks to leverage the power of public-private partnerships to improve the nation’s infrastructure including transportation, water/sewer and other critical needs like broadband internet access. More details on the President’s plan are available on The White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov.
Banking on Our Economic Situation