The mission of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce is to serve its members by developing an environment conducive to business. Since 1904, we have served our members and the community by fostering relationships and strengthening the ties that have secured Athens’ position as the hub of northeast Georgia.
Today 246 West Hancock Avenue serves as the primary hub for business in Athens by housing not only the Chamber of Commerce, but also the Department of Economic Development of Athens-Clarke County, Industrial Development Authority and Athens Cultural Affairs Commission. Under the leadership of former mayor Doc Eldridge, the Chamber has realized its vision of being the regional leader on issues vital to a thriving business community.
Chamber members are active participants in the community; providing leadership on non-profit boards, sponsoring events and allowing their employees time to volunteer. Future and present leaders of the community benefit from the Chamber’s LEAD Athens program, formerly Leadership Athens. LEAD/Leadership of Athens Alumni include Judge Steve Jones, Cardee Kilpatrick, former Mayors Heidi Davison and Doc Eldridge, Representative Spencer Frye, Michael Thurmond, Barbara Dooley, Paul Cramer and Chief Jack Lumpkin. Founded in 1982, LEAD Athens stands for: Leadership, Education, Awareness and Development.
Education is a strong focus of the Chamber. The Clarke County Mentor Program, which began in March 1991 as a joint initiative of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and the Clarke County School District, is still housed within the Chamber. It is one of the largest and most well-respected programs of its type in the state and even in the country. The Clarke County Mentor Program trains hundreds of new mentors each year and logs over 7,000 visits to the Clarke County School District! In 2014 the Chamber revived its Education Committee which serves as the link between local businesses and the community to actively support quality education in order to provide a well-trained workforce in the Athens Area. The Chamber partners with the Clarke County School District to present the Educator of Excellence award at the Annual Meeting each year.
From luncheons to small business seminars, there are countless ways to get involved with the Chamber. Members take advantage of effective networking at monthly networking functions including NetWORK Lunch and Business After Hours. In addition, we have the Women in Business Committee, which meets the second Tuesday of the month and focuses on areas of interest for women. The Young Professionals Network (YPN) is geared towards Chamber members ages 25-40 and is hosted the first Thursday of each month. The Small Business Committee, which started in 2014, hosts a monthly Small Business Breakfast Club on the third Thursday of each month, and focuses on topics from mobile media to applying for SBA loans. The Chamber also hosts two large functions each year: Annual Meeting (late winter) and Mid-Year (late summer). The Annual Meeting is a seated dinner featuring a notable keynote speaker and the presentation of community awards. Mid-Year is a laid-back end-of-summer get-together and is held each year at a unique Athens venue. Past locations include the Georgia Museum of Art, Special Collections Library and the Butts-Mehre indoor practice facility.