Tourism brings big dollars to Fannin County

Community, Fannin County Chamber, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – There is no denying that our area is a hot spot for tourists and the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce gave a 2018 update letting citizens know just how much money our thriving tourist industry is bringing to our area.

Last year alone, $39 million was collected in local lodging tax by both the City of Blue Ridge and Fannin County.

“That’s just the ones who pay the tax,” Jan Hackett, President of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce spoke of the significance of these numbers, “so anyone out there who is an Airbnb or a VRBO who is not paying the tax is not in that number.”

In recent years Georgia Tech teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce to do a study on our economic impact numbers. According to Hackett the purpose of this study was to determine the amount of dollars spent in our local economy based on the lodging taxes collected.

Georgia Tech was able to produce an equation that they felt would portray an accurate number based on percentages of sales in direct comparison with lodging taxes.

“Based on their percentages the amount of money that visitors spent directly was $170.5 million dollars,” Hackett said explaining the findings for calendar year 2018 and added that this number is based on overnight visitors alone and does not account for day trippers and our area’s population of second home owners.

According to these numbers and based on SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) collections last year, overnight visitors made up roughly a third of all retail sales in the county. SPLOST reported a record breaking $555 million is sales last year for Fannin County.

Hackett broke down the numbers into a daily average. On average per day lodging brings in $100,795 and visitors spend roughly $484,375. This equates to $39,347 of taxes collected locally.

While our county can become crowded due to the visitors, there is a definite positive impact these visitors bring with them. Roughly one-third of the jobs in Fannin County (excluding governmental) are supported by the tourist industry, and all the extra revenue saves residents approximately $865 in taxation per household.

Hackett pointed out that in 2001: “At that point in time we had less in retail sales than any county in the four around us.” These counties include Fannin, Glimer, Pickens, and Union.

Fast forward to recent years and Fannin County is now leading the way in retail sales and economic growth. A comparison shows that in 2001 retail sales were approximately $150 million and in 2018 retail sales were $555,697,658.

With the lodging tax now being split 50/50 between the chamber and the county, Hackett reported that the decrease from the 70 percent that the chamber previously received has not posed any negative effect on the ability to market our area.

Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explains where the extra revenue the county is now getting from the split in lodging tax is being spent, “When we adjusted this ratio between the board of commissioners and the chamber, our intent was to take half of that increase and put it into safety.”

Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson is credited with the idea of investing the funds into public safety, and had pointed out in previous meetings that his reasoning is simply with more people visiting and more events being held in our area there becomes an increased demand for emergency services to be provided.

Up next for the Chamber of Commerce is to continue to promote growth and visitation in our area. Hackett said of moving forward, “Our mission is only to help make Fannin County a better place to live, work and play.”

The chamber has recently focused efforts into making the Copper Basin area a desirable place to visit and has teamed up with the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government Study to produce an in depth study of McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown.

“The Carl Vinson Institute is doing a kind of strategic planning process for McCaysville, Copperhill, and Ducktown….the Copper Basin,” Hackett said of the partnership and added that she is expecting the study to be complete by the end of February.

The study and planning will work to make the Copper Basin area a more appealing place to work, live and visit. Its focus is to re-brand the area. Under the name the Copper Basin Renaissance, the partnership with UGA is focusing its campaign on the slogan “Copper Basin. Too Great for One State”.

Hackett said of the chamber’s focus, “As Blue Ridge has gotten more crowded, it only makes since to try to do more in McCaysville and Copper Hill and the Basin, so that when visitors are here we’ll have them spread out in the county.”

The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce debuted a new website that went live in March of last year. 617,905 users visited the site and of those users 82 percent were new.

The new design of the website landed the chamber a prestigious Silver Adrian Award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.

“To give you an idea of what an honor that is, the Jackson Hole Wyoming website also won a silver,” Hackett said of the accomplishment.

