Chamber of Commerce celebrates 100 years

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- In the course of celebrating its centennial, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce also welcomed a new board chairman.

Outgoing Chairman John McDuffie passed the gavel to Jimmy Wilson at the chamber's annual dinner Tuesday evening at the Albany Civic Center.

"We're very fortunate we've had the history we've had," McDuffie said before bequeathing his role to Wilson. "For any organization, to last 100 years is something to be proud of."

In his address, McDuffie said his goals for the community during 2009 have been met and that it is time to build on what has already been put in place.

"I stated at the 2009 dinner that my goal was focus. I believe we have achieved that goal," he said. "We must continue to do the things that will make our community thrive.

"For me, 2009 was a labor of love. It was an honor to work with the chamber in 2009. We're blessed to be able to live in Albany. Never take it for granted."

Wilson said he was ready to take on the task of chairman, but admitted that it was a big responsibility.

"I really do have big shoes to fill," he said. "I'm truly honored to be your chairman for 2010. As we begin our next 100 years, we will continue to bring a voice to (area) businesses. Our job is to look after the business community."

He also expressed the goals he has planned to reach in the coming year.

"We are going to revise our strategic plan, and a part of our strategic plan is regionalism," Wilson said. "Our region is very important. We must continue to be the retail hub and economic engine of Southwest Georgia. We have so much to offer as a business community."

There was also a point in the program highlighting the chamber's 100-year history, a procession of the former chamber chairmen, which counted seven including McDuffie, and a performance by the Freedom Singers.

Chamber President and CEO Catherine Glover also addressed the crowd. "I am wrapping up 15 months of duty, but I don't see it as duty," she said. "Our community and the chamber have so much to be proud of."

Albany established itself as the retail center of Southwest Georgia in the early 20th century. By the 1970s, the region had cemented its status as a center for job growth.

Along with the dinner program, the event also included a cocktail reception and business exhibits, and concluded with dancing to the music of Reflections.