Robinson begins Chamber term
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Jan 30, 2013 | 1158 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
87th Annual Meeting of the Chamber
M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award recipient Steve Robinson, right, and presenter Ron Braam, left, pose for a picture Tuesday evening after the 87th Annual Meeting of the Chamber in the Professional Development Center of Life Care Centers of America. Banner photos, DAVID DAVIS
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Stephen Wright handed the chairman’s gavel to Steve Robinson during the 87th Annual Meeting of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday evening in the Professional Development Center of Life Care Centers of America.

But before the official transition, Wright spoke of accomplishments in 2012.

He described last year as one of new programs. In Robinson’s address, the incoming chairman outlined a year for members in 2013.

Wright is leaving his leadership post with the Chamber in time to serve as chairman of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a national federation that represents the transportation design and construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, news media and general public.

He is also president and chief executive officer of Wright Brothers Construction Co. of Charleston.

He expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve as the 2012 chairman of the local Chamber.

“You don’t realize what an organization does and I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the process and work on these boards in leadership. It makes you more aware of what these organizations do,” he said.

Robinson introduced 2013 as the “Year of the Member.” He said the Chamber puts out a detailed program of work every year, which is posted on the organization’s website. He urged every member to read it — “and I mean really read it. It is the backbone of what we give you for your investment. It touches every facet of our community.”

He said a strong, aggressive program helps all member and nonmember businesses alike.

“If anyone asks what has the Chamber done for me, be prepared to sit down with me and review this document, because that’s what the Chamber does do for you,” he said.

The Year of the Member is a small part of the Chamber’s function, but it is something of which Robinson is passionate. It includes membership recognition, the vision of the organization’s united strength and expansion.

“In order to keep this organization strong, we must have long-term commitment. We must have members who stay,” he said. “Every year of my 40 years of membership was not perfect and every year was not a magical year when you announced a huge plan. Some days are just ordinary. Some days it is just a struggle in the trenches.”

United through strength makes Cleveland and Bradley County able to compete against other cities and win, he said. His goal is to expand membership from the mid-700s to 1,000 by Dec. 31.

“All of our staff and our board of directors believe in this goal. We have on our staff Aaron Weatherford, who is young, energetic, and he’s ready for the challenge,” he said. “We’re all in the membership business, because it’s hugely important to the success and to the future of this organization.”

He asked each member to help meet the membership goal.

“Join us, and I promise you it will be worth the ride,” he concluded.

During his final remarks before passing the gavel, Wright named five new successful programs created last year. They included the Women’s Council, Safety Council, Breakfast for Champions Program, Cash Mob and the International Cow Pea Cookoff.

The Hiwassee River Blue Way along the Hiwassee River is a joint tourism effort of several county, state and federal agencies that promises to be another attraction in this part of the country.

He noted Wacker is continuing with its $1.8 billion project. Whirlpool transitioned to its new facility on Benton Pike and started on its research and development lab. Olin Corporation completed the construction phase of its $160 million conversion from mercury cell to the environmentally friendly cell membrane process. Lonza finished a $32 million efficiency improvement project and Amazon has expanded its facility. That company’s full-time employment increased from 244 to more than 500.

“I think I meet every one of them every afternoon on the road when I try to go home,” he said.

Proctor and Gamble Duracell completed a $36 million expansion and Mars Chocolate North America committed to a $63 million production expansion.

Also late in the year, the city of Cleveland and Bradley County finalized the purchase of property for the Spring Branch Industrial Park.

“For the last 40 years, every annual meeting has had an update about the Cleveland airport. They can take it off the list now,” he said. “It’s open and that will be a blessing to the community for years to come.”

The 2013 officers include chairwoman-elect, Debbie Melton, Don Ledford Automotive; immediate past chairman, Stephen Wright, Wright Brothers Construction Co.; treasurer, Mike Baker, BB&T Bank; vice chairman for economic development, Bob McIntire, McIntire and Associates; vice chairman for community development, Jeff Cox, Corporate Networking Solutions; vice chairman for membership, Kevin Moore, AXA Advisors; vice chairman for public affairs, Cameron Fisher, Church of God International; and vice chairman for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Shannon Ritzhaupt, Café Roma.

New board members include Dr. Konrad Bachhuber, Wacker Polysilicon North America; Dr. Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County; Dr. Chris Thacker, Tennessee Valley Neurology; Dr. Dewayne Thompson, Lee University; Julian Sullivan, Bank of Cleveland and Loy Hamilton, Coldwell Banker Hamilton and Associates.