By Jessica Legge
FAIRMONT — “The chamber is the heartbeat of every community,” Gov. Joe Manchin told a crowd of approximately 375 people during the Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s 55th Annual Dinner.
Members of the business community gathered at Fairmont State University’s Falcon Center Thursday night for the event, which also serves as the chamber’s annual meeting. A reception in the Colebank Hall Gym led up to the dinner and program.
Fairmont General Hospital was the Platinum Sponsor this year. Gold, silver and bronze sponsors also provided support for the event.
The chamber’s events committee, which Jennifer Weist chairs, and an annual dinner committee worked all year to plan the meeting, which is known as a premier business event for Marion County. This is organization’s biggest event of the year, and the chamber always expects a large crowd.
Manchin, who served as the keynote speaker, spoke of “the vitality and vibrancy of this area.” He challenged everyone to set a goal to keep the young, talented people here.
He said it takes three things to be successful: a product, value and serviceability. A lot of opportunities are available in Marion County, and West Virginia has more people with life experiences than anywhere in the country, Manchin said.
“I believe in you more than you believe in yourself,” he said. “I am so proud of each and every one of you.”
“I believe in our state.”
The gala-type evening also highlighted some of the chamber’s initiatives and major achievements during the past year.
“Our No. 1 goal this past year was to find a way to get the Gateway Connector completed,” Tina Shaw, president of the chamber, said.
She said the chamber knew that the completion of the Gateway Connector project would lead to further development in the area.
“We have so much to be thankful for in Marion County,” Shaw said. “Great things are happening in Marion County, and there’s a lot more to come.”
Nick Fantasia said the Marion Regional Development Corporation has worked with the city, county and chamber on retail projects and other development.
“This has been a year of collaboration,” he said. “We are very happy to help companies coming into Marion County.”
Jim Haney of Allegheny Energy announced that the I-79 Technology Park will be the site of a new $50 million transmission office that will house 150 workers. Fantasia said this office is a welcome addition to Marion County and North Central West Virginia.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Shaw said.
In appreciation, the chamber presented Allegheny Energy with the Corporate Citizen of the Year Award. The chamber then recognized members who played a big role in helping the organization reach its goals.
Gwynn Tire was selected as the Small Business of the Year, and North Marion Foundation won the Education Award. The recipient of the President’s Award was Frank Kerekes, and Scott Tharp was the winner of the Chairman’s Award. D.D. Meighen received the Rev. Donal “Jack” Squires Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition, the chamber honored young leaders in Marion County. Eight students received college scholarships for their participation in the chamber’s youth programs.
These individuals included Chelsea Guiseppi and Danielle “Nikki” Criss, graduates of East Fairmont High School; Jennifer Adams, Patrick Lawler and Nicole Ambrozak, who graduated from Fairmont Senior High School; and Melissa Lehman, Misty Martin and Mariah Hamilton, North Marion High School graduates.
E-mail Jessica Legge at firstname.lastname@example.org.