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Posted: August 14, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Hall: Chamber in a good ‘state’

2014 has been a great year for the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, President Hunter Hall told members at the annual “State of the Chamber” luncheon Thursday.

“The chamber as a whole, we’re very encouraged with what we’ve seen” so far, he said.

So far in 2014, a total of 15,519 tourists have visited the county; that number is expected to rise to 31,038 by year’s end. In 2013, the number was 28,550; the year before, it was 25,112.

“We’re clearly (adding) over 3,000 visitors a year.”

More visitors mean more revenue for businesses, so the more the merrier, he said.

Through its hotel/motel taxes, the county has raised $173,432 to date in 2014; the number is expected to soar to $346,864, Hall said. In 2013, the total was $264,977. In 2012, it was $222,733.

Surveys have shown that 70 percent of people renting hotel rooms do so through corporations; the rest are tourists. As an example, contractors working for Baxter Pharmaceuticals rent every room in the Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he said.

But tourist numbers are increasing in our hotels, as well. In past years, tourists have stayed an average of one night; now, they stay for two or three.

Another focus of the chamber, of course, is industrial and commercial retention and attraction. And there, too, things are looking up.

In 2014 to date, the chamber has fielded 17 requests for proposals (RFPs) from commercial businesses, and 20 for industries. Those are “healthy” numbers, Hall said, because they signal true interest from a business.

Of the interested commercial businesses, 13 are still active and three have “closed,” or committed to move to the county. Five more will close by year’s end, he said.

On the industrial side of the ledger, 12 of the 20 RFPs are still active, meaning the companies remain interested by uncommitted. Two have closed – Heavy Machine Inc. and Honey-Comb.

People in business look for several things when moving to a community, Hall said, including schools, recreation and shopping.

With the county’s schools, he said, “we’re beginning to tell the story.”

“We have good numbers (from the schools), we’re seeing good things, and they’re producing a good workforce,” he said. “That’s incredibly important when we’re recruiting an industry.”

To help newcomers before and after they decide to move to the county, the chamber will launch a new website – www.ilovecov.com – in four or five weeks, he said. The site will include information on relocating to the county.

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