The Rome Floyd Chamber has launched Rise & Thrive 2025, a new campaign to spur growth. The initiative could be called a successor to the old Partners in Prosperity program, which lasted from 2005 through 2019.

Rise & Thrive 2025 is a five-year strategic plan designed to grow jobs, attract talent and strengthen quality of place. The chamber board chair, Cassandra Wheeler of Georgia Power, and Kenna Stock of Harbin Clinic will co-chair the campaign.

The Rome City and Floyd County commissions agreed that each government will make a $50,000 annual contribution to the campaign for five years. The chamber also is reaching out to key members to help finance the program.

“We sincerely appreciate the 39 investors who are already committed. We look forward to those that will follow,” said Wheeler. “The Rise & Thrive 2025 plan of action will drive growth in our workforce, attract investment and jobs from our existing businesses, and advocate for business and quality of place.”

United Community Bank and Pirelli Tire are among the local businesses and industries partnering on the plan.

“I am confident the collaborative efforts and investment now will help us with our workforce and infrastructure needs for years to come,” said Clay Cooper, Pirelli’s director of human resources.

Chamber leaders did not release a specific financial goal for the campaign.

“We are so encouraged by the response of the business and community leaders who have stepped forward in support of our strategic plan,” said Stock. “We are grateful to these leaders who have expressed their willingness to invest their resources to make a difference in Rome and Floyd County.”

Chamber President Jeanne Krueger said the organization’s role is different than it was during the Partners in Prosperity days.

“One of the things we’ll do now is what I like to call ‘service after the sale,’” she said. “It will really be taking care of our existing businesses in the ways we’ve always taken care of them. But it’s also workforce development, which is a top-of-the-mind issue for Rome and Floyd County.”

The program has identified three primary areas to address, beginning with the competition for jobs and capital investment in the community. That is followed closely by an uncertain workforce sustainability. And finally, the need for a surrounding environment that is supportive of business.

The plan aims to create a resilient and robust local economy that exhibits both population growth and income growth. If that is accomplished, officials said, businesses will be able to find the talent they need to continue to expand.

Finally, the plan seeks to make Rome and Floyd County a business-friendly community with a thriving quality of place.

The goals are very interdependent on each other, according to Krueger. Maintaining a strong diversity of workplaces will be a key objective throughout the campaign.

Krueger said that the chamber started down the road to rolling out the new program a year ago, then the pandemic happened. As the calendar flipped into 2021, she started to talk with stakeholders again and saw that the workforce development aspect was becoming critical.

As the competition for new jobs became stiffer, Krueger said she and local business leaders realized how important it was going to be to reach outside the county to attract additional people.

Part of the Rise & Thrive 2025 program will involve hiring a new staff member at the chamber whose primary role will be workforce development.

The new position will be called director of talent development. A job posting is online at the chamber website:

“They will wake up every day with that goal in mind: how to connect people with jobs,” Krueger said. “They’ll be working with the College and Career Academy, the area colleges and high schools, to put people with jobs.”

Pam Powers-Smith is the chamber’s director of business and industry services. She said the plan is for the chamber to be more proactive in assisting companies, new and old, to attract the best employees possible.

“I want that person to be able to make connections,” Powers-Smith said.

Another key component to the chamber’s plan of work will be collaborating on a new marketing campaign with the Rome and Floyd County governments, the Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism and the Downtown Development Authority.

“People are moving to Georgia, they are moving north of Atlanta, so we have a window of opportunity to be able to grow the pie of potential workers and connect them to jobs,” Krueger said. “A lot of people visit here and get to know Rome and Floyd County; they tend to seek to be here. For us to be aggressive in a unified marketing plan is important.”

Rome Mayor Craig McDaniel said the majority Rome’s employment base is in small business, and the bulk of the growth in the community is generated through small businesses.

“We’ve got an outstanding chamber and their membership is made up of the people we’re committed to serve,” McDaniel said. “I think it’s incumbent on elected officials to recognize that, so I support us funding this.”

The last five-year segment of the Partners in Prosperity program, 2015-2019, brought additional emphasis on entrepreneurship.

It also helped finance renovations and upgrades to the chamber building — to “put a best foot forward” when showing off the community to potential new employers.

Krueger anticipates that Rise & Thrive 2025 will extend well beyond its initial five-year plan of work, much as the Partners in Prosperity program was extended twice.

“We intend to be very transparent and have a leadership advisory council of investors to where we report back results,” she said. “We’ll be tweaking it along the way to get results.”

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