News from Jackson County...

March 27, 2000


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OPINIONS
Tolbert action rife with conflicts
To say that Rep. Scott Tolbert used poor judgment in his bid to undermine an important legislative bill last week would be a vast understatement.

'Parent Involvement' Taken To Extremes
Parent involvement in a school is usually a good thing, but one Commerce parent doesn't know when to stop.

A Good Influence
Commerce Library Board Chairman Don Fischer is calling it quits.


Neighborhood News...
MADISON COUNTY
68-lot subdivision denied
A proposed 68-lot subdivision off Colbert Grove Church Road was shot down by county planners Tuesday, but the board of commissioners will have the final say on the matter Monday.

New lighting approved for baseball field
The Red Raider baseball field will soon be brighter.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Governor signs anti-annexation bill
Move will make Banks Crossing safe from annexation by Commerce
Banks Countians can finally breathe a sigh of relief and put worries about the possible annexation of Banks Crossing by the City of Commerce out of their minds.

Alto increases commercial water rates
Commercial water rates will increase in the City of Alto beginning in June.

Chrisohon named new MCHS principal
Pam Chrisohon has been named Madison County High School's new principal.


SPORTS
Tigers Looking For Rebound
CHS To Play Two Games With Athens
After suffering three straight subregion losses, Commerce will get a chance to regroup with two games that won't count in the standings this week.

CHS Netters To Take On Jefferson Thursday
The Commerce High School tennis teams will take on Jefferson this Thursday.

Diamond Dragons 3-1 in subregion
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Somebody forgot to tell the team.

Jefferson earns track split with Panthers
Girls rule. At least they did last week for Jefferson High School.

Panthers, Dragons tangle
Jackson County's boys came out on top of the heap last Wednesday, in a three-way meet with Jefferson and Wesleyan. The Lady Panthers finished second in the meet.

Panthers fall to 1-4 in subregion
A season that started with a promising 5-0 start deteriorated into disappointment a week ago for Jackson County.


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ANSWERING THE CALL

A fire that broke out in a storage building Monday evening totally destroyed the shed, but the Commerce Fire Department was able to prevent the fire from spreading to the nearby house. The cause of the blaze, in a building owned by Roy Crawford, is not known.
Photo by Adam Fouche

FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT

Members of New Covenant Worship Center, located on the Jackson-Clarke County line, are entering their 10th month of revival. What started as a five-day crusade with evangelist Beth Stephens has turned into an ongoing revival with no end in sight. Here, members of the Charismatic worship center approach the altar at the end of a revival service to renew their faith.
Photo by Travis Hatfield


Census count underway Help with forms available for those who need it
BY ANGELA GARY
The United States Census Bureau has started collecting data in Jackson County for the population county and help filling out the form is available for those who need it.
Some countians have been given the short forms which only ask for the number of residents per household and similar questions, while others were given a longer form asking for more information.
People who have a question about the forms or need assistance, may see the following people: David Bohanan or Alice Meeks at the Jackson County Administrative Building in Jefferson from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; Cindy Edge at Hoschton City Hall from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; Jennifer Scott at Braselton Town Hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; Shirley Willis at Commerce City Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; Lois Harper at Maysville City Hall from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; Barbara Kesler at Arcade City Hall from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; or Dana Wilbanks at Nicholson City Council from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
FORMS AVAILABLE
Those people who miss the census counters, may pick up forms at area city halls, pharmacies, banks and grocery stores. Display boxes have been placed in participating businesses to provide these forms and a place to drop them off. The county also plans to set up locations to be open in the evening with volunteers who will assist those needing help in filling out the form.
The census data is important to counties and cities because it is used to determine grant eligibility and funding for social welfare programs. It is also used to calculate how many state and national representatives a state is entitled. Leaders say that inaccuracies in the 1990 census led to Georgia missing out on two additional representative allocations for Congress. Salaries for county officials are also based on census information.

