Category Archives: News & Events

Chamber Announces New Membership Benefit, Free Discount Rx Card

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce is proud to offer our members and your employees,  family/friends a FREE DISCOUNT DRUG CARD. Receive savings of up to 75 percent at over 56,000 pharmacies across the country (savings average around 30 percent). This card is especially helpful if you are uninsured or underinsured. However, even if you have insurance, you can still use this card to get a discount on non-covered drugs. All prescriptions processed through the program are completely confidential (no name required on card).

This program is being provided to Mitchell County Chamber members and your employees and family to help lower your prescription drug costs.  This card can be used as your primary plan and/or it can be used on prescriptions not covered by your insurance plan. This program also includes other value added programs which will be listed on the card. Please enter your name in the box below and we will generate a printable membership card for you (no application/enrollment or eligibility required). This program has “LOWEST PRICE” logic to guarantee that you get the best deal on your prescriptions. (You pay the lower of a discount off Average Wholesale Price–AWP, discount off MAC Pricing or Pharmacy Promotional/Retail price). This card is pre-activated and can be used immediately!

Print a card for yourself, employees, friends and family by clicking here.

 

Chamber launches new workforce development project Mitchell Works

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“One of the missions of the Chamber is to respond to the needs of our members and to try to partner with them to find solutions,” said Patti Jensen, Executive Director, Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce.

After hearing from the  business community of their concerns regarding both their current and future workforce needs and the areas in which they were seeing gaps, the Chamber began looking into solutions they could provide as well as researching what was already being done.

What they found was a successful CTE program in the local school system and programs being offered at Mayland Community College to assist students and employers. Also found was a perception that there are no jobs in Mitchell County and that to make a living, local students need to leave Mitchell County.  In contrast to that were the many employers telling Chamber staff of hundreds of job openings going unfilled due to the lack of a qualified workforce. The one thing that appeared to be missing was a central place for information for students and their parents or guardians as well as the “marketing” or outreach to the students about opportunities in Mitchell County that they could learn more about and plan for.

The Chamber staff met early on with the Economic Development Partnership of NC where they learned about a program in Burke County, Work in Burke,  that was also addressing these issues. Bill Slagle with EDPNC ,connected the Mitchell County Chamber staff with them where they ultimately worked with Burke County to adapt their program to fit Mitchell County and our local needs. “We are grateful to Sara Chester and the Work in Burke program for being so willing to share their program with us and to allow us to be the first county in NC to replicate their successful program here,” said Patti Jensen, Chamber Director.

The Chamber began the planning phase by interviewing many local industry leaders as well as the local CTE program staff,  meeting with Mayland Community College staff, the High Country Workforce Development Board staff and others to discuss a new project and get their input.

The Chamber  applied for a Maximize Carolina grant with the NC Dept of Commerce and were successful in their application of a $75,000 grant to begin the project. The Chamber quickly received additional support from others including the Mitchell County EDC, Duke Energy and the NC General Assembly through Senator Ralph Hise and Representative Josh Dobson which the Chamber was truly grateful for. The grant is administered by the High Country Workforce Development Board in partnership with the Mitchell Chamber.

Over the last year, the Chamber staff convened a Steering Committee to begin the early planning of this project consisting of local industries, education, economic development and workforce organizations from across the county and region, surveyed over 600 students in our middle schools and high school, convened a focus group of Mitchell High students who helped us develop the project as well as name the project, partnered with the Mitchell County School system and began to work on a new website which includes industry videos and a slate of career opportunities to learn more about.

The Chamber is excited to officially launch Mitchell Works, a workforce development project, geared towards our middle and high school students. The goal of this project is to engage and educate our students in Mitchell County schools about the opportunities for careers that they may not be aware of and to build and strengthen connections with our industries and our school system to create more opportunities for exposure, learning, internships, industry speakers bureaus and more as a way to support what our schools and Mayland Community College are already doing and create new opportunities and pathways for our students to engage with our local businesses and industries.

The Chamber thanks our Steering Committee, student focus groups, Kim Hodshon and the  CTE program and principals and county school leadership for being such great supporters of the project along with our industry leaders, including BRP, the Quartz Corporation, McManus Microwave, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, Spruce Pine Police Dept and Buck Stove for being the first to engage and support this project.

The Chamber invites all local businesses to become a partner of this new project by filling out a MW Partner Pledge Form . There are nearly 2 dozen ways that your company can partner and we encourage you to consider it.

