ELLIJAY, Ga. – “This is the kind of project that will spread prosperity throughout our entire region. It is the kind of skin-in-the-game project that deserves support…” Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston praised the CORE Facility in Ellijay who hosted their official ribbon-cutting today.
Nestled just off Maddox Drive on the banks of the Coosawattee River in Ellijay, Georgia, the CORE Facility hosts business offices and incubation locations for entrepreneurs and start-ups in need of an office or workspace without the hassles of long-term investment.
However, the facility’s impact reaches so much farther than the city limits or the county’s borders. Today marked a celebration for the region and for the state. Representatives statewide joined together for this ribbon cutting including Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, Pickens Commission Chairman Rob Jones, Fannin Commission Chairman Stan Helton, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston, State Senator Steve Gooch, State Representative of District 11 Rick Jasperse, Ellijay City Mayor Al Hoyle, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, and many representatives from the Ellijay and East Ellijay City Councils and Gilmer Board of Education. Efforts from many organizations have led into combined organizations such as the Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) and the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation.
That Foundation was the birthplace of the initiative to build CORE. According to Kent Sanford, Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA and part of the Greater Gilmer Community Foundation, a 14-month birth cycle has finally come to full fruition.
While the celebration was a culmination of efforts so far, it is only the beginning. It is a project that holds great impact on the future, according to Ralston who said, “It will create jobs in our area. The jobs of tomorrow will be possible because of the work that goes on in this building.”
Ralston also dedicated support to the facility as he announced, “Because of the local commitment to the CORE building the State of Georgia, through our OneGeorgia Authority, is awarding $420,000 to this project to be used for Facility purchase and improvement costs. This $420,000 grant is historic, both in terms of its dollar amount and the impact it will have on this project and community.”
Ralston continued speaking about the economic development and job creation in the county before offering the second announcement of the day regarding the Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation, also known as Georgia’s Rural Center.
Ralston stated at the ribbon-cutting, “I am proud to announce that the new North Georgia of the Georgia Center for Rural Prosperity & Innovation will be housed right here in Ellijay in this facility. The office will be led by Janet Cochran.”
Ralston’s office later offered a full Press Release on the announcement stating the center serves as a central information and research hub for rural best practices, including community planning, industry-specific assistance and cooperative efforts with community partners. The center was proposed by the House Rural Development Council in 2017 and was created by House Bill 951, which was enacted in 2018.
These announcements were applauded by those present and praised by the Chairman of the Gilmer Chamber, John Marshall, who said, “Mr. Speaker, once again you have proven yourself to be the very epitome of a stalwart and faithful advocate not only to your hometown and all the other communities in these beautiful North Georgia Mountains, but to each and every corner of the state of Georgia.”
President of the Gilmer Chamber, Paige Green also praised the facility as the realization of a dream for the community that has spread to benefit not only one county but something larger that now spans the region.
Today was a celebration of completing the first steps of a larger plan for the facility. Though it is now open, it is only the first phase of that dream. Director Sanford noted last year that the hopes for the facility include two more phases.
In Phase II, the foundation will continue renovation onto the second floor to open up a larger area for education and training in a 1,200 square foot space upstairs.
In Phase III, hopes for the CORE Facility could extend into the schools for things like STEM Classes, STEM Saturdays, or other forays into education connection. Consolidating resources for these could include shared STEM kits or a shared expense for a STEM subscription service involving 3d-printing necessary components. However, specific details into PHASE III have yet to be finalized.
Ultimately, the CORE wants to continue spreading and growing this larger community where possible. Opportunities that may come have yet to be revealed, but one ribbon-cutting today, one celebration, can lead to something bigger than imagining tomorrow.
Blue Ridge GA hosted the 9th annual Fire & Ice Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, February 16, 2019 in beautiful downtown City Park. Although it started out as a dreary, gray sky day, by afternoon the sun shown through the clouds for the estimated 7,000+ visitors who came to Blue Ridge from as far away as Douglasville, Augusta, Lafayette, and surrounding neighbor states.
The festivities began at 11 a.m. Chili cook-off judging was 4 p.m.
The Blue Ridge Business Association along with the Fannin Chamber of Commerce partnered to host this year’s event making it one of the largest and best the city has seen so far.
