Ashley Gowen is no stranger to Folkston and Charlton County, though she is new to her role leading the Chamber of Commerce along with promoting tourism and economic development. A Folkston native, she is passionate about promoting her home town and attracting local businesses to join her in enhancing Folkston’s reputation as a tourist destination.
“We’re excited about the future and growth in our tourism industry especially as we focus on the rail watch experience and the National Wildlife Refuge (the only federally operated entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp),” Ashley said. She also wants to promote the area as more of a “vacation destination” with its unique lodging opportunities including Newell Lodge, about six miles north of Folkston, The Folkston Inn, in downtown Folkston, and the old train cabooses which has been converted into overnight accommodations and located near the main rail line – perfect for rail watching.
Plans are also underway to attract additional businesses to join the Chamber of Commerce with additional membership opportunities more aligned to what businesses need with a focus on more significant benefits. A new website is planned that will be “member-friendly” that will promote Chamber members and the services provided.
While Ashley is staying busy creating new plans and implementing new ideas, the opportunity afforded her to live and work in her home-town is not lost on her. It’s more than a job to her.
After graduating from Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College in Tifton,Georgia she returned home to work with her family’s business, Newell Lodge, and later as the County Extension Agent for Brantley and Charlton Counties.
She also wants to afford others the same opportunity to “come back home” to Folkston. Her plans include working with the local development authority to do just that, as she hopes to improve the community’s economic development opportunities to offer new jobs so that other young people can choose Folkston as a place to raise their families too.
“I appreciate the opportunity I had to come back to Folkston and to be part of moving our community forward,” Ashley explains. I look forward to promoting and encouraging strong economic growth through new industries, local businesses, and tourism. “Not only is this my goal, it is my passion.”
Article written by John Riddle
Published in Okefenokee Living Magazine