Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Announces Annual Award Recipients

Georgia Commissioner of Economic Development Craig Lesser was guest speaker at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce 98th Annual Meeting & Gala on Thursday, May 18 at Brenau University in Pearce Auditorium. Greater Hall Chamber Chairman John Vardeman, Chairman-Elect Jimmy Adams and President/CEO Kit Dunlap hosted a special night of recognition and accomplishment with the announcement of the Small Business of the Year, Family Business of the Year, Silver Shovel Winners, the Distinguished Community Service Award and the President’s Award recipients. Chamber officers, Leadership Hall County participants and other outstanding volunteers were recognized as well.

A Champagne Reception followed the program in Yonah Hall and on the front lawn of Brenau University. The event was sponsored by BB&T, Georgia Power Company and Northeast Georgia Health System, Inc.

Award Recognition:

W.G. Mealor Chairman’s Award:

Rob Fowler, Turner Wood & Smith

Anita Scott, Northeast Georgia Medical Center & Health System

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s W.G. Mealor Chairman’s Award is presented annually to one who has served the community and the Chamber with exceptional leadership and volunteerism. The award is given to one who exemplifies high ethics and morals, a person of vision and a leader in our community. These are the traits possessed by Mr. Mealor who served as the first President of the Chamber of Commerce from 1908 to 1917 and was also Mayor of Gainesville. Mealor was known as a power house – a person with good sense and an ability to get things done.

It is keeping with these high standards the Greater Hall Chamber presented the prestigious W. G. Mealor Award to TWO most deserving individuals – Rob Fowler, Turner Wood & Smith, and Anita Scott, Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Health System. As co-chairs of VISION 2030, Anita and Rob have led hundreds of citizens in planning our community’s future.

Rob is a past chairman of the Greater Hall Chamber and has served as an officer on the Executive Committee in many capacities for several years. Anita, also an officer of the Greater Hall Chamber, has served as chairman of the Quality Education Strategy Team Council and Chairman of the Education and Community Development Division. Rob and Anita will continue to serve as VISION 2030 co-chairs in the upcoming year.

Distinguished Community Service Award:

Ray McRay, Regions Bank

Ray McRae located to Gainesville from Athens over 50 years ago after serving honorably in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean conflict. He joined the former First National Bank of Gainesville, now Regions Bank, in 1953 and built it into a leading community bank and holding company for banks throughout the region and played a major role in establishing Gainesville and Hall County as the center of banking and finance for Northeast Georgia. Due to his economic development efforts, many major corporations were persuaded to move their operations here – Teledyne Technologies, Barbe America, Elan Pharmaceutical, Chateau Elan and the Wrigley Company. The abundant evidence of his long years of service to our civic and business community are easily apparent today – many years after planting and sowing those initial seeds of economic growth.

Family Businesses of the Year:

Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Inc.

Rochester & Associates

Lawson Air Conditioning & Plumbing, Inc.

Founded in 1946, Lawson Oil Company began as an installer of oil furnaces. In 1959, L.D. Lawson built the company’s office on Dorsey Street and the facility still serves as headquarters today. Through the years, Lawson continued to sell furnaces and expanded by adding a commercial plumbing division. An original founder of Lakeview Academy, L.D. Lawson was commended by Georgia Governor George Busbee and the State House of Representatives in 1975 as one of the state’s most distinguished citizens. Debbie Davis, L.D.’s daughter, and her husband Vince Davis continue L.D.’s tradition as company owners. Debbie’s mother, Clovie Lawson, still works three days a week at 85! Lawson Air is celebrating 60 years in business, and more than a dozen of the 85 employees have 25 years of service or more with the company.

Rochester and Associates, Inc.

Rochester & Associates celebrates 40 years in business this year. Since 1966, Rochester has provided land surveying, civil engineering and project management services for residential and commercial projects. To commemorate their 40th anniversary, Rochester partnered with several clients to build a Habitat for Humanity House in South Atlanta. The project theme – The American Dream – pays homage to the company’s founder Keith Rochester, in how he successfully created his own American dream . Darrell and Brian Rochester now operate the company and 180 employees. Specializing in mixed-use, master planned communities, Rochester is based in Gainesville with offices in Atlanta and Tampa. Rochester was listed in the top 20 engineering firms in metro Atlanta by the Atlanta Business Chronicle and remains active in the community as a Partner in Education with Wauka Mountain Elementary School. Rochester engineered and planned Road Atlanta, the Atlanta Falcons complex and headquaters in Flowery Branch, Lake Lanier Islands Resort and many other high-profile projects.

