The Gilmer Chamber is using both a new Facebook group and its website to share stories about interesting local residents.
The local chamber of commerce launched the Facebook group, This is Ellijay, earlier this month, but the entire initiative had been in the works for a while before then, noted Caitlin Neal, Gilmer Chamber communications manager.
“The phrase ‘This Is Ellijay’ was coined in 2019 and we picked it up as a chamber hashtag. We started working on this idea and then, suddenly, COVID-19 hit. Then, in mid-July, we started publishing articles and sharing them on Facebook. Now, finally, the group has launched,” she added. “It seems like people are receiving it pretty well, which makes all the hard work worth it. We have just under 600 members right now, which is fantastic.”
Neal described This Is Ellijay as a place where the chamber’s three different service areas intersect.
“We are economic development, we are tourism and we are business involvement and chamber membership. This is where all three of those things come together, but it serves the three different areas in different ways,” she said.
In the Facebook group, the chamber posts shorter pieces and profiles accompanied by a photo of the featured local or locals holding a sign that reads This Is Ellijay.
“They are people who have positive, uplifting stories about things they’ve been doing or about their businesses,” Neal said. The chamber’s website, GilmerChamber.com, is home to another This Is Ellijay component that includes longer stories and additional photos.
“A lot of these articles are about people who’ve relocated here or who have interesting jobs and or who do cool things. They have a certain tone with people talking about their interesting lives, but also how they love Ellijay. They’re talking about their work, but also why they moved here. One of the big areas where industry experts have said there is potential for us to grow our workforce is by attracting remote workers. All the (long-form) stories we’ve told so far are about people who either work for themselves or work remotely,” said Neal.
New members can join the Facebook group that’s being promoted as “Gilmer’s happiest little corner of the internet,” but their request first has to be approved by moderators.
“The purpose behind the group is that there are so many unhappy people and things on Facebook right now. We thought we could make this a page where we talk about the community or we could make it a group where we invite people to join and also tell their stories. That way, we can make it a conversation we’re having with the community,” Neal said.
Group members are welcome to share their own stories, photos or things they enjoy about living or working here.
“We’ve also ordered some stickers and we have a prompt every week that we ask people to reply to. At 5 p.m. on Friday, I look through and see who’s replied and got good engagement, then we announce five winners. They (message) us their address and we mail them a sticker on Monday morning,” Neal said.
Some of the local residents who’ve been profiled so far include graphic designer Abigail Showalter, and husband and wife ceramic pottery makers Peyton and Tara Knadler.
“They can be anybody,” Neal said. “With Abigail and Tara and Peyton, we found them on Instagram and it was completely out of nowhere. There are so many people who’ve moved here in the past 10 years and you may not know they’re here, but they are doing the coolest stuff.”
This Is Ellijay will replace another chamber Facebook page, Gilmer’s Got it, which focused more on spotlighting locally-owned businesses, Neal said.
“Gilmer’s Got It was fantastic and a great way to get people out there by encouraging them to shop local. What we’ve realized is there’s kind of an opposite movement now where you really don’t have to encourage folks as much to shop or eat local. That’s kind of the cool thing to do now,” she added.
“This Is Ellijay is intended to be a placemaking initiative. Whether you live here and you just want to be proud of where you live or you want to visit here and find out what Ellijay is like, by telling the stories of these people, places and things you will know that this is Ellijay.”