By Tommy Hartzog

Exec. Dir., HNG Chamber of Commerce


As the great man said, “and now for the rest of the story”. The Hickory Nut Gorge Chamber was reformed and reinvented in late 2012 and early 2013. The board of directors painstakingly reworked the mission statement and hired two staff members. Four years later all of that foundational work is paying off as our communities are united and enthused.


In 2017, we have hosted six Chamber ReCharges with record attendance and wonderful host venues. Our Annual meeting with citizen potluck was incredibly fun, informative and “tasty”.


Our economic initiatives (although painfully slow) are a marvel to observe with respect to citizen engagement when asked to participate. You never fail to say “how can I help?” Authenticity of relationships is abundant in this community.


Your Chamber operated on vapors for the first two years, but with perseverance, budgetary cost cutting and citizen volunteers we become more financially sound each year. Our two major funding initiatives are solid models and project to remain that way if we steward them properly.


Public policy engagement and advocacy has matured into wonderful relationships between your Chamber and local, county, regional and state governments. We represent you, and our voice is heard in these pleasant but meaningful relationships.


The Chamber holds a strong position in community development while focusing and fostering quality initiatives that are essential to the vitality and quality of life in our community. We always put great emphasis on the culture, character and environment whenever proposals are put forth. Some growth is essential but we must never put growth ahead of preserving the unique and delicate reasons we fell in love with this place we call home.


Six months in 2016 were spent, in part, developing a Community Covenant for the Gorge communities. All were invited and over two hundred participants took part. The result was a wonderful guide for public discourse so that we can be more productive and function (even while disagreeing) effectively. Like a TEAM! We have many challenges and decisions ahead which will require working together. We must be strong and effective. It has been said that “a team is only as strong as its weakest link”.


The question to each of us as individuals is: What kind of team would my team be if everyone on it were just like me?