Chamber officials urge greater cooperation

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Pledging "collaboration rather than compromise" to streamline economic development, both outgoing Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kathy Pierce and incoming Chairman Dick Mahaffey urged improved communication between business and government to build solutions.
"We have worked to help people realize that being pro-business is not being anti-Gainesville. We've worked to build relationships so that we understand each other's points of view better," Pierce said. Pierce is a founding partner of ECT, an environmental engineering company.
Mahaffey, city president of SunTrust Bank, said later that he would work to help "find fiscal solutions to fund the county's infrastructure to absorb the growth that inevitably will happen."
The awards banquet and installation, held at the Hilton hotel Tuesday night, was themed "Changes in Attitudes," which Pierce said was the tone being set between business and government in recent years.
Eleven financial institutions and the East Gainesville Development Corporation as a group were honored as the chamber's Volunteer of the Year for their role in creating the Access Loan Program, a streamlined loan process which started being implemented this month.
Pierce recognized Small Business Council co-chairs Greg Johnson of Quality Cleaners and Lalla Gallagher, formerly with the Florida Small Business Development Center, as recipients of the Chairman's Award.
Fran Holm received the J. Wayne Reitz/CEO Leadership Award. During her 17 years at Santa Fe Community College, Holm was instrumental in building 40 degree, certification and apprenticeship programs to create a "made-to-order" workforce. Holm is retiring this month as associate vice president for economic development.
The first Legacy Award was presented to an individual who could not attend, but was called by Brent Christensen, president of the Chamber, a "giant in this community whose success in business was only surpassed by his generosity in giving back to an incredible number of causes and organizations."
Charles R. "Chuck" Perry died unexpectedly during a vacation to Dresden in May.
Christensen said he "left his mark - literally - on this community through the numerous buildings scattered throughout the area that he and his company built throughout the years" as well as millions of dollars in donations to both the University of Florida and SFCC.
Chuck's widow, Nancy, accepted the award.
Corporate comedian Tim Wilkins was guest speaker at the dinner.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at (352) 374-5025 or

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