It's no secret that tourism is going well in Dahlonega.
For years, the Dahlonega Lumpkin Chamber of Commerce has worked to market the town as a destination for visitors seeking the great outdoors, charming history, restaurants, wineries, and more.
But in addition to bringing folks in from outside the county lines, the Chamber has also traditionally served another purpose—supporting local businesses.
And now is a great time to re-focus on that mission, according to Executive Director Robb Nichols.
"The Chamber is going to be more of a resource for local businesses," he said.
According to Nichols, the Chamber's refined mission is to increase prosperity, attract visitors, advocate for all businesses, and develop leaders to promote the welfare of the community.
To help accomplish this, there are now two separate websites—dahlonega.org, geared more towards visitors, and dlcchamber.org, tailored more for local businesses.
Nichols said that even before he came to the Chamber, the board was moving in this direction.
Matthew Garner, Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors, said that their new vision for the Chamber can be summed up with the three Cs—as a catalyst for business growth, a convener of leaders and influencers, and a champion for a thriving community.
"Chambers used to be there to help businesses," Garner said. "But now things change faster. Now it's global."
WORKING ON THE WORKSPACE
In order to build a space for boosting local business, Nichols said the County is leasing the basement of the old library (now known as the Kelley Building) to the Chamber, where there will be workspaces for use by chamber member businesses.
The area will have access 24-hours-a-day via a door code.
There will be space for a Chamber administrative office, an individual workstation room, a conference room with modular tables, TVs, dry erase boards, a classroom, a stocked snack room, as well as broadband WiFi, a printer and copier.
"COVID has proved that people don't need a full-time office space," Nichols said. "If you're looking to start a business and need a place to talk to investors or others, you can reserve a space."
He said the County has been good to work with on the project.
With the Lumpkin County Development Authority and the Planning Department upstairs, Nichols expects it to be a convenient location for local businesses.
"We had been talking about this even before the pandemic," Nichols said. "When I talk to businesses about sponsoring this they are excited about it."
The response has been so good that they have already exceeded their initial goal of $25,000 for the project, currently raising $40,000.
Nichols said he expects the workspace to be open this summer.
Garner said they're setting up a space for innovation.
"Chambers are best as conveners, and this is a place for people to come together," he added.
Garner said as an advocate for businesses they want to connect. "We want to let everyone know that we are the place to come to develop their business."
He said it helps for entrepreneurs to have a community of experience to gain knowledge from.
"If you're having a hard time connecting we can streamline that process," he said. "We want to reduce the friction with getting things connected."
Garner said the Chamber is in a good position that they have relationships with many entities, such as the City, County, University of North Georgia, and the hospital.
He said Lumpkin County is at a pivotal point considering the eventual arrival of the new hospital and other development.
"I moved to Dahlonega because I love Dahlonega," he said. "If we don't have a vision for what we want Dahlonega to look like it will end up looking like Alpharetta or Cumming."
TOURISM IS TOPS
The increased attention on supporting local businesses comes at a time when tourism is going strong in Dahlonega.
"The Discover Dahlonega staff is doing a great job," Nichols said.
He said Tourism Director Sam McDuffie and Communications Coordinator Courtney Randolph have developed a strategy to promote Dahlonega on social media.
"When I came on to the Chamber, our email newsletter had 10,000 subscribers. Now we have 35,000," Nichols said.
He said most communities would love to have a website as high quality as dahlonega.org for promoting tourism.
"We are now even buying ads in magazines like Southern Living and Garden & Gun," Nichols said.
Garner pointed out that they are reaching people where they are, for example on their smartphones or online.
He expressed how proud they are of the new promotional video ["Discover the Heart of Dahlonega, Georgia" on Youtube]
Garner said it's helping to reach potential visitors in the digital market. "It's part of an awareness program to keep Dahlonega top of mind."