DUBLIN, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Laurens County is proving that nurturing small businesses is one way to keep an economy going, and growing.
Some might say it's location, but ask Matthew White, and he'll tell you the reason businesses keep opening their doors in Laurens County is because people genuinely care about this community.
"It's not so much competition as it is friendly rivalry, people making each other better," says White.
As the membership coordinator for the Dublin-Laurens County Chamber of Commerce, White has seen impressive growth over the last year. 30 businesses opened or held groundbreakings in new locations, and a total of 342 jobs have been created from new and existing members of the chamber.
One of those start-ups is Southern Sassy's. It's a chic boutique with affordable clothing for women and children. Owners Rachel Jarrard and Samantha Perry say they chose to open in Dublin because it's home.
"I see downtown Savannah and St. Simon, there's always cute shops, and I would really like to see Dublin be that one day," says Jarrard.
Southern Sassy's opened in late October, and so far business has been booming.
"I really think everyone around here supports the local businesses. They'd rather shop local than not," says Perry.
That's why 'The Hair Academy' formally known as 'Kevosnik', re-branded, re-opened, and re-located, but in the same city.
"We chose to stay here because we see the potential here. We see the potential for growth," says Della Smith, director of the school.
Smith believes businesses do well in Dublin because of the environment.
"It's leadership people who have a vision they have a plan they focus on growing the community," says Smith.
The numbers are proving it. White says Laurens' County has been resilient even through economic downturn.
In September 2011 unemployment was at 13.1%. By August 2012 it dropped down to 12.2%, and just a month later 163 more people found jobs. Unemployment dropped down to 11.3% by September 2012.
White says this community can partially thank the wealthier business owners.
"When the people with the money care, it trickles down, say what you will, it affects everybody," says White.
White says this year alone, 89 new businesses joined the chamber. All three of the business owners 41NBC spoke with tell us, the chamber of commerce has been an integral part of promoting their businesses.