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Chamber celebrating 30 years of connecting community
Jimmy Burnsed Photo by Cobblestone Photography
Jimmy Burnsed helped organize the Chamber. - photo by Photo by Cobblestone Photography

Current board of directors
Mike Sisco, chairman • Chris Fettes, immediate past chairman• Jim Gardner, chairman-elect • Dallas Daniel, treasurer • Paige Glazer, secretary • Trace Palmer, vice chairman • Billy Albritton • Byron Atkinson • Vance Askew • Sheila Page-Doney • Ralph Forbes • Catherine Grant • Doug Martinv • Brad Brookshire • John Reynolds • Jon Seagraves • Kathy Nielson
For more information on the RHBC Chamber, go to

Jimmy Burnsed remembers the Bryan County Chamber of Commerce’s early, lean years.

Formed in 1985, the Chamber was struggling after just a few years of existence. Then came a change in leadership.

“We breathed new life into it in 1991,” said Burnsed, senior vice president of South State Bank and chairman of the Bryan County Board of Commissioners.

With the help of his good friend DeVaul Henderson, who redrew the bylaws, the Bryan County Chamber of Commerce would continue to serve a purpose.

“Henderson and I were the instigators for pulling people together,” Burnsed said. “There needed to be connectivity among businesses in the community. It also gave businesses a voice in what goes on in the community. We needed a connectivity where businesses were communicating and talking together and working to improve the community for business and individuals.”

Real estate was in the driver’s seat at that time. The Chamber’s leaders knew they wanted existing businesses to be strongly connected, but they also wanted to attract more businesses to the area. With no paid staff, the men recruited help and began spreading the message. They recognized that the Chamber would be the catalyst to bring this together.

With the help of a young college student, Paul Scott, slowly but surely, the Chamber’s membership began growing.

“He would go around and drum up membership,” Burnsed said of Scott.

Scott was paid $25 per new member he recruited. In the early 1990s, Chamber membership was estimated to be around 25-30 members. From 1991-1995, Burnsed served as president of the Chamber and continued to make progress in its growth.

In the late 1990s, the name was officially changed to Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce, but the mission remained the same: connecting business and people in the community.

Now, 30 years after it was founded, the Chamber is thriving with an estimated 350 members. There is no begging anymore. Businesses see the value in joining the Chamber.

As a connector and key resource for local businesses, the Chamber provides significant avenues for networking and growth, and serves as a marketing tool. Members and nonmembers benefit from its services.

“The Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce provides networking opportunities, educational opportunities, a referral network and works with the local governmental agencies as a representative on behalf of the local businesses’ interest,” said Brianne Yontz, the Chamber’s executive director.

The Chamber helps businesses with advertising and social-media marketing; hosts ribbon-cuttings and ground breakings for new, relocated or expanded businesses; and distributes welcome packets to newcomers. Members benefit by receiving a bulk-rate mailing permit, Chamber decals, free access to the Chamber’s conference room, a minimal fee to make copies, the Chamber’s e-newsletter, a subscription to Georgia Trend magazine, assistance with inquiries, the use of mailing labels, being listed on the Chamber’s member directory, member-to-member discounts, networking, a list of Realtors, referrals, research information, the Bryan County Newcomers Guide (published by the Bryan County News) and a website — — packed with information for local businesses. Chamber membership also may be tax deductible.

The Chamber hosts a number of events, including the monthly Business After Hours, Coffee and Conversation, and Lunch and Learn; and the annual Grits and Government legislative breakfast, golf tournament, Small Business Saturday and Richmond Hill’s largest annual event, the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival.

Yontz and Katie Coleman, the Chamber’s program coordinator, work daily to improve the Chamber’s services. Whether it is networking, how to start a business, Leadership Bryan or the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival; Yontz and Coleman aim to provide businesses and individuals with what they need to connect and grow in the community of Richmond Hill.

As the Chamber celebrates its 30th anniversary, Burnsed is proud that the chamber has evolved with the times but has stayed true to the vision from its 1991 rebirth.

The Chamber will celebrate its milestone anniversary from 6-9 p.m. today at Fish Tales, 3203 Fort McAllister Road. RSVPs are required and were due Friday, Aug. 28.

The event is sponsored by Ameris Bank, Coastal Electric Cooperative, Creative Approach, Gulfstream, Plantation Lumber & Hardware, Richmond Hill Reflections, Richmond Hill Historical Society, Richmond Hill Convention and Visitors Bureau, South State Bank, Thomas & Hutton, The Urgent Care Center and Waterways Township.

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