Small Businesses of the Year:

Electronic Sales

Poor Richards Restaurant

Poor Richards Restaurant

Richard and Bonnie LeCain have been serving up some of Gainesville’s finest cuisine for over 30 years. Specializing in seafood, steaks and ribs, the restaurant was voted into the Hall County Hall of Fame by local residents. Three different dining atmospheres offer something for everyone with a new outdoor patio as the latest addition. Great food, fun and fellowship can be found at the restaurant along with the best networking in town! AND the BEST salad dressing ever… their Hot Bacon Salad Dressing is such a success that they are now bottling it up and selling by the case loads. Thank you, Richard and Bonnie, for providing Gainesville-Hall County 30 years of perfect dining experiences for our families, business associates and friends.

Electronic Sales Company

Electronic Sales Company President and Owner Counte Cooley began his career holding flashlights and passing tools to his father, Don. Through Don and Counte’s hard work and tenacity, the company has been an industry leader for 48 years. Electronic Sales opened in 1958 with three employees and today with 21 employees remains the only certified burglar and fire alarm company in Northeast Georgia. Counte, his son Cory, and wife Jackie, continue to grow the company that remains the leader in intrusion detection, fire alarm systems, door access and video surveillance. In 1985, the company pioneered an innovative industrial paging system that is still being deployed in most major high-noise industrial institutions. A member of the Greater Hall Chamber for many years, Counte continues his community involvement serving as a Kiwanis past president, current Chattahoochee Country Club membership director, and president of his Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church. Professionally, Counte serves as vice president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and has served several terms as president of the Georgia Burglar Fire Alarm Association.

Silver Shovel Award Winners:

Tanya Applebaum, Junior Achievement of Georgia

Junior Achievement has become a “shining star” in teaching youth about business, as participants learn how to operate a business from start to finish. Under Tanya’s 10 years of leadership, Junior Achievement programs have reached over 70,000 students with a large majority in Gainesville-Hall County. Tanya served as co-chair of the Annual Meeting & Gala and is a constant leader and education partner of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Dianne Baughcum, RAD Services

Dianne is the Chamber’s Ambassador of the year for 2005-06. She has organized this group of volunteers for ribbon cuttings, mentoring new members, helping with Business After Hours – always on had to give a helping hand. Dianne has also served as chairman of the Leads Group, which meets several times monthly to exchange viable sales information.

Jennifer Gabriel, Network Communications Solutions

Jen is a dynamic leader, and she has participated on the Leadership Hall County planning team, the Chamber Membership Campaign (her team brought in the most new members), co-chaired the most successful Hacker’s Holiday Golf Tournament earlier this year and she also serves as a Chamber Ambassador.

Susie Graybeal, Community Volunteer

Susie believes in community service and has been a leading force in the success of the Leadership Hall County program. She has also assisted with the founding and operating of the new Youth Leadership Hall program. The Chamber appreciates her ongoing dedication to developing leaders in Gainesville and Hall County and encouraging youth to become involved in services to our community.

Karl Keller, SunDance Products

Karl served as chairman of the Chamber’s Human Resource Council and has developed a great reputation for his outgoing leadership style with HR professionals in the community. Karl has used his own time to train many supervisors in our local industry on behalf of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, and his enthusiasm, professionalism and partnership with the Chamber is greatly appreciated.

Sabrina Mills, United Community Bank

Enthusiasm and persistence are perfect words to describe Sabrina Mills. Sabrina is co-chair of the Chamber’s Member Relations Committee – a group that provides an important link with new Chamber members. The committee networks with them, encouraging these new members to become involved and assisting them with any business concerns. Sabrina also serves as a Chamber Ambassador.

Connie Propes, Community Volunteer

Under the leadership of Connie Propes, the Chamber’s Beautification and Tree Committee has blossomed and highlighted the importance of tree protection and cultivation. Gainesville-Hall County has many large, beautiful, old trees that are being catalogued and preserved thanks to her work. Through her committee work and with the Georgia Forestry Division, the City of Gainesville was designated a “ Tree City” for the 20th year.

Gordon Sawyer, Sawyer Innovations

Businessman, teacher, author, historian, radio commentator, artist – you name it – Gordon has done it and is still doing it! For many years Gordon has been an important part of our community and Chamber. He continues to actively participate and share his business expertise through Chamber Small Business Seminars and columns, and all should take advantage of his knowledge in marketing and public relations. Gordon has also been an important voice and member of the Steering Committee of the VISION 2030 program this year.

Elizabeth Umberson, ZF Industries

The Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council has thrived under the volunteer leadership of Elizabeth Umberson. Elizabeth works with the Chamber’s professional economic development staff to develop programs and strategies for attracting new business and for working and expanding existing business – new programs such as retail strategies and targeting future life science companies to locate to Gainesville-Hall County. Elizabeth has also served has our representative on the State of Georgia’s Red Carpet Tour.