Dear Fellow Chamber Members,
The Chamber’s mission is to advance positive business growth and community partnerships to promote a superior quality of life for all who live in Forsyth County. The Chamber Board, its staff and its membership were more driven than ever before to fulfill this mission despite the uncertainties 2020 presented. From the move to a new home to the launch of an economic recovery initiative, I am proud of what our Chamber accomplished in 2020 and what is in store for the future.
Your Chamber was the first Chamber in Georgia to launch an economic recovery initiative and among the first in the nation to do so. The focus of the Together4FOCO initiative from day one was to provide business leaders with expertise to help them make sound business decisions, provide access to working capital and engage our residents in supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs. I believe we were successful in each of these areas.
While the Chamber led the local business community in economic recovery, the organization itself thrived. We completed the construction of and relocation into a new organizational home. We were named a national 2020 Chamber of the Year Finalist by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. We lived out the brand adoption words we set in 2019 as we intentionally monitored our business community’s needs, innovatively transitioned our events and collaborated with Forsyth County Government to administer the Forsyth County CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program.
Forward Forsyth, the community’s economic development partnership, saw the creation of 528 new jobs and $110 million in new capital investment. Forward Forsyth took action to move the community’s unemployment rate (which was 10.4 percent at the end of April, 2020) to 2.8 percent by the end of November. And Forward Forsyth celebrated when Forsyth County was accepted into Georgia’s Innovation Crescent.
While 2020 was not the year that any of us expected, our Chamber learned a great deal in how we can intentionally pivot and meet the changing needs of our community. Building upon these lessons, your Chamber is already hard at work ensuring that our community continues to thrive.
The Forward Forsyth economic development partnership will focus on Forsyth County’s product development to attract businesses into the community and infrastructure development in the north portion of the county, all elements of Forsyth County’s strategic economic development plan.
In early 2020, our Chamber launched a dedicated focus on workforce development. We will continue that path with strong partnerships with Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia (UNG), producing training opportunities and programs like Profs for FoCo that matches a UNG Mike Cottrell College of Business faculty member with a business leader for short consulting appointments. Our workforce development efforts will aim at maintaining Forsyth County’s historically low unemployment rate despite the economic consequences of the current global health crisis.
I have been involved in the Chamber’s tourism development efforts for many years. The Chamber’s tourism initiative, Discover FoCo, had cutting-edge plans in 2020 and I am excited to see those accelerate this year.
With Forsyth County’s first Community Improvement District (CID) now in operation (the South Forsyth CID), you will soon see a major transformation in the McFarland Corridor. My goal this year would be to see us make strides toward the creation of additional CIDs in specific areas of Forsyth County.
These initiatives remind us that outstanding communities and economies do not develop by chance. They are built on the foundation of leadership and relationships. We are blessed to have both in the City of Cumming and Forsyth County.
In closing, I appreciate the opportunity to serve as Chair of the Board for the Chamber. In 2020, we saw that the Chamber is our community’s venue to channel the incredible collective resources of great businesspeople to launch economic recovery and create economic opportunity. To achieve the Chamber’s goals, we require support from many sources, but it all begins with you. To that end, I extend my sincere gratitude for your commitment to the Chamber of Commerce, Cumming and Forsyth County and look forward to our continued collaboration in 2021.
Forsyth County Chamber