Officers and members

March 26, 2010 - Union Towns Employer Comittee

The Union Towns Employer Committee would like to introduce 2010 officers and other members. Pictured from left to right are Fran Reilly, Employer Marketing Rep., Georgia Department of Labor, Blairsville Career Center; Leslie Shields, Human Resources Assistant, Bank of Hiawassee, Blairsville and Blue Ridge, Treasure for the Union Towns Employer Committee; Ron Tredway, SPHR, EVP, Human Resources, Bank of Hiawassee, Blairsville and Blue Ridge, Chair for the Union Towns Employer Committee; Debra Parson, Manager, Georgia Department of Labor, Blairsville Career Center; Rob Murray, Business Service Manager, Branan Lodge, LLC, Vice-Chair for Union/Towns Employer Committee, Towns County; and Sonny Mahan, Director of Member Services, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, Vice-Chair for Union Towns Employer Committee, Union County.

Fran Reilly and Ron Tredway with Guest Speaker Allison Densmore
Fran Reilly and Ron Tredway with Guest Speaker Allison Densmore

February 2, 2010 - Employer Committee welcomes Allison Densmore

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently welcomed Allison Densmore, IMAGE Coordinator and Special Agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the February 2010 Lunch & Learn Event.

Ms. Densmore gave an informative presentation on the topics of IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers) and E-Verify.

On July 26, 2006, the Department of Homeland Security introduced the IMAGE program as a comprehensive solution to the many challenges facing an employer in the area of employment eligibility verification. ICE recognized that the highest level of employment compliance could only be achieved through close coordination with industry partners. IMAGE was developed as an innovative concept for enhanced employer self compliance.

Ms. Densmore explained, "Through close coordination and partnership with the private sector, IMAGE promotes principals of ethical business conduct and helps prevent the hiring of unauthorized aliens. E-Verify is an internet based system operated by DHS in cooperation with the Social Security Administration that allows the employer to electronically verify employment eligibility of new hires."

According to the hand-outs, "E-Verify is a process that reduces unauthorized employment, minimizes verification related discrimination, and offers employers an efficient, non-burdensome internet based employment eligibility mechanism. The internal training program promotes material expertise and continuity of knowledge by developing and implementing a comprehensive internal training program for employees involved in the hiring process."

E-Verify is only used by members to verify new hires, must be initiated after the employee accepts the position, and within three days of the employee's actual start date. It must be applied to all new hires, regardless of citizenship status. E-Verify is currently offered as a free and voluntary service.


Joyce Gandy and Jim McKnight

February 3, 2009 - Union Towns Employers welcome Jim McKnight

The Union Towns Employer Committee, the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, and the Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a Lunch and Learn at Brasstown Valley Resort where they welcomed guest speaker Jim McKnight.

Jim McKnight has been a SCORE counselor for America 's Small Business for the past two years. He was employed with Cox Enterprises, Inc. in Atlanta , Georgia for 26 years and currently is Strategic Execution Officer with Manheim Auto Auction.

The topic of the Lunch and Learn event was "How to Manage Your Business in an Economic Downturn." Employers and other members of the business community listened intently to all that Mr. McKnight had to say.

McKnight admits that there is no magic bullet. He advises that businesses have a plan, "Get a rock solid business plan today if you don't have one already. Businesses with a plan succeed where other fail."

Tips for surviving tough economic times include keeping the customers that you have by giving great customer service. Excellent customer service should be a major priority.

McKnight suggests that business owners use the economic downturn to develop and execute a new business strategy. Ask yourself some questions. What is my position in the marketplace? What effect does the downturn have on my business or industry? Am I financially stable? What are my assets?

If your company is stable, take advantage of the economic situation. Look for alliances and mergers. Hang on to core assets and sell the rest. Practice collaborative marketing. Use your assets to strengthen your place in the market.


Employer Committ welcomes Ron Simmons

October 7, 2008 - Employer Committee welcomes Ron Simmons

The Union Towns Employer Committee, along with the Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce, the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, and other members of the business community recently met at Brasstown Valley Resort for the October 2008 Lunch and Learn event. Ron Simmons, Area Director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center was guest speaker.

