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Chamber of Commerce voice is strong and growing
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The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce has seen growth in membership, area jobs, Main Street program businesses and tourism revenue within the last year.

Chamber President Ralph Staffins read off a list of superlatives about the organization during a chamber lunch link at The Center Wednesday.

Positives for the chamber during the last year, Staffins said, include a 20 percent increase in membership and retention of 90 percent of its current business partners. There are 592 chamber member businesses, which employ 22,000 people.

“A chamber is only as strong as its membership,” Staffins said. “Our voice is pretty loud. Our voice is pretty strong and it’s growing.”

The economic development arm of the chamber has added thousands of jobs throughout the last few years, in industry, retail, hospitality and bio science, according to Staffins.

“It’s just amazing how many quality jobs we have in our community,” he said. “We’re going to be the fastest growing county by 2030 because of the new jobs we created and people moving to our community.”

Among those new people coming to Newton County many are stopping in downtown Covington on the Square. The Square has added several businesses and restaurants in the last year, becoming the county’s entertainment district.

That district has served as a shopping and dining destination for the county’s thousands of tourists. When tourists come to the Newton County Visitors Center they are asked to sign a guest book. Among those who come to the area and sign the guest book, there have been just more than 3,000 people coming to Newton County a month.

Among those visitors are tourists coming to see filming locations throughout Newton County. The film industry has brought in $125 million last year and is growing, according to Staffins.

“We have had scouts in our office at least three times a week for the past six weeks,” he said. “It has been insane the increase we’ve seen in filming scouts. And that has translated into filming in our community.”

Staffins, who hosted a live interactive survey during Wednesday’s lunch link, also took questions from the crowd of around 60 to 70 people. Many of the questions concerned networking between business owners and learning about Covington, Newton County and operating a business.

“We affect our home and our quality of life, and we talk a lot about building relationships, Staffins said.