By Jeff Noble/Staff Writer
Three years after the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce was formed, the people who make up the Chamber celebrated how far they’ve come, and how moving forward will take them farther, during Tuesday’s inaugural Annual Chamber Banquet.
Over 260 people came to the feast held at the Corbin Center. The business attire event included a dinner, entertainment by the University of the Cumberlands’ “UC Jazz Ensemble,” a silent auction held before eating and an address by Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the largest business organization in the state — the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber president Josh Curry reminded the audience of the progress achieved by the regional organization, which came about from the merger of the Corbin and Williamsburg Chambers of Commerce.
“Individually we can stand, but together we can grow and prosper,” Curry said at the beginning of the banquet.
Adkisson, who has been with the state Chamber for six years, talked about the recent session of the Kentucky General Assembly, which he said was “by and large, a very productive session.”
“Pension reform was a victory for taxpayers in Kentucky, and for the business community. It will provide full funding for the retirement system and reduce overall costs. To their (the legislature’s) credit, and the business standpoint, this was a good session. … They came with a bipartisan plan, and at the 11th hour, Governor Beshear, the legislature, Senate President (Robert) Stivers and Speaker (Greg) Stumbo showed that government can work. The train is back on the track,” said Adkisson, a former mayor of Owensboro who also served as chairman of the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education and co-founded Leadership Kentucky,
Adkisson added other pieces of legislation were passed during the “short session,” including raising the dropout age from 16 to 18 years of age, early graduation and teacher evaluation.
While mentioning the state chamber’s main job is to help keep local chambers and business abreast of Frankfort happenings and public policy, Adkisson said local chambers were “very different,” with their goal being the catalysts for change to make the business climate in their communities vibrant and growing.
He used examples of such growth by giving examples of two Chambers of Commerce — his former hometown of Birmingham, Ala., and his original hometown of Owensboro. Then, Adkisson ended his talk with a challenge to those listening.
“The Chambers of Commerce in those two towns rolled up their sleeves and helped business. I challenge you tonight when you think about your own Chamber to think about what can be accomplished in five years or 10 years and what can be accomplished for your kids and grandkids when you roll up your sleeves and get things done,” he said.
Six people received awards after Adkisson’s speech.
The Ossoli Club of Corbin was given the Civic Club/Community Involvement award with president Gaynell Conley and Diane Mitchell receiving the honor for the Ossoli Club. Kristal Doolin, a teacher at Corbin Middle School, and Alvin Sharpe of the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, were named as Educators of the Year. Cheryl Ellis of CSC was awarded Volunteer of the Year, while Terry Forcht of Forcht Group of Kentucky received the honor for Business of the Year.
The Chamber’s executive director, Bruce Carpenter, closed the banquet thanking chamber members for their hard work and the progress they’ve made in the three years after the merger.
“Numbers speak louder. Not just in our communities, or in Frankfort, but in Washington. We’ve got to continue to move forward. We must continue with our partnerships and regional efforts. My hats off to everyone involved in moving the Chamber forward,” he said.