Simmons gave a short talk that was informative and interesting. He said, "When I was deciding what to talk about today, the $700 million dollar bail out plan kept coming up. I want everyone here to know that America is strong and there are things we can do." Simmons went on to talk about ways to protect small business interests including cutting expenses, eliminating unprofitable activities, lining up alternate funding, embracing incentives, and cutting production costs.

Another thing that can help is getting employees to think like entrepreneurs. Simmons suggests business owners organize small think groups, consider sharing profits, learn from failures, reward new ideas, and promote successful risk takers.

Simmons recommends that business owners stay optimistic and think long term. "When things do turn around, there will be less competition. Business owners need to plan ahead." Other suggestions include starting up a part-time business to earn extra money. Part time businesses are less risky and may provide opportunities to put students and relatives to work. Conserve cash, but pay bills on time. Instead of buying new equipment, try to lease, rent, borrow, barter, or trade. Get a budget and try to stick to it. Simmons adds, "Remember that help is available. Our mission is to help you help yourself."

During the October Lunch and Learn event, guests were welcomed to Brasstown Valley Resort by Joyce Gandy, Chair of the Union Towns Employer Committee and Director of Human Resources at Brasstown Valley Resort. A highlight of the luncheon was a delicious buffet with cooked-to-order pasta prepared by one of Brasstown Valley 's excellent chefs.

Cindy Williams, Mitch Griggs, and Joyce Gandy

April 1, 2008 - Lunch & Learn Kick-Off welcomes Mitch Griggs

The recent Union Towns Employer Committee and the Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce 2008 Lunch & Learn Kick-Off was a great success with Mitch Griggs as guest speaker. Over fifty people attended the event to hear from the new Executive Director of the Union County Development Authority.

Griggs had a lot of positive and upbeat things to say about the future of Union County . He talked about how economic development can mean different things but ultimately it is a public-private partnership that grows the economy and provides a sustainable increase in living standards. He said, " Union County has been a little overly dependant on the housing industry. Obviously we need to diversify our economic base. We have two industrial parks in the county and several companies that employ hundreds of people. That's a good start. We will continue to focus on manufacturing and construction industries but will also concentrate on the retail and tourism sectors of the economy that are good opportunities for us." Griggs continued, "Wal-mart coming to Blairsville will have a tremendous impact on the county. They will have a significant impact on the tax base, both in terms of property taxes and especially sales tax revenues."

Griggs went on to explain that the housing market hasn't stopped - just slowed down. "People still want to get out of Atlanta . We have a lot of resources to offer new businesses including our fiber network. People can build their homes here and work from home. All that they need is a computer and DSL. We all came here for the same reasons including beautiful scenery, good climate, the values culture, and the family atmosphere. My job includes finding a balance between economic growth and preserving our quality of life."

Griggs also touched on the Georgia Work Ready Program. "This certification program provides employers with an important tool that results in higher employee retention rates, smaller turnover rates, and fewer hours spent on training."

After hearing from Mitch Griggs and enjoying a classic Italian luncheon catered by Joan Drake of Cobb's Mill, Chairperson Joyce Gandy introduced new members and visitors.

Cushman's Fruit fundraiser
Union Towns Employer Committee Executive Board accepts check from Regina Dennehy,
Operations Manager Cushman Fruit Company. Left to right - Fran Reilly, Regina Dennehy, Joyce Gandy, and Sonny Mahan

March 13, 2008 - HoneyBell Fundraiser provides money for local high school scholarships

The 3rd Annual Union Towns Employer Committee and Cushman Fruit Company HoneyBell Fundraiser was a definite success. Money was raised to support local high school scholarships and other local community programs.

The Employer Committee would like to extend a huge thank-you to Cushman Fruit Company for partnering with the committee. The "Juicy Deal" allowed the committee to expand their local scholarship offerings and to continue their community involvement.

Thanks also to Sonny Mahan and BRMEMC for providing the opportunity to include the fundraising information with their monthly billing statement.

Of course it's the people in the community that really make any fundraiser successful. Thanks to Blairville community for their continued support and participation. We look forward to offering this fundraiser again starting in October 2008.

Since moving their Catalog Sales Call Center to Blairsville in 2005, Cushman Fruit Company has given back to the community in many ways. They also provide numerous opportunities for meaningful employment.

