Whereas past chamber dinners were only open to members, this year’s celebration is open to the entire community. The change is even reflected in the event being called a community celebration rather than a chamber dinner.
“I changed [the name] to community celebration because the perception has always been that it’s a chamber member dinner. This is open to the community,” Thompson said. “I also changed the venue from a dinner with usually an economic speaker ... this one is Lee Greenwood. When is the last time we had Lee Greenwood come to our community?”
Greenwood, who wrote “God Bless the USA,” will be the event’s entertainment, while Todd G. Gongwer is slated to give a talk on business leadership. Gongwer is author of the book “Lead ... for God’s Sake,” a best-selling story about effective leadership. In the book Gongwer describes a stick man holding an axe and a bag of money, which represent using fear or monetary reward to manage employees.
“The purpose of it is to show the leaders in the community, ‘Why are you leading?’ If you forget the heart in the stick man, and the purpose that we are to empower people or to help people, then we’re doing all this for nothing,” Harris said. “So it’s going to be a good little leadership kind of thing to say, you know, it’s not just [that] the coach started cussing out ‘lead for God’s sake,’ but really they need to lead for God’s sake — lead for the important reasons would be a good way to put it.”
Harris added the chamber cut back on the amount of awards handed out so the event could focus on leadership and bringing together the community and companies coming into the community, such as LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center.
Thompson believed such outside investments made it essential to broaden the chamber event’s scope.
“It’s set up, really, as for you and your wife to come and have an evening away and be entertained. In that, yes, we’ll do some small business, but the focus of it is the celebration of our community,” he said. “Because the way I was able to get these two individuals to come to our community is through selling them on what Bartow County is doing. We are a unique community that has not waited for the federal government to help us. We are going out and getting it done, and they want to be part of something exciting. ...
“Particularly this event in the past has always been a kind of inclusive, Bartow County, thing. This is now a northwest thing, and it’s open to the community. So that’s really what I’m trying to communicate.”
Tickets are on sale at the chamber until Friday, Jan. 11, at $60 for members and $75 nonmembers. The event is scheduled to run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Clarence Brown Conference Center. A celebrity reception also is scheduled at 5 p.m. with an extra $25 ticket.
Harris asked anyone who purchased a ticket, but is unable to attend the dinner, to contact the chamber with their table number and number of tickets. There are student leaders and teachers, Harris said, who are interested in attending the event but are unable to afford a ticket. A will call list, he added, will be drawn up.
For more information contact the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce at 770-382-1466.