Walker Rocks Start Up Challenge Seeks Applicants for Round 2

Rock Spring, GA – Dozens of companies with a household name have been started with a great idea and a little seed money.  If you have a winning concept, the Walker County Chamber of Commerce wants to hear from you.

Round 2 of the Walker Rocks Start Up Challenge kicks off today.  The grant competition returns with another $5,000 in funding to help a recreational, tourism or hospitality related business get started or expand services in Walker County.  “This year, we will also consider other types of businesses, non-profits, civic and community organizations which add to the quality of life and contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the local economy,” said Lacey Wilson, President of the Walker County Chamber.

David Bridges, owner of Battlefield Outdoors, won last year’s contest after he pitched adding a passenger van to his business to transport outdoor enthusiasts to hiking, biking and kayaking destinations in Walker County.  The van was also wrapped with the Walker Rocks logo, creating a mobile billboard to promote tourism in Walker County.

Applications for the Walker Rocks Start Up Challenge, including rules and judging criteria, are available online at WalkerRocks.com.

Schedule:

  • August 14thApplications available
  • September 23rd – Application deadline
  • October 1st – Finalists announced
  • October 17th – Pitch Competition

The $5,000 start-up grant is funded by a partnership between the Walker County Chamber of Commerce and Peach State Federal Credit Union. Grant funds will be distributed in the form of a reimbursement for documented expenses.

Walker Rocks highlights the scenic and stunning destinations available in Walker County for rock climbing, caving, kayaking, hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures. The award winning tourism initiative embraces the county’s environmental assets and invites outdoor enthusiasts to come play.

Rossville Commons Project Lands “Keep Communities Flowing” Grant

Release from Tennessee American Water:

Rossville, GA – Tennessee American Water announces that a $20,000 grant has been awarded to the Top of Georgia, in partnership with the Rossville ReDev Workshop.  The grant will fund the John Ross Commons park and pond improvements and create an outdoor eco learning lab in Rossville.  The grant is funded by the American Water Charitable Foundation through its new Keep Communities Flowing Grant Program.

“Tennessee American Water is excited to continue working with Rossville citizens and city officials on the Rossville Commons,” said Darlene Williams, President of Tennessee American Water. “Since community leaders shared their vision in 2017 for transforming the historical duck pond and park, we have been on board, helping in a number of different ways.”

Tennessee American Water contributions have included employees joining Rossville residents to plant the new landscape, the installation of a main in 2017 so the transformed park would have irrigation and an environmental grant award to support the watershed protection efforts of the natural spring.

“We are grateful to the American Water Charitable Foundation, and Tennessee American Water, for being selected for this very generous grant,” said Rossville ReDev Workshop co-founder Elizabeth Wells. “Tennessee American Water has been a tremendous partner on the rehab of the John Ross Commons from the onset. We believe this new grant will be the exclamation point on this public space that means so much to the citizens of Rossville.”

In addition to the community-based group Rossville ReDev Workshop and the City of Rossville, other partners include the Top of Georgia economic development organization and Georgia State Senator Jeff Mullis.  John Ross Commons serves as an economic driver, quality of life enhancer, and point of pride for a community that is ready to revitalize. The space is also the foundation for a safe outdoor location which area schools will be able to utilize for educational programing and events.

“Our ongoing partnership with ReDev Workshop is helping to bring Rossville back one project at a time. This is an exciting time for Rossville and its citizens,” said Rossville Mayor Teddy Harris.  “We couldn’t do it without the support of our partners and their generous support through donations, time and talent.”

In its inaugural year, the American Water Charitable Foundation’s Keep Communities Flowing Grant Program provided 11 grants, up to $20,000 each, to support 501(c)(3) organizations, programs and projects that connected to one or more of American Water’s core focus areas of Water and the Environment, Water and Healthy Living, Environmental Education, and Community Sustainability.

How Walker Works – Business License

Starting a business in Walker County will soon be more straightforward.  Beginning July 1st, 2019, entrepreneurs will be able to stop by the county’s Planning office and obtain a business license.

Jennifer McSpadden, Owner, Pie Slingers Pizzeria, says “It’s a sense of pride, it kicks everything off and you get excited about opening your business and getting it started.”  McSpadden adds the process of starting a business in Walker County has been confusing.  “In every other location that I’ve opened, and I’ve had four other locations besides here in Walker County… the first step to opening a business is acquiring a business license.”

The Small Business Administration, financial planners like Dave Ramsey and others all advise this step, since a business license is required to complete many start-up functions.  “So they kind of hit that roadblock when they are going to get set up for business insurance or a business loan or even to get set up as a wholesale vendor sometimes they are asked where is your business license,” says Lacey Wilson, President, Walker County Chamber of Commerce.