For more information contact the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce and visit www.mitchellworksnc.com.

 

 

Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce Announces Shirley Hise Memorial Scholarship Fund

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors announced at their annual dinner the establishment of the Shirley Hise Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of long time Chamber Director Shirley Hise. “Shirley was an integral part of the growth of the Chamber during her tenure as Director and continued her commitment to education and the support of her community throughout her life,” said Patti Jensen, Mitchell County Chamber Director.

In honor of her undying commitment to her community, the Mitchell County Chamber and to education, a scholarship fund has been established to be given to a Mitchell High School student in the Spring of each year. Criteria for the scholarship will be established by the Board of Directors in partnership with the family of Shirley Hise.
The Chamber is providing the seed money to establish the scholarship and announces that anyone who would like to support the scholarship in Shirley’s name is invited to participate. Pledge cards are available from the Chamber of Commerce by calling 765-9033.

The following was read at the Annual Dinner at the announcement of the scholarship.

In October of this year, we lost a very special person to the Mitchell County Chamber and to our county. Shirley Hise served as the Director of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce for nearly 15 years and led the Chamber with new initiatives, growth and a fierce commitment to seeing Mitchell County and its citizens grow and succeed.

Prior to coming to the Chamber, Shirley taught in the Mitchell County Schools for over 30 years and there wasn’t a week that went by over the last decade that we didn’t hear from a current business owner or local business person who said that Shirley was their hardest but best teacher they ever had. She cared for her students and worked tirelessly to make sure they had every opportunity to succeed. She cheered them on in the classroom and was a fierce Mitchell High fan in the stands. She continued to support them in any way that she could even after they graduated and after she retired. They knew that Shirley was in their corner if they needed her. If you or your children were taught by Shirley we ask that you stand.

As Chamber Director Shirley was continually writing checks to support student groups, field trips, scholarships and especially students facing hardships. Shirley was a lifelong learner and held several degrees herself including a Masters degree and a Doctoral degree in Education. She loved history and politics and was an avid reader and researcher.

Shirley’s presence is missed by everyone at the Chamber and as a way of honoring Shirley’s service and her love of education and community, the Board of Directors of the Mitchell County Chamber is announcing the Shirley Hise Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an annual scholarship to a Mitchell High School Student. The Chamber will seed this scholarship and in response to those who have asked for ways to honor her, there is an opportunity for anyone to contribute to her scholarship fund on a one time basis or with a yearly pledge.

For more information, contact the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce at 828-765-9033.

Mitchell County Chamber Announces New Holiday Trail of Lights Promotion

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce has Christmas on their minds these days.  The Chamber is excited to announce a new community event for the 2019 Holiday season, A Mountain Christmas Trail of Lights.  The Trail of Lights will go from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Bakersville and beyond, beginning November 30th and ending on New Year’s Eve.

“This project has been something we have been talking about for a year,” said Patti Jensen, Executive Director of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce. “We began discussing holiday plans with local organizations and leaders and focused on two things,” said Jensen. “There really wasn’t much planned in the county after the first weekend in December and we knew that if we could build out the month with holiday events, we could not only create a great holiday experience for Mitchell County families but also create an opportunity to bring more people into Mitchell County to shop with our local businesses.”

The Chamber is inviting all businesses, homes and churches along Hwy 226 from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Bakersville as well as businesses in downtown Spruce Pine and Bakersville to sign on to decorate their homes, yards or buildings with lights this year. They aren’t stopping there though, as they are inviting neighborhoods to get together and decorate as well to be added to the trail as extensions. The trail will go from the Blue Ridge Parkway on Hwy 226 to Spruce Pine, travel down Summit Avenue then through downtown, back out Roan Road to pick up 226 N to Bakersville.  The Chamber will be providing a prize to the light display judged as the Best of the Mountain Christmas Trail this year!

In addition, the Chamber will be putting together a full calendar of events for the holidays and is asking for local organizations, businesses and churches who are hosting a holiday event to send their information as soon as possible to the Chamber at [email protected]. “Our hope is that we can create a Holiday Calendar of Events that is packed full of things for locals and visitors to do as well as encourage people to create new holiday events this year from Thanksgiving until New Years,” said Jensen.  The Chamber has met with several interested people from across the county to begin the holiday planning and some are already planning new events. “We are excited to see everyone’s enthusiasm for the trail and for new event ideas,” said Jensen.

