By Hailey Blevins
The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce held their 32nd annual assembly yesterday, February 12, at the Meadowbrook Inn. The assembly serves as both an awards luncheon and the organization’s annual meeting.
David Barker, outgoing Chairman of the Board, was recognized. David has served on the board for 6 years, serving as the Chairman of the Board for 2018. He will be serving in 2019 on the Executive Board and Board as Immediate Past Chair. He has led the board over the years to take a close look at events from a strategic perspective. He also worked tirelessly last year to reinvent Savor Blowing Rock, adding several exciting new events and changing the look and feel of the existing events.
David put considerable finance into the event as Co-Presenting Sponsor. He has traveled extensively and done considerable research on competitive wine events across the region and has helped steer the Chamber in a new strategic direction. His enthusiasm for these events has resulted in very positive results. Charles Hardin, President of the BR Chamber of Commernce, says David has also been instrumental in assessing staffing needs and how best to approach these objectives.
Hardin then recognized the 2019 officers:
For 2019, Bill Chick will serve as Board Chairman, Zak Ammar will serve as 1st Vice Chair, Pam Vines will serve as 2nd Vice Chair, Ben Powell will serve as Secretary, Jim McDowell will serve as Treasurer, Emily Brinker will serve as Member at Large on the Executive Board and David Barker will serve as IPP.
According the the 2018 fact sheet, the BR Chamber of Commerce has 550 members (55 of which are new members), a 97% retention rate, more than 1100 subscribers and 11,617 followers on 3 social media platforms. The Chamber has published 52 newsletters with a 42% open rate, has published and distributed 14,000 visitor guides and mailed 4,000, and has hosted 461,000 on BR.com with thousands of referrals to member sites.
Charles Hardin talked about the Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 accomplishments:
- 10 Gold Partners and 20 Silver Partners.
- Completed the Mayview Plaza Project in partnership with the Village Foundation and the EDCorp
- Contributed $8,500 for construction of a new “Welcome to Blowing Rock” sign to be constructed summer 2019
- Purchased the Chamber building at 132 Park Avenue with financing through First Citizens Bank
- Held 14 networking events and 12 ribbon cutting events
- Co-hosted 3rd annual Economic Forecast Breakfast with Boone Chamber
- Held 72 committee meetings that resulted in 21 major new public initiatives supporting local business
- 3D print club, Goats, attended NCCET competition and received 1st place
- Raised funds and sent 9 BR School students to NCSSM summer accelerator camp
- Started Sentio program for 6th graders to bring awareness to local career opportunities with follow-up field trips for 7th graders
- Started an entrepreneur development class at BR School
- Took a delegation to WNC Legislative day in Raleigh and developed valuable relationships with state level elected and appointed officials
- Had 21 festival days that brought over 47,000 visitors and made financial contributions of over $10,000 to local charities
Hardin noted that the annual awards luncheon was about the celebration of the accomplishments of Blowing Rock’s vibrant, engaged business community and recognizes the event’s hosts, Vishal Savani and Ali Borchardt. Savani is the co-owner of the Meadowbrook Inn and Borchardt is the general manager.
The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce concluded their meeting with awards. The award’s selection process this year was under the direction of the Chamber’s Membership Committee: Jess Wehrmann, Billy Chick, Mark Mashburn, Ronnie Mark and Carol Dickerson.
First was the award for Major Economic Driver which was awarded to Appalachian State University for the impact the new Leon Levine Hall and graduates from it will have on the region’s quality of life and health. In 2018, Appalachian State completed this building project, which is one of the most ambitious building projects in the school’s history. 9.2 acres of land was donated by Appalachian Regional Healthcare System for the 203,000 square foot, &$70 million building. Part of the funds came from NC Connect Bond which the Chamber actively supported. The new building is located at the corner of State Farm Road and Deerfield Road and is a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility for the Beaver College of Health Sciences. The college is now housed under one roof, serving over 3,500 students.
The 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award was awarded to Jim Pitts for his activism in the community and the Chamber’s projects. He goes above and beyond to help the Chamber achieve its mission, supporting the Chamber in every way from volunteering at events to taking a leadership role in Chamber committee work. Pitts has served on the board for 5 years, serving as board chair, co-chair of the EDC, chair of the Community Economic Development Committee, Chair of Cultural Arts Task Force (formerly known as Firehouse Theater), acted as general contractor in building Mayview Plaza and been a 6 a.m. volunteer for Art in the Park almost every show. His company has been Gold Partners since 2009 with total Chamber and event sponsorship investment of over $158,000.
The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year was awarded to VPC Builders for excelling in community involvement, business promotion and teamwork. VPC Builders demonstrate high ethical standards and community spirit in accordance to the mission of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. They are extremely active in making the High Country more attractive and have complete renovation for Mellow Mushroom, The Rug Company and many new homes and renovations in the past five years in Blowing Rock. In Boone, they have completed the old PNC building, Macado’s, Coyote Kitchen and the Watauga County Health Department Building. VPC Builders also contributes to the area through volunteer service and philanthropy, working with Purple Heart Homes, Habitat for Humanity and High Country Breast Cancer Foundation in addition to board service. They work to improve the lives of children through involvement in local school fundraisers, local art competitions and youth sports teams.
Additionally, the Commercial Renovation Award went to The Ridgeline, the Service to the Community Award went to Jim McDowell of Mountainaire Inn & Log Cabins, the Award for Best Customer Service went to The Spice and Tea Exchange, the Jerry Burns Ambassadorial Award went to Charlie Sellers, and the Award for Outstanding Business Service went to First Citizens Bank to Rita Davis and Team.