The headline read, “Chamber member rates going up.” The headline is 100-percent accurate! If one were to read the story, they would learn that it is the first dues increase in eight years. The amount of the increase ranges from $15-$20 per member.

Why did the Chamber and its board unanimously vote to raise dues? Because it is time to invest in ourselves and offer more value to our members.

This investment is designed to provide our membership with new programs and access to technologies that will help them be more successful. Initiatives such as our Drugs Don’t Work program — a small business resource that helps employers save money through substantial discounts on worker’s compensation insurance.

Programs like participation in nationwide small business exchanges so that our Polk County small businesses can afford health insurance; technology tools like ChamberMaster software that is designed to give our members an online community calendar with access to upcoming events, marketing opportunities and the ability to post job openings.

Events and programs don’t just happen on their own, our Chamber initiates them! For 25 years, Polk Youth Leadership has shaped and molded countless sophomores who have gone on to graduate from high school. These young people are now serving as positive examples for our current generation. After a four-year absence, the Chamber is bringing back a community-based leadership program designed after the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute of Leadership Development curriculum. This local Chamber program, called Lead Polk, has already garnered more than 100 participation nominations.

The Polk County Chamber has been a voice for community business and leadership throughout the years. Out of our committees have grown successful initiatives such as Keep Polk Beautiful, Polk Family Connection, and the Polk County College and Career Academy.

In the history of charters awarded by the state of Georgia Department of Education for College and Career Academies, no other county has illustrated the level of already-existing partnership with local industry like Polk County. That came directly from the hard work of the Chamber’s workforce development committee.

What was that partnership worth? According to the state board of the Technical College System of Georgia: $3.2 million dollars and even more to our local industries and manufacturers. Those dollars, along with local SPLOST dollars, represent an investment where almost 1,920 of 2,100 Polk School District students receive college credit and relevant vocational skills designed to meet the needs of local employers. All of this because there was a Chamber that desired to create the ability for educators and workforce leaders to come together for the benefit of our youth, our businesses, and our county.

While I can attempt to be a billboard for the Chamber and of all its programs and events, I don’t want to lose sight of why we voted to raise our rates for membership after eight years. It is because if we don’t invest in ourselves, who will?

At last report, seven Polk County existing employers and manufacturers are looking to expand. Two weeks ago, Rockmart learned of a new Chick-Fil-A restaurant. Their Facebook page garnered 2,500+ likes in its first day. Tractor Supply Company will soon break ground in Cedartown. Polk County is a great place to invest. The Chamber advocates that fact every day. These two new businesses will now know what we’ve known for years — Polk is a great place to grow.

Our Chamber board sees the investment opportunity in our operations and Polk County. It is our wish and goal to educate every business and elected body to see that same potential in the place we call home.

­— Britt Madden Jr.

Chamber of Commerce, Board Chairman

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