The judges for this year’s chili cook-off were:
- Austin Ramsey, former head chef at Black Sheep.
- Rick Skelton, Chair of Blue Ridge Planning and Zoning Board as well as Board of Appeals.
- State Senator Steve Gooch.
- Sarah Auman, owner of ‘Out of the Blue’.
- Jane Waley, owner of Sycamore Crossing.
These esteemed judges voted in the following categories “on 5 attributes: aroma, color, taste, texture and aftertaste”:
- Individual Adult.
- Team Adult.
- Civic Team.
Visitors cast their votes for their favorite tasting chili in the ‘People’s Choice Award’.
This year’s contestants included:
- Black Sheep.
- Blue Jeans Pizza & Pasta.
- Blue Ridge Brewery
- Blue Ridge Parade of Homes.
- Cameron Hall of Ellijay
- Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill.
- Chris Adgate.
- Chuck’s Moonshine Chili.
- Flying Trout Restaurant.
- Grandpa Bill’s Wild Turkey Chili.
- Grillin Gangsters.
- Grumpy Old Men Brewing.
- Hot House Missionary Baptist Church.
- Kevin Backus.
- Mercier Orchards.
- Pit Stop Chili.
- Project Chimps.
- Reggie Berry.
- The Blue Coyote Bar & Grill.
- Treo Blue Ridge.
Chili Cook-off tickets were $10 each. Beer and/or a glass of wine tickets were $6.
The businesses serving beer/wine with approved tickets were Grumpy Old Men, Fannin Brewing, Mercier’s Hard Cider, and Arches Brewing.
Placed around downtown Blue Ridge were carved rock ice statues. These beautiful pieces of art were created by ‘Rock on Ice’ Master Food Artist/ Professional Ice Carver, Titus Arensberg, from Sunbury, OH. He held several demonstrations throughout the event showing off his craft to an eager audience. All ice sculptures were carved with a chain saw making each one an amazing piece of art. In his 7th appearance for Fire & Ice Chili Cook-off, Arensberg stated he enjoyed coming each year.
Music was heard in downtown Blue Ridge for the duration of the festival. Rick Byers Band played a mixture of country, southern rock, bluegrass, and Americana tunes to the delight of many. Folks, young and old, were seen dancing under the pavilion while others sang along to their favorite tunes.
Even Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus took time out of their busy schedule in North Pole duties to visit.
As with many good things that come to an end on such a beautiful day and event, it was time to announce to winners in each category.
- 1st Place: Project Chimp (Morganton).
- 2nd Place: Hot House Missionary Baptist Church (Mineral Bluff).
- 1st Place: Pit Stop Chili.
- 2nd Place: Reggie Berry (Atlanta).
- 3rd Place: Chris Adgate.
- 1st Place: Blue Ridge Parade of Homes.
- 2nd Place: HempWorx.
- 3rd Place: Chuck’s Moonshine Chili.
- 1st Place: Black Sheep.
- 2nd Place: Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar & Grill.
- 3rd Place: Cameron Hall of Ellijay.
And this year’s People’s Choice Award goes to ‘Black Sheep’. Congratulations to you and your team.
Well done, everyone. See you next year!
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On July 24th – it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for a strong leader who is prepared to be our state’s next CEO. As your state Senator, I want you to know that I’m 100% behind Casey Cagle for governor. I have served with him for 8 years in the Senate now and I am confident that he is the best choice on the ballot.
Casey is a proven, consistent leader who has always delivered for our state – as well as our community and North Georgia. Due to his leadership as Lt. Governor, Georgia has been named the number one state to do business for five straight years, and we’ve added nearly 700,000 jobs and 40,000 new businesses. This year, Casey was the leader who fought to deliver the largest tax cut in Georgia history.
Casey has also led to advance nationally renowned education reform measures – including the Charter Systems Act, College and Career Academy Network, and GA CATT apprenticeship program – which have been integral in transforming Georgia’s one-size-fits-all education system into a revolutionary model that puts students first. Not every student needs to get a four year liberal arts degree to be successful, and Casey is leading to prioritize workforce development so that all Georgia’s students graduate from high school with post-secondary experience or technical training that gives them the skills to attain rewarding careers.
