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Chamber celebrates centennial with legacy project

POSTED: February 11, 2008 5:02 a.m.
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The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce kicked off a yearlong celebration of the business organization’s 100th anniversary at a breakfast Wednesday at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Plans were announced for the Centennial Legacy project, a 5-year effort to create gateways to the community through landscaping at each of the five interchanges on Interstate 985.

Frank Norton Jr., a co-chairman of the centennial committee, said the first project will revamp Exit 20, the Ga. 60/Queen City Parkway exit. Plans are being developed for all of the current exits beginning at Friendship Road and continuing north to Old Cornelia Highway. A new exit near Martin Road also would be included in the beautification project.

"(The project) is a legacy that will distinguish Hall County from other areas of the state," said LeTrell Simpson, co-chairwoman of the committee.

Also at the breakfast, 21 former presidents or chairmen of the chamber were introduced. They included John Jacobs Jr. and Ed Jared, who served both as staff members and as voluntary leaders of the chamber.

"When I went in as executive secretary, as it was called at that time in early 1948, there were 50 members of the chamber of commerce," Jacobs said. "They were paying $25 a year in dues. So you can imagine how much salary I received."

Jacobs said Gainesville and Hall County in 2008 are a far cry from the post-war era.

"I had no idea it would grow like this. It’s unbelievable," he said.

The chamber, which was first known as the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, was founded in 1908. The organization struggled in its formative years, and, like the community, its growth and impact swelled with the beginning of the boom of the poultry industry in the late 1940s and 1950s.

"Although the name has changed in the past century, the mission has not," said Denise Deal, chairwoman of the 2,900-member organization. "The mission of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce is to improve the overall business climate for members’ growth, promote community development and facilitate local action to enhance the quality of life."

She cited the 2-year-old Vision 2030 plan as an example of Hall County’s desire for future improvement.

"People want this community and its citizens to thrive," Deal said.

John A. Addison Jr., co-chief executive of Primerica Financial Services, was the keynote speaker for the breakfast.

Addison, who lives in North Hall with his wife and children, talked about the importance of decisive leadership.

"A leader has to be a lighthouse, not a weather vane," Addison said. "So many of our corporate leaders and political leaders are weather vanes. Whichever way the wind is blowing, that’s the direction they turn. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to be a lighthouse."

Addison’s company is a subsidiary of Citigroup and has more than 100,000 representatives. He assumed his current post in 1999.

The chamber is planning a lavish gala, billed as the "Party of the Century," for May 2. The event is tentatively set to take place atop the Hall County parking deck, giving a view of downtown Gainesville.


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