Beginning with a bell-ringing ceremony in April, the initiative's first milestone was the hiring of 500 residents since Jan. 1. During Monday's Ring the Bell Victory Celebration at the Bartow County Government Annex, the chamber mapped out its second goal: hiring 1,000 Bartow County residents.
"We've achieved our first goal of seeing 500 people hired, and believe it or not, we should have been here in October but we about worked our staff to death. ... We've already passed that goal," said Chamber President Joe Frank Harris Jr.
Harris also took the opportunity Monday to return a rock from the Holy Land given to the chamber by Parnick and Tina Jennings for luck.
Taking the white rock, Parnick Jennings compared the chamber's battle against economic concerns with David's fight with Goliath.
"I love naysayers. God, I love people who say you can't do it ... I love them to say, 'You're not going to hire anybody.' I love them to say, 'Why in the world are you ringing that bell? Isn't that stupid?' I love people like that. They motivate me," Jennings said.
"I was just imagining how many people said to David when he met Goliath, 'You've got to be crazy. A little, ol' bitty runt like you and you're going up against someone like Goliath?' You know David had it in his mind that not only was he going to kill Goliath ... David thought, 'You know I might have to get after his brothers, too,'" he continued, adding that David gathered more stones in anticipation of his victory.
Jennings then returned the stone to Harris for continued luck in the pursuit of the second goal.
Members from the business community, as well as local and state officials, spoke about the stimulus initiative. Among them, LakePoint Development Group's Earl Ehrhart, who vowed to make hiring and buying locally a priority for the complex and the contractors hired throughout the process.
"We're so thankful to this community. This project was gone. I'm certain that this was God that moved us to this community," Ehrhart said. "This project was in Florida. It was not going to come anywhere in Georgia -- it was on the way to Osceola County, Fla. -- and the community of Bartow and the cities and the mayors ... put together 43 or 44 people in the Booth history museum. ... It made all the difference. And it wasn't ... necessarily, just a standard we-want-you-here pitch."
Referring to Jennings' earlier speech, Ehrhart said he also finds motivation in disbelievers.
"I too like the naysayers. This is a three-year. It's, 'Watch us,'" he said. "We're going to push Buy Bartow and Work Bartow. ... I look forward to ringing that bell. You're going to have to have that New York company come back and fix your bell."
The chamber encourages any local business who has hired a Bartow County resident since Jan. 1 to schedule a time for the employee and a company representative to ring the bell at the annex. A thermometer stands in front of the building listing the company's name, employee's position and the date hired. The chamber can be reached at 770-382-1466 or online at www.cartersvillechamber.com.