Downtown Toccoa Historic District On National Register of Historic Places

The historic district in downtown Toccoa joins the National Register of Historic places. Last week, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Historic Preservation Division announced that the downtown Toccoa historic district is now listed in the National Register of Historic places. According to officials, the National Register of Historic places is the country's official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation.

City of Toccoa Welcomes New Manager

The City of Toccoa has a new city manager. Mike Jackson was named city manager by the Toccoa City commission at a meeting this morning. Jackson has served as interim City Manager since August. He was named the sole finalist for the job at a December 7 meeting of the city commission.

SCDA Offers Year End Report

The Stephens County Development Authority provides a year-end update to local leaders.

Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin spoke to the Toccoa City Commission at its meeting on Monday, then spoke to Stephens County Commissioners on Tuesday at their meeting.

Martin talked about a number of different areas during his presentation.

The first was the Development Authority’s website,

Martin said they have been working to add new features and information to that site as often as they can.

“Your Stephens County Development Authority is constantly trying to make sure that the information is current, correct, concise, out there on the web where folks can take advantage of it 24/7 as they are looking at us, making their decisions, (and) moving forward.”

Martin also said that the Stephens County Development Authority continues to work with neighboring counties on extending broadband infrastructure in northeast Georgia.

Stephens and five other counties, Franklin, Habersham, Banks, Rabun, and Hart counties have been working on a broadband connectivity study.

Martin said they have found that all six counties can be served by constructing about 150 miles of fiber throughout the region, a project Martin says would cost about $9 million.

He said that they are already looking at the first part of that project.

“The Tri-County Development Authority asked the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission to write the grant to OneGeorgia for $1 million that would fund the first leg of this, which would be the 18 miles from Hollywood (in Habersham County) to Toccoa.”

Martin said that grant would require a $200,000 match and how that match would be covered has not been determined yet.

According to Martin, the loop Stephens County is involved with would connect into a similar loop being constructed in other parts of north Georgia called the North Georgia Network.

Martin also reviewed progress at Hayestone-Brady Business Park for commissioners.

According to Martin, the Development Authority is looking at additional grading at the park, located on Highway 17 between Toccoa and the town of Martin.

Global Partitions Helps with NGTC Renovations

A local industry works with North Georgia Technical College on improvements to one of its facilities.

Global Partitions recently contributed the equivalent of approximately $30,000 in equipment and materials to complete renovations to bathroom facilities at Bryant Hall, located on the Clarkesville campus of North Georgia Tech.

North Georgia Technical College President Steve Dougherty said that this represents a substantial gift to the college and adds that he and the school greatly appreciate it.

Global Partitions is a manufacturer and worldwide distributor of toilet partitions, shower dividers, dressing partitions and other lavatory equipment. Global Partitions is one of four companies that make up GEM Industries, Inc.

GEM Industries Vice President Doug Hitchon said that GEM is proud of its association with North Georgia Technical College, adding that this is a great example of how industry and higher education can work together in a lot of ways.

"Policies and Pastries" Breakfast held Friday in Toccoa

Local officials meet with state legislators to talk about issues facing northeast Georgia. State Representative Michael Harden and newly elected State Senator John Wilkinson met with Stephens County leaders at a "Policies and Pastries" breakfast at the Mitchell Allen Meeting Room in Toccoa on Friday. Two of the top issues under discussion were the T-SPLOST and E-Verify. Representatives for Rep. Paul Broun and Sen. Johnny Isakson were also in attendance and spoke on federal issues.

Toccoa Manager Jackson named Sole Finalist for Permanent Job

Following an 8:30 a.m. called meeting yesterday (Dec.7), Toccoa city commissioners named current interim city manager Mike Jackson as the sole candidate for the permanent position. "The city commission has determined that Michael Jackson is the best qualified person for the position of city manager," mayor Janice English said following the meeting. "Michael Jackson is the only person under serious consideration," she added. English said the commission had reviewed applications from a number of candidates, but felt Jackson was best qualified for the position. Jackson was hired in August following the commission's 3-2 vote to fire then-city manager Michael Uskiewicz. "The city commission does hereby give notice that final action on this appointment will take place at a meeting to be held on the 22nd day of December at 3:30 p.m.," English said, adding that all documents the city has regarding Jackson are available for public inspection. "One of the main reasons I really wanted to stay, instead of remain as an interim and have a definite stop point, is that I'm convinced Toccoa has absolutely unlimited potential, and I want to be a part of it," Jackson said. "I look forward to the challenge," he added. "I think that we can help return Toccoa to where it was 20 years ago... a city to whom others looked for guidance; a city everyone wanted to be like." Jackson said a continuing emphasis on bare steel replacement, expansion of the gas system, and continuing to provide the best water service were priorities, and added that changes in the budgeting process were also among his goals. "We want to move our budget and budgeting process forward in a way that is more transparent and easy to understand for people that are casual readers of our budget," he said. "While it's a plate full, it's going to be fun," he said of the coming challenges. "It is just a matter of getting all the players on the same side of the wagon, pulling together in the same direction," he said.

Ribbon Cutting held for New Airport Terminal

Local officials celebrate the opening of a new airport terminal in Stephens County.

Community leaders gathered at the Toccoa-Stephens County Airport Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Toccoa-Stephens County Airport Authority Chairman John Taylor said that this day was a long time coming.

“The Airport Authority has worked diligently over the years to help develop this airport into what it is today and there are a lot of people we need to give appreciation to for all of the work they have done out here,” said Taylor.

Toccoa Vice-Mayor David Austin said it is a great day for both the city and county.

“I know in the past 12 years I have been on the commission, we have been looking at plans and talking about this thing and it goes back even further than that,” said Austin. “In looking at the plans, I am amazed at how much better this looks than I could have ever imagined. It is just glorious.”

Stephens County Commission Chairman J.B. Hudgins agreed and credited the volunteers for their work at the airport over the years.

“When I started coming to this airport in the mid 1940s, it did not look like this,” said Hudgins. “We had a hangar and a strip. That is about it, so there are big changes happening and it has been due to the volunteers that have led us.”

State Representative Michael Harden said this terminal project is an example of a team effort, while Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin, speaking on behalf of Development Authority Chairman Cam Parker, thanked the citizens for supporting the project.

Meanwhile, Georgia Adjutant General Jim Butterworth said the new terminal will help with economic development.

“The main point is build it and they will come,” said Gen. Butterworth. “You have built it. You had the vision to put a place where you can greet people who will bring industry to this area.”

Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Barry Roberts, who shared that opinion, says that this terminal will provide a wonderful gateway into the community.

