It was more than an annual meeting -- it was an extravaganza!
The theme: Soaring to New Heights.
Mike Stodolak, Joseph Mazzeo and Chris Girard Welcomed the Crowd.
From the opening with Disneyland like characters chanting the positive mantra to the breathlessness of the award presentations, President/CEO Mike Seward and staff outdid themselves at the 129th annual meeting of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.
Venue was the magnificent DoubleTree Hotel - Bay City Riverfront, a community triumph in itself since it allows expansive events like this one as never before.
About 450 people were part of the meeting that focused on community development through collaboration and leadership, goals cited by several speakers.
Welcome was by Mike Stodolak, Joseph Mazzeo and Chris Girard. Recognition was accorded Alice Gerard, immediate past chair, along with retiring directors and Pat O'Brien, chair-elect. Invocation was by Dan Streeter.
The Josh Ramses Band providing the inspirational background music was another first-class touch.
A huge array of items, totaling 178, for the silent auction gave evidence that lots of volunteers had beat the bushes for support for Leadership Bay County, a chamber project to develop community leaders.
With Chamber Board Chair Dave Green presiding, Master of Ceremonies Eric Jylha, local television personality, was effusive in his introductions, as usual, lending a ringmaster tone to the proceedings.
Business Hall of Fame inductees
William, James and Thomas Brennan
Mr. Green announced the chamber for the first time will be providing college scholarships to top students from each of Bay County's high schools.
Another new program is the Small Business Council, developing programs and seminars to bring benefits and added value to local entrepreneurial efforts.
The 28th annual chamber Golf Challenge will be expanded to two courses this year, pitting 72 teams and culminating in a sudden death playoff between winners from the courses.
Under leadership of John Mertz, superintendent of the Essexville-Hampton Schools, a business-education partnership is springing up and will be promoted with "plant a seed, grow a community signs."
Public Affairs Chair Laurie Bush is organizing another in a series of economic development trips to Lansing to call on state legislators. A meeting with U.S. Chamber President Tom Donahue also is in the works, Ms. Bush announced.
The Chamber is backing improvement projects at US-10 and Mackinaw Road, widening Garfield Road from US-10 to the MBS Airport (soon to sport a new terminal) and the creation of 400 jobs at the UptownatRiversEdge project on the old I-B site along the Saginaw River in Bay City.
"These five-year exciting chamber supported projects have the potential to change the economic landscape of the community," exclaimed Ms. Bush.
The Chamber also is partnering with the Bay Area Community Foundation to develop a strategic plan for city-county cooperation.
Among goals cited by Mr. Seward are focus on small business, legislative activities, economic development, membership and educational improvement, all wrapped into 72 specific objectives under the Chamber's Program of Work.
Sue Pike was named Ambassador of the Year, Robert Belleman was named winner of the James A. Barcia Award for Excellence in Public Service, the Athena Award went to Linda Billheimer, leadership alumni service awards went to Pam Monastiere and Dr. Lee Newton.
Wayne Hoffman won the award for outstanding service to the Young Professionals Network Group and ambassador all-star team awards went to Sue Pike, Cindy Miller, Meri Sue Engers, Andrea Gale and Stephanie Kopec.
Named to the Business Hall of Fame were Wayne Maier, John Nichols, and Tom, Bill and Jim Brennan.