The full Board of Directors of the Rome Floyd Chamber is now on board with a proposed change to the economic development recruiting model being proposed by a joint task force of local leaders. The full chamber board ratified the proposed change Wednesday with the caveat that both the City and County Commissions are in agreement.
The task force, which included City Manager Sammy Rich, County Manager Jamie McCord, County Commissioner Craig McDaniel, County Commissioner Wright Bagby and Chamber Board Chairman Pete McDonald, has proposed the creation of a completely new agency to supervise industrial recruitment. That agency would hire a new lead recruiter, effectively taking that role away from the chamber.
The change was proposed after Chamber President Al Hodge announced his plans to retire next April.
Last month, the chamber executive committee and Floyd County Commission both endorsed the change, however the Rome City Commission has not taken a vote.
McDonald said Thursday that the support from the executive committee was simply in the form of a resolution which would be passed on to the full Board of Directors, which is what happened Wednesday. McDonald said of the more than two dozen board members at the meeting Wednesday, there were just a few who had questions about how the whole process evolved.
The chamber board voted to move forward and stand united with city and county officials in implementing a new economic development model. However the chamber board is recommending that the Rome Floyd County Development Authority be tasked as the lead agency for industrial recruitment under the new model to ensure representation from chamber members and GREIA members.
The RFCDA is a constitutionally created agency which has the authority to issue tax abatements for new and expanding industry. The agency collects Payments in Lieu of Taxes and has an assets balance that now exceeds $1.5 million.
McDonald said he is aware of some commissioners who support the RFCDA as the lead recruitment agency, as well as others who prefer an entirely new agency to lead the effort. He said concerns about turnover on the RFCDA could be resolved with input from elected officials as to the at-large appointments to the agency. The chamber board director has historically served as chairman, and changes every year, but there is nothing in the bylaws to prohibit at-large members from serving as chairman.
The at-large members serve staggered three year terms and RFCDA attorney Andy Davis said there is no limit as to how many times a person could be appointed to serve. He also said he felt the authority members would give strong consideration to anyone suggested for appointment to the panel going forward.
One of the reasons the city commission has not bought into the change is that commissioners have not seen a proposed budget for the new agency. Elyse Davis, Northwest region community development manager for Georgia Power, told the task force that it could easily cost close to $200,000 to hire the right person as the lead recruiter and provide some administrative support. McDonald has previously indicated that with funds for marketing and additional staffing, the budget could easily jump to the $400,000 to $500,000 range.
A press release from the chamber indicates that its mission remains to promote prosperity and growth in Rome and Floyd County and these efforts will only be strengthened by this transition.
"Everything we do is economic development," said 2019 Chamber Board Chairwoman Elaine Abercrombie. She believes that with the lead role in industrial recruitment taken off the chamber's plate, the membership-driven organization will have even more time to spend addressing the wants and needs of its 900-plus business members.
"I'm excited about the opportunities we'll see to serve our existing members and gain new members," Abercrombie said. "Everything we do to improve Rome and Floyd County is a part of helping economic development."
Julia McGuiness quietly peeled off glittery stickers to decorate small packs of Kleenex tissues, but when the boxes of Christmas pencils came out, she squealed in delight.
"She just loves sorting pencils," said Jessica Messenger, a staffer at Floyd Training & Service Center for developmentally disabled adults.
Julia and four of her fellow students — Andrew Thomas, Travis Steele, Stella Gibbons and Shawnta Greene — were making and filling Christmas gift bags at the Angel Express office.
Janet Baltzer, founder and director of the local nonprofit, calls the rotating group of special needs adult volunteers her Bravehearts. The presents they were assembling Thursday are destined for Highland Rivers Health clients at a five-county Christmas banquet later this month.
"Our mission is to bring joy to those who receive and a sense of purpose to those who give," Baltzer said. "To me, it's just as important to give folks like this a chance to give back."
Shawnta said that's why she tries to be among the FTC volunteers who go to Angel Express for an hour each week: To help other people and to work with her friends.
Her comment set off a spate of giggles from the others gathered around a table heaped with donated items ranging from toothbrushes and memo pads to warm socks and puzzle books.
"You're making me work hard," Stella said with a mock frown as she reached for some more Christmas stickers to dab onto a bag.
"Do you like to work hard?" Messenger asked conversationally.
"Yes, ma'am," Stella said, nodding emphatically and bursting into laughter with her friends.
They also spent some time filling dozens of Christmas coffee mugs with packets of Swiss Miss cocoa, and starting on gift bags that will go to the men at STAR House, a residential addiction treatment center in Rome.
Baltzer said there will be 200 bags and 200 mugs for the Highland Rivers banquet.
Volunteers from the nearby Women's Outreach Center were expected to walk over later to finish them up.
The Bravehearts have been busy this season, though. Baltzer said they just made 50 Christmas cards and ornaments for U.S. troops serving overseas. They're also putting together care packages for local firefighters and K-9 officers as well as disaster and fire victims.
A wide variety of organizations and community groups assist Baltzer and her Angel Express crew, who focus their work on helping the helpers. She said she rarely gets to see the gifts get to recipients, which is one reason she loves having the FTC Bravehearts pitch in.
"I get my pleasure from watching the volunteers, seeing them feel a sense of accomplishment," Baltzer said. "It's fun to watch them blossom."
If you're buying your healthcare insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace and planning on using most of Floyd Medical Center's locations — such as the emergency room, or for having a baby — you need to choose your plan wisely.
If there is any chance that you will need emergency care, surgery, urgent care or even a visit to a Floyd Primary Care physician in the coming year, you should also carefully consider your Exchange insurance selection, Greg Polley, vice president, said in a press release.
