The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce was begun in the late 1960s and has progressed from its first annual banquets which were pot luck dinners at the local Masonic Lodge, to a full-fledged meal at a local a banquet facility with hundreds of people in attendance.
Today the chamber is the one organization focused on business growth, leadership development, entrepreneurship and community enhancement in Fayette. It works to bring together leadership and business, government, non-profits, and education to address issues and the needs of the community.
The annual banquet is used as a showcase to give recognition to the various segments of its membership.
Those receiving special awards at the Jan. 14 luncheon in Tyrone include:
• Ambassador of the Year to Sandy Sanders, of the Canongate, Whitewater Country Club.
• The Dreambuilder Award to Dr. Ferrol A. Sams, Jr. and Dr. Helen Sams.
• The Small Business of the Year recognition to Rick and Sheila Barnes of Minuteman Press in Peachtree City.
• The Outstanding Business Person of the Year to Jack Bowdoin, of Heritage Bank.
• The Chet Wells Award to Pam Young, of Southern Conservation Trust.
• And a first-time award for the Young Professional of the Year was given to Ellie White-Stevens, Marketing Guru.
Speaker for the occasion was Dr. Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. It is a Washington, D.C.-based technology policy think tank. He received his Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Atkinson is not one to mince words and said that the United States is losing the race in economic growth. It is falling behind in education and not encouraging downtrodden communities to reinvent themselves.
He named four points necessary for communities to do this: one was reexamining its tax structure. He advocated lower taxes to increase business advancement; more public investment in its schools and businesses; more trade in instances where it would be advantageous; setting standards that do not deviate; and cultivating local talent and entrepreneurs.
Outgoing Chamber Board Chair, Joe Domaleski, presented the incoming chair gavel to Melanie Myer, Fayetteville branch manager of Delta Credit Union.