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History

Present-day Commerce lies in an area that once was the dividing line between the Cherokee and Creek Indian tribes. Originally, the area was known as the Groaning Rock Community because of an interesting rock formation that made an eerie sound as the wind passed through it. The first permanent settlement was established in 1784. The site that would later become Commerce developed on the dividing watershed between the Oconee, Grove, and Hudson rivers and was the meeting place of several old wagon trails based on even earlier Indian paths. Located midway between the mountain communities of north Georgia and the market town of Athens, this trading spot called Harmony Grove was founded by Eli Shankle and his wife Rebecca in 1808.

In 1876, the transportation mode that would forever change and define the face of Harmony Grove/Commerce arrived. The Northeastern Railroad line was completed and the city began to develop linearly along the tracks. Although the railroad line has changed hands over the last 120 years, with the Southern Railway purchasing it in 1899, Commerce was well on its way to becoming "A City on the Right Track."

Harmony Grove was officially incorporated in 1884 with the city limits stretching for one mile in each direction from the railroad depot along the tracks and for one half mile east and 400 yards west. Its population in 1886 was 579, four years later in 1890 it had grown to 611. Ten years later, the population had more than doubled reflecting the city's status as a major trading and distribution center for north Georgia. The city fathers reflected that such a growing city needed a name that reflected its commercial nature and in 1904, the name was officially changed to Commerce.

The city of Commerce is one of nine cities situated in Jackson County, located in the northeast section of Georgia. The census completed in 2010 estimated the population of Commerce to be 6,323 showing a population increases from 5,292 in 2000. The population in Jackson County is 63,544. The median age in Commerce is 38.1. The median household size is 2.94 residents. Commerce is not widely diverse; however, it identifies with most races. Eighty–three percent of the population is white, approximately fifteen percent is African American, and the rest are Asian or Hispanic. A total of 65% are graduates of high school or higher education. In Commerce, family is of great importance to the citizens. Approximately seventy percent of the population is a family household. 

Commerce has become a growing economic area. Downtown Commerce is home to retail stores, banks, and services from the early 1900’s. Tanger Outlet Center, one of the most visited outlet centers in the south, is located on the line of Jackson County and neighboring Banks County. All of these businesses offer jobs to the citizens of Commerce. The highest percentage of workers is in sales and office occupations. In 2009, the labor force in Jackson County was 26,988. There were 24,141 employed residents in Jackson County and 2,847 unemployed with an unemployment rate hovering around 10.5%. The five largest employers in Jackson County in 2009 included BJC Medical Center, Mission Foods, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Wayne Farms. 

In Commerce, residents and visitors enjoy the benefits of small-town living within a convenient drive of big city activities. Visitors and residents alike enjoy several seasonal events, golf and recreation, cultural activities, shopping, and rich historical attractions. In Commerce, the quiet neighborhoods and carefully restored downtown buildings look much the same as they did many decades ago.The community offers potential resources and strengths. Commerce is about eighteen miles north of Athens which is the home of the University of Georgia as well as satellite colleges such as Piedmont College, Gainesville College, and Athens Area Technical College. Commerce is the home of a satellite site of Lanier Technical College. 

The student population has grown by 251 students since 2000 with a 4% increase in the Hispanic population and a 4% decrease in the white population. In the district, the current enrollment consists of five percent Hispanic students, eighty percent Caucasian, thirteen percent African-American, one percent Asian, and one percent “Other” students. 

Sixty-three percent is the system average of the students who qualify for free and reduced priced meals. The student population is comprised primarily of students with one home language, English. We have a small population of Spanish speaking children. Commerce City Schools has two Title I schools, Commerce Primary and Commerce Elementary, but all schools focus on helping “at risk” students and the special needs of all students. This assistance is provided by having both during and after-school programs with specialized instruction. Commerce City Schools also has a gifted and talented program for identified students serving the gifted through resource in the elementary schools and through advanced content in the middle and high schools. Student attendance rates for Commerce City Schools have remained steady over the past few years. The Commerce School System has an average daily attendance of ninety-seven percent. Enrollment numbers increase/decrease approximately five percent annually. Though the demographics of the city of Commerce and the school community have changed over the years, Commerce City continues its rich tradition of educational excellence by focusing on what is best for the students in Commerce.

The Commerce City School System is one of three school districts in Jackson County. Commerce City Schools serves approximately 1442 students in one primary, one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. The enrollment of the primary school is 416; elementary school is 214; the middle school is 414; and the high school is 395. We have eight building level administrators and seven central office certified staff. Its attendance area encompasses the community of Commerce, Georgia. Students from outside the city of Commerce may enroll if they provide their own transportation, meet the criteria as described in our attendance policy, and if there is space available within the guidelines of maximum class size. According to the October 2010 CPI report, our highly qualified staff includes: One hundred regular education teachers, thirteen special education teachers, six career/tech teachers, three fine arts teachers, and one ESOL teacher. The Balanced Scorecard/Annual Report contains a detailed description of our current student population.
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