Planners recommend denial of rezoning for restaurant
BY ANGELA GARY
A Jefferson woman's plans to expand her bed and breakfast business by offering a restaurant and seating for up to 125 people at special events hit a snag Thursday. The Jackson County Planning Commission denied a rezoning request needed for the development to proceed.
Marcia Spencer had asked that her 2.37 acres at 216 Storey Street be rezoned from R-1 and R-2 to C-2 to allow for the expansion.
Final action will come from the Jefferson City Council, which will review the planning commission recommendation when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday, April 3, at city hall.
The city council gave Spencer a conditional use permit in 1996 to operate the bed and breakfast operation in the historic home. Her plans call for an addition to the existing house that would include an updated kitchen and additional seating for special events and a restaurant.
At Thursday's meeting, several adjacent property owners spoke in opposition to the plans and a petition was presented with the signatures of 23 people who oppose the project.
Richard Langley, who lives on Storey Street, said he is concerned with the increase in traffic flow the business would bring to the street, which has no curb or gutters.
Mark Day, also of Storey Street, called the plans "extremely disturbing" and said they would violate the natural aspect of the area. Tommy Benton added that approval of the request would be "spot zoning."
"We don't need a commercial venture in the midst of a residential area," he said.
Spencer said she believes the town has a need for such a development. She said all changes would be made to the back of the home and not facing the street.
"Everything would be maintained in a historical nature," she said.
OTHER BUSINESS
In other business, the planning commission:
·approved a request from Lonnie Hypes to subdivide 3.86 acres at 198 Wildflower Road into two parcels of land to add a residence to the site for his daughter.
·approved a preliminary plat for 87 lots on 28.88 acres at Highland Park on Hwy. 11.
·approve a preliminary plat for 139 lots on 90.749 acres at Cross Ridge Estates on Hwy. 82 and Darnell Road.
·approved an amendment to the county zoning ordinance to redesignate the zoning maps.
·tabled a proposed amendment to the City of Jefferson ordinances to include review procedures, bonds and other standards for new roads within subdivisions to the city's subdivision regulations.
·approved an amendment to the City of Jefferson zoning ordinance calling for excluding residential uses in C-1 and C-2 districts. This amendment is also to revise Section 8.11 to state that the minimum lot sizes shown are allowed when public water and sewer are available and to establish the minimum lot size in the R-1 District as 21,780 square feet.

Planners approve plans for industrial park in North Jackson BOC to have final say on request
BY ANGELA GARY
The Jackson County Planning Commission approved a rezoning request Thursday night that would bring a large industrial park to the North Jackson area.
The planners approved the request from The Norton Agency to rezone 550 acres on Wayne Poultry Road, Bill Wright Road, Toy Wright Road and Possum Creek from A-2 to I-1 and I-2 to locate a business and industrial park and office distribution center. The development, Valentine Farms Business, Park, will be geared toward regional projects. No one spoke in opposition to the request.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will take final action on the request when it meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, in the Administrative Building. The BOC will also discuss the request at a "work session" at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at the Administrative Building.
The planning commission placed the following conditions on its recommendation of approval: applicant must present a detailed site plan for each building or phase of development; an 80 foot right-of-way must be dedicated along each county road; driveway entrances and exits must be approved by the county road superintendent; and applicants must meet all county environmental ordinances that apply.
President Frank Norton Jr., who represents the long-time property owners, said the plans are to develop spec buildings on the site. The Valentine family would retain ownership of some of the facilities with others to be sold to industries. He said the project would be developed in four phases over a 20-year period with 25 to 30 buildings being constructed.
The Norton Agency plans call for both a light industrial and heavy industrial zoning classification due to the "availability of infrastructure and the need for industrial diversification throughout the region," according to the application.
The light industrial development would be on the 83.47 acres on the south side of Possum Creek Road and the 445.75 acres on the north side of Possum Creek Road extending northerly to Wayne Poultry Road. The heavy industrial development would be on the 24.4 acres along the eastern side of Toy Wright Road.
Project manager Debbie Hardy said the development would have trees, open space and low density use.
"We don't think this will have any, or little, impact on existing land use, especially farming operations," she said.
Marketing manager Floyd Baldwin said the family has landscape plans, covenants, architectural control and other conditions on all developments in the industrial park.
Owner Herbert Valentine said his family has owned the property since 1968 and plans to continue to be a good neighbor and good citizen.
The Norton Agency, which is a third generation, 73-year-old company, has seven offices throughout Northeast Georgia. It is the largest regional, local development company, as well as brokerage company in the area, officials say.
The Norton Agency has handled a number of projects of all sizes, including developing a 500-acre golf community (Royal Lakes), a resort community (Lake Lanier Country Club) and medical office parks. They also developed Centennial Industrial Park in Hall County, which is smaller than the planned park in Jackson County. Norton said the Jackson County project would be the largest industrial project the firm has developed, however, it has developed other kinds of projects on the same scale as this one.