The Chamber is asking the public to follow the Facebook page for A Mountain Christmas Trail of Lights and begin to help spread the word. A new website for the project is live and offers information on the trail, dozens of holiday events and more information for planning for the holidays. Visit www.amountainchristmastrailoflights.com.

“The Trail of Lights is a way for our community to come together to celebrate the holiday season and to offer it as a gift to our citizens and visitors,” said Jensen. “We hope that this is the start of something special for our county that will continue to grow for years to come.”

Mitchell County Chamber Director Receives Award

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The Mayland Community College Board of Directors presented their 2019 Distinguished Citizen Award to Mitchell County Chamber Director Patti Jensen at their annual Community Pig Pickin’ and Update event.  The award was presented by Mayland Board member Keith Holtsclaw. “I was both surprised and honored to be selected by the members of the Mayland Community College Board of Directors to receive this recogntion,” said Jensen. “It is my honor to represent the Chamber and work along with community organizations, officials and businesses to help move our county forward.”

 

Chamber to Partner with Small Business Center for Small Business Workshops

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce will be partnering with the Small Business Center to host Small Business/Entrepreneurship breakfast workshops for the merchants and business owners in Bakersville. These workshops will offer workshops in marketing, growing your business, social media, business collaborations and more.  Stay tuned for a workshop calendar!

Candidates Forum Scheduled for October 8th

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce will host a Candidates Forum on Tuesday, October 8th at 6 PM at the Historic Courthouse in Bakersville. The forum will provide local citizens with an opportunity hear from candidates seeking the offices of Spruce Pine Mayor and Bakersville Town Council. The two candidates running unopposed for the Spruce Pine Town Council seats will also have the opportunity to address the audience. A survey will be offered to Chamber members to submit questions for the candidates. The event is free and open to the public.

Mitchell County Chamber Workforce Development Initiative

Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce Receives Grant to Support Workforce Development Initiative

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce working with the High Country Workforce Development Board has been awarded a grant from the NC Department of Commerce “Maximize Carolina” program.  The $75,000 grant (with 15% of the amount being provided by matching funds from local partners) will assist in kicking off a Mitchell County workforce education and awareness initiative for local students.

The project was developed in response to many existing companies indicating they are struggling to find and retain employees. This is especially true in the manufacturing industry.  Feedback from local industry and employers has established that there is a lack of understanding on what career opportunities are available in Mitchell County and that locating the information when available is extremely difficult. The new workforce initiative funded by the Maximize Carolina Grant and other partners will begin to address the gaps in information on types of jobs available in the marketplace now and growth areas anticipated in the future. It will tie these opportunities to the training required to successfully attain these positions (much of the training being available through Mayland Community College) and provide information on possible assistance with funding the required training.

The program is modeled after the Work In Burke program facilitated by the Burke Development Inc. The Burke County program was addressing the same issues that the industry in Mitchell County is facing and became a great resource for the project. The project was referred to the Mitchell County Chamber by the regional NC Economic Development Partnership Industry Manager, Bill Slagle. “The staff at Work in Burke have been very supportive in seeing their project become a model for Mitchell County, said Patti Jensen, Director of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce. “The Work in Burke program has been very successful and we appreciate their program staff being such a great resource for replicating their project in Mitchell County.”

The campaign is a joint effort with partners from across the county, region and state, including: local business and industry, Mayland Community College, Mitchell County Public Schools, Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce, High Country Workforce Development Board, Mitchell County EDC and others. Work will begin immediately with a partnership with Mitchell County Schools CTE program to survey students and parents in the school system to gather their input and feedback on workforce issues. The next steps will include creating the content for a robust website and a multi-media outreach plan aimed at providing needed information to primarily middle and high school students and their parents. Plans are to expand the reach of the program as more resources become available.  Plans are to work with the students in the school system to have them be a part of the branding of the project as well with their input and feedback.

“When meeting with our industry partners, we were hearing of the issues they were having in finding qualified workers to meet the needs of their business and also their concerns about the future workforce pipeline that would feed their future expansions and employment needs,” said Jensen.  These conversations with business leaders led to the Chamber researching opportunities to help and respond and this led them to the Work in Burke program and the Maximize Carolina grant. “We appreciate the assistance provided by the NC Department of Commerce to our efforts’, said Jensen. With the fast changes taking place in in the workplace, it is increasingly important for all students to continue their education beyond high school whether through certification programs or degrees. With all our partners engaged in these efforts, we believe we can close the information gap that exists and assist more of our students in finding a career that is right for them right here in Mitchell County. “

The Maximize Carolina Sector grants are designed to “address skills gaps in robust and emerging industry sectors” according to the NC Commerce website. These grants can be used to address challenges such as applicants lacking specific skills, lack of sector brand awareness and work-based learning opportunities.