Union Towns Employer Committee welcomes Tim Grizzle and Mitzie Holloway

August 5, 2008 - Lunch and Learn with Tim Grizzle and Mitzie Holloway

The Union Towns Employer Committee and other members of the business community recently met at North Georgia Technical College, Blairsville Campus for the August 2008 Lunch and Learn event. Union County Work Base Learning Program Coordinator Tim Grizzle and Towns County Work Base Learning Program Coordinator Mitzie Holloway were guest speakers.

Tim and Mitzie gave an interesting presentation. These two dedicated educators have many goals but the main one is to prepare Union and Towns high school students for careers. Mitzie says, "There comes a time when there's no substitute for on the job training. The Work Base Learning Program is a win-win situation. It's good for the schools, the students, the employers, and the community."

According to the handouts, "Youth Apprenticeship is a structured combination of school-based and work-based learning. Through a coordinated effort involving business and industry, Youth Apprenticeship addresses the dual of preparing students for the world of work and providing Georgia with a highly skilled, technologically competitive workforce. The program enables a student to receive a high school diploma, a post-secondary certificate or degree, and certification of industry-recognized competencies applicable to employment in a high-skill , high-wage , and high-demand occupation."

High school students benefit by establishing a clear connection between education and work, by receiving increased motivation, and receiving opportunities to explore possible careers. Students develop workplace responsibility, develop positive work habits, receive opportunities for leadership, learn from skilled professionals, and earn progressive pay while still in high school.

Employers benefit in many ways including a reduction in costs for recruitment and training, increased employee retention, and increased involvement in the curriculum development process.

Schools benefit by keeping academic curriculum up-to-date, enhancing education's ability to meet the needs of a diverse student population, and increased student retention.

The community benefits by receiving an informed, competent, and productive future workforce, increased cooperation between education and business, and a foundation for a more productive local economy.

During the August Lunch and Learn event, guests were welcomed to North Georgia Technical College by Steve Dougherty, Interim President of NGTC. He spoke a few words about the future of NGTC. Employer Committee Vice Chairman Sonny Mahan introduced Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Williams. Williams said a few words about Chamber activities, and then introduced guest speakers. Everyone enjoyed a tasty lunch catered by Grinds and Glazes.

Cathy Cox at Employer Committee meeting

June 3, 2008 - Employer Committee hears from Cathy Cox

The Union Towns Employer Committee, the Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce, and the Towns County Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a Lunch & Learn at Young Harris College Campus Restaurant. Employer Committee Chairperson Joyce Gandy welcomed over 80 people to the luncheon. Towns County Chamber of Commerce Membership Director Jane Holland introduced guest speaker YHC President Cathy Cox to the group.

President Cox talked about the "Four Year Transition Plan for Young Harris College " and the economic impact on Towns and Union County . Exciting things are expected to happen at Young Harris College in the near future that will directly affect the local area. Cox said, " Young Harris College is looking beyond our campus boundaries. We anticipate a need for cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, and other businesses that serve four-year students. Juniors and seniors are going to be looking for something to do. Also, as employers, you will appreciate the fact that four-year students will need part-time jobs. Many will also be looking for employment after graduation."

YHC is growing in many ways. A four year program and increased enrollment will require more classroom space. Besides a comprehensive strategic plan for the campus, several new construction projects are already in the beginning design stages. Anticipated additions include a new performing arts center, larger dining facilities, a student center, a new library, extended lab space, a new administration building, a basketball gymnasium, and new residence halls. One design phase even calls for a "senior village" with small apartments. Cox commented, "Around here we don't usually associate the word "seniors" with college students!"

Everything depends on accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. If all goes as expected, YHC will offer degrees in Business, Music, English, Biology, and possibly Education. Enrollment is expected to be between 1200 and 1500 students. YHC will hire 12 new faculty members by August 2008 and another 12 next summer. There will be a 50% increase in faculty. The first anticipated junior class will start in the fall of 2009.

Things will definitely change at YHC although the administration and trustees do want the college to retain certain friendly elements. Cox said, "We do not want students to have to get in a car and drive to class. When students walk around campus, they meet new people and make friends. This helps develop a loyal alumni. The Trustees are urging us to do things the right way. We do not want a mediocre college. We expect excellence."

