Jeff Standridge, chairman of the board of directors for the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, held a toast to congratulate the chamber for winning the 2013 Chamber of the Year award from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).
Standridge started the toast by laying out some statistics.
“There are 7,000 Chambers of Commerce in the United States,” he said. “Only 217 of which are accredited at some level, making up the top three percent. Seventy seven are accredited at the four star level, including Conway, which represents the top two percent, and only four Chamber of the Year awards are given out annually.”
This is the first Chamber of the Year achievement to be awarded in Arkansas.
“We’ve known that we live in a world-class community, but now the nation knows it,” Standridge said.
Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said some days he feels like he’s a cheerleader for the community. “We brag about this community nationally, and you will hear us say time and time again that we believe Conway is nationally competitive.”
Lacy is certified as an American Chamber of Commerce Executive by the ACCE. In 40 years, 530 of these certifications have been achieved. There are 270 active today and three are working in Conway: Executive VP TJ Johnston, Senior VP Jamie Gates and Lacy.
In January the Chamber began the application process for Chamber of the Year. They filled out an operations survey that measures revenue, membership, programming, salary and employee turn over among other factors.
“They have 12 things that they look at and you have to score above the industry average in 11 of those things in order to apply for Chamber of the Year,” Standridge said.
The Chamber then picked two programs that highlighted what they do for their community: Toad Suck Daze and Conway is Calling, an employee recruitment program.
“We took Toad Suck Daze and talked about its historic contributions to education in this city including the new pre-k initiative being funded by the festival,” Lacy said.
All this information was put together in a binder and sent to the ACCE. The first week of June the Chamber found out they were in the top three. The next step in becoming Chamber of the Year involved an interview process.
“Our last piece of the puzzle was an interview where they asked every question,” Lacy said. “They asked about the business community, they asked about our board, they asked about the city at large.”
Lacy said he’ll never forget the moment when the Chamber’s name was called as the winner of 2013 Chamber of the Year.
The Chamber invests a lot in continuing education for the staff and because of the networking and connections they have made across the country the building erupted with excitement when Conway won Chamber of the Year, Lacy said.
“It meant a lot to everyone of the people who go to work here everyday and to see the look on their faces, to see how much pride they take in what they do everyday meant the world to me because everybody in this building was as excited as I was to know we as a team and a community received this recognition,” he said.
Ronnie Williams, Vice President for Student Services at University of Central Arkansas, said a few words before Sandridge toasted the crowd by raising a glass of champagne.
“I love these guys for the work they do and who they are because I truly believe they represent the very best that our community has to offer,” he said. “What they do, they do it with class and they do it with dignity.”
Patti Stobaugh, of pattiCakes Bakery brought Lacy an ooey gooey butter cake to show her appreciation, and Martin Carley, VP of Southwestern Energy, said he’s been to 53 countries, and as a citizen of Conway he’s proud to call this community home.
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