The theme of this year’s Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce is “Come Together” and about 225 people came together Friday night to celebrate the chamber’s 151st Annual Meeting at the Macon City Auditorium.
The chamber’s theme represents “our community and the region coming together to support a number of initiatives such as encroachment, regionalism, economic development SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) and T-SPLOST (transportation special purpose local option sales tax) and consolidation,” said 2011 Chamber Chairman Walt Miller.
Mike Dyer, interim chamber president and CEO, said the “secret sauce of our success” has been a blending of the public and private sector.
The public helps to develop most of the inventory of land and property sold and the incentives which are offered, Dyer said. The private sector brings financial resources to the table along with an understanding of what the client needs.
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“When these resources are blended with the relations we have established, they result in our being a competitive force in the economic development arena,” Dyer said.
In 2011, six deals were closed, including Global Parts Distributor, Graphic Packaging and Northwest Technologies, he said. Those six projects will invest $164 million in new plant and equipment, create 248 new jobs and 50 jobs were retained.
The topic of SPLOST and encroachment issues involving Robins Air Force Base came up more than once during the event.
“The subject of encroachment has been a dark cloud hanging over the base for over 40 years,” Miller said. “I am very proud to stand before you tonight and tell you that we are well on our way to eliminating the problem.
“While much is left to do, including the passage of the Houston County SPLOST, much has already been done,” he said. “With the passage of the Bibb County SPLOST, we have increased the pool of funds available to address the problem to over $11.5 million.”
Former chamber President and CEO Chip Cherry, who announced in November he was leaving to take the same position with the Huntsville, Ala., chamber, was recognized for his 10 years of leadership with a plaque.
When Cherry took the job in Macon, the chamber was $100,000 in debt and had no money, Miller said.
“I remember one of the first issues we dealt with, we sought to become a traffic cop of sorts to address the turf battles occurring between many of our boards and commissions,” Miller said. “You see, we had a trust issue. Chip led the effort.”
The dinner event also included awards for people who have excelled in business and community involvement. Those awarded were:
Citizen of the Year Award: Frank Amerson, chairman of the Macon Water Authority.
MEDC Economic Champion Award: George Greer, Spivey, Pope, Green and Greer.
Robert F. Hatcher Leadership Macon Alumni Award: Former U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall.
Ambassador of the Year Award: LaTrenda Leaks, Georgia Department of Labor.
Chairman’s Award: Thomas Wicker, Georgia Power, region vice president for central Georgia.
To contact writer, Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.