When it comes to having a “sense of community” in Hall County – let’s face it – there is good news, and there is bad news. In some important ways, we are being brought closer as a community, showing an ability to work together and enjoy one another like never before. In other ways, we are being blasted apart, splintered.
The good news is primarily from the private and non-profit sectors of our community. This is an amazing time for cultural activities in Hall County, and it may well be that the cultural organizations will be the glue that holds Hall County together, giving us our strongest sense of community.
The Burd Performing Arts Center at Brenau University is spectacular and is already bringing a new level of arts to the area. The Arts Council Depot, now the Smithgall Center, and its new outpost at the old Methodist Church downtown, are having a positive impact. The recent performance at the Burd Center of London’s Marian Montgomery, a Gainesville native, was special in bringing this area together, as well as raising money for area scholarships.
The memorial music program for the late Nashville music writer, John Jarrard, was held at the Smithgall Center and raised money for Good News at Noon. It was a classic community event honoring another local person.
The Quinlan Visual Arts Center has expanded its property holdings and will expand its facility and programs. A $4 million Northeast Georgia History Center on the Brenau campus is in the works, and plans were announced for development of new programs that will make that facility much more than just a history museum. All this is just the beginning, really, for there is a lot more going on in the non-profit sector that will bond us, improve our quality of life and secure our sense of community.
The private sector, which has taken some anti-business flak recently, is doing yeoman’s work in holding Hall County together as the trade center of Northeast Georgia and providing economic balance. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, although sometimes fighting an uphill battle, is proving successful in bringing new industry and creating new jobs (important, not only for keeping Hall from becoming a bedroom community for Atlanta, but also for providing work for the many high school graduates in the area).
No community can build a strong sense of community without its own media, and it is important that Gainesville keep excellent local media in the form of a daily newspaper, strong radio stations, and now two Internet news outlets. A lot of good things are happening in Hall County.
While some good things are coming from government, it seems fair to say, many of the issues dividing us are coming from government.
Historically, we have had a reputation as the business hub of Northeast Georgia, as a proud area with a strong sense of community, as one of the leading small cities in Georgia. It would appear that, despite any political splintering that may be taking place, the free enterprise and non-profit sectors are continuing to build that sense of community that gives Hall County citizens a quality of life unmatched, anywhere.
Gordon Sawyer is a retired advertising executive, author of several history books, chairman of the North Georgia Journal, a history commentator on WDUN Radio and an admitted, addicted history buff.