On each side of the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College on Friday evening, large, red letters spelling out FoCo stood behind speakers as they shared “ideas worth spreading” at the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s annual event.
With chamber officials trying something new this year instead of a traditional awards ceremony in the past, the event, called “FoCo Talks,” was an homage to TED Talks, a series of live talks and videos featuring experts and others speakers sharing ideas, and similarly had speakers sharing ideas and developments impacting Forsyth County and local businesses.
“Everyone has heard of TED Talks —Technology, Education and Design — and the concept behind a TED Talk is that there are ideas that are worth spreading,” said Kevin McDonough, chairman of the chamber, near the beginning of the event. “We as a chamber have ideas worth spreading, so we are going to borrow that for some FoCo Talks.”
With the stages facing each other, a speaker would begin on one stage before passing off to their counterpart across the room. The event also featured a pair of intermissions to allow more time for chamber members to mingle.
Here are some of the ideas worth sharing from the ceremony.
A new home
The biggest announcement of the evening came from Lynn Jackson, administrator of Northside Hospital Forsyth and a chamber board member, who highlighted the recent sale if the chamber’s current facility on Kelly Mill Road and the purchase of a new site in downtown Cumming.
“We’ve really outgrown … our current facility, and we’ve been in our facility for 20 years now. It’s a long time,” Jackson said. “When we moved into that facility, many of you will remember that that was a big step. It was a major move for the chamber, and now it’s time for us to make the next huge step and move to our new office.”
In September, Forsyth County Commissioners approved the purchase of the chamber’s current center at 212 Kelly Mill Road and 3.1 acres for $800,000.
Jackson also announced the chamber’s new facility being “just off the square” in downtown Cumming and would include increased office space, new meeting space and the city’s welcome center.
She said the chamber is also planning a new economic development center and Forsyth County welcome center at Halcyon, a mixed-use development in south Forsyth which will open next year.
During the event, McDonough interviewed James McCoy, president and CEO of the chamber, who spoke about a new branding effort being undertaken by the chamber.
“What we’re really talking about is reinventing the way the chamber works and operates and the creation of not just a new identity but a new organization,” McCoy said.
McCoy said he would need the help of chamber members to help come up with a new identity, new community brand and creation of a definition of where the chamber is today.
Filming in Forsyth
As film production has grown in both Georgia and Forsyth County, Michelle Daniels, director of tourism with the chamber, laid out the impact of the industry on the local economy.
“When film productions come to Forsyth County, they support our local businesses with supplies and catering,” Daniels said. “They stay in our local hotels, and they really support our local industry here, which helps boost the local tax digest, which in turn keeps the property taxes low, which we like.”
Daniels said since the chamber began a push to host tours of potential filming location, provide photos and video of potential sites and letting film producers know what the county has to offer, called Film Forsyth, the county has seen a 367 percent increase in local filming request.
From fall of last year until early this spring, the Netflix series “Ozark” filmed in the county, and since 2012, films and TV shows including “Vampire Diaries,” “Goosebumps,” “Love & Hip Hop,” “Fast and Furious 8,” “Game Night,” AMC’s “Halt & Catch Fire” and HGTV’s “Bargain Hunters” all filmed locally.
Forsyth County, the chamber and the county’s development authority are currently updating a new economic development plan for the county, and authority chairman David Seago gave attendees an update on Friday.
Seago said the plan has four main components.
“No. 1, establishing a clear identity for our business community and marketing that identity to target markets. No. 2, business development and establishing relationships with key, target industries,” he said. “No. 3, development of a new product, particularly as it relates to office and what is known as ‘place-making.’ We talk about places like Halcyon, live-work-play. No. 4, the plan calls for us to work on some key catalyst projects.”
Those key projects include focusing on emerging technologies, development of a new business park in north Forsyth, working with regional partners for a new airport outside the county and development of transportation corridors and more access for transit options.
One of the proposed changes is designating Ga. 400 as an interstate highway.