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Focus: Berrien County

Focus: Berrien County

Update: 2021-03-08
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Welcome to South Georgia Insider. To say the year 2020 was “unusual” would be an understatement. As COVID-19 swept through our state, our country, and the world, we often found rural communities were hit the hardest. 

For our listeners, let’s first paint the picture of Georgia’s rural communities:

  • 26 percent of Georgian residents live outside urban cities including Atlanta, Savannah, Columbus, and Macon.
  • 120 of Georgia’s 159 counties are considered rural 
  • Agriculture is predominately the primary industry ($74 billion impacts in the state) 

 Today, we are talking to Lisa Smart, executive director of the Berrien Chamber of Commerce and Berrien County Economic Development Authority

Lisa wears multiple hats as she works to keep businesses of all sizes growing while at the same time working to recruit new industries and jobs.

With a population of about 19,000, Berrien County includes four municipalities Nashville (county seat), Alapaha, Enigma, and Ray City. Agriculture is the most significant economic driver, and Chaparral Boats is the largest employer. 

When COVID-19 hit, the Berrien-Nashville Chamber of Commerce became the communication facilitators.  

One area of industry growth was with Chaparral Boats that has actually thrived during the pandemic. People that would normally spend money on vacations purchased boats and other recreational vehicles. 

Within the agriculture sector, locally owned Danforth Family Farms, a multi-generational farming family, was impacted by the supply chain shut-down. With limited retail outlets for their fresh pork products, the company started selling direct to the consumers at the weekly farmers market. The success of direct retail sales led to the opening of a brick-and-mortar business in downtown Nashville.  

To assist small businesses as they navigated through the initial impact of COVID-19, the Berrien Chamber started using its business improvements grants to purchase items to safely remain open.  

Shoppes on Davis, which includes various pop-up vendors, started offering Hero Baskets. People could call the shop and give a price they wanted to spend, and Shoppes on Davis personnel would create the baskets and deliver. 

Smart says while 2020 was difficult, lessons learned include gaining more reliance on each other and getting back “to their roots.” 

 Subscribe to the South Georgia Business Magazine and South Georgia Insider (monthly e-newsletter), both available at no charge.

Thanks to our sponsor Smalltown Broadcasting and WDDQ, home of the Scott James Matheson Show, where you can listen to live from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on Talk 92.1 http://talk921.com/ or through the TuneIn app https://tunein.com/radio/Talk-921

South Georgia Insider is produced by Spencer Van Horn, Smalltown Broadcasting. 

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Focus: Berrien County

Focus: Berrien County

Thressea H. Boyd, Host