“If you bring people through here, prospective clients, business clients, visitors, they are going to be impressed,” said Roberts. “This is a beautiful place to be.”

Ground was broken for the approximately 6,000 square-foot terminal back in March.

At the time of the groundbreaking, officials estimated that the total project cost was expected to come in at around $1.5 million, with the building itself costing about $1.1 million. Some of the funding for the project came from a $500,000 OneGeorgia Grant. The rest of the money came from SPLOST V funds.

TSC Chamber becomes Georgia Certified

The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce is in the first group of Georgia Certified Chamber of Commerce programs across the state.

The Georgia Association of Certified Chamber Executives created the program earlier this year and announced the first class of 25 Georgia certified chambers recently.

The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber is one of 25 chambers to receive the Georgia certification in the initial class.

According to the press release making the announcement, the program is modeled after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s accreditation program.

To achieve Georgia certification, chambers must meet standards in organization, service intent and capacity, professional administration, financial management, communications, and advocacy. Officials say that the purpose of the program is to facilitate continuing excellence in the chamber industry and to foster a pro-business environment across the state of Georgia.

City Unveiled Second Plaque

Toccoa unveils another historic plaque in it's downtown district. The city unveiled it's second plaque at the Toccoa Record offices on Doyle Street in downtown Toccoa Thursday. Toccoa Planning and Downtown Development Director Connie Tabor said that the plaque marks the Record as the city's oldest business. City officials said that plans are to unveil ten plaques, with a new plaque going up each month.

Preliminary Unemployment Numbers

Preliminary unemployment numbers from the Georgia Department of Labor show a slight drop in last month's unemployment rate for Stephens County. According to those figures, Stephens County's preliminary unemployment rate in October came in at 10 percent. That represents a drop of one tenth of a percent from the revised September unemployment rate of 10.1 percent.

Martin to receive a Drinking Water Revolving Loan

The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority announced Friday that Martin would receive a Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan of $1 million to finance supply improvements. Martin will pay three percent interest on the 20-year loan of $1 million, which includes principal forgiveness of up to $300,000 if all of the loan funds are drawn.

Downtown Festival of Trees

Downtown Toccoa will again play host to the Festival of Trees next month. This year's Festival of Trees will take place in the second-floor courtroom of the historic Stephens County Courthouse in Toccoa on December 2 and 3. The decorated trees will be on display in the historic courthouse on December 2 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., as well as on December 3 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Georgia Work Ready Platinums

202 Stephens County High School seniors recently took the Work Ready Assessment on Wednesday, October 12th. Over readiness to potential employers. Three seniors, Houston Spencer, Jacob Bailey, and Jacob Lewis received a Platinum certificate. Platinum is the highest level awarded in Georgia and is a signal to employers that the individual is ready for 90 percent of jobs in the state.

Come see Isakson's Take O'Rouke today at SCDA

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson's Northeast Georgia field representative, Tate O'Rouke, will hold an open office day for constituents today in Toccoa. O'Rouke will be available today from 10 a.m. until noon at the Stephens County Development Authority Conference Room on West Doyle St in Toccoa.

New Welding Building at NGTC completed

North Georgia Technical College opens up its new welding building. Wednesday, the school held the official ribbon cutting for the newly completed, state-of-the-art facility, located on the school's Clarkesville campus. The project took just over one year to complete. The school received just over $1 million in grant funding to help build the facility.

Septembers Unemployment Numbers Drop

Unemployment rate drops in September in Stephens County! According to figures released last week by the Georgia Department of Labor, Stephens County's preliminary unemployment rate for September was 10.2 %. That is down four-tenths of a percent from the revised August rate of 10.6%. This September's preliminary rate is one-tenth of a percent higher than last September's revised rate of 10.1%.

NGTC Healthcare Addition

Local officials celebrate a future expansion at the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College in Stephens County. Leaders from both Stephens and Franklin counties were on hand Tuesday at the Currahee Campus to celebrate the previously announced $3.2 million expansion. The expansion, which was included in the current state fiscal year budget, will build a new wing on to the Currahee Campus for expanded allied health program offerings.

Stephens County Breaks Ground on a New Animal Shelter

A new animal shelter for Toccoa and Stephens County takes a huge step forward. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new shelter was held Monday afternoon at the site of the new facility, next to the old Stephens County Jails on Scenic Drive. A Georgia Department of Correction inmate construction crew will build the facility.
About 750 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment stayed in Toccoa overnight Tuesday through Wednesday. Wednesday morning, the soldiers ran Currahee Mountain. They also toured the Currahee Military Museum Tuesday afternoon and evening upon their arrival into Toccoa.

Chamber's Political Debate is Tuesday, October 18th at 6pm, Historic Courthouse

October 17, 2011

Chamber’s Political Debate is Tuesday, October 18th at 6pm, Historic Courthouse

The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee and WNEG AM 630 are sponsoring a political debate prior to the November 1st General Election this Tuesday October 18th at 6pm in the Historic Courthouse. Doors open at 5:30pm. Please plan to attend or tune in live on AM 630 WNEG to learn more about the candidates.

Georgia State Senate 50th District candidates are Rick Austin, John Wilkinson, David Strickland, Curtis Burger and Mary Beth Focer. The City Commissioner Post 1 candidates are incumbent Janice English and Terry Carter. The City Commissioner Post 4 candidates are Gail Fry, Wayne Perry and Bill Good who are all running for the seat currently held by Bob Troup, who is not running for re-election. All Stephens County voters are voting on the continuation of the county’s education SPLOST to pay for the new high school and other capital projects for school improvements.
The Community is invited to the upstairs Court Room in the Historic Stephens County Court House located in downtown Toccoa. Doors will open early at 5:30pm so the audience can submit questions for the candidates.

The Moderator is Lee Hicks, Chairman of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee and a lawyer from Moore & Hicks Law Firm in Hartwell. Each candidate will introduce themselves and then take questions from both the moderator and the media representatives. Each candidate will also have the opportunity to ask his opponent an issue-oriented question. At the end of the program, each candidate will be given two minutes for a closing statement.

Early voting has started for elections in Toccoa and Stephens County. In addition to the early voting Monday through Friday, there will be early voting on Saturday, October 29 for both the city and county election from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., also at the Registrar’s Office. The Stephens County Registrar’s Office is located in the Stephens County Government Building in downtown Toccoa. Voters must remember a picture ID.For more information, call the Stephens County Registrar’s Office at 706-886-8954.

