This past month, the Greater Gainesville Chamber hosted its 97th Annual Meeting at the UF Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In-person attendance was restricted to board members, staff and honorees, while the event was streamed live on YouTube, free to the public.
“Today’s event is all about celebrating our resiliency not only as an organization, but as an entire community, state, and even nation,” Greater Gainesville Chamber President & CEO Eric Godet said.
Godet outlined numerous Greater Gainesville Chamber responses to the challenges of the past year. These included the Feed GNV initiative, a partnership with the City of Gainesville and GRACE to feed our community’s most vulnerable by collaborating with locally owned restaurants, the Eat GNV Facebook group, which amassed 13,000 members engaging and promoting local restaurants, 31 Days of Shop GNV, aimed to boost holiday shopping at local retailers, the Chamber’s election information efforts, informative COVID-19 news and the transition to online events, including the PIVOT series.
Honorees included Diplomat of the Year Laura Bialeck of LifeSouth, Rich Blaser and Darin Cook of Infinite Energy as winners of the Rotary Ethics in Business Award, President’s Award winner Deborah Butler of Butler Enterprises, Citizen’s Award winners Bert Gill and Paul D’Alto of Pomodoro Cafe, as well as the Chamber staff, who received the Chair’s Award.
Kathey Porter, CEO of Porter Brown Associates, spoke to attendees via video introducing the Inclusive Gainesville initiative. The plan calls for a new approach to equity based on workforce development and diverse business inclusion.
“[Inclusive Gainesville] is the culmination of numerous conversations, sessions and studies to really understand the economic inequities that exist across Gainesville,” Porter said.
The event also included a special ceremony for Pauline Williams, celebrating her 20 years of service as the Chamber’s information specialist.
The event included the ceremonial passing of the gavel from the 2020 Board of Directors Chair, Nancy Eckert of LifeSouth, to the 2021 Chair, Gil Levy of VyStar Credit Union.
Eckert pointed out the accomplishments of 2020, despite the pandemic and economic downturn, including new business openings and school construction.
“I am very appreciative to have been part of such a great team during such a challenging year,” Eckert said. “I thank each and every one of you for your contributions.”
Levy emphasized the room for growth and the challenges that affect our community, including poverty, but remains optimistic that positive strides will be made in the coming year.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to help lead us forward this year,” Levy said. “I hope you will join me as we bounce forward to a more prosperous and inclusive future.”