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Program gives discounts to school employees

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce will start providing school-system employees with special discounts and incentives from local merchants as part of an effort to help attract and retain teachers.

The deals could be for just about anything from pizza to clothing to banks, said Demming Bass, vice president of marketing and public policy for the Gwinnett chamber.

The Gwinnett chamber will partner with other local chambers to create the Metro Atlanta School System's Employee Discount Program, which will benefit 14 Atlanta school systems and roughly 98,000 school personnel.

Atlanta-based direct marketer Sparkfly will inform Gwinnett school-system employees about discounts through its Web site, a monthly electronic newsletter and a magazine that comes out four times a year.

Bass said with Sparkfly's technology, school-system employees will be able to find businesses near them. Sparkfly also maintains a secure demographic database that allows retailers and merchants to tailor their offerings to a specific employee group.

The program is expected to get rolling this month and Bass said teachers would be informed about the service when they return to school in August.

The chamber has been looking for ways to help foster a strong educational system and this is a great start, Bass said.

"I think this is just the beginning," he said. "I would like the chamber to look at any other incentives we can offer as a business community that will help retain teachers."

Gwinnett chamber President Jim Maran said the Gwinnett school system has to hire more than 1,000 new teachers each year - not an easy task and one his organization hopes to help make easier.

One aspect of Partnership Gwinnett, the chamber's effort to create 65,400 new jobs within the next five years, is to aid Gwinnett's educational system so skilled workers are added to the county's labor force, making it an attractive place for businesses to locate.