Counting down to 1 percent, the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce is heading up the effort to add 500 jobs in Bartow County, the equivalent of a 1 percent decrease in unemployment. Earlier this month, the halfway mark was reached for that goal with the 250th employee coming in a batch of 33 new hires by Love's Travel Stop in Emerson.
"It's a mindset," said Joe Frank Harris Jr., interim chamber president and CEO. Residents out of habit, added Harris, often travel out of county to make purchases with the thought of saving money.
"It's an education process and with 100,000 people, it's going to take time," said Harris. "I challenge everybody, take the ad out of Atlanta, and remember that it's almost $4 a gallon for gas, and go compare it [in Bartow]."
In an April 13 ceremony, the chamber created a public display commemorating advancement toward 500 jobs. A thermometer shaped sign located on West Cherokee Avenue across from the 1903 Gold Dome Courthouse tallies each addition, employer and date of hire. With each addition, a bell cast in 1870 hanging in the former First Baptist Church, now a Bartow County Annex, is rung when possible by the new hire.
"It's gratifying to see that we are making a difference. It's exciting to see people engaged and excited about things," Harris said, recalling a recent hire who rang the bell with tears in her eyes after a time of extended unemployment. "We had 5,520 unemployed at Jan. 1, but that's not going to be the final goal. We'll quit when everybody's working. We'll close the street down and plant another thermometer and keep going."
Although directing sales and customer loyalty toward Bartow businesses is the aim of this campaign, Harris notes that buying Bartow should not be a compromise for the consumer. He urges customers to shop around, compare and give Bartow businesses a chance, thereby injecting money back into the local economy where taxes will pay for roads and schools among other services and benefits.
"I don't believe I'm entitled, just because my business is here, that you've got to buy from me. I've got to have the best service and the best price. We need our chamber members and community to be really good here, then we need to go compete with them in Cobb too. But I don't believe I should ask for your dollars if I'm not giving you good service," Harris said.
Along with success in the community-wide campaign, the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce has seen tremendous internal growth. Since January, the chamber has added 100 new members compared to 80 over the course of 2010.
For more information on chamber events and happenings call 770-382-1466 or visit www.cartersvillechamber.com.