Chamber of Commerce sees new opportunities to support community

Gildan Cedartown Human Resources Manager Susan Oswalt (from left) and Plant Manager Gregg Webb delivered 3,800 face masks to Polk County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Blair Elrod in August to distribute to Polk County elementary school students.

Each Friday, Blair Elrod sends out the weekly email newsletter of the Polk County Chamber of Commerce featuring upcoming events and community happenings to its members.

At the top of it is a sentence stating the chamber’s mission — “to enhance, support and advocate for a prosperous Polk County.”

As with many things business related, staying true to that mission has been tough during COVID-19 times. But thanks to a new agreement and some creative thinking by executive director Elrod and the board of directors, the Polk County association has found new support and footing to do its best in keeping its promise.

Elrod, the lone paid employee of the county chamber, had been working on raising a family while also tackling the job of working a one-person show. Then March came.

“I was not going to fail our businesses that were suffering just because we only had one employee,” Elrod said. “We had to cancel events that normally brought in revenue for the chamber. I worked long hours trying to figure out where the money was coming from.

“I always said we wouldn’t close all of a sudden. I would give the county and our members two months notice. We were dangerously close before the pandemic, but when COVID came, we got hit bad.

It came down to the point where if something didn’t change, Elrod would have had to had made the decision on July 1 to close the chamber.

Then a review of state law concerning providing money to economic development organizations by the Polk County Commission revealed that the county could provide funds to the chamber after believing originally that it couldn’t do that.

So with the threat of going completely broke following months of struggles in trying to work out funding, the county commissioners and the chamber board both approved a memorandum of understanding in August to provide $30,000 in the 2021 fiscal year county budget for the association to promote tourism and business development.

“We’re excited,” Elrod said. “The county has some good ideas, and we’ve continued to put out important information for everyone in the community, including a COVID guide for the county that got state recognition.”

Among the ideas Elrod shared with the county commission are new events to help boost Polk County’s recognition on the state level, an annual tourism magazine listing wedding venues, lodging, entertainment options and yearly events and activities, and a new Polk-only guide map for the Silver Comet Trail.

Elrod also has plans to rollover $5,000 of each year’s budget toward the goal of having gateway signage at the county line on each major highway. She said that would take five to six years.

The chamber recently held a mask drive to collect enough face masks to distribute to every elementary school student in the Polk School District. With the donations it received and a generous donation of 3,800 face masks from Gildan in Cedartown, the chamber met its goal and had enough adult-sized masks for every district employee.

Announced upcoming events and special promotions sponsored by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce include a virtual candidate forum for the five candidates for Polk County Commission District 2 on Oct. 1 and Trick-or-Treat with the Chamber throughout October.

The candidate forum will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 and will be streamed on the chamber’s Facebook page, The public can send in questions for the candidates by emailing Questions must be received by Sept. 30 at 5 p.m.

Trick-or-Treat with the Chamber mixes a scavenger hunt with spotlighting different businesses in the county while adhering to physical distancing.

Beginning Oct. 1, the chamber will hide painted Halloween-style rocks around Polk County. Clues for each rock’s hiding spot will be listed each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in October on the chamber’s Facebook page, with the first one going up at 6 p.m. on Oct. 1.

When a person finds a rock, they must post a photo of it on Facebook in the comment section of the clue that led them to it. Each rock will have a business written on the back that the person should visit to get a free gift basket.

All ages are welcome to participate, and the chamber requests only one rock be found per household during the contest period.

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