“The CTE program in Mitchell County Schools and the workforce development programs at Mayland Community College are doing an excellent job in working with our students and our community. Our local industry is stepping up to the plate to be engaged partners with our education systems as well. This new initiative will be a piece of the puzzle to support these programs in the community and try to fill any gaps that our education and business industry partners feel are needed,” said Jensen.

In addition, the Chamber has also received support for this initiative from the NC General Assembly as well as Duke-Energy and the Mitchell County Economic Development Commission. “We appreciate the General Assembly, Duke Energy and our EDC office for coming on board so early in this project, showing their support for workforce development in our communities and their confidence in this initiative, said Jensen.

 

Chamber Announces New Tourism Grant Program

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Committee announces a new small grant program to help support tourism-oriented events and programs in Mitchell County.

There are various ways the Mitchell County Chamber Tourism Committee accomplishes its mission, with direct marketing and promotion of Mitchell County as the primary tactic. However, there are a number of initiatives, like the small grant program, that play an important role as well. The goal with this program is to maximize the impact of the Mitchell County tourism funds by supporting local individuals and organizations with events or initiatives that positively affect the local tourism economy.

Local businesses and organizations can apply for the funds to help support their tourism-oriented events and programs.  The maximum amount of support for the Small Grant is $1750 per request.

“We at the Chamber and our Tourism Committee members are excited to announce this new program for Mitchell County,” said Patti Jensen, Director of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce. “The Tourism Committee has worked for months to develop this program including its criteria and guidelines, she said”

Tourism is a major economic driver in Mitchell County with nearly $25 million dollars spent each year by visitors to the county.  “Tourism is a key piece of the economy in Mitchell County,” said Jensen.  “The county’s tourism industry continues to grow with increases in tourism visitation and dollars spent each year. “ The last report by the NC Department of Commerce revealed that Mitchell County experienced the largest year over year increase in tourism dollars spent than any surrounding county.

Grants will be reviewed quarterly. The first grant cycle of the Small Grant Program will in June/July of 2019 with the applications due on June 30th.  Those interested in the Small Grant Program can call the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce at 765-9033 or email [email protected] to receive program details.  Applications will be submitted online and a link will be emailed to any interested parties.

 

Click Here for online application.

Click Here to download grant guidelines and criteria.

Small Business Week

Small Business Week Celebrates Local Entrepreneurs

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Why every week should be Small Business Week

When consumers think of shopping centers, they often picture the big box retailers, the grocery chains and the brand-names that garner headlines and have become household names over decades. But the engine that continues to power the American economy. and helps create vibrant, successful communities is small businesses.

Small businesses create two out of every three net new private-sector jobs. Since the Great Recession, these businesses have created over eight million jobs alone while meeting the needs of Americans in our largest cities and our smallest towns. Small businesses also generate billions of tax dollars that fund critical infrastructure and services, from fire departments to schools and parks.

Seventy percent of retailers have fewer than 10 employees. Whether it’s a local business sponsoring a little league team or the local boutique that always has the perfect dress – these small business retailers are central to the social and economic vibrancy of communities across the country. And they play a large role in the innovation that makes America’s economy so dynamic. (Fox Business).

In Mitchell County, our economy runs on the strength of our small businesses. That’s why it is so important to not just remember the “shop local” slogan, but actually put it into practice. Over the past year, the energy and investment from local citizens partnered with the commitment from local leaders, has lead to a growth in the upstarts of new businesses in our county. From new restaurants, to new boutiques, outfitters, health stores, massage therapy locations, artist studios, renovations of local lodging establishments and more….this new energy is contagious and inspiring. Mitchell County is definitely moving and shaking and it is due to the small businesses that continue to invest and build their businesses here.

Make Small Business Week an opportunity to renew your commitment to our local small businesses. From hardware stores to hair salons, from plumbing and electrical businesses to clothing stores and gem mines and hundreds of other small businesses…Our local small businesses are the heart of our communities and they depend on all of us to support them. Let’s make every week Small Business Week.