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By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — With a positive message of growth and potential for the year to come, Thursday’s 86th annual membership meeting of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce honored the accomplishments of 2011.
Chamber President Bob Wright said the year so far has seen the organization’s finances and impact on the local business community remain strong.
Tom Loeblein, president of the Chamber’s board, praised the work of members in making the organization the ninth largest of the 30 chambers of commerce in the Charlotte region.
“And, you know, we don’t spend a lot of time figuring out how to raise our debt ceiling because we have no debt,” Tom Loeblein said.
Among the highlights that he mentioned were the Chamber’s Business After Hours social events for members, tours of member industrial businesses and the Leadership Rowan program.
Also honored were the recipients of two annual awards presented to supporters of the Chamber and the local business community.
Skip Wood, representing Sharp Capital Group, received the Paul E. Fisher Volunteer of the Year Award for substantial contributions to the Chamber’s success.
Wood has been a member of the Chamber board since 2006 and was chairman in 2010.
He has also served in numerous leadership and fundraising roles.
The Chamber Champion Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Jeff Ketner, owner of Apple House Realty.
He was honored for the continued growth of his business despite a difficult economy.
Last quarter, according to the Chamber’s award letter, Apple House Realty “was responsible for 22 percent of Rowan County’s real estate business.”
After the awards, Tom Loeblein’s twin brother, U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Loeblein, gave a presentation on how the military’s leadership lessons can translate to the world of civilian business.
Loeblein, currently legislative liaison to the U.S. Senate, described the Navy’s current strength.
Using a slide show, he detailed some of the events taking place around the world this year on March 19.
Navy personnel were shown delivering humanitarian aid to Japan, conducting an anti-piracy operation and training for the operation that would eventually hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.
Among the Navy officers pictured was Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kluttz, son of Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz.
Kluttz was in the audience and said afterward she was honored by his inclusion in Capt. Loeblein’s presentation.
The lesson to be learned from the resources in today’s U.S. Navy, Loeblein said, was that people and leadership are key.
“You can’t manage your way into excellence,” Loeblein said. “It takes true, deck-plate leadership.”
Just as he said the Navy tries to bring overwhelming force to any unavoidable conflict, he said business leaders must use all the tools at their disposal to gain an advantage in a difficult economy.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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