The Fannin County Chamber of Commerce plans to continue efforts in 2019 to once again bring in record numbers to our area and help define Fannin County as a resilient place to visit or to make home.

Featured Image: A small sample of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce new award winning website.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

President of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Honored

Community, Fannin County Chamber

Jan Hackett receives Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award

BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA—SEPTEMBER 2018—President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Jan Hackett,

was among the state’s top tourism professionals recognized at the 2018 Georgia Governor’s  Tourism Conference in Atlanta, August 29. Jan received The Larry Allen Tourism Leadership Award, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates excellence in leadership skills and abilities. The award is given in memory of Larry Allen, who was General Manager of Stone Mountain and exemplified all around friendship, support and leadership in the tourism industry.

“I am truly honored to be recognized by my peers. The thing I do best is surround myself with wonderful and talented people, especially my amazing team at the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, our weekend staff, great board members, friends and associates. It has been my privilege and pleasure to come to work every single day since we moved to Blue Ridge and Fannin County,” said Hackett.

Hosted by the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) and the Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus (GACVB), the annual industry event brought together more than 400 tourism industry professionals from across the state.

“Georgia’s tourism industry is a significant contributor to our economic health, generating a record $63.1 billion in economic impact, and employing more than 460,000 Georgians,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “Our tourism industry professionals continue to welcome a record number of visitors to our state each year. I thank them for their dedication to making Georgia a top vacation destination and for ensuring the tourism industry maintains its success well into the future.”

“Communities all across Georgia feel the positive impact that the tourism industry has in our state,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Kevin Langston. “As we work to expand our reach in attracting visitors from across the globe, our efforts would not be possible without the contributions of Georgia Tourism team as well our tourism industry partners.”

The Governor’s Tourism Conference provides a platform to educate members of the tourism industry about travel and tourism-related issues on a national and statewide level, focusing on emerging trends as well as ways to reinforce current tourism efforts and future initiatives. The 2019 Georgia Governor’s Tourism Conference will be hosted by the LaGrange Troup County Chamber of Commerce and held September 8 – 11 at the new Great Wolf Lodge & Conference Center.

 

About Blue Ridge, GeorgiaSituated about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge, Georgia, is all at once, outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, fresh, historical–a collision of opposites resulting in a picture-perfect getaway for crafting memories, whether seeking solitude, uniting family, gathering friends or igniting romance. Upscale cabins dot the landscape offering time in nature and sweeping visitors a million miles away from “real life” while keeping within close proximity the chic shops, restaurants and multi-generational activities that inspire truly great vacations. Hop aboard a train, sink your teeth into sweet, plucked-fresh-from-the-tree apples at local orchards, titillate taste buds with farm-to-table offerings, shop for worthy souvenirs–and wardrobe additions–at chic boutiques, cheat on your diet with sweet treats from the winners of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” and engage the senses at the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association and Art Center. Get back to nature with scenic ventures on the Benton MacKaye Trail, spanning nearly 300 miles through the Appalachian Mountains. Kayak the Toccoa River, boat Lake Blue Ridge or cast a line in the County known as Georgia’s Trout Capital. Year-round festivals and events create a lively downtown scene perfect for catching up with locals, many of whom moved here after discovering a vacation spot too special to leave. www.BlueRidgeMountains.com

Mercier Orchards celebrates 75 years

Community, Featured Stories
Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Tim Mercier cuts the ribbon and begins the year-long celebration of Mercier Orchards’ 75th anniversary.

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Friends, family, fellow business owners, and Georgia dignitaries gathered to celebrate an important anniversary on Friday, Jan. 19. Mercier Orchards, a Fannin County staple and a Georgia landmark, is celebrating 75 years of business.

Founded by Adele and Bill Mercier in 1943, Mercier Orchards has adapted over the years to become one of the area’s largest attractions, boasting more than 600,000 visitors each year. One aspect of Mercier Orchards that has remained the same throughout the years is family.

