New chair lays out chamber of commerce's agenda


Published: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

The Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce will address traffic congestion and lack of office and industrial property this year, incoming Chairman Mike Walsh said Thursday night.

Walsh, president of M.M. Parrish Construction Co., was installed as 2007 chairman at the chamber's annual meeting when 2006 chairman Dick Mahaffey, city president for SunTrust Bank, passed the gavel — and placed beads around Walsh's neck at the Mardi Gras themed event.

Transportation infrastructure that has not kept pace with demands has increased traffic congestion and commute times, which will stifle economic growth unless a solution and funding source are found, Walsh said.

"I pledge to you that this organization will be a part of the solution to this pressing issue in 2007," he said.

The community is also missing opportunities to lure businesses because of a lack of office and industrial property, he said.

Walsh said the chamber will convene an ad hoc group to make recommendations by the end of March.

Mahaffey recounted economic development accomplishments in 2006. A campaign to continue the Council for Economic Outreach raised $3.3 million with support from private business and local governments to try to lure new businesses.

Two businesses — ICU Data Systems and AxoGen — have graduated from the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center business incubator and will keep their businesses here.

New businesses include Sallie Mae, which opened a loan servicing center with more than 100 employees, and Day-Jet and Eclipse Aviation at the Gainesville Regional Airport.

The Wal-Mart Distribution Center plans to hire 700 employees and a Wal-Mart Supercenter has been announced for the east side of town. SYSCO broke ground for its distribution center in the city of Alachua.

Site selection consultants from 44 companies visited in 2006, compared to 31 in 2005.

Mahaffey said the mayor, city manager and the University of Florida are on board to collaborate to solve infrastructure problems.

Howard Hodor received the CEO/J. Wayne Reitz Award. Chamber President Brent Christensen said Hodor has had a hand in developing Gainesville for 30 years. He sold the majority of the San Felacso Hammock property to the state, served as an interim president of the state's economic development entity Enterprise Florida and served on the Campaign Leadership Committee for the Opportunity 2010 campaign for CEO.

The Chairman Award went to Marilyn Tubb of Shands HealthCare and Sam Goforth of Wachovia bank for leading the CEO campaign.

The volunteer of the year award for helping the chamber staff went to John Reger of Millennium Bank and Gerald Zagaiski of City College.

On behalf of Mahaffey, Christensen said the chamber is donating $1,000 to the Mississippi Coast Chamber of Commerce, which lost three buildings to Hurricane Katrina.

Anthony Clark can be reached at anthony.clark@gvillesun. com or (352) 374-5094.

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