Toasting a successful 2005 and hoping to carry momentum into 2006 as a rapidly growing organization, members of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce will gather for their annual meeting Monday at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
"This event is all about celebrating our members and volunteers," said Gordon Renshaw, the executive director of the chamber.
As part of the annual meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m., the chamber will present its inaugural Columbia County Lifetime Achievement, Small Businessperson of the Year and Chamber Ambassador of the Year awards, Renshaw said.
The night will feature an Academy Awards-style program to honor the recipients of each award, complete with multiple television monitors surrounding the stage and an introduction and presentation by radio station WGAC personality Harley Drew, Renshaw said.
Last year, the chamber added 220 new members, finishing the year with more than 700, and increased revenues by nearly 50 percent after a 58 percent increase the previous year, making the Columbia County chamber one of the nation's fastest-growing, Renshaw said.
Other highlights of 2005 include: joining with small businesses along Washington Road in Evans to successfully lobby Columbia County and state Department of Transportation officials to extend a center-turn lane west to Gibbs Road; bringing Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy to speak to chamber members during their first power luncheon last summer; and creating an industry and education partnership between the county's manufacturers and the school system, according to a chamber press release.
In 2006, the chamber will have more than 150 active volunteers working with the business community, anchored by some of the sharpest minds in the area's small business, manufacturing, medical and nonprofit communities, Renshaw said.
"We feel very blessed and privileged to have as many people believing in this chamber as they do, and moving into 2006, we have some very aggressive new programs and initiatives that we're focused towards," Renshaw said.
Their focus will be member retention and re-energizing longer-term members who might not be as active in the chamber or community as they previously had been, Renshaw said. Other initiatives include a "Drugs Don't Work" program, which will allow member businesses to save money on worker's compensation rates and health insurance, according to a press release.
"We want to be a chamber that is really proactive with our members and ensures (our members can say), 'The chamber is one of the most valuable memberships or involvements that I have in this community,'" Renshaw said.
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