SW Chamber highlights another year of the pandemic at annual meeting

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SW Chamber highlights another year of the pandemic at annual meeting

Fri, 01/28/2022 - 2:57pm -- tim

Relief Funding, Awards and New Members

TONY Award Winner Christian Hoff performing "Oh, what a night" at the Southwestern Vermont Chamber's Annual Meeting. Courtesy photos.

Vermont Business Magazine For a second year, the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual membership meeting digitally to an audience of over 50 viewers.

The Chamber’s annual membership meeting, promoted as the biggest night for businesses in the region, took place digitally on Thursday January 27, 2022 and featured a dazzling array of musical performances, wine sabering, annual awards, a digital sparkling wine toast, virtual door prizes every 15 minutes, budget approval and visionary speeches by both President of the Board of Directors and the Executive Director.

The digital event held on Zoom was co-produced by Catamount Access Television and ran a little under an hour and half.  The gathering of Chamber staff, board, businesses, nonprofits and stakeholders focused on celebrating businesses and individuals that made an impact on the region in 2021.  The meeting, which happens every year in January to bring all the chamber members together, also introduced a 2022 budget for the organization which the membership voted on and passed.  

A digital ballot was sent out to Chamber members in November and votes were collected to decide on new board directors and the slate of officers.

The Chamber welcomed new director to the board Nancy Koziol of couch + cork.

The Chamber also welcomed back a returning slate of officers including Brian Maggiotto of The Inn at Manchester as President, Matt Willey of Ramuntos as First Vice President, Shannon McLenithan of The Bank of Bennington as the Second Vice President, and William Deveneau of William C. Deveneau, Esq. PLC as Treasurer.  Art Whitman and Brenda Jones will return as Ex Officio executive committee members. 

While guests piled into the digital waiting room in anticipation of the start of the meeting, the Chamber and CAT-TV entertained the members by unveiling a fun, frolicing 2021 highlight reel of Garlic Town, USA.  The meeting kicked off at 5:45pm with a musical performance presented by Old Mill Road Recording Studio and composer and performer Benjamin Lerner.  Later on in the program, Dr. Trey Dobson of the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and frequent guest on the Chamber’s ShiresHEALTH show, welcomed members, thanking them for their continued support and encouragement around the pandemic.

Matt Levandowski, President and CEO of Heritage Family Credit Union, the Presenting Sponsor of the event, also welcomed viewers in a recorded video.

As the annual meeting webpage promised, the Chamber also included some sparkle and pop in the evening! With the purchase of a ticket, attendees could choose a sparkling drink to be hand-delivered to them before the meeting.  Following the Presenting Sponsor welcome, Nancy Koziol and Kaiya Kirk of couch + cork provided a special presentation leading the audience through “5 Things To Know about Sparkling Wine in 5 Minutes.” Sparkling beverages included Mionetto Prosecco, Martini & Rossi Asti, Freixenet Cava, or Töst.  The hand-delivered refreshments were served with a small box of chocolates from the Village Chocolate Shoppe, a bag of Cape Cod Chips and little gifts from the Presenting Sponsor, Heritage Family Credit Union.

The meeting was fast paced with something new every couple of minutes including “digital door prizes” which went to a random handful of ticket holders that night.  Prizes were donated by Knapps, The Southshire Inn, Rablogan Castle, The Village Chocolate Shoppe, the Bennington Banner, couch + cork, Apricot Lane, Charlie’s Coffee House, and American Museum of Fly Fishing. Mikaela Lewis, Event Manager with the Chamber picked prize winners with a digital spin wheel with all the attendees names on the wheel.

Matt Harrington, Executive Director of the Chamber, led the members through the 2022 Annual Membership Meeting.

Matt Harrington, now entering his sixth year at the helm of the Chamber as the executive director, provided a brief overview of the past year including 29 new members to the Chamber, over 8,500 patrons visiting downtown Bennington during Garlic Town on Labor Day Weekend, a 91% satisfaction rating of the Chamber by its members, unparalleled relief for businesses with pandemic funding, and ongoing relocation efforts by the Chamber.

Harrington also discussed the Chamber’s renewed commitment to business prosperity, economic development and community health and safety as the COVID pandemic continues to hit Vermont hard. 

Workforce and family recruitment and retention, travel and tourism expansion, safe community festivals and events, small business advocacy efforts and economic growth were “buckets of work” Harrington believed the Chamber faced in the year ahead.  

“We are at a moment in time for Vermont and our region,” Harrington said after the digital event closed.  “Take a mental note of this night and where we are. I believe it’s going to get very exciting to live, work and play in Vermont in the coming years.  With over $13 billion in total to the State of Vermont in Covid Relief with an aggressive budget recently proposed by the Governor, the largest budget ever in Vermont history at $7.7 billion, we are about to see some exciting, transformative things happen across the state and in our region. I want to be in the front row for it.  I want our members to be in the front row with us!”

A tradition at the membership meeting is the announcement of annual Chamber awards.  Last year the organization changed up many of the awards as a way to better represent the full region.  Like last year, award recipients provided pre-recorded acceptance videos that were played throughout the event.  Each recipient received a blue accented acrylic flame award with their name on it provided by Tomasi Sports and Awards.

The 2022 recipients included:

  • Member of the Year: Coggins Auto Group located in Bennington

  • New Member of the Year: Seth Barrows of Farm Road Brewing located in Bennington

  • Volunteer of the Year: Keith Carey

  • Regional Visionary: Joshua Sherman

  • Young Professional of the Year in a Business: Sarah Krinsky and Bri Magnifico of W. Collective

  • Young Professional of the Year in a Nonprofit: Alex Figueroa of United Counseling Services

  • Lifetime Achievement: John Shannahan, former Executive Director of the Better Bennington Corporation

Harrington in his presentation of the last award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Award which went to John Shannahan, said this, “A person recently said to me, ‘I knew the name before I ever met the person - in a good way.  That to me is always a good measure of a person.’ John’s name is synonymous with downtown, with Bennington, with servanthood leadership, with community, and with friendship. Personally, John has been a critical mentor and support to me even before I became director.  I’ve told the story before that when I first moved back to Bennington and met him and he told me what he did for work, I said I could only hope and wish that I had a job like that someday. Some 14 years later here I am as the Chamber Director.”

The night concluded as Harrington and Maggiotto thanked the board, committees, staff and the membership.  Old Mill Road Recording Studio returned to close out the night and event with a special performance from TONY Award Winner Christian Hoff of Jersey Boys fame.

Sponsors for the night included Presenting Sponsor Heritage Family Credit Union, Entertainment Sponsor Berkshire Bank, Chamber Champion Sponsors Coggins Auto Group and Southwest Tech, Media Sponsors The Bennington Banner and Catamount Access Television. A special thank you to Old Mill Road Recording Studio for the musical performances.

The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce promotes, leads and advocates a unified effort, on behalf of its members, to maintain and improve a healthy business climate and rewarding quality of life for the entire Shires of Southwestern Vermont region.

ExploreTheShires.com Bennington. 1.28.2022