Along with offering benefits to business owners, consumers will now be able to see which businesses are following the rules and which are not.  Licensing will also provide more accurate economic development data to help recruit industry… data not currently available in the community, because it’s unclear just how many businesses and skilled workers exist.  Wilson adds, “So, if we have an automotive supplier and they’re coming to the area and want to know information about similar businesses, we don’t have that information. If you have a large manufacturer who is locating maybe to another county in our region and they want to know if Walker County is a good fit for their suppliers, we also don’t have that information to be able to give them.”

While licensing begins July 1st for new businesses, existing businesses have until January 1st, 2020 to obtain a license.  There’s a nominal fee of $50 to $150 for the license, depending on the number of employees.

When all the other businesses need to have one, there is accountability to our county.  We all have to have a state license or sales tax license, but to have local accountability and know that your are providing locally.  And then our local government can help us in that they understand we’re a part of their growth and sustainability is very important to us,” says McSpadden.

The cities within Walker County already require a business license.  The new county license only applies to businesses operating in the unincorporated areas.  The application process will open in late May/early June.

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“Walker Rocks” Visionary Honored with Chamber Award

Rock Spring, GA – Everywhere he goes, Robert Wardlaw takes the message of why Walker Rocks with him.  His excitement for Walker County’s abundance of exhilarating outdoor experiences knows no equal.

Appointed by Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield last March to serve as the county’s Economic and Community Development Director, Wardlaw began examining quality of life issues important to business and industry.  Following a recreational hike on Lookout Mountain last spring, he started developing a vision to grow the county’s sales tax base by showcasing its environmental wonders.

After months of planning behind the scenes, Walker Rocks emerged in late June.  The partnership between Walker County Government and the Walker County Chamber of Commerce serves as a platform to encourage outdoor enthusiasts to make the Walker County trip to go hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking and caving, among other activities.

During the Walker County Chamber’s Annual Dinner, Wardlaw was honored as the 2018 Chamber Member of the Year.  The award comes on the heels of Northwest Georgia’s Historic High Country Travel Association recognizing Walker Rocks with the 2018 Award for Association Excellence for Best Marketing Campaign.

As word continues to spread about Walker County’s exciting options for tourists, bookings at locations like Mountain Cove Farms Resort and sales tax revenue have grown.  In fact, there was an $88,519 increase in sales tax revenue from July-November last year when compared to the same period in 2017.

The Walker Rocks team continues to explore options to grow the tourism brand in 2019.  Several exciting announcements are planning in the months to come.

How Walker Works – Development Authority

Since the 1960’s, the Walker County Development Authority has worked to recruit and retain business and industry in our community.  Robert Wardlaw, Economic & Community Development Director sums it up like this, “We turn dirt into jobs, that is our mission… and jobs help families.”

The Development Authority consists of six members: one from LaFayette, one from Chickamauga, one from Rossville, one from the county and two at-large members.  While represented by the cities and county, the authority operates independently, as established by the state of Georgia.

Serving as the first point of contact, the Development Authority connects a prospective industry with available buildings and land, workforce data, permitting agencies and other community information.  “Property that would be owned by the Development Authority would certainly be marketable to prospective new businesses and also private landowners would contact us and ask us to put their property that would be suitable for industrial development into our database/inventory of available property,” explained Wardlaw.

The Development Authority is also the only entity in Walker County that can offer incentives, such as tax abatements, bond financing or free land, among other considerations.  Wardlaw said, “All of these things are carefully weighed to their appropriateness through what value is the prospective industry going to bring to the citizens of the county.”

The Development Authority holds public meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 10:00 a.m. at the Walker County Civic Center.

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Sunday Alcohol Sales Now Legal in Walker County

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield signed off on an ordinance amendment last night giving local businesses the ability to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

In November, voters approved two ballot measures addressing alcohol sales.  61% approved giving restaurants the ability to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits by the drink on Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and midnight.  62% voted to allow beer and wine sales at grocery and convenience stores on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Walker County already allows on premise consumption (liquor by the drink) and package sales of beer and wine Monday through Saturday.  The change to the ordinance takes effect immediately, giving existing licensed businesses the green light to make sales on Sunday, December 30th.
Hours of sale in unincorporated Walker County (effective 12/28/18)

On premise consumption (restaurants):
Monday – Thursday – 8:00 a.m. to midnight
Friday – Saturday – 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
Sunday – 11:00 a.m. to midnight

Off premise sales (retail – grocery/convenience stores):
Monday – Saturday – 24 hours per day
Sunday – 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

How Walker Works – Zoning

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Walker County first adopted land development regulations in the early 1980’s to establish standards and procedures for development and to foster safe and orderly growth in the county.  The planning office handle any rezones, variances, subdivision plats and building permits.