Another change is the return of the basketball program. A winter sport is required for accreditation and it's no surprise that basketball won out over hockey.

YHC will host a community meeting in July to officially announce plans. Cox adds, "We are proud of our heritage and we are proud to be a part of this community."

The new Lunch & Learn events are part of expanding opportunities available to members of the Union Towns Employer Committee and the Chamber of Commerce in 2008. Partnering with the Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce and the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, the Employer Committee brings exciting and knowledgeable guest speakers together with local business representatives from Union and Towns counties.

Bob Caron at Employer Committee meeting

February 12, 2008 - Union Towns Employer Committee welcomes Bob Caron

Bob Caron, Director of Business Development at WALLACE Training and Recovery Company, was guest speaker at the February meeting of the Union and Towns Employer Committee. He gave an informative presentation about how businesses can benefit from Georgia 's retraining tax credit.

In 1994, in an effort to improve competitiveness of Georgia 's existing businesses, the State of Georgia introduced a tax incentive to encourage workforce development by helping companies offset the cost of training employees.

Qualified training includes newly implemented technology, newly installed equipment, software implementation and upgrades, total quality management, ISO 9000 standards, and self-directed work teams. Companies can receive up to 50% of direct training costs, up to a maximum of 50% of their total Georgia income tax liability, and up to $500 per approved training program per employee per year. Credits are retroactive and unused credit can be carried forward for up to 10 years.

Eligible employees must be Georgia residents, continuously employed with the company for a minimum of 16 weeks, work a minimum of 25 hours per week, and be in the group of first-line employees and immediate supervisors (executives are not eligible).

Retraining may be provided by any qualified source, including in-house company training, training vendors, e-learning, technical colleges, and universities.

Ruth Nichols
Guest Speaker NGTC President Dr. Ruth Nichols

November 6, 2007 - Employer Committee welcomes Dr. Ruth Nichols

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently welcomed NGTC President Dr. Ruth Nichols to their monthly meeting at the Bank of Blairsville. Over 25 local employers and business representatives gathered to hear Dr. Nichols.

Nichols touched on many subjects. She said, "Our mission statement at NGTC is very long but basically it says that we put people to work. Things are constantly changing in the work place. Currently there is a huge demand for welders and bank tellers. A couple of years ago it was computer specialists. We have to change our curriculum to meet today's requirements."

Dr. Nichols went on to talk about the importance of keeping young people in school. "We offer dual enrollment programs and summer camps. I've done the research and it really does make a difference to kids that are thinking of dropping out of high school. Technical schools are the fastest growing institutions in the educational field."

She went on to mention the Georgia Work Ready Program. "The Work Ready Program links education with the work force. Work Ready Certificates can make a difference to employers and to applicants."

Dr. Nichols talked about the important role that employers play in the local community. "When you hire someone it means a lot to the individual and to their family. I hope you feel a passion for the work you are doing. If you can bring integrity to the workplace then you are a good model. Passion, integrity, and enthusiasm are three qualities that bring success and happiness. That's how I look at education in North Georgia . I consider it my mission."

Dr. Nichols has served as President of North Georgia Technical College since August 2000. Prior to becoming President she was the Vice-President of Student Services, Director of Marketing, and Director of Adult Education. Among the many schools that she attended are Co-Lin Community College, University of Southern Mississippi, LSU, and Clemson.

Employer Committee Raffle
Two paintings by Huey J. Theus

Raffle Fundraiser

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently held a raffle to benefit the local high school scholarship fund and other community projects. Lucky winners Eddie W. Grizzle and Rachel Hancock had the winning tickets. They both received a Huey J. Theus Georgia bulldog painting, beautifully framed and ready to hang.

These two paintings are lighthearted examples of Huey Theus's work. Huey Theus is well known for his paintings, lithographs, and drawings which hang in countless homes and public buildings throughout the southeast. Huey's work has earned numerous awards, including a special resolution by the Georgia State Senate.

