Hundreds of local professionals gathered inside Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Murfreesboro Friday night to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments and honor long-time leaders of Rutherford County’s business community as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business At Its Best.
In 2012, the Chamber of Commerce continued its 14-year partnership with MTSU’s Tennessee Small Business Development Center, which was responsible for $65 million in capital investment, 1,046 new jobs and 844 retained jobs.
The Business Education Partnership increased its astounding efforts at garnering teachers’ grants for education.
Local economic development produced more than 4,100 jobs, $50 million in capital investment, five relocations and 18 expansions of existing companies.
Local tourism, led by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, experienced a whopping 80 percent increase over the past 10 years.
Rutherford County’s Chamber of Commerce also launched its own app “RuCo2Go” and has increased its communication and social media efforts to better reach the consumer market.
And by the end of 2012, the Chamber added 566 new members.
But local government and business leaders won’t stop there. They are eager to willing to push forward and create even more progress for 2013.
The event also marked a change in leadership – President of Demos’ Restaurant Peter Demos completed his term as board chair and passed the role onto Barry Buckley, who aims to do his best to follow in the footsteps of those before him.
“The Chamber has a great team of people … they work hard, and they’re very energetic,” he said.
During the presentation, General Mills Plant Manager and community volunteer, Pat Murphy, was recognized as Business Person of the Year.
“At first I thought they made a mistake,” Murphy joked.
“What I recognized is this is about more than a man; I recognized it is a commitment to the community through a great company, General Mills. I’m proud to represent 900 employees in Murfreesboro who give their dollars, who give their time to many, many organizations.”
Larry Flowers with WSMV Channel 4 News interrupted the event with a breaking news bulletin: Mona Herring, vice president of Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is retiring.
While the announcement was made in 2012, the presentation provided an opportunity to thank Herring for her dedication for the past 25 years. With cameos from current and past community leaders, the news bulletin recognized Herring for her hard work and phenomenal achievements for the county.
In thanking everyone, Herring extended a very special appreciation to her husband, James, “my No. 1 volunteer who gets to retire now.”
As part of Business At Its Best, Murfreesboro Police Chief Glenn Chrisman received the 2012 Pinnacle Award, which is given to someone who has demonstrated significant leadership throughout his or her career.
“Chief Chrisman is a man of honor and integrity, and a very worthy award recipient,” Leadership Rutherford Director Stephanie Brackman said. “Always a professional, he has committed his career to making Murfreesboro safe for our residents, businesses and visitors, and makes the people around him better.”
The event presented an opportunity to remember the past year’s milestones – millions of dollars in capital investment, thousands of jobs, increase in tourism dollars – while looking to the future with positive words offered by award recipients.
Recognized for her decades of hard work and historical achievements, Andrea Loughry was presented with the Business Legend of the Year award. She challenged business and community leaders to take active roles in education and state and federal decision-making.
“As business people, you hire the products of our education system and live in a community surrounded by products of our education system” she said. “You need to be involved in education from birth to graduation from MTSU.”
Loughry also pointed to the county’s exponential growth and the need for “strong, local representation at state and federal levels” by business owners getting involved in this country’s democracy.
She also shared her story of being a 21-year-old, first-generation college graduate who came to Murfreesboro not knowing a single person in town. Decades of hard work later, she is receiving the Chamber’s Business Legend of the Year award.
“It’s unimaginable,” she said.