The sold-out event, which had approximately 700 attendees, was a celebration of how Bartow County has grown in spite of difficult economic times, said former Chairman Bruce Thompson.
“People outside of Bartow County are taking notice of what we’re trying to do, and tonight’s a celebration of that — setting the stage to support the initiatives of our incoming chair as well,” he said.
“The point is, let’s showcase what Bartow County has been able to do with the people. Not only stabilize it — I feel we’re stabilized — but to grow and build on what we’ve had this year ... We’ve got a gem here that people don’t even know about,” he continued.
Thompson had worked throughout his 2012 term to grow the chamber and make it “relevant in all aspects of everyone’s life.” With 857 members as of December 2012 and $181,699 in cash as of Dec. 31, 2012, Thompson believed he succeeded.
Incoming Chairman Wayne Moore said he looked forward to instituting new initiatives to continue economic growth in the county, such as expanding the chamber’s involvement in the annual steeplechase.
“The world is coming to our doorstep, and I’ve lived here all my life and this is just a special place to me,” he said. “I have so many memories and everything like that. But times [are] changing, as they always do and we’ve just got a lot of people coming to this area and opportunities, LakePoint [Sporting Community & Town Center], different things like that. What we do right now will become history one day, and how do we want history written?”
Thompson said it was the economic growth and determination of Bartow County residents to pull themselves out of the recession that brought Gongwer and Greenwood to the county and to the dinner.
“The county’s been awesome. I’m so impressed with this community and the type of event that this community just put on,” he said after the dinner. “I get to go on a lot of community events, and business events and sporting events and things like that. This thing was done as good as any I’ve ever been to in terms of ... just everything about it.
“It was just an awesome, awesome event. It speaks volumes to, I think, what’s going on, [what’s] special, in this community.”
Before Gongwer’s talk, the chamber handed out its list of 2012 awards to local businesses and community leaders.
The best small business award went to The TC Show, run by Tom Shinall and Chad Oates. Expanding manufacturer of the year went to the Ampcet Corporation. Manufacturer of the year went to Applied Thermoplastic Resources. Green manufacturer of the year went to Zep, Inc. Volunteer of the year went to Jayce Stepp.
Thompson also created a special award for the year, called the Eagle Award, which went to Gene Vance, LaDonna Jordan and Gene Lee, whose award was accepted by Chuck Nida.
The humanitarian of the year award went to the late Pastor Charles Fluellen. His wife Judith and son, Andr