At the Georgia Department of Labor, where he recently retired after 34 years of service, Theus created thousands of paintings and drawings for public offices and other facilities statewide while serving as Director of Marketing and Special Projects. Theus was recently commissioned by the Crisp County Historical Society to paint a series of 12 acrylics honoring the county's rich past. (These paintings will adorn the walls of Cordele's Carnegie Library.) Huey currently maintains studios at his home on Lake Lanier and in Oglethorpe, Georgia, where he continues to pursue his love of art.

Union Towns Employer Committee

Employer Committee serves Christmas cookies and punch

North Georgia Technical College Blairsville Campus, recently hosted the annual Christmas at the College. The free event offers all kinds of fun activities for hundreds of children and adults. The Great Hall of Trees, crafts, letters to Santa, story time, games, live entertainment, and train rides keep everyone busy.

When it's time for refreshments, the members of the Union Towns Employer Committee are ready to serve up cookies, punch, and coffee. Not just regular store bought cookies, these sweets are carefully prepared by NGTC culinary students. Delicious and tempting cookies and pastries are available throughout the evening's festivities (although the gingerbread houses and ice sculptures are just for looks).

NGTC faculty, staff, and members of the local area appreciate all that the Employer Committee does to give back to the community. Serving cookies is just one small example of the many ways that Employer Committee members assist the areas that they serve.

Employer Committee

Employer Committee hosts workshop - Free Money

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently hosted a free workshop about becoming a Certified Drug Free Workplace. Saving money on Workman's Comp is just one of the many benefits that come with the certification program.

Guest speaker Rob Murray did a great job presenting the information. Murray said, "I am very pleased with the changes at Panel-Built since becoming certified. We have had a much lower turnover rate and the company receives a significant discount on Workman's Comp."

According to the Drugs Don't Work program, "In 1993 the state of Georgia enacted the Drug Free Workplace Premium Credit Program. The legislation was designed to promote drug-free workplaces in Georgia, so that theses employers be afforded the opportunity to maximize productivity, enhance competitiveness in the marketplace, and reach desired levels of success without experiencing the costs, delays, and tragedies associated with work related accidents resulting from employee substance abuse."

There are five steps to achieving drug-free certification including having a substance abuse policy, conducting limited drug testing, completing employee education, completing supervisor training, and having an employee assistance program in place.

After the presentation, Murray provided applications for certification, answered questions, and supplied a list of available online resources. Most forms, posters, policies, and notices are available as a free download from the internet.

Employers attending the workshop received printed examples of required paperwork, a copy of the rules and guidelines, a step by step guide to becoming certified, and more. A light dinner provided by the Bank of Blairsville was much appreciated by everyone in attendance.

Drugs Don't Work is a partnership program of The Council on Alcohol and Drugs, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Human Resources, and the Georgia State Board of Worker's Compensation.

The Union Towns Employer Committee is happy to host events like this workshop. The Employer Committee is a group of area employers that provide a sounding board for issues affecting the local workforce and the local economy. Members meet monthly to discuss all kinds of work related issues. The committee, in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Labor, helps provide employers with relevant and up-to-date information.

Joyce Gandy presents check to Dvan Mahan

Employer Committee awards three scholarships

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently awarded scholarships to three local area high school students. Chosen for this special honor were Devan Mahan from Union County High School, Megan Leigh Gribble from Towns County High School, and Kali Thomas from Woody Gap High School.

Union Towns Employee Committee members participated in various fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for these scholarships and other community projects. Everyone would like to say, "Congratulation to Devan, Megan, and Kali."

The Employer Committee is a group of local business representatives who establish and maintain a working relationship between the employer community and the Georgia Department of Labor's Blairsville Career Center. Currently the Union Towns Employer Committee has a membership of over 35 including employers and agency representatives from the area. There is no charge for membership on the committee.

Rob Murray
Guest Speaker Rob Murray

Employer Committee hears from Rob Murray

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently met for a delicious breakfast at Brasstown Valley Resort. Members took the opportunity to do some friendly networking and to learn about Georgia 's Drug Free Workplace Program.

Guest speaker Rob Murray talked about becoming a certified Drug Free Workplace. He explained how the community and local businesses benefit from becoming certified and answered many important questions. Is drug testing expensive? Is the program fair to all employees? Are tests accurate and confidential? Will employees who test positive automatically be fired?

