By Tommy Jennings
I hear lots of stories in my position as an executive with the chamber of commerce. I call them stories, because they’re usually short, which would preclude the description “Novel”; they’re usually well-repeated, which precludes the description “New”; they’re usually second-hand and interesting which preclude the description “Factual.” Most, I call “Myths.”
There are myths about virtually every line of work – Doctors are overpaid; Lawyers are shady (mostly, anyway). I see and hear other rampant ruminations time and again. I deal with the chamber myths, and I’ll address them first, before the really interesting non-facts come forth.
A chamber of commerce exists to support business, enhance the local economy, and drive and develop new business and industry. A chamber exists to work with the members it serves to offer them every opportunity to be as successful and profitable as possible. Whether it’s working with local government or local industry, chambers are the fulcrum that gets things done. Chambers are the middlemen in controversies. They are the peacemaker in dustups. They are out front in addressing municipal and county government on issues of concern with business.
But chambers are not a charity.
Some businesses think that chambers of commerce have a 501(c)3 designation with the IRS. There’s nothing further from the truth. Chambers are designated by the IRS as a 501(c)6 organization, which allows businesses to deduct their dues as a business expense. But businesses routinely set aside funds for chambers from their “Charity” account. We aren’t. But we’ve heard it all before. Myth.
Several years ago, I learned that there was going to be a new airport between Atlanta and Athens. I heard that the shipping company known as “Brown” was moving it’s air freight facility to the new airport between Atlanta and Athens. A famous airline known as LUV was moving out here. The airport between Atlanta and Athens was being lengthened to receive 737s. Traffic. Noise. Cats and dogs living together. Myth. But it was sure interesting around here for awhile. Especially when I learned that “Brown” wasn’t coming. It was that air freight company out of Memphis – Blue. Myth.
A by-pass between Atlanta and Athens was to be built to ease traffic concerns between Interstate 85 and Interstate 75, south of Atlanta. Trucks routinely transitioned off of I-85 down Hwy 53, south to Hwy 11, then down past Atlanta towards Macon. The by-pass would take the truck traffic out of Winder, easing the congestion that had been bad since the 1950s. Myth. So far.
There are plans to put into place a new by-pass around Winder, running from Hwy 211 just southwest of I-85 at Chateau Elan, and transitioning down to Hwy 316. Not a myth. Yet. Funding is being put into place now, and land acquisition is soon to proceed. If we can continue the momentum, I may have to eat my words. Now that’s factual.
Tommy Jennings is a native of Winder, GA and is President of the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce. He was formerly President of Barrow Manufacturing Company, a family-owned company in business for 75 years. He is married to Danette, has two grown sons, and three grandsons.