Chamber’s risky gala ends up being ‘best ever’

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 10, 2014

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce took a chance by turning its annual meeting into a gala, moving the event to Salisbury’s fringe theater and handing over the microphone to an improv comedy group.
But the big risk paid off big time, chamber members said.
“Best ever,” said Bob Setzer of F&M Bank.
The chamber held the gala Thursday night at the new Lee Street Theater. Members of Now Are The Foxes served as emcees.
Setzer said the entertaining evening showed the new energy of the chamber, now under the direction of President Elaine Spalding.
Cindy Hart, outgoing board chairwoman who helped plan the gala, said organizers knew they were going out on a limb.
“But we felt like it was worth the risk,” Hart said. “This is what we think people and chamber members have been wanting for a long time, a real celebration.”
More than 180 people attended the sold-out event, and Hart said she could have sold 50 additional tickets if she’d had the space.
“I’m absolutely elated,” she said after the gala, which ended with a Rowan County parody of “Time of My Life” by Now Are The Foxes, complete with the final lift from the movie “Dirty Dancing,” only funnier.
Hart, of Great American Publishing, passed her gavel to incoming Chairman Mark Seifel of Schneider Electric. But not before the sketch comedy troupe pulled the leaders on stage to make good-natured fun of their hair, age, intellect, wardrobe and more.
Hart and Seifel had the chance to deny or endorse the impersonations using a buzzer and a bell.
Some serious business did take place during the gala, including a reminder that 2014 is an important political year and the chamber, while not endorsing candidates, will host two forums, one before the primary and another before the general election.
The chamber also plans to work closely with the school system to help lower the dropout rate and increase test scores, Spalding said.
The chamber presented three awards Thursday night, including:
• Integro Technologies won Small Business of the Year. Sharon Baker, Integro’s corporate administrator, received the award.
Integro started with two employees in 2001 and now has 22 employees. The company was recently ranked No. 27 on a list of the 50 fastest growing companies in the Charlotte region.
Integro, which recently built a $3.2 million headquarters on South Main Street called the Salisbury Business Center, designs and manufactures high-tech quality control equipment for Fortune 500 companies.
The new headquarters features a 90-seat auditorium and more than 10,000- square feet of office space for lease. Shawn Campion is president of the company.
• Tony Shaw of BB&T was named the Paul E. Fisher Volunteer of the Year. Shaw went “above and beyond the call of duty” as a chamber volunteer. Spalding said.
Shaw’s nomination letter said his energy and enthusiasm brought new excitement to the chamber.
Shaw came up with the idea of the Chamber Ambassador program and has attended more than 50 ribbon cutting ceremonies, groundbreakings and special events. He organized the Cash Mob and Surprise Patrol visits to member businesses and helped improve customer service and member retention.
He served as a campaign team captain, a member of the finance committee and was just elected to the board of directors.
• Dr. Judy Grissom, retired superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System, won the first Duke Energy Citizenship & Service Award.
Grissom led the school system for seven and a half years and helped the district earn national recognition for excellence in education, innovation in technology and digital learning.
The award honors a person or business committed to service and civic participation over a sustained period who demonstrates integrity, stewardship, inclusion and initiative.
Novant Health Rowan Medical Center was the title sponsor. Other sponsors were Duke Energy, BB&T, Carolinas Healthcare System, Coggins Financial Services, F&M, First Bank, Lutheran Services Carolinas, Ralph Ketner, Catawba College and Salisbury Post.