ELLIJAY, Ga. – With the recent announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 Apple Festival, many are still wondering about the impact, the decisions, and the virus’ toll on the festival season.
Earlier this year, Chamber officials were planning on make-up days for the Apple Blossom Festival left over from May. At one point, discussions were set to host the Apple Blossom Festival in August and then the Apple Festival in October as normal. Now, neither of these festivals will see make-up days as the boards over each have fully cancelled the events.
Most of the citizens concerns voice through comments and social media revolve more around the virus than any economic impact. Some are applauding the choice, like Dylan Slade who called it a good decision stating, “Public Health Foremost.”
Still others are discounting the choice. Courtney Graham didn’t state whether she thought the cancellation was good or bad, but did state, “The apple houses are open, the rental cabins are open, they will still come.”
This statement does hold some merit as FYN gathered reports from the county and cities. According to Gilmer County’s Financial Officer, Sandi Holden, the collections of Hotel/Motel Tax in June alone reached $113,870. According to county records, their Hotel/Motel Tax has never been over $100,000 in the last three years. Comparing June to the same month in previous years, 2019 totaled $78,044. In 2018, June totaled $75, 108. In 2017, June totaled only $52,838.
Additionally, there has been only one month that reached $90,000. That was October 2019.
Ellijay is not that different, either. Their year-to-date report shows them already reaching $8,196 by July. Just under half of last year’s total collection of $16,882 and just over two-thirds of 2018’s $11,399 total.
However, October is consistently among the highest months for the county, showing that the Festival season does have a major impact on local economy. October was the highest month of the year for Hotel/Motel Tax in both 2018 and 2019. In 2017, it was third highest behind November and July, the highest month.
Digging deeper than just Hotel/Motel Tax, SPLOST collections on sales tax in the County paint a very similar story with one notable difference.
Just like the Hotel/Motel, SPLOST shows the months of June and July of 2020 setting records for collections in the county. According to Holden, June 2020 saw a SPLOST revenue of $440,176. July 2020 saw a SPLOST Revenue of $453,981.
SPLOST Revenue has only gone above $400,000 three times in the last six years. December 2019 reached $406,020. November 2018 reached $400,655. In those years, October has never gone above $400,000. The final also came in 2020, January reached $401,243.
Therein lies the difference. Whereas the Hotel/Motel Tax saw major increases in October, SPLOST collections saw less so, with October usually falling behind November and December in collections.
Comparatively, April of 2020, which worried local county and city governments and saw halts to projects and capital spending as they awaited the numbers to see how bad the economy would get, saw a collection of $374,630. Higher than any previous year’s October except 2019.
Locals are split with some saying they are happy with the decision and others questioning different signals from different entities. Some online have commented saying that one entity is cancelling the festival while another entity is pushing forward with opening schools, a hot topic in August with news stories from all over Georgia highlighting the issue.
However, one downtown business owner is optimistic despite the cancelled festival.
Steve Cortes, owner of WhimZ Boutique and Heart and Vine and a former head of the merchant’s association, said, “It’s certainly going to have an impact.”
Cortes explained, however, that his hope is that a lot of people will still come. Even in recent years, he notes that his business has had many vacationers, leaf-lookers, and others who either didn’t know of the Festival or weren’t planning to attend.
Cortes admitted there would be an impact, but added on saying, “I don’t think it’s going to have as big of an impact as everybody fears.”
He said that he believes many of the counties visitors have already made plans and probably won’t cancel them. And so he is preparing for an increase as he notes he has continued following guidelines with masks and other ways to combat the virus in his store.
One major note he added, is that August is looking better than his recent months in the business. Comparing sales and business with previous years, August has been optimistically close.
Comparisons of finances are suggesting just as many people could be heading our way in October. It seems an impact is coming, but no clear picture is available yet on what kind of increase or decrease could be seen. Cancelling the festival could mean that business is more spread out across the county, or it could mean overcrowded Apple Houses and Vineyards. It could either mean a more spread out October instead of focused into two weekends, or it could mean a dip from the record setting two months that the county has seen in June and July.