"It is unfortunate that there is only one option on the Exchange that is in network at Floyd Medical Center, Floyd Primary Care, Floyd Urgent Care and Willowbrooke at Floyd," he said. "It is also unfortunate that Floyd is unable to affect this decision."
Recent changes in the market have limited the number of healthcare Marketplace insurers in Floyd, Chattooga and Polk counties to just two options. According to Healthcare.gov the two providers listed for Floyd County are Alliant Solo-Care and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Of those two, only Alliant has elected to have Floyd Medical Center, Floyd Primary Care, Floyd Urgent Care and Willowbrooke at Floyd in their network for the coming year.
Expectant parents or parents who plan to have a baby in the coming year will need to choose an Alliant SoloCare health plan on the Marketplace to ensure their hospital obstetrical services are covered, Polley said.
"We believe every patient should have the right to choose where he or she receives medical care and know that their care is covered by their insurer," Polley said. "Sadly, that is not the case in today's market. This is truly an instance of buyer beware."
Since the beginning of the healthcare exchange, Redmond Regional has remained in network with all available exchange providers including Alliant Care and Blue Cross Blue Shield, according to Andrea Pitts, director of public relations at Redmond.
The deadline to sign up for health insurance in the federal Marketplace is Dec. 15.
Individuals who need to purchase insurance or change a previous decision in the Health Care Marketplace should call 1-800-318-2596 or visit www.healthcare.gov. Consumers should also note that a change in network coverage is not considered a qualifying life event that merits changing plans after Jan. 1.
Running long distances requires a certain kind of internal spark, one that necessitates the need to use all of one's God-given abilities to battle the challenges that lie ahead.
On Saturday morning, more than 300 runners will bring that common trait to the starting line with the knowledge that they do so honoring Rome teen Jamie Hughes, who lived life to the fullest and — after waging a courageous battle with cancer — left a life-lesson legacy to learn from, at the #JamieStrong Rome Half Marathon and 5K that starts and ends at State Mutual Stadium.
"With Jamie, it was about living life to the fullest," Chrissy Hughes, Jamie's mother, said about her son, who passed away in September following a yearlong fight with osteosarcoma, a very rare but aggressive bone cancer that attacks children during their growth spurts.
"He made a lot of difference in a lot of people's lives," she said. "He was very, very strong."
The youngest of three children, Jamie let it be known early in life that he opened his mind, heart and body to everything in life, quickly emerging as a true Renaissance individual who exhibited a love for academics, music, drama, art and especially athletics.
"He was a very old soul and had a good sense of self," Chrissy explained, adding that Jamie — who was embraced by everyone he met — was very mature for his age. As a second-grader at St. Mary's School in Rome, Jamie served notice that running was also in his athletic repertoire when he competed in his first distance race, the annual Rome Leprechaun-a-thon 5K, finishing ahead of his mom and his sister and brother, Shannon and Conor.
"He took off on his own and finished well ahead of all of us," Chrissy recalled about the race. "He loved it but he thought he could have had a better time if he hadn't had to stop a few times to tie his shoelaces."
In the summer of 2017, Jamie was looking forward to starting his eighth-grade year at St. Mary's, the school that he attended since he was a preschooler.
He had joined the cross country team, was Beta Club president for a second consecutive year, played Arsenal Soccer through the YMCA, playing his guitar and hanging out with friends. But it was in August of 2017 that Jamie and his family learned that their lives were about to change.
After complaining about a sore knee earlier in the summer — Chrissy attributed it to growing pains teens have — Jamie got hit in the knee while playing football on the playground at school with his friends, requiring a trip to the doctor's office where x-rays revealed a shadow near the knee.
"Then came the explanation of what the doctor thought this spot might be," Chrissy said, "without using the dreaded 'C' word, and stated this could be very serious and is very aggressive. Jamie and I both knew what he was talking about. Stunned, confused and in shock, we both left in tears."
The next day, following a bone scan, an MRI and an appointment to meet with an orthopedic specialist at Emory in Atlanta, an office biopsy confirmed every family's worst nightmare, Jamie had cancer.
"I had never heard of it." Chrissy said about learning that osteosarcoma had attacked Jamie's bones. "It's so rare that one of the doctors said you had a better chance of winning the lottery than being diagnosed with this disease."
Still, while the dark news changed the entire family, it also brought them closer together, with Jamie serving as the compass for Chrissy, his dad Tom and his brother and sister, showing them, their friends and an entire community how to be strong and faithful during what would become a year-long fight that involved several surgeries, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, ER visits and numerous trips back and forth to Scottish Rite in Atlanta.
Through it all, Jamie refused to surrender.
Instead, he held the high ground until the end game, focusing on the things he loved — his family, his friends, his beloved Notre Dame Irish and New York Yankees — as well as his strong faith in God that became even stronger thanks to a special bond he formed with the Rev. Valery Akoh, the parochial vicar at St. Mary's Catholic Church.
"He really didn't like being in the limelight because of his cancer," Chrissy said, noting a scholarship fund in Jamie's name has been established at St. Mary's School. "He always kept his spirits high. He was independent all the way to the end."
Jamie's parents, brother and sister are all running this weekend. So will a lot his friends, classmates, teachers and others who crossed paths with him or his family. And in the hearts of all of them, so will Jamie.
Presented by Redmond Regional, the Rome Half Marathon, Half Relay and 5K will all begin and end at State Mutual Stadium on Saturday, with the 5K starting at 8 a.m. and the Half Marathon and Relay starting at 8:05. Race-day registration begins at 7 a.m.
For more information on the #jamiestrong Rome Half Marathon, Half Relay and 5K, go to www.romehalf.com or contact GoGo Running at The Shoe Box at 706-291-0752.
Today's artwork is by Jackson Colston, a sixth-grader at Unity Christian School.