An announcement was made about the Employer Committee partnering with the Union County Anti-Drug Coalition. The Employer Committee plans to provide information and mentorship on how Union County employers can become a certified Drug Free Workplace. There will be a FREE workshop on June 19th at 4:30 p.m. at the Bank of Blairsville Community Room.

During the meeting, Chairperson Joyce Gandy presented an Employer Committee scholarship to Devan Mahan from Union County High School . Devan will be attending Young Harris College this fall. Congratulations to Devan for a job well done.

Mr. David Whitlock speaks to the Union Towns Employer Committee
Guest Speaker David Whitlock

Immigration Reform Changes Your World seminar a success

The recent Immigration Reform Changes Your World seminar covered an important subject that is especially relevant in today's society. Sponsored by the Union Towns Employer Committee, Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce, Towns County Chamber of Commerce, and North Georgia Technical College, the seminar was a definite success.

Well known speaker, Mr. David Whitlock of Fisher & Phillips, LLP Attorney at Law, conducted the seminar. He focused on how to verify current employees and what to do if they are illegal. Whitlock provided answers to such probing questions as how do I "welcome" guest workers? Will quotas help me or hurt me? What do I do with my current legal immigrants? Must I sponsor them? Who pays? How do I fix incorrect Social Security account information? Must I do anything? What do I do about the SSA mismatch letter?

The wealth of information provided by the seminar greatly benefited the employer community. Held on the beautiful Blairsville Campus of North Georgia Technical College , attendees enjoyed the informative evening. Participants and sponsors would like to thank United Community Bank for providing pizza and drinks.

The employer committee is a group of local business representatives who establish and maintain a working relationship between the employer community and the Georgia Department of Labor's Blairsville Career Center.

Guest Speakers Cindy Gallucci and Mike Priven
Guest Speakers Cindy Gallucci and Mike Priven

Union Towns Employer Committee welcomes guest speaker Cindy Gallucci

The Union Towns Employer Committee welcomed Cindy Gallucci, Coordinator of the Union County Anti-Drug Coalition, and Mike Priven, President and IT Consultant of the Coalition, to the April meeting.

After a delicious lunch prepared by the staff of Cobb's Mill Restaurant, members of the Employer Committee listened intently as Gallucci talked about the drug problem in our area and how the Anti-Drug Coalition plans to increase community awareness. Gallucci said, "The Anti-Drug Coalition is not going to be silent as we work toward the goal of becoming a drug free county."

As an advocate of "Drugs don't work in the workplace," Gallucci explained how employers can join together to help Union County become a drug free county. Pre-employment drug screening and random drug testing were recommended as ways to curb drug use.

Gallucci listed things that everyone can do to help. Become involved and keep vigilant. Know the warning signs of drug use and act when necessary. Report suspected activity to the police. Gallucci adds, "An ounce of drug prevention is worth a ton of cure."

Union Towns Employer Committee

Union Towns Employer Committee plans for 2007

A new calendar was presented at the February meeting of the Union Towns Employer Committee. Chairperson Joyce Gandy says, "The calendar lists various activities that the Committee has planned for 2007. Nothing is written in stone and input is appreciated."

First thing on the calendar is a membership drive. New committee members are welcome at any time and are needed to bring in new ideas and fresh perspectives. Employment Marketing Representative Fran Reilly says, "If people knew how much fun we have, they would join us at our monthly lunches. You don't have to be appointed or anything. Just come to the meetings and sign-in."

Other items on the calendar include informative seminars and interesting guest speakers. Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris is scheduled to speak at the March meeting; Cindy Galucci with Union County Anti-Drug Coalition is scheduled for April.

The first seminar of 2007 is titled "Immigration Reform Changes Your World." It is scheduled for March. Another seminar, "Employment Law," is scheduled for May and is recommended for all employers.

The calendar also lists various projects such as fundraisers, scholarship presentations, scrapbook plans, and notices for new officers.

Currently the Committee has a membership roster of 35 including both large and small employers and agency representatives in the area. Debbie Parson, Blairsville Career Center Manager, states "We would like to invite all interested employers to become involved in our Committee. Membership provides area employers the opportunity for informational sessions on issues directly affecting their day to day operations. There is no charge for membership on our Committee."

