Albany Chamber prepares for annual meeting

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce will hold its 103rd annual meeting Jan. 31 at the conference center of the Hilton Garden Inn.

Chamber President/CEO Chris Hardy said that while the meeting is intended for members to relax and enjoy their time together, there's also a business side to the event. In contrast to last year's musical affair, the 2013 meeting will feature speaker Patrick McGaughey, a certified professional facilitator. According to Hardy, who will attend his first annual meeting since taking the chamber reins in April, McGaughey serves as mentor for a number of successful chambers nationwide and provides board and volunteer leadership training.

"I've been in the chamber business for eight years," Hardy said, "and Patrick provides a kind of energetic blend of humor and education that's just incredible."

Hardy said there will be no new directions revealed for the Albany Area Chamber. The organization will continue its advocacy and support for the business community, including the pursuit of favorable legislation. In addition, increased focus will be directed in the areas of leadership development and local education.

Hardy did say that two award categories historically presented at other chamber functions -- the Life Service Award and Nonprofit of the Year -- will now be given at the annual meeting.

"We're excited about the change," Hardy said. "We wanted to make sure as many people as possible would be here for the presentation."

New board members who will be introduced at the annual meeting are Mike Cooper, David Durland, Patricia King, Chandu Kuntawala, Jim Moore and Cal McMillan

Incoming Chair Cynthia George said she wants to continue and even increase the focus on involvement with the chamber, including area colleges and institutions of education.

"There's already a lot of opportunity for involvement with the chamber," George said. "We have Star Business of the Week, Small Business of the Week and an expo for small business. I hope we can expand to include as many people as possible across the community."

There will be a silent auction to benefit Strive2Thrive, Chamber sources say, and will include paintings by Mitch Mercer and Steve Hinton. Mercer's painting is autographed by the Athens-based Southern-style rock group, "Drive-By Truckers," while Hinton's painting is autographed by members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. There will also be fresh water pearl necklaces and bracelets available for bid at the auction.

The event will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the program at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $60 per person and are available at the chamber website, www.albanyga.com.