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Facebook buddies up to small business
Social media giant held event Wednesday seeking to educate businesses on promoting themselves
Gainesville City Councilwoman Barbara Brooks attends Wednesday's Facebook “ Boost Your Business ” seminar at the Gainesville Civic Center. Brooks attended with hopes to learn to engage residents in Ward 3 through a social media page dedicated to those who call it home.

With Gainesville and Hall County drawing new residents, big-box stores and major corporations are following close behind.

This was evident with the emergence of Academy Sports + Outdoors and Hobby Lobby along Dawsonville Highway last year, and it can be seen in the arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks along Thompson Bridge Road later in 2016.

Then there’s the large manufacturing and food processing industries that have long called the region home.

But small businesses remain a vital part of the regional economy.

So much so, in fact, that social media giant Facebook hosted an event Wednesday at the Gainesville Civic Center to educate small-business owners about what they can do to reach new clients and customers.

Devon Wardlow, a member of the Facebook small business team, said Gainesville was one of many stops on the tour of midsized metropolitan areas that includes places like Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“It’s business. It matters,” U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said before taking the stage to kick off the Boost Your Business seminar. “This is the kind of thing we’ve always focused on here in the 9th District.”

Some 50 million businesses use Facebook to connect with their clients and customers, many of them mom-and-pop outfits.

Representatives from local businesses Tap It Gainesville Growlers and Jaemor Farms, for example, said Facebook had allowed them to connect with their audiences in a personal way.

Metro Gainesville had the lowest area jobless rate in March at 4.6 percent, while the Heart of Georgia-Altamaha and River Valley regions had the highest at 7.1 percent.

The number of jobs in Gainesville increased by 1,100, or 1.3 percent, to 85,600 from 84,500 in January.

Over the year, Gainesville gained 4,300 jobs, a 5.3 percent growth rate, up from 81,300 in February 2015.  

Most of the job gains came in the service-related industries, retail trade, local government and the goods-producing sector.

But there’s still room to grow responsibly, according to Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

“Our pipeline in economic development is pretty full right now,” he said.

But the challenge for many local companies large and small is finding skilled workers.

“In the near-term, I think that’s an issue for our businesses,” Evans said. “But we’re seeing population growth start to tick up.”

And with that growth comes more demand, better products and services, and the emergence of new small businesses.

The social network is not limited to business marketing, however. Gainesville Councilwoman Barbara Brooks said she hoped to engage residents in Ward 3, a predominantly African-American and lower-income neighborhood, through a social media page dedicated to those who call it home.

“I want to be able to reach young people,” she said.

Regional events