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Falcons have given Hall much exposure
Fans traditionally cover a hill overlooking the Falcons practice fields during training camp. - photo by Tom Reed

Economic impact? Hard to gauge.

But Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, shrugs it off slightly when talking about the mark the Atlanta Falcons has made on Hall County.

"You can't buy that kind of news media coverage ... every time they announce from Flowery Branch, Ga., all over the U.S. and overseas," she said.

Dunlap said she also figures the hefty payroll of the Falcons, which began practices in Hall County in August 2000, is helping to support the local economy.

"If some of them are living here and around the lake, certainly they are not only paying property taxes but they're spending money - and they can afford it," she added, with a chuckle.

Beyond pure dollars and cents, the Falcons' influence - both in logo and name - can be found all over this South Hall city of 4,500 people.

The road in front of the complex is Falcon Parkway and the Flowery Branch water tower overlooking Thurmon Tanner Parkway bears the familiar emblem.

Flowery Branch High School, which opened several years after the Falcons opened their complex, went through a democratic process in selecting a mascot, but the overwhelming choice was the name of their NFL neighbor at the end of Hog Mountain Road.

Mark Coleman, principal since the school's opening, said he remembers the meeting with students and parents.

A Falcons representative told the group the franchise had agreed to be the school's first partner in education and "we'd really be happy if everyone could agree or like to use the Falcon as (the) logo and mascot," he said.

"I have to say that had a lot of bearing on people's decisions, because they liked it, too," Coleman said.

At the time, the school also was considering the mascot name of its feeder school, Davis Middle.

Davis had been known as the Tigers since its opening, or just before the Falcons had agreed to come to Flowery Branch.

Davis sat across the road from the Falcons complex until it moved last year to the Flowery Branch High building on Hog Mountain Road.

The move was part of a cost-saving measure that also involved relocating South Hall Middle and reopening Flowery Branch High in a new building off Spout Springs Road.

Eddie Millwood, Davis' principal, said Davis didn't consider a new mascot name until Flowery Branch High adopted its mascot.

Millwood, an assistant principal at the time, and then-principal Aaron Turpin decided to pursue the mascot change "because of the whole community aspect of the same mascot."

"And of course, with the Atlanta Falcons tie-in, it was great. We even adjusted our uniform code to allow Atlanta Falcons spirit wear to be a part of it," Millwood said.
"So, it really gave an opportunity to have this whole Falcon community, Falcon nation mentality."

Interaction between the school and Falcons started off strong but waned somewhat over time, Millwood said.

"The Falcons did send some speakers over from time to time and talked to groups of students," he said.

"We were able to use our parking lot for some fundraising opportunities when their preseason camps did not conflict with school opening up."

Coleman said Flowery Branch and the Atlanta Falcons have had solid ties over the years.

"Things have worked out very well," he said.

"The Falcons have involved our coaches in some of their clinics, they have allowed some of their players to come here and speak to our students."

Plus, "from time to time, when they have discarded old weightlifting equipment or old practice uniforms and things like that, they will contact us and give us first dibs," Coleman said.

Falcons officials have been just as pleased with their Flowery Branch home and neighbors.

"Suffice it to say that our experience over the last 10 years has been a very, very good one. We are very proud to represent Hall County," said Reggie Roberts, vice president of football communications for the Falcons. "We are very comfortable with our current situation and like being where we are."

Being in Hall County has also allowed the organization to be more in touch with fans.

"For a good number of years we trained at Furman University (in South Carolina), but one of the things that brought us to Hall was our fans," Roberts said.
"Being in Flowery Branch gives (local) families the opportunity to come out and watch an NFL team play. We are also very, very connected to Hall County from a charitable standpoint. Our guys spend thousands of hours at schools and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

As for the community, Flowery Branch itself has swelled in size, nearly doubling in population as it has taken on new neighborhoods - such as the 1,000-acre Sterling on the Lake - and commercial development.

Before the nation's economy crumbled a few years ago, city officials were regularly hearing from prospects eyeing vacant sites in and around the city, city officials have said.

Much of that growth probably would have occurred without the Falcons, said Frank Norton Jr., a real estate executive who helped lead the effort to bring the Falcons to Hall County.

After all, Hall County had been steadily growing and changing for years.

However, the move "really signified that Atlanta had reached Hall County," he said.

"We considered it a corporate headquarters move and that was a watershed event. It allowed the North Atlanta and Atlanta market to take notice of what we were doing in Hall County and that we were creative in our business recruitment."

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the chamber, said he "shamelessly" promotes the Falcons presence in Hall as part of his recruitment efforts.

"It's a real positive asset for us and not just because of the association and the name recognition but ... I also think they are recognized as being a competitor, a competing team that wants to win," he said.

"And who doesn't like to be in business associated with winners?"