The incoming Effingham County Chamber of Commerce president hopes to build bridges across county lines.
Freddy Long, who took over the leadership of the Commerce from outgoing president Janis Bevill at Thursday’s annual meeting, said the chamber may explore working with adjacent counties in handling the rapid growth that’s already under way and is expected to continue.
“Effingham County is growing so rapidly,” he said. “Our chamber has never really been involved in getting with the other chambers. We want to form an alliances and work on some of these common goals together.”
The Chamber started a tourism committee in an effort to promote Effingham’s historic and scenic appeal. Long said the chamber also hopes to tap into Savannah’s massive tourist market.
He also praised the efforts of Effingham Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer John Henry and his staff. The EDA recently completed its deal with DP Partners for its sprawling I-16 project and is actively recruiting a potentially large manufacturer to the county.
Yet the county needs to be ready when the jobs become available.
“John Henry and the IDA are doing a great job,” Long said. “But we have to have a workforce to go along with them when these industries come to Effingham County.”
He also envisioned roundtable discussions for small businesses.
Bevill said the past year has been a learning experience for her, and her husband often wondered when she was coming home and how long she was going to be staying once she got home.
She said the chamber’s members are striving to improve Effingham.
“You have in your hearts wanting to make Effingham County better,” Bevill said. “We’re trying to grow on top of doing all these small-town things. We have to accept the change and find a way to make the change work for us.
“Put your two cents in. People need to know how we need Effingham County shaped in the future. This is our home and this our county, and we want it to be the best place it can be.”