T-SPLOST Roundtable Meeting to be Held Today

The Georgia Mountains Regional Transportation Roundtable is expected to vote on the final T-SPLOST project list at a meeting today. That meeting is set for 5 p.m. at the Ruby Fulbright Aquatics Center in Clarkesville. If the roundtable approves the T-SPLOST list, voters in the Georgia Mountains region will vote next year on whether to approve a one-cent sales tax tofund the projects on the list.

Toccoa Clinic Welcomes certified Nurse Practitioner

The Toccoa Clinic is welcoming a new certified nurse practitioner to its Med Access clinic. Med Access has added Persida L Petca to its staff. Petca earned a bachelor's and master's degree from Brenau University. She has worked in internal medicine, pediatrics, women's health and adult care clinical settings and at Children's Healthcare in Atlanta.

Downtown Facade Grant Program

Toccoa officials are encouraging downtown businesses to use the city's facade grant program. Main Street Director Connie Tabor said the newly updated facade grant program is now available to any Man street Tax District property or business owner. According to Tabor, grants will be based on 50% of the total facade renovation costs with the maximum grant amount of $2,500. For more info, call 706-282-3269.

NGTC Reaches Agreement With Southern Polytechnic State University

An agreement between North Georgia Technical College and Southern Polytechnic State University will allow students completing associate degrees at North Georgia Tech to move directly into bachelor’s degree programs in Engineering Technology at Southern Polytechnic State.

Officials said that the two schools have been working since 2009 with the support of the Technical College System of Georgia to pursue a program that matches Southern Poly’s Bachelor of Applied Science program to North Georgia Tech’s associate’s degree program.

According to officials, the most significant innovation in this project is that students will be able to complete their four-year degrees by attending classes through distance learning, allowing a graduate of North Georgia Tech to pursue the bachelor’s degree with Southern Poly without ever leaving their hometown.

The agreement allows Technical College System of Georgia students to select a pre-engineering technology associate’s degree program, specializing in electrical engineering technology, industrial engineering technology, or mechanical engineering technology. They take the associate’s degree classes at an accredited TCSG college like North Georgia Tech, then either enter the workforce directly or transfer those credits and complete the bachelor’s degree in engineering technology at Southern Poly.

North Georgia Technical College President Steve Dougherty said the new program is very exciting considering the potential for students in northeast Georgia.

Dougherty went on to say that since this involves engineering technology, it will be a boost to attracting industry to the local community.

Job Fair Next Month in Stephens Co.

With unemployment in Stephens County and northeast Georgia hovering between 9 and 12 percent, an event next month in Stephens County will provide an opportunity for those on the job hunt.

The 2011 Northeast Georgia Job Fair and Career Expo is set for Friday, October 7 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College, on Highway 17 in Stephens County.

The fair is sponsored by the Georgia Department of Labor’s Toccoa Career Center, along with AM 630 WNEG Radio, North Georgia Technical College, Northland Communications, the Northeast Georgia Employer Committee, and the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce.

Toccoa Career Center Manager Greg Pitts said there would be a number of employers on site to meet with those in attendance.

“Our estimations right now are that there will be in excess of 50 employers on hand who will be talking with people about openings they either have or will have coming up and we are excited about that. Let’s face it. Our economy has struggled here for a while and some of the latest numbers are showing that we have not made the progress we would like, so this is a great opportunity for people to come out and get a job.”

He went on to say that those coming to the job fair need to come prepared.

“The most important thing, I think, is to have an updated resume,” said Pitts. “Make sure it is completely accurate. Have plenty copies to give out. One thing I cannot emphasize enough is to come dressed for success. It is fine to be casual sometimes, but in these situations, you want to impress that employer that you are a professional and you are serious about getting a job. Please come dressed as if you are coming to a job interview that day.”

In addition to the job fair, the day will include a number of early bird workshops that will start at 11 a.m. at the Currahee Campus.

Pitts said that these should prove very helpful to those seeking a job.

“One of the workshops is what are employers looking for,” said Pitts. “This will be some of our area employers leading this workshop, telling people what they are looking for. (A second one is) an employment strategies workshop. We have one of our staff members who does a great job going through pretty much from A to Z what it takes to get a job. (A third workshop is) resume hot tips. This is a big one right here. We have certified resume writers who will be on hand for this workshop.”

A fourth workshop will deal how to properly complete a job application.

Pitts said the workshops will be held in two sessions, from 11 to 11:25 a.m. and 11:30 to 11:55 a.m., so people can attend two of the four.

For more information on the job fair, contact the Toccoa Career Center at 706-282-4514.

People are also encouraged to stop by the Career Center, located on Foreacre Street in downtown Toccoa, for assistance on finding a job or getting ready for the job fair.

GEM Southeast Selling to Support March of Dimes

Gem Southeast, Inc. is selling chances to win two lockers in support of the March of Dimes.

The drawing will be held on Friday, Sept. 30. Ticket prices are six for $5 or $1 each.

All proceeds will go to support the Stephens County March of Dimes.

Gem Southeast Inc. employs approximately 250 employees and is the largest producer of toilet partitions with three different locations in Stephens County.

Global toilet partitions produced by GEM in Georgia are used on a daily basis in renowned venues such as Delta Airlines in Atlanta, American Airlines in New York, Dallas Cowboy Stadium and Yankee Stadium. These partitions have been shipped from Georgia to Saudi Arabia, China, Hong Kong, Great Britain and other International destinations.

Gem Southeast Inc., comprised of Gem Industries, Gem Plastics, Global Partitions, ASI Southeast and ASI Storage Solutions, attributes its success to the dedication of their employees, the loyal support of customers and their community.

For more information on ticket purchases for the drawing, contact Marie Norris at 706-886-8431 extension 32 or Cassandra Wilkins 706-827-2700 extension 341

Main Street Toccoa Earns National Main Street Program Recognition

Main Street Toccoa has been designated as an accredited National Main Street Program for 2011 by the National Trust Main Street Center! Accreditation means that Main Street Toccoa met the performance standards set by the National Trust in areas like fostering strong public-private partnerships, developing a mission, tracking economic progress, securing an operating budget, and preserving historic buildings.

Currahee Military Weekend is coming!

Melvin Everson, GOWD Director, Speaks to Local Industry Leaders

Melvin Everson, the Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, spoke to officials from Stephens, Franklin, Hart, Banks, White, and Habersham Counties at North Georgia Technical College's Currahee Campus. Everson emphasized the benefits of the Work Ready program and talked about the new emphasis on "Soft Skills" that is forthcoming. He also said that Georgia must continue to develop its workforce.

