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Hall to leave Newton Chamber of Commerce
hall staffins newton chamber
Hunter Hall, left, and Ralph Staffins

Hunter Hall is leaving the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce for a business development position with Kelly Products after informing his staff of the change Monday.

Hall will remain with the chamber through January before moving on to the company located on Georgia 142 that provides segments of the agribusiness industry with information and solutions, on Feb. 2. Kelly Products' owner Keith Kelly has been a mentor to Hall for years, presenting him with a strong opportunity to move on to his company.

"He and I started talking about the opportunity and he asked if I would be interested in joining his team," Hall said. "It was an opportunity with an individual and company that I respect and admire."

On Jan. 26 Ralph Staffins, currently the CEO of the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce, will become president of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. Staffins also serves as Executive Director of Forward McDuffie which combines the Thomson-McDuffie Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce and Tourism efforts. McDuffie County, located in the eastern part of Georgia, south of South Carolina, has a population of 21,565 people.

Staffins is a native of Loganville who received his BS in Political Science and Masters of Public Administration from Georgia College. He will be introduced at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce's annual Dinner on Jan. 15.

Hall leaves the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce after joining in 2010. He took over the chamber presidency after serving as a partner for Solucion Consulting.

In the four and a half years Hall has been with the chamber, Newton County has seen economic development and tourism grow exponentially. The chamber itself has also changed, with Mainstreet Covington joining the organization.
Among the highlights of the chamber's hand in Newton County's growth in the last five years has been tourism. Jenny McDonald, Newton County's Tourism Director brought tourism visitors up from 14,000 to 30,000 in 2014.

"That's just huge to be able to leverage that opportunity," Hall said. "That's what she's done, probably better than anyone else, is to see an opportunity and take advantage of it."

Another member of Hall's team who has brought in a lot of growth through the chamber has been Economic Development Director Dave Bernd.

"Dave and his team have us positioned really great for the next 20 years." Hall said. "What he's doing with the airport and other industrial recruitment sights such as Stanton Springs and the Mega Sight are all significant positions for us."
McDonald and Bernd are just two members of Hall's team, who he was quick to give all the credit to for the chamber's success throughout the last four to five years. It's that team that, along with the guidance of new president, Staffins, that Hall feels can help carry Newton County to great heights in the next five, 10, 20 years.

"Growth is coming. We feel enormous growth pressure coming down I-20, expanding on Baxter and Stanton Springs development," Hall said. "Honestly, I feel that we are at a fork in the road, where either we continue to develop exactly like DeKalb and Rockdale have developed or, if we can put ordinances and zoning in place we can direct that growth. We can help facilitate growth that is both beneficial for Newton County and for our quality of life."

One of the chamber's most criticized points of Hall's tenure as president was concerning zones and ordinances. In June 2014, the chamber came under fire from the 2050 Plan, which would have brought Baseline Ordinances and compact communities to Newton County.

While the 2050 Plan crashed and burned among Newton County residents, Hall feels something similar is still needed.
"As far as we're concerned, the chamber board feels the same way," Hall said. "We're still committed to the principle of the 2050 Plan built on creating communities, coordinated infrastructure, transportation and clean water."

Hall hopes the county will continue to grow in an organized manner, after he moves on from the non-profit sector.

"We're under enormous growth pressures," Hall said. "How we handle them is at the discretion of our leaders."