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Honoring chamber's best
Annual meeting moves to luncheon on Jan. 17
Biz leaderWeb
Devra Walker, right, shares a laugh with her husband Lindsay, center, and a well wisher at the 2013 Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce event where she was named Business Leader of the Year. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

       The Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce will honor a Small Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Business Leader of the Year and Chamber Committee of the Year during a Jan. 17 luncheon at the Nessmith-Lane Conference Center.

The chamber has combined its 92nd Annual Meeting and traditional Small Business of the Year Luncheon into a single lunchtime event. Previous annual meetings were dinners, but the new arrangement reduces demands on members' calendars at a busytime of the year, Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson said.

"There are so many things to do in the evening in Statesboro, and we felt it would be best for our members at a busy time for many of them, at the beginning of the year, to do this as a luncheon," she said. "That helps us respect their schedules."

At this point, nominations for all awards are complete and some of the winners have been picked.

The Small Business of the Year award will go to one of the eight Small Business of the Month winners the Chamber of Commerce honored during 2013. These nominees are Boutiques in the Boro, Jason McGibony DMD, Wright & Edwards Attorneys PC, RJ's Steakery, Ken's IGA, Howard Lumber & Hardware, Gateway Animal Hospital and TC Outdoors.

To qualify for Small Business of the Month recognition, nominees must have 49 or fewer employees and have been in business in Bulloch County for at least five years and chamber members for at least three. To be chosen, a business must project a positive image, provide a good working environment for employees and exemplify quality in its business dealings, maintaining a reputation that is above reproach, the criteria state.

The Small Business Committee, which has about 12 active members, will choose the Small Business of the Year with approval from the executive board, Chamber of Commerce Programs Director Jennifer Cornwell said.

Another of the awards to be presented, Entrepreneur of the Year, is not actually awarded every year, but on a "when merited" basis, Thompson said.

"There will be one given this year," she said.

The Committee of the Year Award recognizes the work of the chamber's committees, made up of volunteers from member organizations. Nine committees are eligible.

The Chamber of Commerce has a two-fold mission, to support the economic prosperity of its members and, secondly, to enhance the business climate in the community, Thompson said. While the first aspect is the responsibility of the chamber's staff, she said, the mission of enhancing the business climate is largely carried out by volunteers who serve on committees. The paid staff comprises Thompson, Cornwell and Office Manager Roxanne Kibler.

"The Chamber of Commerce isn't the three of us who work here," Thompson said. "The chamber is the 750-plus members, and many of those give a lot of time to their committees."

One example is the Small Business Committee itself, co-chaired in 2013 by Mandi Cody, the director of the city of Statesboro's Planning and Development Department, and James "Bubba" Revell, the owner of Country Store Flooring Center.

Committee members learn by doing, said Revell, who has been a member of the committee for several years.
In 2013, for the first time, the committee applied different categories, such as "professional," "construction and development," "retail" or "restaurants" each month in selecting the Small Business of the Month.

This helped narrow the selection criteria and ensured that types of businesses were not overrepresented to the exclusion of others, he said. Monthly winners were presented a sign for display, recognized on the chamber's website and social media pages and informed that they would be nominees for the annual award.

"Every one of them would be well deserving to win," Revell said.

Also at the Jan. 17 luncheon, the Chamber of Commerce will install its new officers for 2014. Outgoing Chairwoman Keely Fennell of NeSmith Construction will hand over the gavel to incoming Chair manDarron Burnette, the president and CEO of Sea Island Bank.

Tickets for the luncheon are $25 per person and $250 for a table. To reserve a table or seat, call Jennifer Cornwell at (912) 489-9123.


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