TSPLOST Projects for the GA Mountains

The latest list of projects that would fall under the proposed TSPLOST for the Georgia Mountains is out. The list recently released must now be approved by a regional transportation roundtable before it can go before voters. Stephens County has two projects on the list. Those are the northern leg of Hwy 17 and the extension of the Toccoa Parkway from Big A Road to Hwy 123 at the South Carolina line.

Stephens County Historical Society Announces Speaker

The Stephens County Historical Society has announced the speaker for this year's Currahee Military Weekend banquet Saturday October 1 at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center. Historical Society Director Brenda Carlan said "Band of Brothers" actor James Madio will speak. Currahee Military Weekend is set for September 30 - October 2.

Stephens County's Millage Rate Remains the Same

Stephens County's millage rate for 2011 will remain the same. Friday, county commissioners voted 4-0 to approve a county millage rate of 11.32 mills for 2011. The 11.32 millage rate is unchanged from last year. The Stephens County Commission also approved the Board of Education's millage rate of 18.4 mills. Pending no problems, tax bills will go out September 15.

Area Unemployment Rates Jump in June

Unemployment in both Stephens County and the Georgia Mountains region jumps in June.

According to figures released Thursday by the Georgia Department of Labor, Stephens County’s preliminary unemployment rate for the month of June was 10.9 percent. That is an increase of 1.2 percent from the revised May rate of 9.7 percent. This June’s rate is also one-tenth of a percent higher from the June 2010 rate of 10.8 percent.

Unemployment also rose around one percent in neighboring counties. Habersham County’s unemployment rate rose 1.2 percent as well to 10.5 percent, while Franklin County’s unemployment rate rose nine-tenths of a percent to 12 percent, and unemployment in Banks County rose by nine-tenths of a percent to 7.7 percent.

The unemployment rate for the Georgia Mountains region in June was 9.3 percent, nine-tenths of a percent higher than May.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the increase was caused primarily by two seasonal factors. Those were layoffs among non-contract public school employees, such as bus drivers and janitorial workers, and an increase in the labor force, as students began looking for permanent or part-time jobs.


The new Currahee Club owners hosted an Open House Luncheon at the Currahee Club House Tuesday, July 26, 2011 and welcomed local leaders for a meet-and-greet. The new owners call it a new day for the Currahee Club development in Stephens County. Landology Hartwell, LLC closed on it acquisition of the club last week. Landology Hartwell is a partnership between real estate owner/operator, and Arendale Holdings, a Delaware-based company focused on real estate financing and property development.
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Stephens County Schools make AYP for 2011

Last week, the state of Georgia announced that Stephens County was on of only 31 systems where all schools made AYP last year based on the initial results. All schools in the Stephens County school system made AYP this year. AYP, or Adequate Yearly Progress, is part of the No Child Left Behind Act. A variety of assessments are used to evaluate how students are progressing including academic performance, test scores, attendance rate and graduation rate. Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said the school system is thrilled to have made AYP for 2011. She added that the school system could not be prouder and would continue to focus on student achievement.

Toccoa 9/10 Softball Wins STATE

The Toccoa 9 and 10-year-old softball All-Stars are state champs. Toccoa won the state tournament Wednesday in Elberton, defeating Jasper County 14-4 in four innings to claim the crown. This year’s 9 and 10-year-old softball team includes Ivey Andrews, Mackenzie Rogers, Natalie Morgan, Alanna Dunson, Hannah Hieb, Breanna Simmons, Gracie Jordan, Tyra Hunter, Kataryna Fuller, and Ashton Ayers. Other coaches included Tim Lowery and Dale Lingerfelt. The team will participate in the “Tournament of Champions” in Luray, Virginia beginning on July 29, starting off by playing a team from North Carolina.Read Article

Names chosen for the new high school gym & auditorium

The Board of Education has decided to name the new gymnasium Currahee Arena and the new auditorium the Tugaloo Center for the Performing Arts at the new Stephens County High School.

Whiten Highlights Stephens County 2010-2011 School year

Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said that the 2010-2011 school year was an exceptional one for the county’s school system.
“By every measure, this was a great year for students, teachers and everyone on the Stephens County School System team,” she said. “I want to publicly commend our teachers, administrators, support staff and board of education for some remarkable accomplishments.”
Whiten said the job was remarkable considering a shortened school year and budgeting challenges, and that students reached new heights.
“Our classrooms are stronger than ever, and our students are exceeding past performance,” she said.
Whiten noted the following accomplishments:

• Graduation rates exceeding past performances.

• 8th graders scoring high on their 2011 writing assessment with 89 percent meeting or exceeding state standards — an 11 percent increase from 2010’s 78 percent.

• 5th graders outpacing state percentages on their 2011 writing assessment by 84 percent. a five point margin from the state’s 79 percent.

• Improvements in almost every area of the state’s 2011 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) including more than 98 percent of third and eighth graders passing the reading portion, 98 percent of sixth graders passing the English/Language Arts portion, math scores increasing for fifth and eighth graders and 98.6 percent of seventh graders passing the math CRCT, 91 percent of fourth graders passing the social studies CRCT.

• High school graduation test scores increasing from the previous year in English/Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.

“In every area, Stephens County students outperformed students throughout the state,” said Whiten.

The Toccoa Record

Stephens County scores above state average

New CRCT scores released last week show that Stephens County;s test scores are above the state averages. The Georgia Department of Education released system-level results for the CRCT, or Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, last week. According to those numbers, each one of Stephens County's test scores finished above the state average.

DOT Officials Brief Local Officials On Highway 17

A top Department of Transportation official tells officials that the Highway 17 project in Stephens County continues to move forward.

DOT Director of Planning Todd Long and 10th District DOT Board Representative Don Grantham spoke to officials from Stephens and Franklin counties Wednesday at the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College.

The construction of a four-lane Highway 17 was at the top of the agenda.

Long said that he has placed the first phase of Highway 17 construction in Stephens County, which goes from the Stephens/Franklin County line north to Scott Road across from Eastanollee Elementary School, in the proposed State Transportation Improvement Program for Fiscal Year 2013.

“The southernmost piece, which is about 6.5 miles, we are hoping to have that under construction sometime in Fiscal Year 2013 for us, which could be as early as next summer,” said Long.

Long said that must still be approved by the DOT Board and the Governor before that can take effect. Also, all of the rights-of-way would have to be bought for the first phase before construction could begin.

The first phase of construction would cost about $60 million, according to Long.

As for the second phase, a $20 to $30 million project that would build a four-lane Highway 17 from Scott Road to the Toccoa By-pass, Long said that he does not have a date for that yet.