Family Connection to use DFACS cash match for case manager
By Jana Adams
The Jackson County Human Resources Council and Family Connection program voted Thursday to utilize a state cash match from the Department of Family and Children Services to fund a case manager and program coordinator for next fiscal year.
Family Connection already has a coordinator, Kevin Williams, in place, and will use cash match funds toward part of his salary and benefits. The program will fill the case manager position next fiscal year. Family Connection has never had both positions filled at the same time.
Since early fall, the Family Connection program has been using its $50,000 state grant to fund salary and benefits, after hearing that cash match funds were no longer available. Two weeks ago, the program members learned that the cash match had actually remained in place and will be available to the county, at least for the next fiscal year.
HRC and Family Connection members agreed to use the cash match funds toward Williams' salary and benefits and those of a case manager. The condition for using the cash match funds is that both individuals will spend a certain amount of time in nutrition education and in Medicaid outreach.
DFACS coordinator Jerry Payne pointed out that while more paperwork and additional responsibilities that come with the cash match, without it the program would not be able to afford a case manager.
"If we don't do the cash match next year, we'll probably lose it once and for all," Payne said. "We don't know how long it will last, but it will be available next year."
HRC members agreed that they could use the assistance of a case manager, whether in working in schools with nurses or in distributing nutrition education information.
In other business, the HRC learned that Williams will submit the Family Connection annual operating plan for 2000-2001 to the state at the end of the month. A representative group will meet with a state team in April to discuss the plan.


Action coordinator looks at medicine program
By Jana Adams
Di Irvin, Action, Inc. coordinator for Jackson County,
is looking into providing a program to help the county's elderly with medicine costs.
Irvin told the Jackson County Human Resources Council Thursday that many of the elderly clients she sees for Action's brown bag or heating assistance programs are often barely able to pay for their medical needs.
In fact, Irvin told the HRC of one client whose monthly income is $840, but whose medicine costs $860 a month.
"Most of the elderly's income goes toward medicine," Irvin explained, adding that she is investigating indigent care for medicine needs. "This would require a lot of cooperation from doctors. That's my next project."
Irvin told the HRC that Action's brown bag program has been serving 119 elderly citizens a month, although the number of those who could use the program is easily higher.
Irvin said she hopes to move the Action office into space vacated by mental health when mental health moves into its new facility. She said she hopes to use the extra space - if it is forthcoming - for an emergency food pantry and a clothes closet for working and interviewing clothes.
For more information on Action, Inc. programs, contact Irvin at 367-9599.


County receives grant to fund 10 warning sirens
BY ANGELA GARY
Jackson County has received a grant to locate 10 early warning sirens in the county.
The sirens will be installed at the following locations: Ednaville Road at Country Cove Drive, Jackson Trail at station number nine, Crooked Creek Road at station seven, Hwy. 441 South at New Kings Bridge Road, Hwy. 334 at Cooper Farm Road, Hoods Mill at Hoods Academy Road, Brockton Road at Bethany Church, Hwy. 82 North at Cave Springs Road, Hale Road at Plainview Road and Unity Church at Myrtle Drive.
These areas were selected by county officials because they have cover a large population. An effort was also made to spread the sirens out across the county as much as possible, county leaders say.
911 director David Murphy said bids for the work will be taken as soon as he receives all of the paperwork for the project from the state. He estimates that it will take two to three months to get all of the sirens in place.
The funds will come from the state's hazard mitigation grant program and will cover the majority of the cost to purchase and install the sirens. The grant will provide $68,878 of the total estimated project cost of $91,837. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed in February 1999 to pay its share of the project if the county received the grant.
"The new sirens will increase the capability of emergency management officials to warn the approximately 30,000 residents of Jackson County of severe weather in a timely manner and reduce the potential for loss of life and property," said 911 director David Murphy.
There are already five sirens in place in Jackson County, four in Jefferson and one in Arcade. Other city councils have also discussed seeking grants for sirens.
"I congratulate the county's elected officials and the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency for developing a warning system plan that will help protect lives and property," said Georgia Emergency Management Agency director Gary W. McConnell.
There has been a state-wide effort to improve warning and communication capabilities through a special task force formed after a tornado struck northeast Georgia on March 20, 1998.


