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. – The return of Towns County’s 2018 financial audit proved positive, and Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said that he is “proud” of the clean findings. The first-term commissioner believes Towns County to be in the top 25 Georgia counties- out of a total of 159 – in such solid economic shape. Commissioner Bradshaw averred to continue utilizing conservative fiscal policies and seek improvements to maintain the financial health of the county in order to increase its financial position.
Towns County’s assets exceeded its liabilities at the close of the 2018 fiscal year by a net position of $24,322,687. Of this amount, $4,641,111 represents an unrestricted net position which may be used to meet the government’s ongoing obligations. Towns County’s audit revealed a total net position decrease of $44,285, which was less that one percent of total net assests. The decrease occurred primarily due to depreciation and the end of the SPLOST referendum which provided significant tax revenues in prior years.
In addition, Towns County began evaluating areas that could improve during the 2017 fiscal year, and implemented various changes in 2018. The changes resulted in a general revenue increase of nearly $600,000. In 2018, the county was able to obtain higher interest rates for certificate of deposits which provided the county with $46,457 of interest income, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.
Commissioner Bradshaw credited the strong economy, fueled by local tourism, along with the dedication of county employees for the positive review. According to available statistics from the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, direct tourism spending increased by nearly $3 million dollars between 2016 and 2017. Data revealed that $51.71 million dollars were the result of area tourism in 2017, relieving individual taxpayers of an annual average of $840.
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.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County received the findings of the 2017 financial audit, and all is going according to plan. “As far as the financials of the county, we’re doing really well. I’m very excited things are going really good. Knock on wood that we don’t have any catastrophes,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said, referencing the devastation to the eastern states caused by Hurricane Florence’s wrath, grateful that the county was spared damage, “But the financials are good. The reserve is in place. Everything is like it should be. We’re on track.”
Towns County maintains an impressive $3.1 million reserve.
Commissioner Bradshaw announced that year-to-date, the county has seen an approximate $30,000 increase in sales tax collection. “That means the economy is doing good, and we’re so thankful for that,” Bradshaw explained, adding appreciation for Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee’s dedication and contribution to the tourism boom. Bradshaw reminded that the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament begins this week on Lake Chatuge, and that events such as the fishing competition put the county on the map. “That’s folks spending money in Towns County. That’s what it’s all about.”
The 2017 audit is housed in the Commissioner’s office at the Towns County Courthouse, available for public review. By week’s end, the audit is expected to be posted on the Towns County Commissioner’s website
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Tourism is on the rise throughout the Georgia mountains, and Towns County has seen a steady increase in the past several years.
Out of 17 counties reviewed, Towns County placed second in terms of growth in 2016, when the study was last conducted. Research reveals an 8.9 percent increase in domestic tourism expenditures in Towns County since 2007. Only Dawson County exceeded Towns, at an increase of 12.7 percent. Overall, the northeast Georgia mountains experienced 5 percent total growth in tourism in the past decade.
“I am very excited to see the numbers continue to climb, and I am looking forward to seeing last year’s,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw told FetchYourNews. “Tourism is our bread and butter as a community. Studies show that households taxes would need to increase $798 per year in order to replace the taxes generated by tourism alone. It’s a win-win situation for both the visitors, who are able to enjoy the beauty of our lake and mountains, and it benefits the residents who live here as well.”
In 2016, tourism supported 4,533 jobs in Towns County, generating $11.37 million dollars in payroll. Local tax revenues amounted to $1.33 million dollars.
Commissioner Bradshaw works in unison with Towns County Chamber of Commerce President Candace Lee, and Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Manager Hilda Thomson, to bring revenue-generating events to Towns County.
The recent “Get Outdoors!” expo drew over 2,800 attendees, many of whom traveled to Towns County from surrounding areas.
“Made in Georgia” will make its debut on June 30 through July 1, offering products made, grown, brewed, crafted, stitched, and harvested throughout the state. The event will feature an array of vendors, demos, and samples of local products. The event will be held at the Towns County Recreation Center in Young Harris.
The 2018 Bass Elite tournament series, scheduled for Sept. 20 through 23, is sure to draw a crowd as well.
“We are excited to be hosting a tournament of this caliber, and we look forward to showcasing the beauty of our small mountain community to people from all over the world,” said Candace Lee, president of the Towns County Chamber of Commerce. “We want to put Lake Chatuge on the map as one of the best fishing lakes in the southeast, as well as the most beautiful.”
Information on upcoming events in Towns County can be found at GoLakeChatuge.com
Hiawassee, GA – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held his monthly meeting at the Towns County Courthouse on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. The topics of discussion included the local unemployment rate and a resolution to amend the commercial sign ordinance.
According to research gathered from the Georgia Department of Labor Workforce Statistics, Towns County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.9% in January of 2017 to 5.8% in August of 2017.
“The unemployment rate is definitely getting better,” Commissioner Bradshaw affirmed.
Statistics obtained from the Towns County Tax Assessors Office show real estate sales have steadily increased, a total of 1,607 residential properties sold between 2014-2016.
Towns County saw an 8.9% increase in tourism dollars between 2007 and 2016. $32.28 million was acquired in 2007, while $48.78 million benefited the economy in 2016. Commissioner Bradshaw expects to see continued growth in the years to come.
The tax relief per household from tourism dollars saved residents $862.23 in 2016, an increase from $735.71 the previous year.
Local sales tax revenue continues to increase. An estimated $1,424,225 is anticipated for 2017, up from $1,386,097 in 2016.
Commissioner Bradshaw also announced a resolution to amend the Towns County “Schedule of Fees.” A sign ordinance application review fee for area businesses will occur in the amount of $25.00, with an additional $25.00 cost for the final permit. $3.00 per square foot for each face of the signage will also be applied as well. Commissioner Bradshaw consulted surrounding counties for input on standard rates prior to reaching a decision.
The Commissioner welcomed questions from the citizens, ranging from building code concerns to whether political signs are permitted on Hiawassee Square.
Commissioner Bradshaw concluded the meeting by saying, “My door is always open and I thank you for trusting me. I work for all of you.”
The Commissioner’s meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.
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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com