According to a recent release by South State Bank, a definitive agreement has been signed with Park Sterling Corporation, holding company for Park Sterling Bank.
The release also states, “Combining the two companies will create a $14.5 billion in assets franchise operating throughout the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia.”
While both boards have reportedly approved the merger unanimously, the merger will actually begin transitioning in the fourth quarter of 2017 and continue with systems conversions into the first quarter of 2018 after approvals by regulatory boards and shareholders. At that time, Park Sterling Corporation will be merged into South State Corporation, and Park Sterling’s bank subsidiary, Park Sterling Bank, will be merged into South State’s bank subsidiary, South State Bank.
James C. Cherry, CEO of Park Sterling Corporation, commented on the merger stating, “Our team is proud to be partnering with South State to create what we believe will come to be recognized as the preeminent regional community banking franchise in the Southeast. This combination will substantially fulfill our vision of truly becoming big enough to have the talent and services necessary to help customers achieve their financial aspirations while still remaining small enough and passionate enough to care that they do.”
After the companies merge, Cherry will be appointed to the combined company’s board of directors in addition to another individual to be mutually agreed upon and named at a later date.
As of now, Park Sterling Bank has over 50 branches across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. According to South State’s release, “under the terms of the agreement, shareholders of Park Sterling Corporation will receive 0.14 shares of South State common stock for each share of Park Sterling common stock. The aggregate consideration is valued at approximately $690.8 million in the aggregate, based on 53,112,726 shares of Park Sterling common stock outstanding as of March 31, 2017 and on South State’s April 26, 2017 closing stock price of $91.90.”
Senate Gets Down to Business
By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)
Although the Senate was in session for only two days this week, my colleagues and I were very busy under the Gold Dome addressing budget proposals and a key piece of legislation on the Senate Floor.
The week started with Joint Senate and House Appropriations hearings on the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets. Governor Deal kicked off the hearings which included several different agencies presenting their budget proposals. I am happy to say that the state’s budget continues to be in good shape, with the General FY19 budget topping $26 billion for the first time. The General FY19 budget proposals were drafted with an estimated 2.9 percent state fund growth and around 3.8 percent tax revenue growth over the Amended FY18 revenue estimates. Included in the General FY19 budget are increases in funding for education and transportation.
The General FY19 budget addresses the needs for the state to meet determined employer contributions within the Teachers Retirement System with a proposed increase of around $364 million. Additionally, around $120 million would be appropriated for enrollment growth and training. Along with these positive changes in the General FY19 budget, an important proposal in the Amended FY18 budget is adding $15 million to purchase 194 school buses statewide. This will positively impact our students by ensuring that buses are not overcrowded.
The state’s growing need to address transportation infrastructure is also addressed in the General FY19 budget. An additional $31.6 million in projected revenues resulting from House Bill 170 – passed during the 2015 Legislation Session – will be added to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) budget. I am very happy to see that a piece of legislation we passed a couple of years ago is still making positive impacts for GDOT.
Along with attending the budget hearings and carefully reviewing the proposals for the Amended FY18 and General FY19 budgets, my colleagues and I took up a very important piece of legislation in Senate Chamber. On Thursday, the Senate passed the Supporting and Strengthening Families Act, also known as the Adoption Bill, or HB 159. This bill passed with bipartisan support and is now headed over to the House of Representatives for their review. Final passage of this legislation and a signature into law by the Governor would allow our state to update our adoption system which has been the same for nearly 30 years.
The Senate’s version of HB 159 clarifies many of the laws regarding who can adopt, who can act as a legal guardian and the rights held by the biological parents before and after giving their child up for adoption. Additionally, the version the Senate passed on Thursday states that if an agency is not involved in a private adoptive process, living expenses cannot be paid. The only expenses that can be paid in a private adoption are medical and counseling. These are just some of the highlights of the Senate version of HB 159. As this legislation moves through the legislative process, my colleagues and I will work with the Governor and House of Representatives to ensure there is cooperation to address concerns anyone may have. It is imperative that we pass this legislation so that we can assist the large number of children who are in foster care and need a loving and stable home.
