After spending 15 years in the historic downtown jail, Dawson County Chamber of Commerce officials felt it was time to break out.
The business-promoting organization has been considering the move from downtown Dawsonville for many years.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Linda Williams, chamber president. “Although we love being downtown ... the majority of our membership favors us having a more prominent location.”
Chamber officials have selected a new site and will close on the deal July 19.
The 2,500-square-foot building, located on Ga. 400 just north of Kroger, will help the organization “increase presence to tourists, visitors and travelers,” Williams said.
“What we specifically want to do is attract that drive-through traveler that may or may not be stopping at the [outlet] mall on the way into the mountains,” she said.
The building’s size, which is more than double that of the current office, will allow chamber staff more storage ability and room for local promotion.
“We’d outgrown the old building a long time ago,” said Williams, adding that there will be a larger reception area and display cases to promote business, artwork and community announcements.
The purchase of the $580,000 building was made possible through various sponsors in the community, Williams said.
The chamber moved into the historic jail in 1995. The building, which is owned by the county’s government, was given to the chamber rent-free because of a grant.
In return, the chamber paid for renovations to the facility.
Williams said chamber staff members plan to move into the new building off Ga. 400 in mid-August.
It’s not certain what will become of the historic jail, though Commission Chairman Mike Berg said “it will be utilized.”
“We’ll do something with it. It won’t sit empty,” said Berg, adding that possibilities are somewhat limited because of its historical designation.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The register is a list of districts, sites, buildings and structures deemed worthy of preservation by the U.S. government.
Williams said the chamber is grateful for its time in the old jail, but the changing scope of the organization calls for new headquarters.
“Not only do we serve the business community here, but it’s our job to promote the county as a tourist destination, and this will enhance everything we can do in that regard,” she said.