Jerry Deloach is excited about the future of Bryan County.
Deloach, the 2008 Chair of the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce, spoke at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner on Monday, Jan. 28.
"We live in the greatest place in the world to live, coastal Georgia," he said. "There is a great opportunity here. We are slated for unprecedented growth. And that enthusiasm in this board and the opportunity we have, anything is possible and I am really excited about the next year."
The dinner is held annually, this year at the Speir-Brogdon building, to thank the previous chair, welcome the new chair and offer appreciation for various individuals and business owners in the community.
It is also the only meeting that incorporates the entire county-wide membership.
Bonnie Proctor, now the past chair, reflected on a successful year. She noted how chamber membership and participation is growing and active, exceeding the chamber’s goals and expectations.
Deloach talked about his goals for 2008, including a more business-friendly 10th Annual Seafood Festival, the creation of a direct line of communication for the businesses to board members and a continuation of the tradition of success and excitement currently enjoyed by the chamber.
The evening’s guest speaker was Ray Snow, the Regional Project Manager from the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Snow contacted Director Kittie Franklin during her first week on the job about getting involved in the Georgia Entrepreneurial Friendly Program, which has been completed by the chamber and is now being implemented in the county.
"(You’ve) made more progress in the last several years than any chamber I have worked with since 1998," Snow said.
Snow said, while he was not an economist, he had good feelings about Bryan County’s economic development and the state of Georgia as a whole.
Snow said that out of the 281 projects that created 17,000 jobs and $2.87 billion in investment dollars, 68 percent of all that was located in rural Georgia. Georgia has the third highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the county and is the only state to have paid staff working out in the field with communities for entrepreneurial purposes, he said. According to Snow, Expansion Magazine ranked Georgia as the best state in the county for training and living, making the coast the right place for business. He named workforce availability, land for use and a decent tax structure for business as major factors in the possibility of growth.
Snow described the county as a place where "people understand working together as a community, so that businesses can start and be successful."
This year, the chamber has started a program that recognizes small businesses. Awards were given to the business and the person that exemplifies the community service, economic drive and dedication to overall success that has made Bryan County special. The nominations were sent in by chamber members and voted on by a committee.
Plantation Lumber, owned by Ben and Susie MacMillan, won the Small Business Honors award. General Manager Dallas Daniel was on hand to accept the plaque. Re/MAX Accent Real Estate Brokers Alice Steyaart and Lynne Baynes received the Small Business Person award. Janet Thayer was awarded the DeVaul Henderson Award, named after the late Dee Henderson, in recognition of community members that go above and beyond in the areas of service and participation. This award is not offered every year and recipients must be nominated by three separate individuals to be considered by the voting committee. Michelle Henderson, former wife of Dee Henderson, presented this year’s award to Thayer and pointed out Thayer’s dedication to the chamber as chair, co-chair and participant of numerous boards and committees including the Seafood Festival and Business Bryan. She also mentioned Thayer’s adoption of the Richmond Hill Nursing Home last Christmas that included a present exchange and stockings for the Alzheimer’s patients. Michelle Engelhart, Laura Evans and Rich Delong were also recognized for their past service on the board. The 2008 board of directors consists of 20 members and all were recognized.