The Bartow Business Connection, formed in January 2009, and the Bartow Contractors Association, formed in March 2011, have combined to accommodate scheduling demands of members often struggling to make both meetings.
"Both organizations have grown extremely large with attendance measured in the hundreds of people. We have found that many people are having a difficult time in making two meetings a month so they have asked us to consider merging the organizations," stated BBC co-founder Parnick Jennings in an email announcing the merger. "In response to numerous requests; Jessica [Fleetwood], Nicole [Hughes], James [Hall] and I met last week to discuss the merger of the two groups. It was a very good meeting with the consensus being to merge the two groups under the name of Bartow Business and Contractors Connection."
The newly-formed Bartow Business and Contractors Connection met for their first combined meeting Thursday at Angelo's Too in Kingston. The networking functions have existed to connect business owners and service providers in an effort to encourage the use of local professionals. Since its inception, the BBC alone has generated almost $3 million in sales for area businesses.
"There are people in business today because of these two organizations," Jennings said at Thursday's meeting. "That's what makes the difference."
Last year, Hall and Hughes formed the Bartow Contractors Association to help promote local businesses within the hard-hit construction industry. Contractors providing services and materials associated with residential and commercial construction have gathered monthly to promote their businesses.
"We just wanted to bring contractors together for free," Hughes said, little did they know their services would be needed more than ever shortly after the association formed. "Plus, with the tornadoes that came through in April, we were able to help a lot of people -- referring people and giving directions."
Having monthly, public meetings and being active in the community also adds a level of accountability, said Hall. Working in the community where they live, contractors attending BCA events wind up working for friends and colleagues.
"It's a place where people feel like they can come to find contractors, especially on the local level. A lot of people open a phone book and they're not sure where to find somebody," Hall said. "You're more likely to call somebody you have a personal relationship with than just out of the phone book or off the Internet."
With contractors and general businesses gathering at one meeting each month, organizers hope attendance will continue to rise along with the success of local businesses.
"Instead of people trying to fit two meetings into their month, they can fit one and everybody can be here and they can find everything they need at one time," said Fleetwood, BBC co-founder.
A location has yet to be announced for the April meeting of the Bartow Business and Contractors Connection. In May, the group will meet at Friendship Plaza in Cartersville hosted by the Downtown Development Authority and in June at Johnny Mitchell's Smokehouse in Euharlee.
There are no membership fees or dues associated with the Bartow Business and Contractors Connection. For more information, call Fleetwood at 770-547-2157 or Jennings at 678-767-7169.