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continued from page the Chamber’s ….

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the Chamber’s annual meeting.

As the evening began on Thursday, February 3, at the Vidalia Community Center, 2021 GVC Chairman Steven McComas, passed the gavel to 2022 Chairman John Koon, and many others were summarily honored on this night of celebration.

Before officially stepping down from his leadership role, McComas spoke on the growth in the Chamber, which he witnessed over the past year. “One of the things that we did back in December 2020 is that we met at Brewton-Parker College for a strategic planning session,” he explained. “Within that planning session, we really focused on three major issues. We did a lot of data analysis. We tried to understand our members, our area, and what our members wanted, and we came across three main things.”

According to Mc-Comas, those three main things were rebranding of the Chamber, the implementation of the REACH program, and obtaining the grant for the Center for Rural Economic Development. All three of these goals have successfully been completed.

“The Vidalia Onion is an asset to our area. It’s an inclusive asset. Everyone in this community, when you see that name, should think of your community,” he told the audience. “It is a tremendous marketing asset, and we have received millions (or dollars) from it. I cannot begin to thank the local communities and communities around this area for participating in the rebranding discussion.”

He continued to comment on the Chamber’s accomplishments. “The REACH program has been outstanding. The results of that have been record setting. It allows us to have the resources to go ahead and really market your businesses and your community.”

He added, “You will be hearing a lot more about the Center for Rural Economic Development,” he said. “This project not only is a centerpiece that helps spark businesses, facilitates growth in businesses, and really helps that next generation come in and buy your business or start new businesses. We need that talent from the next generation.”

McComas noted, “I spoke a year ago today on retaining that talent, and whatever we need to do to retain that talent must happen. We are only as good as the people we are surrounded by, and we have a duty for that next generation. Thus, that grant is under federal consideration currently. I am hoping over the next few month, we will hear something good from that, and it will be very marquee that small businesses matter and that rural America matters.”

He also spoke of the results of what he deems a prosperous year for the Chamber. “We have 476 members, a record number of very inclusive members. We did 23 ribbon cuttings, and we are estimating through those 23 ribbon cuttings, it constitutes around 52 jobs, as well as around a $14 million economic impact. “

McComas pointed out, “We went out to businesses, we thanked them for allowing us to come into their businesses during COVID, we thanked them for the opportunity to showcase their businesses, and more importantly, we thanked them for the opportunity to give us feedback on what we can do as chamber members to promote their businesses. We increased Community Bucks, our local shopping program by four times, and because of the REACH campaign and what we have done, we are in the best financial position in the history of the Chamber, with a record number of programs.”

He said, “I cannot begin to thank our Chamber staff. They make us look really good, and they are tremendous assets to our community.”

McComas concluded, “We are the envy of this area. Through my travels, I have been able to interact with a number of development authorities, local governments, and chambers of commerce, and I assure you this Chamber is highly, highly regarded.”

After recognizing outgoing board members and the Chair Award recipient, he passed the gavel to new GVC Chairman John Koon. “He is a tremendous asset to our community, all I ask of our board and our chairman is to continue to move forward,” McComas said. “Continue to succeed, continue to fail, continue to win the hearts and minds of our youth and our upcoming business owners, because all of you in here need to mentor someone and make sure they are successful for the good of our community.”

Koon began his Chairman duties by addressing attendants of the meeting. “Thank you for being here and thank you for your participation in what I believe is one of the best Chambers anywhere… and you are the reason!” he began. “You see, we as a Chamber are only as good as our members and your involvement—but with each of you, we can continue to grow and reach new heights and continue to offer you as businesses more.”

He explained, “This year has been a year of progress and movement. We have taken our roots and we have built upon the foundation that was laid by others who served before us. And like those, we will hold dear to our hearts the legacy that has been established, but also will keep moving to newer heights so that we may serve our businesses better as we grow.”

He continued, “Obviously, the past two years have taken a toll on many, and sadly, we have lost many great leaders who have meant so much to this organization over the years: Our Mayor Ronnie Dixon, Mr. Doyle NeSmith, and in the last five days John Robison and Vernon Sumner— all of these that I have mentioned and many more had one thing in common with many of us that have gathered here tonight: that is the love of an organization that works to make not just Vidalia better, or Lyons better, or Toombs County better, or Mt. Vernon or Montgomery County better, or Soperton or Treutlen County better, or Emanuel or Tattnall, or Evans County better. No! We all have a joint interest and that is to make this area better because when one succeeds…we all succeed!”

He concluded, “Tonight, we are here to celebrate our members and say thank you for a great year, but to also christen what we hope and expect to be another awesome year,” he concluded.

Awards and Recognitions

During the business portion of the meeting, outgoing Chairman Mc-Comas also recognized Memorial Health Meadows Hospital as the recipient of the annual Chair Award for its service to the community throughout the pandemic. This award was received by Meadows Vice President of Revenue Cycle Operations Mike Hagan on behalf of the hospital.

McComas noted, “This year, we had a COVID outbreak; last year, we had a COVID outbreak. These past two years, we have had numerous people in our community sacrifice a tremendous amount of hours to care for others.” He added, “We lost several people, but I cannot imagine how many more people we would have been lost if we did not have the staff of the hospital and the love and care of our physicians and nurses.”

McComas also recognized outgoing board members for their service to the Chamber throughout the past year. Pat Dixon, Ross Kelly, Allen Morris, and Terry Thompson were all presented with an award of gratitude and achievement for their time on the GVC board.

Participants in the Leadership Greater Vidalia class were also recognized at the event. These participants are: Amber O’Connor, Amelia Lane, Charleen Norfleet, Eric Smith, Gabrielle Daniels, Gerriell Craig, Jordan Robins, Justin Quarterman, Laurie Holland, Leitha Barfield, Madison Barwick, Michelle Branham, Pat Mitchell, Sam Aaron, Stephanie Wardlaw, Tonawanda Irie, Wil Ledford, and Will NeSmith.

Once the business had concluded, participants enjoyed a night of dancing and music to celebrate the success of the Chamber throughout the year. The celebration even included an impromptu performance by Toombs County Commission Chairman David Sikes and The Swingin’ Medallions.

IMPROMPTU PERFORMANCE – Toombs County Commission Chairman David Sikes, right, impressed the audience with his musical talent as he joined the band onstage to perform a number.Photo by Makaylee Randolph

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