Originally created 02/21/99

Chamber to support city's redevelopment



NORTH AUGUSTA -- When the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce opened the doors to its new headquarters in a 100-year-old house on Georgia Avenue, it ushered in a new era in North Augusta.

"It is the beginning of the restoration of North Augusta," Joseph Oller said.

Mr. Oller took over as chairman of the board of directors of the chamber in January. He expects the chamber's strong support of the city's long-planned riverfront and downtown redevelopment to continue. That includes support for the city's new accommodations and hospitality taxes, charged on meals and lodgings since December. The levies are expected to raise $500,000 annually to help fund redevelopment projects.

"We want the chamber to be a conduit to help coordinate the different groups supporting the city's redevelopment program," he said.

The city is on the move, Mr. Oller feels, especially with construction set to begin on Phase I of the new streetscape design for lower Georgia Avenue.

He sees the chamber as a working partner with city officials, civic groups, and other organizations like the fledgling North Augusta 2000 just organized to market the city and pool resources for special projects.

Marketing plans for 1999 include advertising in Discovering the Carolinas in a joint effort with the city and three local developers promoting North Augusta as a prime retirement community. The chamber will also work with the Aiken Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse to sponsor a Drug-Free Workplace Program for members.

"The vision of the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce is to be the leadership organization for developing the most livable and economically viable community in the CSRA," he noted.

A lifelong resident of North Augusta, Mr. Oller nevertheless comes from an international family. His parents, Dr. Joseph Oller Sr. and Carmen Oller, are natives of Spain. Although the Ollers lived briefly in Spain when Joseph was an infant, they moved to North Augusta when he was two years old and returned only for summer vacations in the city of Valencia.

He retains his global connections. Oldest sister Carmen is married to a citizen of Spain and resides there. Another sister, Mary Jo, lives in New Zealand.

But he likes living in North Augusta, where he resides with his wife Tina Williams Oller and three children who attend local schools.

"I want North Augusta to grow, but I want it to maintain its home town flavor," he said. "The community and the chamber are alike in that you get out of it what you put into it. Both are investments of time, but it's worth it."

Pat Willis covers North Augusta, Horse Creek Valley and Edgefield County for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.