“Because funding has to be balanced across the state, I do not have funding for it now, but I am trying to get it,” said Long. “This could be a good project for the regional transportation sales tax, Phase Two that is, but we will have to see what happens with that.”

Constructing a four-lane Highway 17 in Stephens County is part of a larger to make Highway 17 four lanes from Toccoa all the way south to the Augusta area.

Long said the DOT knows it is important, but adds that it is a big project.

“It is a long stretch from Lavonia to Washington and it is a big ticket to get that 17 done,” said Long. “I know it is a high priority for Elbert, Hart, Franklin, and Wilkes counties, but we are taking one bite at a time. We are starting at the north end, then going back to the south end at Wilkes County and hopefully meet in the middle at some point.”

New District DOT Board Member Don Grantham said he also knows how important the project is.

Grantham said he is a supporter of Highway 17.

“Highway 17 is one of the most important corridors that I know of,” said Grantham. “This is the direct shot to Savannah and the rest of Georgia that we need and it is a shot of economic development that you need in this area.”

Grantham said Highway 17 throughout the region is a project he checks on regularly with DOT staff.

Local May Unemployment Numbers

The latest figures show that the unemployment rate remains just under 10 percent in Stephens County.

According to statistics from the Georgia Department of Labor, the preliminary May unemployment rate was 9.9 percent in Stephens County. That is the same as the revised April unemployment rate for Stephens County. It is also one-tenth of a percent lower than the revised rate for May 2010, which was 10 percent.

In Stephens County, the labor force increased by 137 from April to May. 116 were added to the employment rolls, while 10 were added to the unemployment rolls. Meanwhile, Stephens County’s labor force, number of employed, and number of unemployed were all down this May compared to May of last year.

Neighboring counties saw mixed results in their May unemployment rates. Franklin County saw its unemployment rate go up three-tenths of a percent to 11.3 percent, Habersham County’s unemployment rate went down one-tenth of a percent to 9.5 percent, and Banks County’s unemployment rate stayed the same at 6.9 percent.

The Georgia Mountains region, which includes Stephens County, saw its unemployment rate go up one-tenth of a percent in May to 8.5 percent. That remains four-tenths of a percent below last May’s rate of 8.9 percent.

The state unemployment rate went up one-tenth of a percent, from 9.6 percent in April to 9.7 percent in May.

Northeast Georgia receives OneGeorgia Grant for Broadband Connectivity

The JDA of Franklin, Hart, and Stephens Counties was awarded $140,000 with Banks County, the Habersham Development Authority and the Rabun County Development Authority being co-applicants. That money will go to fund a broadband study. The total cost of that project is $175,000.
“The total amount of the funds will be used to do a study of the current status quo - what levels of broadband connectivity are in the community, who provides it - and then interview public safety, school officials, industry people and others, asking them what is the desired need and the desired state for broadband connectivity and then devise a way to address that gap,” said Tim Martin, Stephens County Development Authority executive director.The counties have provided $35,000 total in matching money for the grant, and the study should take about six months to complete, he said.

Broadband connectivity is vital from an economic perspective, Martin said, for the future Stephens County and the region.“This is a factor that if you do not address it adequately, you are not considered from the get-go (for growth),” he said.
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Jobless Rate Rises

Stephens County’s unemployment inched back into double digits in April.

According to the state Department of Labor, the county’s jobless rate rose to 10.0 percent in April, up from 9.9 percent in March. The county’s unemployment had drifted below 10 percent for the first time in almost a year.

Stephens was the only county in the eight-county northeast Georgia area to report an increase in unemployment during April.

There were 11,587 Stephens residents employed during April with 1,282 actively seeking work, according to labor department statistics. That compares to 11,707 employed during March with 1,285 looking for work.

Stephens County’s jobless rate for April, 2010 was 9.9 percent with 12,013 country residents employed with 1,326 looking for work.

Unemployment rates for other counties in the northeast Georgia area are;

• Banks, 7.0 percent, down from 7.2 percent in March.

• Elbert, 14.5 percent, down from 15.3 percent in March.

• Franklin, 11.1 percent in April, down from 11.4 percent in March.

• Habersham, 9.7 percent, down from 9.9 percent.

• Hart, 11.2 percent, down from 11.5 percent.

• Rabun, 12.2 percent, down from 14.8 percent in March.

• White, 9.6 percent, down from 10.3 percent.

Georgia’s jobless rate for April was 9.9 percent, according to the labor department. The national unemployment rate was 9.0 percent.
-Tom Law
The Toccoa Record

GEM Southeast to add 35 new jobs to it Global Partitions operation in Toccoa, GA

GEM Southeast will add 35 jobs at its Global Partitions plant on Liberty Hill Road in Eastanollee.

Global Partitions Plant Manager Barry Roberts called it good news for the community.

“ASI Storage Solutions, currently located in Memphis, Tenn., will be relocating to Toccoa,” Roberts said. “That is going to be in the Global Partitions facility. They make lockers. We already make lockers at the other two GEM plants. Now, we will make metal lockers at the Global plant. This is for GEM schools’ lockers.”

People already are being hired for the 35 positions, he said.

Roberts made news of the expansion public Thursday at the annual Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce meeting.

GEM Southeast operates three facilities in Stephens County, all in Eastanollee.

Toccoa Receives DOT Grant

The City of Toccoa will receive $325,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation for the streetscape work in the downtown area. The DOT announced Toccoa's grant as part of its 2011 Transportation Enhancement Awards Thursday. Toccoa Planning and Downtown Development Director Connie Tabor said this will continue the work already done in other areas of downtown. The city will have to provide a $65,000 local match for the grant.

GDOT grants money for Downtown streetscape

The city of Toccoa will receive $325,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation for streetscape work in the downtown area. The DOT announced Toccoa's grant as part of its 2011 Transportation Enhancement Awards Thursday. Toccoa Planning and Downtown Development Director Connie Tabor said this will continue the work already done in other areas of downtown. The city will have to provide a $65,000 local match for the grant.

"Why Toccoa?" Video Launch Party

Members of the Leadership Toccoa-Stephens County class and others from throughout the community attended the release of the "Why Toccoa?" promotional video. The video is the end result of the class project for this year's Leadership Toccoa-Stephens County class. Thursday's release party took place at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center in Toccoa.
A video produced by this year’s Leadership Toccoa-Stephens County class now helps to answer the question, “Why Toccoa?” The video is the Leadership class project for this year. Citizens were asked to submit 20-second videos explaining why someone should live and work in Toccoa. Clips from those videos were then turned into a 90-second video promoting Toccoa and Stephens County. The clips covered everything from the area’s history and scenery to its sense of community.

