With the initial steps complete in the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's move to become an independent organization, the rest of this year's work will rest in the details.
Wayne Bridges, a local certified public accountant and a Columbia County school board member, will be immersed in those details now that he officially took over the chamber's chairman post Thursday.
"His attention to detail is really what the chamber needs now that we have our feet on the ground," Mark Wills, the chamber's outgoing chairman, said after the 96th annual joint meeting of the Augusta Metro and Columbia County chambers of commerce. "That's why I think Wayne's the best choice right now."
Several hundred members, political figures and business leaders met for the luncheon at the Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, in giving the keynote speech, said that building momentum for the economic recovery, including a need to expand existing industries in the state.
He pointed to the recent expansion efforts of John Deere's plant in Grovetown as an example.
After receiving the ceremonial gavel from Wills, Bridges said he looked forward to working with the Augusta Metro chamber in improving the region.
Last year, the Columbia County chamber created new by-laws and programs as it worked on the autonomous structure it built after separating from the Augusta Metro chamber in 2002.
Also last year, Columbia County's group hired its first full-time executive director, Gordon Renshaw, and increased membership by about 65 percent, ending the year with 500 members.
Bridges, who is the chief financial officer of Eagle North America in Evans, called this year an extremely important one for the chamber.
"We had tremendous support from our community," he said. "We just ask that people continue to do that."
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