Gartland focused on the importance of local businesses and residents getting involved with their local Chamber of Commerce and contributing their time and skills to help their local small businesses thrive.
“The Chamber is the heartbeat of Haralson County,” Gartland said. “You need to be involved. You are the movers and shakers of this county.”
As a former member of the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, Gartland worked with 20 lawyers and 12 economists looking at proposed legislations to determine its affect on small businesses and local economies as part of the government’s checks and balances system. He said despite the fact they were paid by the government, their job was to act on behalf of citizens against the government.
“We sued the federal government on behalf of small businesses,” Gartland said speaking to entrepreneurs and small business owners. “You need to know that you do have advocates, and you do have help here. You have a number of organizations available to you, but start first with your chamber.”
Gartland also emphasized that chamber participation is something that transcends party lines.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a “D,” an “R” or an “I,” he said. “Get in the fight. [...] The party line is you. He’s your representative, your senator, and he’s supposed to answer to you, not the party.”
Gartland encouraged more cooperation and interaction between local politicians, the chamber and local businesses.
“The point is to keep building your inner-city or inner-county areas,” he said. “There needs to be more done in your [local] economic community [to encourage growth].”
According to Gartland, small businesses employ half of all Americans and should be shown support from the local community as well as elected officials. He also noted that running your own business is a very difficult task.
“You have to have a PhD to run a small business,” Gartland said. “I’m talking about passion, heart and desire.”
Lastly, Gartland encouraged everyone to get involved in their community and their chamber and to include it in their list of priorities this year.
“This country is counting on each and every one of us,” he said, “and we can make a difference.”
In addition to Gartland’s speech, the crowd was also treated to the announcement of several awards.
Tallapoosa Planning Committee Chair, Haralson County Historical Society member and Tallapoosa Historical Society member Ann Crim was named the Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year. Berry Plastics Corp., which has been in business for 40 years, was named Manufacturer of the Year. Family owned and operated Davis Septic and Pumping Inc. was named Small Business of the Year. Lawyana McElroy was this year’s recipient of the Chairman’s Award.
Chamber Past Chairman Steve Graddick also passed the gavel to incoming Chairwoman Kathy Yates.
Yates said in the coming year she would like to see the Haralson County Chamber of Commerce develop a woman’s business alliance.
“This would give you the opportunity to network, get involved and share successful business practices,” she said.
Yates also set a goal for the chamber: to reach 500 members in 2010.
Chamber President Jennie English closed the meeting with an optimistic note: “We do care about our members. It’s an honor to serve you, and we are going to make a difference together.”