This year’s Leadership Toccoa-Stephens County Class President Greg Roach said the video turned out well. “I think the video did a great job of embodying the spirit of our town and community,” said Roach. “It shows the scenic beauty, historic character, and commitment to family and community that is so prevalent. We are excited as a class that entities in the community can use this to promote Toccoa whenever and however they need to.”

The class also handed out awards for the top video submissions. First place went to Jessica Waters, second place to Zach Smith, and third place to Mary Beth Martin.

Ten honorable mention awards were also handed out:
Wade Fields
Cole Heffer
Savana Gerrells, Hannah Hicks
Kylee Denton, Haley Moore
Darcy Van, Derek Katz
Tucker Ruhlen, Alex Fuller, Summer Chamlee
Cory Timberlake, Jonathan Gonzalez
Veronica Valenzuela, Robert Conley, Kylee Denton
Ashlee Crawford, Brea Harrison, Allie Trimier
Bailey Dickinson, Nick King

-WNEG Radio

Legislative Coffee Chat

50th District Senator Jim Butterworth and 28th District State Representative Michael Harden stopped in Toccoa Thursday to update officials on the recently completed legislative session in Atlanta. The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event. Butterworth and Harden spoke on many topics, including the HOPE scholarship, tax reform, and illegal immigration.

National Train Day May 7

Toccoa once again will mark National Train Day. National Train Day is set for Saturday. Main Street Toccoa Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby says people are invited to come out around 6 a.m. and wait for the arrival of the Crescent at 6:15 a.m. Also, a special train display will be set up in the Mitchell Allen Room Saturday from 9-3.

NGTC's Clinical Laboratory receives accreditation through 2018

North Georgia College's Clinical Laboratory program will receive a full seven-year accreditation. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences has announced that the program has received that honor for the third time in a row. North Georgia Tech's Clinical Laboratory Program has been continuously accredited since becoming accredited in 1964 and is not accredited through 2018!
The City of Toccoa expects to welcome thousands downtown for the annual 'Taste of Toccoa" festival this evening. The 21st annual "Taste of Toccoa" festival is tonight from 5-8pmin downtown Toccoa. Main Street Events Coordinator Sharon Crosby said everyone is looking forward to this year's "Taste". Organizers expect around 20 restaurants to participate. The event also includes entertainment and children activities.

Unemployment rate drops

Stephens County sees its unemployment rate drop below 10%. According to figures released this week by the GDOL, Stephens County had a preliminary unemployment rate in March of 9.9%. That rate marks a drop of seven-tenths of a percent from February. It is also down eight-tenths of a percent from March 2010.

Stephens County Commissioners to contribute to NGN Study

Today Stephens County Commissioners voted to contribute $500 towards a local match to obtain a regional broadband study. Stephens County Commissioner Dean Scarborough said pursuing broadband connectivity is crucial for future growth. The tri-county Joint Development Authority is working to obtain a OneGeorgia grant to fund a broadband connectivity feasibility study for six northeast Georgia Counties.

Stephens County Developer Day

The Stephens County Development Authority held its second 2011 Developer Day April 21, bringing statewide economic development project managers to the community on a development-focused tour. Seven project managers from AGL Resources, Georgia EMC, Georgia Department of Economic Development, OneGeorgia, and Senator Johnny Isakson’s office toured the community. The trip showcased Stephens County’s development-ready sites, industrial buildings, work force, and leadership so as to help project managers better foster development in our area.

North Georgia Technical College’s Greg Roach and Mike Terrell of Fernside Package Store served as the “chauffeurs” for the day. Combat Training Solutions’ Deborah Chapman and Ben Clardy led the group on a tour of their facility. The group visited the new Stephens County High School as well. They also viewed several available industrial buildings and sites in the Meadowbrook Industrial Park and Hayestone Brady Business Park. The project managers got a glimpse at the natural sights of Toccoa and Stephens County with stops at the Currahee Military Museum, Toccoa Falls, Broad River Trestle and Camp Toccoa.

The economic developers joined local leaders from the City and County government, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and real estate sectors for lunch at the Willard Kimsey Environmental Education Center (Straw House). The statewide guests gave an overview of their agencies and projects, and local leaders had the chance to address their concerns and perspectives on local development projects.

One more Developer Day event is planned for May as part of the Development Authority’s initiative to raise statewide awareness of and support for Stephens County.

Toccoa-Stephens County Cleanup Challenge is underway

The Toccoa-Stephens County Cleanup Challenge is into its second week. The first week of competition has ended and Stephens County Fire Explorers Post 609 team is in the lead with 9,485 points. In second place is the Elks Lodge/Ladies Auxiliary team with 781 points. According to Keep Toccoa-Stephens County Beautiful, a total of 3113 pounds of litter and recyclables, and 87 tires have been collected.

Toccoa Machine Products Highlighted

Toccoa Machine Products is located at 2151 Oak Valley Road. The metal fabrication business was started 36 years ago by Mike Fulbright. Mike's sons, Mark and Brian, help to run the day to day operations of the business. But, they don't do it alone. They said they have a loyal, hard-working team of employees that have been with the company for over twenty years. Toccoa Machine Products, Inc. has a reputation for providing quality service to many local industries.

Invitation to Bid Hayestone Brady Business Park Landscaping

Sealed bids for construction of Landscaping Hayestone Brady Business Park, will be received until 2:00 p.m. April 19, 2011 at the office of the Stephens County Development Authority at 31 W. Doyle Street, Toccoa, Georgia 30577 at which time they will be publicly opened and publicly read. Any proposal received after said time and date will not be considered by the Owner. No bid may be withdrawn after the closing time for the receipt of bids for a period of 60 days.

Hayestone Brady Business Park Landscaping Bid

Stephens County Hospital earns QRCR

Stephens County Hospital has earned Quality Respiratory Care Recognition (QRCR) under a national program aimed at helping patients and families make informed decisions about the quality of the respiratory care services available in hospitals. About 700 hospitals or approximately 15% of hospitals in the U.S. have applied for and received this award. Stephens County Hospital has been the recipient of this award since 2003.


Adams Container is a privately-owned corrugated sheet plant. That have produced corrugated items since 1988 on 1.25 acres with more than 10,000 square feet of production space located on Lake Louise Road in Toccoa, which allows them to serve from Atlanta to Greenville. James Adams, Jr. is the founder-owner and president of the company. Adams Containers specializes in custom-made containers of various sizes and quantities. The major items produced are multicolored displays, basic RSC boxes, large two-piece boxes, and pads. Quick turnaround and warehousing customer inventories are major components for customer satisfaction. A large percentage of Adams Container’s business is in the furniture area. As this business improves and additional customers are added, 2011 could be a good year.