The meetings are not formal or boring affairs. Held at various restaurants in Union and Towns Counties , members enjoy an open, comfortable atmosphere. Participants are encouraged to express views and opinions on various subjects ranging from local news and employment issues to national concerns.

Employer Committee

Union Towns Employer Committee News

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently gathered in Young Harris, Georgia for their December meeting. A delicious luncheon at Moschetto's Restaurant, interesting conversation, and a raffle made the event entertaining as well as informative.

The "Adopt a Family for Christmas" project and the "Honeybell Fruit Sale" are currently underway. Fundraisers are held throughout the year to raise money for various causes that contribute to the surrounding areas.

Members of the Employer Committee discussed 2006 projects and made suggestions for future ones. Chairperson Joyce Gandy from Brasstown Valley Resort, Fran Reilly and Debbie Parson from the Georgia Department of Labor, Rowe Harting and Karen Burchardt from Union County Nursing Home, Margaret Crawford from Mountain Learning and Child Care Center, Kristy Davenport from Cadence Bank, Marlene Laudrum from Corrugated Replacements, Dale Rice from the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, Lewis Kelley from Chatuge Regional Hospital, Eva Garmon and Tim Grizzle from Union County Family Connections, Anne Merkel from the Ariela Group, Sonny Mahan from Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation, and Janice Boling from the North Georgia News attended the December meeting..

The Employer Committee serves the community in various ways. During the busy holiday season, members take time to participate in the annual Christmas at the College event held on the Blairsville campus of North Georgia Technical College . Debbie Parson says, "It's a lot of work serving up all those cookies but we really enjoy it."

Members also participated in the recent "Halloween on the Square" in Blairsville where they handed out over a hundred dollars worth of candy.

Union Towns Employer Committee members attend various training seminars throughout the year and guest speakers are invited to monthly meetings. A seminar on the new "Immigration Reform Laws" is currently in the planning stage. "Business Resources.Developing today for tomorrow," pretty much explains what the Union Towns Employer Committee is all about.

The (State of Georgia ) Employer Committees prove that government and business can make a difference when they work together. These committees are groups of local business representatives who establish and maintain a working relationship between the Georgia Department of Labor and the employer community. This partnership involves acting as a sounding board for proposed and ongoing department policies, procedures, and programs while identifying and recommending ways to meet community and employment related needs. There are over 53 Employer Committees in the state.

If you have a vested interest in the economic well-being of your community, then you may want to join the local Union Towns Employer Committee. The Committee provides a unique opportunity for you to be actively involved in the local employment picture. Who understands the needs and concerns of a community better than its business leaders? Membership is free and new members are welcome.

Sonny Mahan and Fran Reilly

Employer Committee doesn't stop during holidays

The Union Towns Employer Committee, in partnership with Family Connections, recently bought, wrapped, and delivered over 60 presents. The presents will make Christmas a brighter day for two families that didn't expect Santa to make it by their homes this year.

Union and Towns Family Connections are part of a Georgia statewide initiative of 159 community collaborative partnerships committed to making measurable improvements for children and families in Georgia . Working with Union and Towns school systems, they assist children of all age groups.

When Family Connections approached the Union Towns Employer Committee with request for help, the answer was a resounding "yes." Members picked out gifts, then wrapped them. Union Towns Employer Committee Vice Chairman, Sonny Mahan, delivered the packages which were quickly tucked away until Christmas morning.

Lamar Paris
Guest Speaker Lamar Paris

Commissioner Paris Speaks with Employer Committee

Attendance was up at the monthly Union Towns Employer Committee meeting. Chairperson Joyce Gandy called the meeting to order and welcomed guest-speaker Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris. Members and guests listened intently to all that Commissioner Paris had to say.

Just returning from a trip to Washington, D.C. , Commissioner Paris was well informed on current issues affecting employers and businesses in our area. He talked about finding jobs for our young people and pointed out Union County Development Authority Tom Murphy's efforts to recruit new industry to the area. Paris said, "The airport's new runway will have a huge impact over the next few years."

Paris touched on many subjects including the new Wal-Mart which is expected to employ 250 people. "We are looking at a tentative completion date of September 2008. It depends on DOT approval, closing dates, and construction time-tables."

