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Initiative helping attract money, jobs
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If the success of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s HALLmark Vision Initiative is any indication, Hall County residents and businesses really believe in their community.

In 2006, the chamber launched the fundraising mission with a four-year goal of collecting $2.2 million to fund economic development, education and community improvement initiatives.

"We achieved that goal with very little fallout from the recession of the last two years," said Kit Dunlap, chamber president and CEO. "... We are very, very proud of the success of HALLmark because it shows that people still believe in the need to come together in order to move our community forward."

Among other things, the funds have been used over the years to fund two full-time staff positions dedicated to maintaining and attracting industries to the area.

"Some of our goals were to create 1,400 new jobs, $200 million in capital investments and $50 million in new (payroll investments) over this four-year period," Dunlap said. "We more than exceeded those goals."

In 2009 alone, the chamber reports there were more than $165 million in capital investments and 1,000 jobs created or retained in Hall County.

Ultimately, the initiative was designed to ensure Gainesville and Hall County’s continued economic success.

With the help of generous donors, the chamber has been able to organize various economic development activities including seminars and workshops aimed at small
businesses, which make up more than 80 percent of the chamber’s membership.

"We wanted to see what we could do to help them be successful and survive," Dunlap said.

Education and health also were selected as important components to community growth, so the chamber has used the initiative to bring businesses and schools together through the partners in education program and to also sponsor activities like the annual HealthSmart Expo.

As successful as chamber officials say the initial HALLmark has been, there is still work to be done and they’ve already outlined round two. HALLmark: The Next Generation will be a five-year initiative that will officially launch in the fall and conclude in 2015.