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Fond farewells begin
Chamber's Chapman looks back, ahead upon retirement
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Peggy Chapman gets a big hug from Charles Wilson while talking with Russell Keen, right, as Chapman is recognized and honored in anticipation of her retirement. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

       After 20 years of promoting business and industrial development in Bulloch County, Peggy Chapman is retiring as president of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce and as executive director of the Development Authority of Bulloch County.
       On Friday, Chapman is calling it quits after spearheading a period of unprecedented growth in which chamber membership grew to more than 900 members, and 32 new industries opened facilities in the county.
       "When I came here in 1990, it was my dream to have a chamber that worked in conjunction with the development authority," Chapman said. "I felt that great things could be accomplished through that relationship, and I am very proud of what has been accomplished."
        Notable achievements during Chapman's tenure include the development of the Gateway Regional Industrial Park on Highway 301 South. The park is currently occupied by Walmart's 2-million-square-foot distribution center, Briggs & Stratton manufacturing facility, and Viracon's glass fabrication facility among others.
      Phase two of the park is now open, and Great Dane Trailers is constructing a 450,000-square-foot refrigerated trailer manufacturing plant within it which is scheduled to begin production in 2012.
       Chapman said in addition to creating a strong working relationship between the two entities, she also wanted to create a "working" chamber, and she felt like she was able to do that successfully.
       "A lot of the time, people that hold positions within chambers are put in those positions because of the job that they hold in the community," she said. "I felt it was real important to have people earn those positions through involvement and service. It is a way in which those who want to volunteer and serve their community can be rewarded and serve at the highest level they are willing to achieve."
       Local attorney Susan Cox served as the chamber's first female chairman of the board in 1993.
       "Peggy helped us a county and a development authority be a bride and not a bridesmaid," Cox said. "Industry would look here, but we couldn't get them to come here, until Peggy came. The jobs created by Walmart and others helped soften the blow when long-term industry closed and left."
       Cox also said that Chapman always had her eye on the big picture, and encouraged those around her to do the same.
       "I think there was a mindset when Peggy got here that it wasn't good necessarily for a neighboring county to get an industry, and we not," she said. "Peggy showed us that if we aren't successful in getting an industrial client to come here, we certainly want them to go our neighbor. We all benefit. Our neighbors will take their earnings and shop here, send their children to be educated here. Working together works, and she proved that."
       For the better part of Chapman's years with the development authority, she served under two different chairman, attorney Kenny Stone and retired accountant Earl Dabbs. Both men complimented Chapman's ability to promote community over self.
       "Peggy was never concerned about getting credit for anything that she was a part of," Stone said. "She just wanted what was best for Bulloch County."
       Dabbs agreed.
      "I never saw Peggy put her own interests above the interest of the community," he said. "That is highly commendable, and she is a delightful person."
       Chapman said she will be forever grateful for the support she has received from the business community, local leadership, her staff, and all those that have served the two entities that she loves so dearly.
       "For me it has been like a dream come true," she said. "You rarely have the opportunity to go in and do a program that you really wanted to always put it together and see it flourish, and I was able to do that. With all the help, and all the great volunteers and all the leadership that we have it has just been an amazing journey for me. The greatest times and the worst times of my life have happened here, and I plan to remain here and be a vital part of the community. It is the best place in the world to live, and I don't mind telling anyone that."