Commissioner Paris also mentioned plans for a new 1,400 acre resort with two 18-hole golf courses, 50-200 rental cottages, a convention center, and residential section. Upon completion, the retail value of this facility will be more than $2,000,000,000. If plans are approved, the resort will be located on two state roads and will bring in its own sewer system. Based in Atlanta, with connections to the Ritz Carlton, the resort will hire 400-600 people.

Paris talked about improving education in Georgia . "The secret to attracting new industry is proving that we have qualified and educated people to fill positions in the work place."

The Union Towns Employer Committee would like to express their appreciation to Commissioner Paris for his informative presentation. They would also like to announce an upcoming seminar titled, "Immigration Reform Changes Your World." The program will be held at NGTC's Blairsville Campus on Thursday March 29, 2007 and is sponsored by Union Towns Employer Committee, Blairsville Union County Chamber of Commerce, Towns County Chamber of Commerce, and North Georgia Technical College . Cost is minimal at just $45 per person ($35 if attendee is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Union/Towns Employer Committee, or Union-Towns Home Builders Association.). Pizza and drinks will be provided courtesy of United Community Bank.

The Union Towns Employer Committee monthly meeting was held at the Cookie Jar Restaurant in Blairsville, Georgia where service was excellent and food was delicious.

Billy Childers
Guest Speaker Billy Childers

September 5, 2007 - Union Towns Employer Committee hears from Billy Childers

The Union Towns Employer Committee recently heard from Billy Childers, District II Tax Director with the Georgia Department of Labor. Childers gave an interesting talk about the Unemployment Insurance Program. Childers said, "Unemployment Insurance has basically been around since the depression. It's a good program that helps people who really need it. The purpose of unemployment insurance is to help people that are out of work through no fault of their own. There is $2.4 billion in trust. If we have a recession our unemployed workers will get paid."

He went on to explain many details of the program including liability, tax provisions, reporting requirements, claims for benefits, special forms, special types of assistance, detection and prevention of fraud, protecting your rights, and other services that are offered. Handbooks that contain lots of useful information and simple explanations are available at the Georgia Department of Labor.

Childers touched on many facets of the unemployment insurance program including filing online via the internet, liability for unemployment taxes, and making payments by credit card. He also spoke about child labor laws, work certificates, and other issues vital to the workplace.

The Union Towns Employer Committee meetings are informative, fun, and a great way to get in some friendly networking during breakfast or lunch. Employer Meetings are held each month at various locations in Towns and Union Counties . Interested employers are encouraged to become involved in the Union Towns Employer Committee. Membership provides the opportunity for informational sessions on issues directly affecting day to day business operations.

Ruth King
Guest Speaker Ruth King

Union Towns Employer Committee

The Union Towns Employer Committee gathered for their monthly meeting on August 1, 2007. Over fifteen area employers and representatives attended the "Dutch treat" luncheon which was held at the Ridges Resort and Club in Hiawassee, Georgia.

Joyce Gandy welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced Ruth King from the North Georgia Technical College - Georgia Work Ready Program. King is a job profiler with the Georgia Work Ready Certificate and Assessment Program. She explained the process of implementing the program that matches people's skills with their jobs. She also gave examples of the many benefits.

"The program provides credentials that help in making quick comparisons between a person's skill levels and job requirements. The certificate, which is easily and universally understood, is a valuable resource for employers and certificate recipients," says King. "Benefits to employers include reduced turnover, increased productivity, higher employee morale, and improved employee selection and advancement procedures."

King went on to discuss various aspects of the Work Ready Program. Job profiling enables human resource managers to make better decisions when hiring and promoting employees. It also helps determine who to select for training programs and management positions.

Implementing the Georgia Work Ready Program brings more business to the state, brings better workers, and brings in more money. Initiatives are in place to transform existing hiring policies. Building upon Work Ready Communities, regions will be formed based on common resources. Competitive grants of $500,000 will be made available to help develop talented pools of workers.

The Georgia Work Ready Program is county based. Certain requirement must be met to qualify including a commitment to improving the public high school graduation rate and a minimum graduation rate of 70%. Georgia 's technical colleges deliver the Work Ready services and offer assessment at no charge to participating individuals. For more information about the Georgia Work Ready Certification Program, visit the website at .