Extra penny sales tax to go into effect April 1
BY ANGELA GARY
An extra one-cent sales tax will go into effect across Jackson County beginning Saturday, April 1.
Voters approved the sales tax in November, 1999, for water and sewer, roads and recreation projects and a fire training facility. The county estimates that $35 million will be collected over the five-year period the SPLOST is collected. The county actually set the SPLOST cap at $45 million so as to allow the tax to run the full five years. Had a lower cap been set and reached, sales tax collections would have ceased at that point.
While the extra penny will be collected beginning Saturday, it will be June 1 before the county receives any revenue from it. Sales tax money goes to the state department of revenue which then sends it on the county. The board of commissioners keeps accounts for all of those included in the SPLOST and allocates it for approved projects as requested. The county and cities share the money based on population. The population distribution will initially be based on the 1990 census, but when the 2000 figures become available, they will be used.
The largest majority of the sales tax revenue, 70 percent, will go toward water and sewer projects. The Jackson County Water and Sewer Authority already has a plan in place to spend its estimated $17.3 million in SPLOST funds. The plan calls for providing county water to an additional 2,400 homes, with the Plainview and Hwy. 60 areas being the first two priorities.
The remainder of the water funds will be divided among the towns with a water system, which include Commerce, Jefferson, Braselton, Hoschton, Maysville and Nicholson.
In addition to the water and sewer needs, the SPLOST will put 23 percent of its income toward road improvements. The Georgia Department of Transportation has promised to add 75 cents of state funds for every $1 raised by the county's SPLOST funds for roads. The combined funds will be used to resurface roads, pave some dirt roads, build or repair several bridges and expand the rights-of-way on some major thoroughfares, say county leaders. Each of Jackson County's nine towns will also share in the road funds.
Parks and recreation will get 5.5 percent of the SPLOST funds and every town in the county will get a part of that revenue. The money can be used for traditional ball fields and recreation facilities and also to purchase park land for future preservation.
A fire training facility is also included in the SPLOST at 1.5 percent of the income. That money would be used to build a "burn facility" for training of the county's volunteer firemen.


Engineer says site for courthouse annex will work County to select architect in coming weeks
BY ANGELA GARY
An engineer studying the proposed site for a new courthouse annex doesn't believe the soil contamination and high water table will stop the county from building on the property.
Bob Berry with Sailors Engineering of Lawrenceville told the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Monday that the contamination on the property is "minor" and doesn't exceed state maximum levels. He is preparing a report on his findings for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
An earlier soil test of two of the three tracts of property needed for the new facility showed acetates which apparently came from a chemical used to coat cotton seed. The site was once the location of a seed business.
Berry also said the high water level in the area shouldn't be a problem. A bore test revealed water at 11.9 feet, which county leaders had feared might be a problem due to the planned underground parking.
On Monday, the BOC also again interviewed the top two architect firms for the project, The Leo Daly Firm and Carter Watkins. The BOC had earlier interviewed six of the 11 applicants for the project before narrowing it down to the top two firms.
No decision was made Monday but the BOC may hold a called meeting within the next week to select a firm. Both firms have proposals in the $9 million to $10 million range.
The Leo Daly Firm did a preliminary design for the project for the citizen's courthouse committee appointed by the BOC. Carter Watkins handled the recent exterior renovation of the current courthouse.
BOC chairman Jerry Waddell said Tuesday that he favors Carter Watkins for the project.
"Both are good companies," he said. "But I think Carter Watkins would fit our needs the best. I'm just afraid that this Atlanta outfit would go way over budget. We want a good courthouse and something that we can be proud of, but there is a limit to how much money we can spend."
Waddell said that selecting a architect doesn't mean that the work will begin immediately. He said the fees for the architects range from $600,000 to $700,000 and the money isn't available in this year's budget for the work. The commissioners plan to use tax revenue from the new Georgia Power plant facility under construction in Center to fund the courthouse annex project. But the county won't see any revenue from this project until the first of next year and it will only be a small portion since taxes paid next year will be based on the percentage of the project completed by December of this year.


