The Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce welcomed Jeff James to its grandiose annual membership event. The Create West Virginia representative spoke to a sellout crowd, and local chamber members received awards.
Attendees spoke out about the event and the impression it left with guests.
"It was likely one of the best social extravaganzas of Pendleton's history," said John Connor, Pendleton County YPC chairman.
BANQUET — Above, 10 businesses and individuals were recognized with the first ever Pendleton County Chamber of Commerce Awards including: Bowman’s Do It Best Hardware, Mountain Hospice, Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity, Treasure Mountain Festival, Mike Mallow, Marlena Beachler, John Connor, Bill Loving and Richard Homan (accepted by Jean Ann Homan). At right, Jeff James of Create West Virginia spoke to the sellout crowd, who met Oct. 7 at Seneca Caverns. James talked about the New Economy and how Pendleton County has so much to offer with its many assets.
"Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful event," said Charlie Friddle of Allegheny Power, one of the event sponsors as he shook the hand of Liz Warner, Pendleton County Chamber executive director.
"Thank you for starting the buy local campaign; we're really excited about it," said Rebecca Lough of Bowman's Do It Best Hardware.
Tickets to the event, which was Oct. 7 at Seneca Caverns, sold out within weeks of becoming available to members. According to Warner, more than 80 were in attendance with a waiting list.
The evening was officially brought to attendees by the chamber's event partners: Allegheny Energy, Greer Limestone, Pendleton Community Bank, Pendleton Manor, Shentel, Treasure Mountain Festival Association and Via Ferrata at Nelson Rocks Preserve. Representatives from Grant, Hardy and Pocahontas chambers were also in attendance.
Members viewed a Year in "Rearview" video that recapped the many successes of the chamber during the past 12 months including Spring Fest's Box Car Derby and the activities of the YPC such as the Main Street planters in Franklin. Warner discussed the perks of membership and the newest incentive which includes the opportunity to actually have a free membership through referral bonuses. Referral bonuses to members do not stop at free membership, but can end in the chamber writing a member a check for multiple referrals.
James spoke on "The New Economy, the Creative Economy." His words hit home when he discussed the end of an industrial age and the difficulty that West Virginia counties have had in filling empty industrial parks. He pointed to a new economy of innovators and a shift in focus or "new fuel" to creativity, brains and entrepreneurship. Communities around the state that are rallying around this concept are beginning to see the fruits through creative communities such as Thomas, Davis and Buckhannon, he said.
James spoke of Pendleton's many assets in terms of its beauty and challenged guests to think creatively about what is possible in an area like this instead of focusing on past losses or what isn't possible.
The chamber launched a buy local campaign called "Live. Thrive. Grow. Buy PenCo!" Warner revealed statistics derived from insights and formulas provided by West Virginia University's School of Business and Economics, Division of Research. In 2007, it is estimated that 64 percent of Pendleton County's disposable income was spent outside of the county, disposable income being all income excluding what is paid for taxes and put into savings. The chamber plans to use the campaign to create awareness on the county's current spending practices and levels of "retail leakage." It is hoped that the campaign will create a 10 percent change in spending from outside of Pendleton to inside Pendleton.
"We all want to see our community thrive, but we don't always connect thriving communities to our individual spending," Warner said.
Members received a buy local window cling with the campaign logo featuring a shopping cart with the campaign slogan and designed by Mike Mallow. The buy local presentation ended with the unveiling of a 60- second commercial that was created, directed, edited and produced by 15 local volunteers. Community members will see Buy PenCo pledge cards in participating businesses and can support the campaign by paying $1 to sign a pledge. Steve Phagan of Greer Limestone donated his 50/50 raffle winnings to the campaign, and Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity announced a donation of $1,000 in radio ads to support the campaign.
Ten businesses and individuals were recognized with the first ever Chamber Awards including: Small Business Award, Bowman's Do It Best Hardware; Nonprofit of the Year, Mountain Hospice; Environmentally Conscientious Business, Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity; Tourism Development Award, Treasure Mountain Festival; Cornerstone Award, Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity; Young Professional of the Year, Mike Mallow; Outstanding Volunteer Award, Marlena Beachler; Leadership Award, John Connor; Outstanding Business Person, Bill Loving; and Lifetime Achievement Award, Richard Homan (accepted by Jean Ann Homan). Following the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Pendleton Community Bank presented Homan with a proclamation commemorating Richard Homan's years of service to the bank and the chamber showed a video tribute to her late husband's service to the community. Additionally, the Chamber Board of Directors surprised Warner with a special award for her accomplishments within the organization.
James summed up the event with a Facebook post the following day. "I was honored tonight to see a widow's pride while her late husband was honored with a lifetime achievement award; to see a young lady executive director shed tears when the audience surprised her with an award of appreciation for all she had done; to hear the story of a native daughter and her personal risk in starting her business and the joy of its success. Thank you Pendleton County. You are blessed."