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Chamber holds annual meeting, combines music and message

Bobby McKinney, interim Chamber president, holds a copy of AlbanyGA magazine during a special presentation Thursday night at the 102nd annual meeting of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce at Darton’s Cavalier Arena.

Bobby McKinney, interim Chamber president, holds a copy of AlbanyGA magazine during a special presentation Thursday night at the 102nd annual meeting of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce at Darton’s Cavalier Arena.

ALBANY — Stressing its theme of “togetherness” in both music and regional business success, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce conducted its annual meeting Thursday night at the Darton College Cavalier Arena.

According to Rachelle Bitterman, director of communications for the chamber, it was no accident that both the evening’s planned musical artists — Craig Meyer with his “Almost Elton John” performance and classical violinist Gareth Johnson — differed radically from each other in their musical styles.

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Almost Elton John entertainer Craig Meyer performs Thursday evening during the 102nd annual meeting of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce at Darton’s Cavalier Arena.

“It was done in part to highlight the togetherness theme for chamber members,” Bitterman said. “The music is ‘Classical and Pop, Together They Rock,’ while the platform message of our new chairman, Miles Espy, is ‘Together We Can.’ ”

Bitterman said the platform message refers not only to a proposed spirit of members working together within the Albany chamber, but also to the concept of working with nearby chambers to achieve common goals.”

Intended more as a time for “reflection and enjoyment” than an actual business meeting, chamber members and guests attended a pre-event social hour before the dinner and show.

After the attendees were settled in the banquet hall and outgoing Chair Judy Randle made a brief welcome to the group, the colors were presented by the Marine Corps Logistics Base Color Guard. This was followed by the National Anthem, performed by Karla Heath Sands, and the invocation presented by Bryan Haynes, associate youth pastor of Gillionville Baptist Church.

After the dinner, Randle thanked all those who had ever served as a chamber board member, then recognized Bobby McKinney, interim chamber president, for his past and current service to the chamber.

“When Miles (Espy) and Judy (Randle) came to me to be interim president, it was easy to say yes,” McKinney said. “It’s the people who work with you who make it all worthwhile.”

McKinney mentioned several Albany attractions, in particular those near the Flint River, calling Albany “a great place to be.”

“Don’t let any of that negativity you hear sometimes make you think any differently,” he said. “Albany is a great place to be, so let’s talk it up.”

Randle also recognized the new chamber board members for 2012: Jim Deal, Eric Hodges, Pamela Jackson, Deidra Langstaff, Junian Price, Jenny Sevelle, Tom Sullivan, Tom Tenney and Jim Wilcox.

After Randle had “passed the gavel” to Espy, symbolically shifting the honor and responsibility of the chair position to him, Espy addressed the group of nearly 300 people concerning what he considered “keys” to business growth in the Albany area.

Espy said the chamber would continue to work with the stakeholders of the community to improve the business climate and to create opportunities for growth. In addition, he said, the chamber would continue to appreciate, support and advance Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, as well as Strive 2 Thrive, a chamber program designed to teach and assist families and individuals attempting to lift themselves from poverty. Espy also said the chamber would continue to value and support Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is designed to attract tourism dollars to the city.

Just before the musical performances of Johnson and Myer, Randle was presented with a classic wooden rocking chair, with the offer that “she could relax now.”