The Buy Bartow, Work Bartow campaign set out to lower Bartow County's unemployment rate by one percentage point by chronicling 500 new hires and urging residents to shop locally.
A thermometer-shaped scoreboard has kept tally of the new hires since Jan. 1 and will soon surpass the 400 mark as word comes in on new hires from Walmart.
"When we started at the numbers that come out of the state of Georgia and Washington to see that the 11.6 [percent] as of December 2010 has now dropped to 10.9 [percent] in June. That's a 0.7 percent improvement and our goal was 1 percent," Harris said. "I never figured it'd go this fast. ... Of the 89 hires this year at Walmart, 74 of those are from Bartow. So when you add those 74, I think we'll be right up near the target."
Harris noted that change won't happen overnight and a full economic recovery will take time, but he sees the signs of change and looks forward to setting a new goal once the current mark is met.
The chamber is making efforts at education, seen as a key for changing spending habits for the Buy Bartow campaign. Returning to the Buy Bartow motto, signs and stickers have popped up around town reminding residents to spend locally benefiting Bartow County businesses and supporting local services.
"We're hitting our goal and the best way for Bartow County to keep this momentum going is to continue buying Bartow and then hiring Bartow and if people see that we can do something by taking care of our neighbors, then we'll continue to drive that number down," Harris said. "It's a continuing challenge to get everybody educated to spend every dollar they can here locally.