Every parcel of land in Walker County has been given a zoning designation, classifying how the property can be used. There are ten different types of zones in Walker County.  “R1 is your most restricted residential zoning. No businesses, no mobile homes are allowed and it’s only single family. No multi-family allowed,” said Kristy Parker, Planner.

R1, R2, R3 and RA cover residential.  There is also A1 for agriculture, C1 for commercial, CN for commercial neighborhood like a hair salon or convenience store, I1 for industrial, PUD for planned unit developments such as Fieldstone Farms, and CBOD or the Chickamauga Battlefield Overlay District.

Property can be rezoned by filing an application at the Planning Office, receiving approval from the Planning Commission and approval from the County Commissioner.

Walker County & City of LaFayette Recognized for Tourism Efforts

Cartersville, GA – Walker County’s growing reputation as an outdoor adventure destination just received a boost from regional travel industry professionals.  Northwest Georgia’s Historic High Country Travel Association (HHCTA) recognized Walker Rocks with the 2018 Award for Association Excellence for Best Marketing Campaign.

Walker Rocks, a partnership between the Walker County Chamber of Commerce and Walker County Government, highlights the scenic and stunning destinations available in the county for rock climbing, caving, kayaking, hiking, biking and other outdoor experiences.  The campaign launched with the creation of videos highlighting local attractions, a start-up grant competition to encourage business growth in the tourism industry and the introduction of walkerrocks.com and several social media platforms, among other efforts.

“It’s thrilling to know that others in the region are taking note of what we have to offer here in Walker County,” said Lacey Wilson, President of the Walker County Chamber of Commerce.  “The Chamber is proud to be part of the collaborative team working to showcase and share the assets of this community with the rest of the world.”

Robert Wardlaw, Economic & Community Development Director for Walker County Government, said “This validates the valuable role tourism plays in our community.  Six months in and we’re already seeing an increase in sales tax revenue and a boost in occupancy at area accommodations.”  Wardlaw added, “Walker Rocks is fun, but Walker Rocks is also an economic initiative to help bring equity to our tax base, which in turn helps our citizens.”

HHCTA, which is comprised of travel industry professionals from a 17-county area, also honored one of Walker County’s cities for its tourism efforts.  HHCTA named the City of LaFayette’s Honeybee Festival as Best Event and LaFayette Mayor Andy Arnold as Tourism Advocate of the Year.

How Walker Works – Building Permits

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The Walker County Planning Office serves as the county’s permitting office, issuing permits for building construction, electrical service repair and installation, mobile homes, modular homes, accessory buildings and land disturbance activity.

“Any structural change or any addition, you have to get a permit,” said planning staff member, Kristy Parker.

Any structure that is 10×10 or larger requires a permit, including pre-built storage sheds. New construction will also undergo four mandatory inspections to insure life safety and design standards.  “A footing foundation, a rough-in inspection, a final electrical and a final walk-through,” added Parker.

Projects like painting, remodeling a bathroom or adding a pool or fence to your property to not require a permit. For additional information about the permitting process, contact our staff at (706) 638-4048.

Battlefield Outdoors Wins First Walker Rocks Start-Up Challenge Pitch Competition

Chickamauga, GA – Walker Rocks will soon be hitting the road.  David Bridges, owner of Battlefield Outdoors, won a $5,000 grant at the first ever Walker Rocks Start-up Challenge pitch competition.  Bridges competed against two other finalists, selected from a pool of applicants.

Bridges pitched the idea of adding a passenger van to his business to transport outdoor enthusiasts to hiking, biking and kayaking destinations in Walker County and other parts of the southeast.  The van will be wrapped with the Walker Rocks logo, along with artwork featuring Walker County based attractions.  “It’s a way for people to find out about us and to get interest in an area that we know is so great,” said Bridges.  “There are so many things that would lend to people wanting to come here.”

The Walker Rocks Start-up Challenge pitch competition was designed to help a recreational, travel or hospitality business get started or expand in Walker County, building on the momentum created by the launch of Walker Rocks this summer.

Walker Rocks highlights the scenic and stunning destinations available in Walker County for rock climbing, caving, kayaking, hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures. The new tourism initiative embraces the county’s environmental assets and invites outdoor enthusiasts to come play.

In addition to promoting tourism in Walker County, Bridges said the shuttle, which will be able to carry up to 15 people, will make it feasible for Battlefield Outdoors to take people to Pigeon Mountain, McLemore Cove and other locations for excursions.

The $5,000 start-up grant is funded by a partnership between the Walker County Chamber of Commerce and Peach State Federal Credit Union. Grant funds will be distributed in the form of a reimbursement for documented expenses.