As crowds gathered for the kick off of Mercier Orchards year-long celebration, the theme of Farm and Family could be felt throughout the room. While the business itself has been passed down through the Mercier family with four generations having worked to help build the brand, the employees were praised and acknowledged for their roles in helping Mercier’s to become what it is today.

“They make us what we are,” Tim Mercier, current chief executive officer of Mercier Orchards, said of the employees. “They do all the work. They present the part of us that the public sees, and they’re really the true family of Mercier’s Orchards.”

Reverend Michael Brunson began the celebration by offering a blessing: “Thank you for this beautiful planet that you provided for all of us.”

Brunson spoke directly of the blessing that Mercier Orchards has bestowed upon our community: “It provides our livelihood and that of many in Fannin County.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, left, presents a resolution to Tim Mercier.

Among the dignitaries at the event to recognize Mercier Orchards were: Bernard Sims (vice president to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau), Gary Black (Georgia Department of Agriculture commissioner), Jan Hackett (president of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce), Larry Joe Sosebee (Fannin County Post 2 commissioner), Dr. Michael Gwatney (Fannin County School System superintendent), Caroline Lewallen (president of the Georgia Agritourism Association), and David Ralston (speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives).

Commissioner Gary Black presented a resolution from the Georgia Department of Agriculture: “It is a special treat to come spend this very special time with a family that’s very dear to me, dear to this department.”

Black joked that the department sometimes allows him to have input on the resolutions, but then turned to Tim Mercier and said, “I wrote this one, and I want to read it to my friend.”

“Indeed business ideas, inventions and discoveries have a starting point,” Black read from the resolution, “and it is notable and appropriate that Mercier Orchards be recognized as one of the first and certainly as a demonstrated leader in Georgia’s multi-million dollar agritourism industry. And the state of Georgia and countless Georgia agritourism operators owe a debt of gratitude to the Mercier family for their leadership.”

President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Jan Hackett spoke of the impact of Mercier Orchards on Fannin County. Hackett joked that her husband once said, “The Merciers are kind of like the Kennedys of Fannin County.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston, right, came to celebrate with the Mercier family.

On a serious note, Hackett spoke of the adaptation to change that Mercier Orchards has displayed in its long history of business. She noted that Merciers was the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in 2010.

“Mercier Orchards is one of the county’s most successful businesses,” Hackett stated to the crowd,”one that brings hundred of thousands of visitors and shoppers to Blue Ridge and Fannin County every year.”

David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, presented a resolution that was recently passed in the Georgia General Assembly.

“Those of us who have lived in Fannin County for a while and knew Bill and Adele Mercier are better for having that experience,” Ralston began.

“Mercier Orchards enjoys the distinction of celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding,” Ralston read from the resolution. “This outstanding company has grown from its humble beginnings in 1943 to become one of the leading orchards in this country.”

The Mercier family was present as well to celebrate with friends and family. Tim Mercier, son of founders Bill and Adele, as well as current CEO of Mercier Orchards, joked about the history of the establishment: “My mother’s philosophy was if she didn’t do it herself, it didn’t get done right. My dad’s philosophy (was), if you can’t hire it out, the hell with it.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

The Mercier family gave a heartfelt thank you to all of their supporters throughout the years.

Judge Amanda Mercier, granddaughter of Mercier Orchards founders, also joked, “My family believed that work ethic started the second you were basically born, and if anybody knew my grandmother, you know that.”

Amanda Mercier spoke of growing up as a child and working at the orchard: “I used to joke that I was going to grow up to be a child labor lawyer. I got real close.”

An emotional thank you came from Helen Mercier, daughter of Bill and Adele, who said, “My mom and dad would be so proud to see all of you here, to see these guys (indicating fellow family members and employees of Mercier Orchards) and see what a great job they have done. Thank you.”

Guests enjoyed live music from the Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band and cuisine provided by Mercier Orchards as they celebrated into the evening. Mercier Orchards will continue the festivities all year long with special events to commemorate 75 years of business.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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