When it comes to groundbreakings for new construction, most follow a similar pattern: a few remarks from individuals tied to the project before a handful of officials ceremonially lift dirt out of the ground with gold-plated shovels.
But a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Webb Street home for the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce shook things up a bit by having the entire audience grab a shovel, put on a hardhat and take part in the groundbreaking.
“[Incoming chamber chairman] Carter Patterson and I have had this conversation, when you’re in this line of work, you go to a lot of groundbreakings and how phenomenal it would be if, at the end of one, everybody said, ‘OK, we’ve got about two-and-a-half hours of work ahead of us, let’s get to it,’ but we’re not going to do that y’all today,” joked chamber president and CEO James McCoy.
McCoy said he wanted all in attendance to take part in the groundbreaking because everyone there had contributed to the building, which will be two-stories tall and will total 12,000 square feet and is set to open in July. Chamber officials sold and moved out of their longtime location on Kelly Mill Road and have moved into temporary space.
“But really, today is all about future and this ceremony marks the beginning of a new life for our chamber,” McCoy said. “This new building will house the chamber that will be the gold standard for local economic development organizations in the nation, a chamber that is on the very cutting-edge of what supporting entrepreneur startups and technology firms, what that means in this country.”
While looking toward the future of the chamber, McCoy also brought up the organization's past and how far both the chamber and local area have come in recent years.
“Sixty-five years ago, a group of business leaders decided they wanted more for their community,” McCoy said. “They got together at Sawnee EMC, and they talked about creating a chamber of commerce, and those folks wanted then what we still want today, greater prosperity, they wanted greater economic opportunity, they wanted their kids to have a better life than they did. They wanted a community where building a better life wasn’t just a dream, but it was a daily reality.”
McCoy said the first chamber’s first economic development project was bringing a chicken plant to downtown Cumming, and since then, the chamber had become one of the most well respected in the state.
Over the last year, the chamber has served 39 economic development clients representing $105 billion in capital improvements and 824 new jobs, along with eight film productions.
“I often wonder about what those business leaders 65 years ago would say if they could see that Forsyth County is in the very top tier of the most affluent communities in the nation,” McCoy said, “That our public schools are internationally recognized for high graduation rates and test scores, that we’re home to 75 international companies, that we are continually ranked among the healthiest counties in the country and the healthiest in Georgia and remarkably that the central challenge that we face as a community is what we can do with all of this growth we are blessed with, how we can maintain that growth and prosperity for generations to come.”