Stephens County sees 3% increase in population

Some of the initial census numbers are our for Stephens and surrounding counties. The 2010 Census indicates that Stephens County saw a three percent increase in population from 2000-2010. Stephens County's official 2010 Census count is 26,175 residents, which is a slight increase from 2000's 25,435.

Stephens County Named a Camera Ready Community

Stephens County was one of 73 Georgia Counties to be designated Camera Ready at the Georgia State Capitol by Governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). The state’s Camera Ready Community Program was launched as part of the state’s ongoing efforts to bolster Georgia’s growing film and television industry. Camera Ready is put in place by the state to offer film and television production companies easier, faster and better access to local resources and information.  A Camera Ready Community must designate a liaison who can assist film and television production companies on a local level.

Leadership T-SC Launches "Why Toccoa" Video Test

The latest Leadership Toccoa-Stephens County class is hosting a video contest for people of all ages asking them to answer the questions, “Why Toccoa?” with a 20-second video.

The winning video will receive a $500 prize as well as be used in a promotional video for Toccoa-Stephens County.

“We are hoping to be able to produce a compilation of great videos to create a marketing tool that can be used in different media markets,” Greg Roach, the leadership class president, said.

The group introduced the video contest with a blanket of green leaflets left overnight in downtown Toccoa and along Big A Road.

In addition, information is being distributed to students at Stephens County High School on the website
The winners will be announced at a launch party scheduled for May 12.

To enter, people need to submit their video via e-mail to
A complete set of rules can be found on the website.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chair Tom Bell to speak at T-SC Chamber's Annual Meeting

The Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will speak at the Toccoa-Stephen County Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. The Chamber said it is privileged to welcome Tom Bell as the keynote speaker for the group's 65th annual meeting. The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting is Thursday, May 19, 2011 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Georgia baptist Conference Center in Toccoa.

Conservation Easement approved by the City of Toccoa

The Toccoa City Commission has approved a conservation easement for land surrounding Lake Toccoa. The easement seeks to preserve the property's current status as open space surrounding the gold course. Commissioners approved the easement unanimously and lauded its approval.

Improvements for Toccoa Water Treatment Plant

The Toccoa Water Treatment Plant will soon undergo a number of improvements. The Toccoa City Commission awarded the contract for numerous water treatment plant improvements. the project includes four separate improvements. Toccoa City Commissioners awarded the contract to Allsouth Constructors at a cost of $712,812. Allsouth was the lowest of nine bidders for the project.

Applegate Insulation to Expand, up to 40 jobs

Applegate Insulation, which is based in Michigan but has a plant in the Meadowbrook Industrial Park in Eastanollee, has made public its intent to pursue a multimillion-dollar expansion of the Stephens County facility. The expansion will involve additional equipment and manpower for the current facility, as well as the possibility of adding square footage to the building.The Stephens County Development Authority approved a bond inducement resolution of $8 million for Applegate. Through the resolution, the development authority acts as a conduit of sorts for Applegate,
“The way Georgia laws are written, and in order to receive tax abatement and other incentives, there has to a bond and title type situation,” development authority chairman Cam Parker. The county and the development authority, he said, are not liable in any way for the $8 million, and the finances are between Applegate and its investors. Applegate makes various insulation products at its facilities. It employs 22 people in Stephens County.

Randy Beckett, local general manager for the company, said the expansion in Toccoa will allow the facility to produce a new type of insulation made mainly out of recycled cotton fiber. “We plan on shipping nationwide out of Stephens County and hiring as many as 40 employees as part of that product line, so we are excited to bring employment to the county and grow our business here,” Beckett said.

Stephens County Hospital to Expand

Stephens County Hospital will soon be able to expand the cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation facility thanks to a $100,000 donation. Peter Parks was a patient in the facility and has chosen to make a donation that will help expand the facility into a larger space. Plans are in the works now with an architect for the expansion and construction is now with an architect for the expansion and construction is expected to start in the near future.

Ground broken for Construction of Terminal at Airport

Charlie Bauder

Ground has now been broken for construction of a terminal at the Toccoa-Stephens County Airport.

Local leaders gathered Monday for the groundbreaking ceremony at the airport on Tugalo Street in Toccoa.

Toccoa-Stephens County Airport Authority Chairman John Taylor said the project will give the airport an official terminal, something it has not really had before.

“It will be a fairly large building, about 6,000 square feet,” Taylor said. “Primarily, it is for the passengers coming and going. We will have a very nice conference room available for public use. It will be a really great place for pilots to hang around while waiting for customers to come in. It is just an improvement we wanted. We really need this.”

Taylor said the total project cost is expected to be about $1.5 million, with construction of the building costing about $1.1 million. Some of the funding for the project is coming from a $500,000 OneGeorgia Grant. The rest of the money is coming from revenue generated by special purpose local option sales tax V in the county.

“We are very fortunate to have an airport of this quality here,” said Toccoa Vice Mayor David Austin. “This new terminal building is going to be another great asset for us.”

Stephens County Commission Chairman J.B. Hudgins said an addition has been a long time coming at the airport.

“I started flying out of this airport in 1955, and it had not changed much until now,” Hudgins said. “This will put us where we will able to improve service and be more efficient.”

Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lee Hicks said the new terminal is a positive step.

“This is economic development in Toccoa and Stephens County,” Hicks said. “We are proud to be a part of it and support it.”

Stephens County Development Authority Chairman Cam Parker said, “I want to thank the one group that is probably more responsible for this, and that is the citizens of Stephens County. They voted in SPLOST V for projects like this.”

Grading will start at the airport for the terminal this week, Taylor said, and construction is expected to take seven or eight months to complete.

Muli-County NGN Feasibility Study

Stephens County plans to join with neighboring counties to request a study examining the feasibility of an expanded broadband network in this area of northeast Georgia. Monday, the Stephens County Development Authority board agreed to contribute towards the cost of the feasibility study. It would assess the feasibility of constructing, maintaining, and operating a high speed broadband Internet network in northeast Georgia.

T-SC Officials Visit Washington, D.C.

Local leaders are spending this week in the nation's capital. A group of individuals will represent Toccoa and Stephens County in Washington, D.C. They are leaving today and returning Thursday. Officials said the trip provides an opportunity to meet with federal legislators and officials about issues important to this area.

Airport Terminal Groundbreaking

The Toccoa Stephens County Airport Authority breaks ground on its terminal. Local leaders gathered Monday for the groundbreaking ceremony at the airport on Tugalo Street in Toccoa. Toccoa-Stephens County Airport Authority Chairman John Taylor said this project will give the airport an official terminal, something it has not really had before. Completion is expected in the fall.

