Laughter and applause filled the room as 1st District Congressman Jack Kingston entertained more than 100 people Thursday at the Richmond Hill City Center.
As the keynote speaker of the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Banquet, Kingston, who serves Bryan County in the U.S. House of Representatives, joked some with the crowd and also commended Richmond Hill.
“This is a great community, and the quality of life that you have been able to preserve as you’ve grown throughout the years is amazing. And I think the future looks bright,” he said.
He also addressed some local and national issues he thought was important to the area for future job growth and economic turnaround, including the Belfast interchange, a project many people in Bryan County have worked on and something Kingston said he is glad to be a part of.
“We are very excited to help you in that endeavor, and I think that is certainly something that will help our area as we look at port funding, which effects Bryan County and all of Georgia — and it’s important for us to have great infrastructure,” he said.
Kingston also discussed the Savannah port expansion and said although it wasn’t located in Bryan County, it certainly has an effect here.
That project, he said, would create about 300,000 jobs around the state related to import and export. Although a lot of those jobs would be in Atlanta, the economic impact would be mostly in this area, he said.
Kingston also mentioned his small business ideas sessions in which he traveled to different communities, including Richmond Hill, to talk to local business owners.
“We got all kinds of information and took a lot of note. But one thing that came up in all six meetings was that public assistance is often your biggest competitor in terms of hiring a new person,” he said.
Kingston said many business owners told him they interview a lot of job candidates who are on unemployment insurance but can’t pass a drug test.
“As a society, we have to ask ourselves a question, ‘When is it in our interest to pay people to stay at home who have voluntarily made themselves ineligible to work?’” he said.
But Kingston was not the only big news of the evening as several chamber members were honored.
Yontz presented the Business of the Year award to Lavender Hill Spa Salon, a business that opened in 2006 and has grown from five to 19 employees, she said.
“In addition to providing 19 jobs in Richmond Hill, which is a significant number, they are also heavily involved in the community — I don’t think they say ‘no’ to anybody,” Yontz said. “They’re good stewards of our business community and they are what the small and medium-sized business community is all about.”
Yontz said although it was hard to choose one person for the Ambassador of the Year award, Nikki Palmer with Palmer Chiropractic really stood out. Through her volunteer work with so many events, from Business After Hours and ribbon cuttings to the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival, Yontz said Palmer was always helpful.
Outgoing chamber board of directors Chairman Robbie King introduced John Reynolds as the 2012 Chamber Chair. Reynolds owns RPI, a local roofing company, and served as the first vice chair in 2011.
“I want to thank you for the opportunity of being the chairman of your chamber — it is your chamber,” Reynolds said. “My door is open, and I’ve got some things in place in my organizations and really hope to donate a lot of time and effort into this position this year and work with Brianne. So let’s have some fun in 2012 and try to create a vision for Richmond Hill.”
King also recognized Bonnie Proctor, who is retiring, for her 20 years of service to the chamber. She was presented with a gift for her service.
Read more in the Jan. 14 edition of the News.