Consultant calls for new equipment, part-time help for clerk of court
BY ANGELA GARY
New equipment and a new 20-hour per week deputy clerk.
That is what an outside consulting firm believes is needed to solve the backlog of real estate transactions at the office of the Jackson County clerk of courts.
DMG-Maximus submitted its recommendation to the county last week after spending 70 hours studying the operation of the clerk of courts' office to determine how many employees are needed for the department.
Jackson County Board of Commission chairman Jerry Waddell said he supports the recommendation, which calls for purchasing an electronic date filing stamp, an electronic book and page stamp, an automatic feed imaging apparatus, a duplicating machine, a fax machine and a rolling filing system.
"The purchase of additional office equipment would help offset the need for additional staffing in the future," the report reads.
The consultant also recommend hiring a part-time, permanent deputy clerk to work 20 hours a week and eliminating two temporary positions within the next three months. Another recommendation calls for the clerk of courts to assign another experienced staff member the task of assisting in checking for deed correctness.
"I think it is an accurate survey," Waddell said. "They want to Habersham and Barrow counties to make a comparison."
The chairman said the additional equipment and part-time help should enable the office to keep the records up to date.
The consultant was hired by the county following an appeal from area lawyers for help in the clerk's office. The BOC had earlier agreed to allocate funds for two temporary positions to help get rid of the backlog of real estate transactions in the clerk's office.

GROWTH

City Permits $475,323 In Feb. Construction
The city of Commerce issued permits for $475,000 worth of construction during February, according to documents submitted to the Commerce City Council March 12.
During February, the office issued permits for three houses, the estimated value of which was $390,000; for one mobile home valued at $27,323, an alteration to a house valued at $13,000, an alteration to a commercial building valued at $15,000, and an alteration to an industrial building valued at $30,000.
The valuations are not used for taxing purposes. Property taxes are based on evaluations and assessments by Jackson County.
For the city's current fiscal year, which started in July, the city has issued permits for $3.026 million in construction. At this time last fiscal year, the value was $2.56 million.
So far in 2000, the city has issued permits for $762,323 in construction, compared to $623,500 through February in 1999.


550-acre industrial park planned near I-85
The Norton Agency project on planning commission agenda for Thursday
BY ANGELA GARY
A rezoning request to go before the Jackson County Planning Commission Thursday night would bring a large industrial park to the North Jackson area east of Pendergrass near I-85.
The Norton Agency, Gainesville, is asking to rezone 550 acres on Wayne Poultry Road, Bill Wright Road, Toy Wright Road and Possum Creek Road from A-2 to I-1 and I-2 to locate a business and industrial park and office distribution center. The development will be named Valentine Farms Business Park for the Valentine family which owns the land.
The planning commission will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Administrative Building in Jefferson to make a recommendation on the request. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will take final action on the request when it meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, in the Administrative Building. The BOC will also discuss the request at a "work session" at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4, at the Administrative Building.
The Norton Agency plans call for both a light industrial and heavy industrial zoning classification due to the "availability of infrastructure and the need for industrial diversification throughout the region," according to the application.
"The placement of the two zones throughout the development concentrates various uses in areas in which impacts to adjacent properties are minimal," the application reads.
The light industrial development would be on the 83.47 acres on the south side of Possum Creek Road and the 445.75 acres on the north side of Possum Creek Road extending northerly to Wayne Poultry Road. The heavy industrial development would be on the 24.4 acres along the eastern side of Toy Wright Road.
The developer says the project could take up to 20 years to complete with plans for it to be built in approximately four phases.
The project is the largest industrial park done by The Norton Agency, although the firm has done residential projects of a similar size.
"We are representing the Valentine family, who has owned the property since the 1960s," said Frank Norton Jr., president of the firm.
One of the key players in the development will be the county government. The county has plans for an access road parallel to I-85 in front of the property. A recent deal with the City of Jefferson to swap sewage capacity also gave the county the ability to provide sewer service to that area.



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CRIME

Jefferson man shot while climbing into estranged wife's home
BY ANGELA GARY
A Jackson County man was seriously injured in an apparent domestic shooting Friday morning near Jefferson.
Ronald Lee Parker, 32, was reportedly shot several times in the face and chest area as he attempted to enter a Hwy. 15 residence through a bedroom window.
Parker was shot by someone inside the residence. His estranged wife and a man were inside the mobile home, while Parker and another person were outside.
Parker was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center. He was listed in good to fair condition this week.
No charges have been filed yet in the case. Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief investigator David Cochran said Monday that the district attorney's office will review the case and decide whether to make an arrest. The matter could also go before a grand jury to make a determination on whether charges are filed in the shooting. The investigation is continuing and the report is expected to be forwarded to the district attorney for review within two weeks, Cochran said.
Cochran said law enforcement authorities were looking for Parker when the shooting occurred. He said that Parker and his estranged wife had been having altercations over several days prior to the shooting. The sheriff's department had also received prior domestic dispute reports concerning the couple.
An incident report had been filed March 16, the day before the shooting, by the man who was inside the mobile home when the dispute occurred. The man told a deputy that Parker had threatened him by saying "You're going to get it" and "Get your gun out, because I have one to equal it." He told the deputy that he had been dating Parker's estranged wife.