Toccoa Stephens County Fireworks Over Toccoa Day

By: Jessica Water, The Toccoa Record
More than 150 Stephens County representatives – from government and school officials to senior citizens and high school students – braved the snowy drive to Atlanta for the Toccoa-Stephens County Day at the Georgia State Capitol on Feb. 10.

The yearly meet-and-greet at the Gold Dome offers a dual benefit, according to event organizers from the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce and the Stephens County Development Authority.

Keeping Stephens County residents, concerns, priorities and agendas in the forefront of legislative minds is only one side of the story.

The trip – which includes a chance to observe both the house and the senate at work – gives residents a chance to see the behind-the-scenes workings of the Georgia Legislature and to get an idea of legislation that makes its way through the house and senate each day of the session.

This year’s visit to the capitol also served to highlight a novel that has brought attention to Toccoa and has been touted by county leaders as an important promotional tool to bring recognition and attention to Toccoa-Stephens County.

During the day-long event at the state Capitol, the Georgia Legislature passed resolutions in both chambers declaring Feb. 10 as Toccoa-Stephens County Fireworks over Toccoa Day, in recognition of Jeffrey Stepakoff’s novel, “Fireworks Over Toccoa.”

Coordinated by the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce, the day’s events featured a legislative orientation and briefing, proclamations, lunch and photo sessions with state officials.

Signed copies of Stepakoff’s “Fireworks over Toccoa” were placed on legislators’ chamber desks in both the House and Senate, compliments of publisher St. Martin’s Press.

Local residents and leaders also had the opportunity to meet with legislative officials to discuss topics critical to the city and county as well as statewide issues such as education funding and transportation.

GEDA Recognizes Hayestone Brady Business Park as GRAD Certified

Stephens County's Hayestone Brady Business Park was officially recognized as a Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development (GRAD) site on Monday. Pictured are (from left) Corey Shiflet, chairman of the development auhtority's product development committee, Georgia Department of Economic Development commissioner Chris Cummiskey, development authority administrative assistant Kayla Carpenter and development authority executive director, Tim Martin.

Pursuing Opportunity Zone for Global Partitions

Stephens County will pursue enterprise zone status for additional industrial properties in an effort to promote economic development. Tuesday, Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director appeared before county commissioners to request a resolution for an enterprise zone for Global Partitions. Stephens County Commissioners approved the resolution unanimously and it will be forwarded to the state as part of the application.

Hayestone-Brady Business Park receives GRAD

The Hayestone-Brady Business Park joins just a few other industrial parks in Georgia as the recipient of a specialized certification.

Wednesday, the Stephens County Development Authority announced that the Highway 17 business park had received Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development certification.

GRAD certification as it is called is awarded by a public-private economic development marketing partnership called Georgia Allies.

Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin said the GRAD certification involves a rigorous process.

“It forced us to work through the property ownership, the infrastructure in terms of utilities, the weight-bearing capacity of the land, and the presence of wetlands or any cultural resources,” said Martin. “All of those fronts we now have answers on and if they are in the future a concern to someone, we can allay those concerns up front.”

Martin went on to say that the information gathered during the GRAD certification process provides knowledge that businesses want before picking a site.

He said that advance knowledge gives Stephens County and Hayestone-Brady Business Park an advantage.

“Companies do not like surprises,” explained Martin. “When a company looks at a community and wants to consider it for relocation, investment, and jobs, it wants to be confident that the information it receives about that site is current and accurate.”

According to Martin, only a handful of industrial sites in the state have achieved GRAD certification, which gives Hayestone-Brady another advantage.

Other local officials are also expressing their excitement over the news.

Toccoa Mayor Janice English, Stephens County Commission Chairman J.B. Hudgins, and Development Authority Chairman Cam Parker all say the certification will set Hayestone-Brady apart from the pack for industrial development.
The Hayestone-Brady Business Park joins just a few other industrial parks in Georgia as the recipient of a specialized certification.

Charlie Bauder, WNEG

Unemployment Rates for December Released

According to the December figures released this week by the Georgia Department of Labor, Stephens Count's preliminary unemployment rate for December is 10.6%, That represents a one-tenth of a percentage point increase from the final November unemployment rate of 10.5%. This past December's unemployment rate is lower than the final December 2009 unemployment rate of 11.2%.

Stephens County Schools Receive State Recognition

Stephens County's six schools are the recipients of state recognition and federal funds. All were recently named as Title One Distinguished Schools. Stephens County Schools Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said the county's six schools, all Title One Schools, received this recognition thanks to their performances over a number of years. Toccoa and Eastanollee Elementary schools will receive $1,113; while the other four schools will each receive $742.

Toccoa Falls College Celebrates 100 years

Toccoa Falls College marks one hundred years in the city of Toccoa. Monday morning, College leaders gathered at the train depot in downtown Toccoa to unveil a marker commemorating the occasion. The marker placed at the train depot commemorates Toccoa Falls College and the Southern Rail Station. It is one of 24 markers placed in various locations as part of a walking tour and history of Toccoa Falls College.


In spite of snow, work continues at Hayestone Brady Business Park!

Four County Regional Work Ready Grant Awarded!

A grant from the state will assist Stephens County and three neighboring counties in northeast Georgia with work force development.

Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin said last week that state officials had informed him that a $350,000 work force development grant was awarded in response to a joint application submitted by Stephens, Franklin, Habersham and Hart counties.

The grant, Martin said, is designed to help communities prepare people to work in the manufacturing sector.

Martin said that would happen in several ways.

“It will identify needs, and it will identify solutions,” he said. “Today’s work force is rapidly evolving. There are techniques, skills and training that all need to take place to stay current, and this will allow us to follow up on those highest priorities and make them happen.”

The program will combine the efforts of cities, counties, public school systems and industries in the four counties.

Martin called it a great opportunity for the region.

“We are quite excited about the confidence both Gov. Perdue and Governor-elect Deal have placed in us,” he added. “We are excited that we can work with our existing industries, our local school systems, and colleges to make sure our work force is what it needs to be to make our community successful.”

The counties have 18 months to use the grant.

Anderson Independent

Stephens County receives Opportunity Zone Designation

An announcement from the state could provide another benefit for industries locating in some areas of Stephens County. Last week, Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin announced that the Georgia Department of Community Affairs granted Stephens County's request to name a number of industrial sites in the county as "opportunity zones." Martin said that is a significant tool to use when trying to draw new industries in.