The pace of the session is going to pick up quickly with standing committees beginning to hold meetings next week to vet legislation pending from last year along with new bills introduced this year. As we move forward in the session, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns and feedback. It is always great to hear from my constituents and our door is always open.
Senator David Perdue Recaps This Year’s Results, Previews 2018 on Fox News
ATLANTA, GA – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) spoke with Mike Emanuel on Fox News’ Special Report about President Trump’s significant accomplishments during his first year in office and the priorities heading into 2018.
Delivering Results: “President Trump laid out four agenda items this year. We accomplished most of them. President Trump wants to continue to get results. The economy is going to move now that we started regulatory work and with the tax bill we just passed.”
Early Success: “The President is working diligently to get ready for 2018, but he is very happy with the results of 2017. His first year in office we saw 2 million new jobs created, 860 rules and regulations being reversed, illegal crossings down 60%, 500 people have been fired at the Veterans Administration for non-performance. The President is very excited about the future of our country now that we’re moving to get the economy going again.”
Business Focus: “We have a business guy in the White House for a change. He is moving at a business place, not a bureaucratic pace. Look, 2018 is an election year, but we have different leadership in the White House. He is not going to waive off his priorities for an election process.”
Immigration Solution: “President Trump, Senator Tom Cotton, and I have been consistently saying that any solution for DACA has to include an end to this archaic chain migration and money for border security and the wall at our southern border.”
Helping American Workers: “That’s what’s wrong with Washington, career politicians don’t understand how the free enterprise system works. The best thing we can do for the American worker, the American consumer, for anyone who works in America is to help our businesses, large and small, become competitive again with the rest of the world.”
Breaking The Gridlock: “The problem in Washington is gridlock. The minority party is causing that right now, but there are signs of encouragement. Frankly, the immigration issue is one that should have a bipartisan solution. We believe we can do that early in the new year. The President is going to keep focused on that as we get back to work next week.”
Senator David Perdue Addresses Local Elected Officials At White House
“Georgia is leading the way”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), Vice President Mike Pence, and senior Trump Administration officials joined Georgia county commissioners and state legislators at a White House event this week highlighting how Georgia is leading at the national level to help influence and shape major policy decisions impacting the people of Georgia and our country.
Best State For Business: “This is the fifth year in a row that Georgia has been named the best state in the country in which to do business. That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because we’re business friendly. We have great people and great workers, and we have state legislators that are from the real world – people who come for 40 or 45 days and then go home to their businesses or professions to make a living for their family. I believe that keeps you in direct contact with what’s important.”
Leading The Way: “I want to highlight a few Georgians who are serving in this Administration: our former governor, Sonny Perdue, is doing a great job as Secretary of Agriculture; Nick Ayers is the Vice President’s Chief of Staff; Billy Kirkland is Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the White House. Tom Graves and Doug Collins are in different forms of leadership in the House. Johnny Isakson is leading the charge for our veterans. Zippy Duvall is President of the Farm Bureau and making a big difference. Chris Wray is our FBI Director. Ashley Bell is Director of External Affairs for the Peace Corps. Major General Bob McMahon from Warner Robins is an Assistant Secretary of Defense, and we’ve nominated and confirmed several U.S. attorneys and federal judges from Georgia.”
Making A Serious Impact: “Many of the people you’ve heard from today have Georgia roots. It’s clear that the state of Georgia is hitting way above our weight class. We’re the eighth largest state in the country population wise and we’re making a serious impact up here.”
Senator Perdue and Vice President Pence were joined by several Georgia natives serving in the Trump administration, including Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue; Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff, Nick Ayers; and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Deputy Director, Billy Kirkland. Representatives from the Small Business Administration, Departments of Transportation, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Energy and Education, and Housing and Urban Development also addressed the group.