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Chamber honors businesses, entrepreneurs
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Outgoing chamber Chairman Kevin Thomas claps as incoming Chairwoman Susan McCorkle is introduced. - photo by Danielle Hipps

Chamber awards 2012

Businesses of the Year
• Self-employed: Karen Bell, Ardyss K. Bell
• 2-15 employees: Interstate Credit Union
• 16-35 employees: Liberty Chrysler
• Over 35 employees: Liberty Regional Medical Center

Ambassador of the Year: ShaQuawn Autery, Strategic Business Solutions

Civic Leader of the Year: Sheriff Steve Sikes

Business Leader of the Year: Barbara Martin VanDuser, GeoVista Credit Union

Dressed in denim and diamonds and with business on the brain, about 175 commerce and community leaders gathered Friday night for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and banquet.

The event, held at Club Stewart, was a chance for the chamber to reward outstanding business leaders and induct 26 new members to its 2012 board of directors. 

“We’ve come here tonight to celebrate not just the successes of our chamber, but also those of you who are our fantastic and supportive membership,” chamber CEO Leah Poole said as the ceremony began.

Poole thanked the chamber staff and volunteers who made the event — and several ribbon-cuttings throughout the year — possible.

Event sponsors spoke about the state of business while guests dined on chicken and beef stroganoff.

Allan Anderson, senior vice president of sales for search-engine optimization and web design company Buzz My Biz, said times have changed, and business owners must keep up with technology to remain competitive.

“Today is a great time to be in business,” he said. “A small-business person has, now, one of the greatest tools at their disposal that a business can have ...”

He continued speaking about the Internet and how it fosters two-way communication between businesses and customers.
“The days are gone for all of us in here when you can print a business card, get a little Yellow Page ad and just wait for the business to pour in,” he said.

Dr. Thomas Danello of South Georgia Immediate Care Center spoke about changing health-care habits in America and how hospital overcrowding has prompted growth of urgent-care centers. He stressed that the intention is not to undercut hospitals, but to offer an alternative that can serve patients more quickly and lighten hospital loads.

“We see this area expanding in the next five years,” he said. “I think Liberty, just like Chatham, just like Effingham, are all just booming in population, and we need these advanced medical care clinics to see patients seven days a week.”

Next, incoming chamber Chairwoman Susan McCorkle joined Poole in awarding outgoing chamber Directors Robert Stokes, Toby Mahan, Virgil Jones and Kim Sachau for their service.

Then they welcomed outgoing Chairman Kevin Thomas, who reflected on the chamber’s successes in 2011.

“My theme for this year was ‘Getting Back to Business,’” he said. “I really felt that was the thing that we all needed to remember, because we’ve been through tough economic times, and it’s easy for business owners and entrepreneurs to bury their heads in the sand and say ‘I’ll just be glad when it’s all over.’”

He shared figures that outlined the chamber’s growth and commended Poole, Membership Director Kirsten Pratt and Operations Director Carrie McDowell.

The chamber hosted 44 ribbon-cuttings, 11 Progress Through People luncheons, 12 Business After Hours mixers and 11 special events, Thomas said.  The chamber recruited 159 new members, 289 renewed their memberships and 93 businesses participated in a member-to-member discount program.

Thomas introduced McCorkle as the incoming chairwoman. She pledged to continue moving the chamber in a positive direction and read testimonials from member businesses. They inducted the new directors before moving on to awards.

As she named business award winners, Poole offered background information and descriptions for each. Nominations were open to all chamber members, and a committee reviewed the nominees.

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