Photography Jason Huynh

Part of growing local businesses and asking outside organizations to plant their roots in your city’s backyard is understanding their needs. A good leader can build a bridge between resources and the goals of those with an entrepreneurial spirit. That connection requires a bit of savvy and a lot of good old-fashioned Southern charm. Cindy Williams has plenty of both and she says that after talking with her town, the sky is the limit for Cartersville and Bartow County.

V3: Alright Cindy, can you tell our readers the role the Chamber of Commerce plays in Bartow County?

CW: The Carterville-Bartow Chamber plays a vital role in the economic development in Bartow. We exist to serve, promote and add value to businesses in our community. This comes in many shapes and forms and presents new and fun challenges all the time. We are a resource for local organizations, both public and private. We are developers of local talent and leadership, innovators in addressing community and business needs, and experts in serving existing businesses. If you were to ask a variety of our 815 members what value they derive from being a member, you would receive a variety of answers. That’s because we are in the business of finding solutions for the organizations we serve and guiding our members through the oftentimes complicated course of starting and growing a thriving business.

V3: Can you walk us through some of your duties as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)?

CW: As CEO of the Chamber, I have the privilege of working internally with a team of five other professionals to advance our organization. Additionally, I have the honor of working with a community full of bright and talented individuals. My typical day revolves around a lot of meetings. However, each of these meetings allows me to better understand the unique environment and talent we have in Bartow County and, in turn, create better strategies and solutions for a variety of issues. No two days are typically alike. However, it would not be unusual to find me doing things like brainstorming with teams on community-wide initiatives such as workforce development, poverty elimination, or transportation enhancements; meeting with a local business owner to discuss their individual needs and recommending a plan of action; or collaborating with my Chamber team to develop programs and services that meet the broader needs of our membership.

V3: What is the Chamber’s biggest goal for 2019?

CW: Each year our Board of Directors convenes to discuss areas of opportunity for our organization and our community. This strategic planning session allows us to identify our organizational goals for the following year. I am extremely excited about the goals we have set for 2019. The top priority for our Chamber is to strengthen our business-to-education partnerships. Through multiple research avenues, both locally and regionally, we have learned that employers’ top concern for future growth is access to an educated workforce. Employer expectations include both hard skills, such as writing and computer programming, and soft skills like time management or communication skills. Thanks in large part to advanced technology, today’s workplace functions dramatically different than even five years ago. This rapid change in business, more than ever, requires steadfast partnerships and open lines of communication between local businesses and local educational institutions. Our largest goal in 2019 is to lead the path toward further collaboration, strategic thought processes, and a better understanding of the two environments of business and education. The strengths of Bartow County’s current leadership give us a competitive advantage in this area. Additionally, the Chamber’s connectivity to both business and education positions us perfectly to create positive outcomes for the success of our students and employers.

V3: How can the community get involved?

CW: There are several ways local community can be involved in the Chamber. Let us talk first about local businesses and non-profit organizations. Joining the Chamber is step one. Being a member not only connects businesses to the largest and most successful group of business owners, but it also adds credibility and affords direct opportunities for marketing, continued education, leadership development and networking. Members often find that through their involvement in the Chamber, they are more informed about local happenings, better prepared to face business challenges and viewed by others as a more credible entity. And on top of all of that useful information, when the benefits are properly utilized, members are typically more successful in generating business revenue. Moving beyond businesses and non-profits, people of are often surprised to learn how much individuals, both residents and visitors, can engage with the Chamber as well. By following our social media or checking our website, the general public can learn about new businesses opening in our area, fun events and happenings throughout Bartow County, and even snag some hot deals provided by our members. Our staff is always happy to refer member businesses to those looking to find a local product or service, or even send a lead request to member businesses to make price comparisons for services like hotel rooms, insurance or lawncare a breeze. One of our most frequently visited pages on our website is our member job postings which is another great resource for the public.

V3: Tell us your top two favorite things about Bartow County!

CW: My two favorite things about Bartow County are the people and the natural resources. Bartow County undoubtedly has some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met. It is a pleasure to work alongside local leadership that genuinely cares about the future of our community and business owners who understand they are part of something bigger. The amount of philanthropic activity in the county is awe-inspiring and I have never been prouder to work in partnership with such wonderful people. Secondly, I love being outside and I am never at a loss for places and areas to enjoy the natural beauty of Bartow County. Some of my favorites are the grand views of Allatoona Lake, the hiking trails, and the numerous county and city managed parks. From the hearts of its people to the scenery around every corner, Bartow County is a beautiful place.

Ashlee Bagnell is a graduate of Kennesaw State University where she received her BA in English. She spends her time writing (mostly) Bartow stories at Noble & Main. When she isn’t writing for the magazine, she can be found reading, drinking coffee, binge watching Netflix and HBO shows, drinking more coffee, and even sometimes acting with ACT I Inc., a community theatre based in Cartersville. She lives in Euharlee, Ga. with her family and her two senior adult dogs Milo and Charlie Brown.