Pendergrass man killed in Saturday fire
A Pendergrass man was killed in a fire early Saturday morning in his apartment.
Donald Keith Harris was in his upstairs apartment at the Pendergrass home, located across from the post office at 7154 Hwy. 129, when the fire started. Jackson County Sheriff's Department chief investigator David Cochran said the cause of the fire is not known and the investigation is continuing.
"It appears to be accidental," he said. "No foul play is suspected. The investigation will continue."
He said Harris died of smoke inhalation.
Residents in the other apartments downstairs in the home were not injured.


Chamber-Led Economic Development Effort Split Between Seeking New Companies And Helping Existing Companies Prosper, Expand
JEFFERSON -- Like a pretty girl always surrounded by male admirers, Jackson County constantly courts industrial suitors, firms that see Jackson County as a good place to open up a plant.
Pepe Cummings, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, briefed his board of directors last Friday on the current group of commercial suitors.
The recently declared state "megasite" is a situation that keeps Jackson County "in the top of the mind for all developers," Cummings stated.
Among the prospects looking at various sites in the county are:
·a Japanese firm with a project similar to Kubota tractor, according to Cummings.
·a company that wants to build a $15 million plant to produce packaging materials.
·a company that would employ highly skilled metal workers in a $3 million project.
·a major distribution company looking at Walnut Fork Corporate Center.
·a major supplier to automotive manufacturers.
In addition, said Cummings, Quick and Tasty is hiring, Freightliner is grading its property, Mayfield Dairies has negotiated for more sewer capacity from Braselton, and developer Duke Weeks has expressed an interest in "having a larger presence in Jackson County."
Meanwhile, past president Richard Cathey announced that a major Commerce area industry has purchased a site for a research and development division. Although Cathey did not mention the name, the company is J.M. Huber, and the site is in Maysville.
"Is there anything we can do to help?" asked director Tom Plank, who reminded board members that when Nicolon was making its final decision, letters from Jackson County school children seemed to have influenced the company's decision.
"Yes," Cummings replied. "What often forms the decision is at the end of the day, companies want to locate where they are wanted."
One of the difficulties in the process, Cummings said, is that it takes longer for communities to know who the prospects are.
"The number of intermediaries seems to be getting thicker, so we're not able to communicate in a direct way as soon as we would like to be able to," he said. "But yes, the human outreach is important too."
"All of those things are in our arsenal," added Jim Shaw, chairman, who added that once the identity of a prospect is known, the chamber "will be able to use more and more tactics."
Attracting new business is just part of the chamber's agenda, however. It is also working with existing industries.
One of its projects is the launching of a 24-hour child care program centered on property at the Southeast Toyota in Commerce. Jeff Geisler, manager of Toyota, is spearheading that project for the chamber.
According to Geisler, the group is in the midst of discussions with a consultant toward hammering out the "nuts and bolts of programs and staffing levels, space" and other requirements such a center would have.
"At the end of March or the end of April, we should have a final report. From there, hopefully, we can make a decision," Geisler reported.
Treasurer Janet Adams reported that the chamber received a $42,000 grant to help provide staffing for the center.
Another project is the chamber's participation in the Business Retention and Expansion Program (BREP) aimed at helping local businesses expand. The Economic Development Committee has 30 two-member teams surveying 70 companies.
"The results (of what has been completed so far) have been fairly favorable. There have been no surprises," Cummings stated. "The concern about labor is the number one concern of all employers."
Cummings said the chamber also received "some very nice comments by plant manager types" who "credited community leaders in Jackson County for making this a positive place to locate and do business."
Also last Friday, the directors approved the nomination of First Commerce Bank president Charles Blair as second vice president and voted to co-sponsor with Farm Bureau a forum for political candidates in late June or early July.