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Business leaders enjoyed positive reinforcement Wednesday when Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson praised Shelby County Chamber of Commerce members during a guest appearance at a chamber awards luncheon.
“In Shelby County, the commitment of the chamber of commerce and what it stands for is very important to the fabric of the community,” he told a crowd of 160 that attended the luncheon at Claudia Sanders Dinner House.
Gov. Steve Beshear was to have been guest speaker, but he had to cancel because he had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina, Abramson said.
Chamber President Gary Walls served as emcee, presenting chamber awards and recognizing companies and individuals who have played key roles in the Shelby County business arena during the past year.
Walls praised Martinrea Heavy Stamping’s success in rebuilding its workforce to nearly 1,000 employees after almost having to shut its doors in recent years, and he commended the business community in general for things such as excellence in workplace safety.
“I also want to thank the Industrial Foundation for their efforts in bringing new business to Shelby County and to the judge [Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger] for keeping them here,” Walls said.
Realtor Torrey Smith was named Citizen of the Year for his many contributions to the community, such as his work with Habitat for Humanity.
Ted Caruthers was recognized as the chamber’s Diplomat of the Year; and Walls named the four finalists for Chamber Leader of the Year as Citizens Union Bank, O’Brien Ford, Torrey Smith Realty and Whitney Young Job Corps Center, with the winner being CUB.
“Each of these has contributed to the chamber, giving of their time, talent and resources to make Shelby County a better place to live,” Walls said. “They have all served on committees, hosted chamber events, contributed to nonprofits and helped to educate our community’s workforce.”
Chamber Executive Director Shelley Goodwin told the crowd that the chamber could not have accomplished half as much this past year without Walls.
“We could not have made the progress we have made without his leadership,” she said.
Walls, who will be replaced by Candi Waford of Shelby Energy, made a short but emotional acknowledgement of Goodwin’s words.
“Six weeks after they named me president, I was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma,” he said. “It was scary, but you have all helped me through it.”
Walls said he recently got a clean bill of health after cancer treatments.
The new chamber board members were introduced, and those who were present came up front for a group photo: Shawn Adelsberger, Debbie Batliner, Steve Biagi, Danielle Dixon, Stephanie Doyle, Tom Hardesty, Rob Rothenburger, Hart Megibben, Corinne Kephart, Joe Lipps, Lola Marley, Neal Murphy, Rocky Oliver, Jim Reed, Renea Sageser, Greg Smith, Lisa Smith, James Stapleton, Cheryl Van Stockum, Candi Waford, Jackie Waits, Brian Webb and Cathie Wiegand.
Abramson concluded the event by saying he had to sprinkle his 3-minute speech in with congratulations to the new board members.
“Well, I had a twenty-seven-page speech planned, but they said no way,” he said, as the audience laughed. “I just want to congratulate all of you who were honored here today and to everyone here for being involved in so many community organizations. They are the ones who get things done in our country.
“The reality is that the Rotary Clubs and the Lion’s Clubs and those types of organizations make such a positive contribution to our communities.”
Abramson spoke of the importance of a skilled, productive and drug-free workforce, something that Shelby County could be proud of, he said.
“That’s our focus all throughout Kentucky, and education is the key,” he said. “From our early childhood centers to our community colleges, and places like Jefferson Community and Technical College here in Shelby County, that’s where careers are made.
“You can learn a trade there that pays more than I make; that’s what I found out when I paid a plumber who came to my house recently,” he said with a chuckle.
“The best thing we can do for incoming businesses [from other states] is to lay it all out there for them,” he said. “We [counties] are all in this together, and we all benefit when new business comes to Kentucky, but if a company goes to Indiana or Tennessee or wherever, we lose.”