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Highlights of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce’s yearly activities
An annual set of Core Legislative Values helped to guide the Chamber’s governmental focus throughout the year. The key areas of concentration to economic growth and development in our region for 2015 included: Business Mandates; Legal Reform; Economic Development; Health Care; Environment; Education; Energy; Taxes; and Public Policy. The Chamber’s Board of Directors concentrated on various issues within these fields and addressed concerns with local and state legislators.
BrickStreet Insurance presented the Chamber’s Annual “A View from the Capitol” legislative event in September. The discussion focused on legislation impacting education. The panel of featured speakers was comprised of: Dr. Amelia Courts, President/CEO of The Education Alliance; West Virginia Senator Bob Plymale; Chancellor Paul Hill of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission; and Dr. Michael Martirano, West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools. The event was moderated by T.J. Obrokta, Jr., Chief Operating Officer of BrickStreet Insurance. Additional sponsors were: Appalachian Power, Cabell County Board of Education, Cabell County Commission, City of Milton, and the Village of Barboursville.
Throughout 2015, the Chamber continued to offer a variety of free Lunch & Learn seminar sessions, sponsored by Mountwest Community & Technical College, to offer information and business training to members at no cost. Topics included: Financial Wellness; Team Building; Human Resource Management Legislation Updates; EMV Card Processing; Facebook 101; Sales Relationships; Safety and First Aid Training for Businesses; and Small Business Marketing. The Lunch & Learn series will be an ongoing Chamber program.
The Chamber and the Generation Huntington committee awarded a $1,000 scholarship in through its ongoing partnership with Marshall University. The scholarship is awarded to a Chamber Member employee or an immediate family member of an employee who is a member of the Chamber or an affiliated committee. The 2015 recipient of the scholarship was Amy Deem, a full-time undergraduate student and Marshall and co-owner of New Beginnings Childcare and Learning Center, Inc.
In 2015, the Chamber expanded its Manufacturers Roundtable in Wayne County, increasing participants and hosting a joint meeting with manufacturers located in Cabell County. The roundtable was created in coordination with the Wayne County Economic Development Authority, and was established to bring together manufacturing based businesses to discuss workforce succession planning, improved technical workforce training and employee recruitment strategies. In 2015, Wayne and Cabell County manufacturers weighed in on instrumentation technician programming provided through a collaborative created between Mountwest Community and Technical College and Bridge Valley Community & Technical College. In 2016, Cabell County manufacturers will begin meeting regularly. The ongoing meetings for both groups will continue to focus on workforce initiatives and address the needs of regional manufacturing companies.
The Chamber launched a redesign of its website, www.huntingotnchamber.org, that now features a Webinar section of select recordings from Lunch & Learn and Coffee & Conversation events for those unable to attend. The website, designed by Bulldog Creative Services, was updated to highlight the Chamber’s activities and better promote the area.
Generation Huntington, the Chamber’s committee for young professionals, began an long-planned project of creating a mural on the Harris Riverfront Park floodwall through a process called reverse graffiti by testing the method on a selected panel. The process requires the use of large-scale stencils featuring an artistic design and then power-washing the floodwall to imprint the mural. No chemicals are used the process. The project was spearheaded by Chris Wallace, Generation Huntington Chairman and owner of Brand Yourself at Heritage Station. The murals will feature images of a train, riverboat and the park on the floodwall facing Veterans Memorial Boulevard between Eighth and 12th Streets. The panels for the design will be cut by RCBI. The project is slated to be completed in the Spring of 2016.
The Chamber’s Downtown Live Committee launched two new projects last year. Restaurant Week was presented March 27 through April 3, featuring Chamber Member restaurants to celebrate local dining. The Final Friday Art Crawl and Loft Walk was created to showcase the works and talent of local artisans, as well as redeveloped downtown apartments. On the final Friday of each month March through September, local businesses hosted artists from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. providing the opportunity for the community to visit participating locations and discover new art. Downtown Live also organized and directed the Annual Huntington’s Christmas Parade of Lights, presented by Moses AutoMall of Huntington, on Dec. 12, 2015. The Downtown Live Committee and its events are sponsored by the City of Huntington and the Cabell County Commission.
Long-standing Chamber Board Member and former Chief Operating Officer of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation David Graley was selected as the Volunteer of the Year for his extensive community service at the Chamber’s Tenth Annual Volunteer Awards Luncheon. The event was presented by Allied Logistics and Chesapeake Energy. Additional awards were presented to recognize volunteers who dedicated their time assisting the Chamber with its projects, programming, and mission.
Women 2 Women, the Chamber’s committee for professional women, sponsored by Somerville & Company, P.L.L.C. presented strong programming in 2015 with a focus on professional development and community involvement. Jean Hale, Chairman, President and CEO of Community Trust Bancorp, Inc. addressed the committee, sharing her thoughts regarding education, mentors, preparedness, leadership, workplace challenges and opportunities. W2W also organized a panel discussion “Real Problems, Real Solutions to the Drug Problem” featuring Carey Dixon of The Loved Ones Group, Karen Yost of the Prestera Center, Matt Boggs of Recovery Point, Chief Joe Ciccarelli of the HPD, and Dr. Nancy Rubio, a Certified Addictionologist. Other events included a workplace technology seminar and the Annual Holiday Social at Savannah’s Restaurant. The committee works to identify women leaders in the region and provide networking opportunities to increase professional growth.
BrickStreet Insurance presented the Chamber’s 124th Annual Dinner in April, featuring Keynote Speaker W. Marston “Marty” Becker, a seasoned insurance executive with a career spanning 35 years which has included leadership positions in insurance, reinsurance, and insurance brokerage organizations, as well as insurance-related private equity, advisory and investment banking roles.
Natural Resource Partners L.P. presented the Chamber’s 11th Annual Energy & Natural Resource Symposium in November. The 2015 symposium focused on regulations of the federal Clean Air Act. Serving on the panel of industry experts were: Mark C. McCullough, Executive Vice President – Generation for American Electric Power; Tom Clarke, Senior Policy Advisor for the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection; and Terry Eads, Director of Utility for the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
Networking opportunities play a vital role in Chamber membership activity. In 2015, the Chamber began hosting a New Member Breakfast series to help new members make business contacts and learn more about membership benefits. The traditional and popular Business After Hours events were hosted by: Holiday Inn, Barboursville; St. Mary’s Occupational Medicine; and Ohio Valley Bank at its new Barboursville location. The Chamber presented a special Business After Hours event at the Pullman Plaza Hotel as a thank you to its members for their support and volunteerism, and City National Bank hosted the Annual Holiday Business After Hours in December.
The Chamber’s informative Coffee & Conversation series, sponsored by Community Trust Bank, provides a unique experience to learn more about regional businesses, including how the company was formed, business growth as well as challenges, and much more. Speakers in 2015 were: Mike Hamrick, Marshall University Athletic Director; Jack Houvouras, founder and publisher of HQ Publishing Co.; Tim Burgess of Zim’s Bagging; Kevin Fowler, president and CEO of Cabell Huntington Hospital; and Layne Webb, Plant Manager of Alcon Research, Ltd.