Casey has stood up for our conservative principles his entire career. He has led to outlaw and defund sanctuary cities in Georgia, expand gun rights (earning him an A+ rating from the NRA), protect innocent life (earning him the Champion for Life award from the Georgia Life Alliance), and reform our adoption/foster care system to give faith-based organizations more opportunities to help children find loving homes.
Please join me in supporting Casey Cagle and voting to elect him as our next Governor on July 24th. I have been honored to serve as your Senator and I look forward to working with the next Governor to continue the progress we have made.
ATLANTA (January 29, 2018) | Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega) is pleased to announce Monday, January 29, 2018, as Dahlonega Day at the state Capitol with Senate Resolution 590.
“Dahlonega is the gateway to North Georgia and I am grateful to be able to share my home with the rest of my colleagues,” said Sen. Gooch. “This year marks the 60th anniversary of Dahlonega and Lumpkin County citizens delivering gold, by wagon, for the installation of the state Capitol building’s gold dome. I could not be more proud to have representatives from our local community here today to celebrate this honor.”
The City of Dahlonega is a small city in northern Georgia founded in 1832. Dahlonega was the site of the first major U.S. gold rush and now is commonly referred to as the ‘Gold City’. The city sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is surrounded by many natural elements. Dahlonega is the county seat of Lumpkin County. In addition to its history of gold mining, the city of Dahlonega is also known as the Heart of Georgia Wine Country, with six wineries and nine winery tasting rooms.
Senate Gets Down to Business
By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
Although the Senate was in session for only two days this week, my colleagues and I were very busy under the Gold Dome addressing budget proposals and a key piece of legislation on the Senate Floor.
The week started with Joint Senate and House Appropriations hearings on the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. Governor Deal kicked off the hearings which included several different agencies presenting their budget proposals. I am happy to say that the state’s budget continues to be in good shape, with the General FY19 budget topping $26 billion for the first time. The General FY19 budget proposals were drafted with an estimated 2.9 percent state fund growth and around 3.8 percent tax revenue growth over the Amended FY18 revenue estimates. Included in the General FY19 budget are increases in funding for education and transportation.
The General FY19 budget addresses the needs for the state to meet determined employer contributions within the Teachers Retirement System with a proposed increase of around $364 million. Additionally, around $120 million would be appropriated for enrollment growth and training. Along with these positive changes in the General FY19 budget, an important proposal in the Amended FY18 budget is adding $15 million to purchase 194 school buses statewide. This will positively impact our students by ensuring that buses are not overcrowded.
The state’s growing need to address transportation infrastructure is also addressed in the General FY19 budget. An additional $31.6 million in projected revenues resulting from House Bill 170 – passed during the 2015 Legislation Session – will be added to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) budget. I am very happy to see that a piece of legislation we passed a couple of years ago is still making positive impacts for GDOT.
Along with attending the budget hearings and carefully reviewing the proposals for the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets, my colleagues and I took up a very important piece of legislation in Senate Chamber. On Thursday, the Senate passed the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, also known as the Adoption Bill, or HB 159. This bill passed with bipartisan support and is now headed over to the House of Representatives for their review. Final passage of this legislation and a signature into law by the Governor would allow our state to update our adoption system which has been the same for nearly 30 years.
The Senate’s version of HB 159 clarifies many of the laws regarding who can adopt, who can act as a legal guardian and the rights held by the biological parents before and after giving their child up for adoption. Additionally, the version the Senate passed on Thursday states that if an agency is not involved in a private adoptive process, living expenses cannot be paid. The only expenses that can be paid in a private adoption are medical and counseling. These are just some of the highlights of the Senate version of HB 159. As this legislation moves through the legislative process, my colleagues and I will work with the Governor and House of Representatives to ensure there is cooperation to address concerns anyone may have. It is imperative that we pass this legislation so that we can assist the large number of children who are in foster care and need a loving and stable home.
The pace of the session is going to pick up quickly with standing committees beginning to hold meetings next week to vet legislation pending from last year along with new bills introduced this year. As we move forward in the session, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns and feedback. It is always great to hear from my constituents and our door is always open.
