Chamber Celebrates 45th Anniversary at Banquet
First, they raised a glass. Then they raised a finger.
The past and the future collided at the Moore County Chamber of Commerce banquet last week at Pinehurst Resort.
State Sen. Harris Blake, who chaired the Chamber in 1979, led a champagne toast of the Chamber’s 45th anniversary.
“To the continued success of this great organization, what it has meant to Moore County, and what it will mean in the future,” Harris said.
Later in the evening, Chamber President and CEO Patrick Coughlin asked everyone to hold up their index finger before unveiling a demo of the Chamber’s new mobile app.
“Now, you have all the tools necessary to use this app,” Coughlin said.
Outgoing Chairman Ken Lewis, of FirstCarolinaCare, set the tone for the evening when he paused during his welcoming remarks, looked down at the lectern and said, “Oh, turn the page.”
Lewis then looked up, smiled and added, “You’ve got to have some fun with this.”
Incoming Chairman Dick Higginbotham, of Pinehurst Resort, had plenty of fun after accepting the gavel from Lewis.
“CFOs struggle, generally, with acts of appreciation ... especially when it comes to recognizing health care providers,” Higginbotham said before calling Lewis back to the stage.
In addition to the traditional plaque, Higginbotham presented Lewis with a football autographed by legendary New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle.
Coughlin joined in the fun when he picked up the ball, pretended to drop back and told Lewis to “go long.”
But Higginbotham wasn’t finished. He had the resort staff present Lewis with a belated birthday present — a 10-layer chocolate cake with a few candles on top.
“This is predominantly a wood structure that may have been in trouble had we lit all the candles,” he said.
In between the ad-libs, jokes and ribbings, the Chamber recognized departing board members — Holly Bell, Roger Gentry, Susan Purser and Jerry Williams — and presented its annual awards.
Judd White, of Moore & Johnson Agency, received the William F. Hollister Award for Volunteer of the Year. Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen won Entrepreneur of the Year, and Morgan Miller, a ladies clothing and accessories store in downtown Southern Pines, was named Small Business of the Year.
Mike Ratkowski and Brian Evitts, co-owners of Railhouse, retired to the resort’s Ryder Cup Lounge after the dinner.
“We sat on the porch and had a couple of beers,” Ratkowski said.
They then returned to the Railhouse.
“It was packed,” Ratkowski said.
The award may also lead to new business.
“I had three new bars call me today,” Ratkowski said the day after the banquet.
While every banquet speaker noted that Moore County businesses have been through trying times recently, they all credited the community for reaching “deep down,” as Lewis put it, to survive.
Coughlin closed the evening with a simple message: “Change your attitude, and change your performance.”
“Operating a business in this environment is difficult,” he said. “We need to be positive. We need to stay on course. And we are here to help you become more competitive in the marketplace.”
That, of course, is no laughing matter.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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