Getting Started in 2018
By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
On Monday, January 8, 2018, we reconvened for the second session of the 154th Georgia General Assembly, which many anticipate will be very fast-paced. The Georgia Senate began our business with leadership changes and three new members. We will also welcome another new member next week who won a special election on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.
In addition to welcoming three new members, Sen. David Shafer, who served as the Senate President Pro Tempore since 2013, resigned his position and the Georgia Senate nominated and elected Sen. Butch Miller to serve in this role. Sen. Miller is a fellow North Georgian and we are honored to have him as our next Pro Temp. The Senate Committee on Assignments also announced chairmen and committee assignments for the upcoming year.
In addition to my duties as Senate Majority Whip, I will continue to serve as the Vice-Chair of the Transportation Committee, the Secretary of the Appropriations Committee, as a member of the Finance, MARTOC, Regulated Industries and Utilities committees and as ex-officio on the Senate Assignments and Rules committees.
As we draw near to the second week of session, we will begin budget hearings as we craft the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. During these meetings and agency presentations, I will keep the prosperity of all Georgians in mind as we finely comb through proposals. Our focus will be on saving tax payers’ dollars while ensuring economic growth and job creation continues to grow in our great state.
Something new here at the Georgia Senate is livestreaming of standing committees that meet in one of the five rooms wired during the Senate Transparency Project. This is in addition to the Senate Chamber being livestreamed during session days. The goal of this project is to bring transparency to standing committee meetings, where legislation is discussed and vetted before moving forward in the legislative process. Another objective is to provide access to our process for those who do not live in the metro area and cannot get to Senate committee meetings quickly. I truly encourage you all to take the time to watch these livestreams. But, if you can’t get to a computer during the meeting time, each and every meeting video is archived to be watched during any time—day or night.
On day four of the session, Gov. Deal gave his last State of the State address. Within his address, Gov. Deal focused on the growth across the board within the state of Georgia. For the past five years, Georgia has been named the number one place to do business. Overall, we have a very busy session calendar ahead of us as we work on the Governor’s budget proposals, legislation pending from last year and other issues that may arise.
I would like to say thank you to all of my constituents for your encouragement and care for the 51st District of Georgia. Please call or email me with any questions, comments or concerns you have and I look forward to hearing from you.
Georgia Trend Names Sen. Steve Gooch One of Georgia’s Most Influential People
ATLANTA (January 8, 2018) | Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega) was recognized as one of Georgia’s most influential people by Georgia Trend magazine. The magazine’s annual list recognizes the 100 Most Influential Georgians.
“It is an honor to be recognized among this distinguished list of leaders in our great state,” said Sen. Gooch. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and local community leaders to keep Georgia moving in the right direction. Over the past several years, we have seen numerous businesses moving to Georgia leading to additional economic growth and job creation. We will work hard during this upcoming session to continue this progress for our state.”
Georgia Trend recognized Sen. Gooch’s work in the Georgia Senate and his consistent efforts to improve education and public schools for children in his district and around the state. They also acknowledged his work on job creation, immigration, tax reform and the right to bear arms. Sen. Gooch has also been a leader for transportation in Georgia.
Georgia Trend releases their 100 Most Influential Georgians list annually. The list includes individuals who make a positive impact on the lives of Georgians and make decisions that affect the wellbeing of the state. Naming the top 100 is a year-round process and the final list includes those who “have exhibited the character necessary to inspire, challenge, lead – and influence us.”
Additional information can be found on the Georgia Trend magazine website link below:
This past Friday we continued our discussion about rural Georgia with 51st district (R) State Senator and Lumpkin County’s economic development director, Steve Gooch. Our three areas of focus: rural Georgia economy, broadband access, and health care. Although the district doesn’t want to see something in the line of the KIA plant they most certainly would be open to small companies offering high paying, high tech jobs. In order to attract these types of companies; the area must provide good schools, fast internet, and quality health care. We discussed Piedmont Mountainside new stand alone emergency health care center in Gilmer County; a model for quality health care in rural areas. When our discussion turned to high speed internet for the area, Gooch was unable to say they “moved the ball” concerning Senate Bill 232, Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act.