Achievers honored

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce presented its four highest awards Tuesday during the annual membership luncheon, recognizing five community leaders for their service.

Nancy June Brandon, a champion of the arts, the downtown community and historic preservation, received the Franklin Yates Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the late long-time publisher of the Times-Gazette. Brandon, a local native, taught generations of local dance students and has been one of the greatest advocates for Shelbyville's courthouse square. The square was the first to use its particular layout, which is referred to as the "Shelbyville plan" by civic planners.

Rebecca Jones, a volunteer for the Bedford Cancer Foundation and First Choice Pregnancy Center, received the Deery Eakin Volunteer of the Year award, named for the late educator, who is also the namesake of Eakin Elementary School. Jones has served on the Bedford Cancer Foundation board for eight years and the pregnancy center's board since 2009. She's also active in Beta Sigma Alpha and Southside Church of Christ.

Eddie Burris received the Outstanding Leadership Award. Burris is a Bedford County Fire Department firefighter who makes fire safety presentations in schools and is also active in the True Blue Turnbow Project, a coat drive for children in need. The project was founded by Shelbyville native Whit Turnbow, an athletic administrator at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, but its outreach includes Bedford County.

Larry Fletcher and Joan Hall received the Special Services Award for their work with Community Outreach Partnership of Bedford County. Their work includes assembling food boxes for the needy from supplies obtained through Second Harvest Food Bank, Walmart Distribution Center and Tyson Foods.

Kay Rose announced all four award presentations and provided details about the winners and their community service, a role

Chamber leaders

The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Stephen Surles, senior manager for global business of TVA's division of economic development.

The luncheon also serves as the chamber's annual business meeting. Dawn Hobbs will continue for another year as Chamber president, so there was no need for the traditional passing of the gavel, but Brad McGee, Mike Rittenberry, Wyatt Burk and Michael Watson were elected to three-year terms on the Chamber board.

Hobbs, making the annual president's report, noted the Chamber's ongoing projects, including development and implementation of a strategic plan and a tourism strategic plan. All schools now have partnered with local businesses under the Partners In Education Program. The 231 Business Park is being actively marketed, and the chamber's tourism grants have been a success.

Chamber CEO Allen Pitner, introducing Surles, noted the important part played by TVA in developing, funding and marketing 231 Business Park.

Surles, who worked in local industrial development jobs like Pitner's throughout Mississippi before joining TVA, is an accomplished barbecue pitmaster and a drag racer, and a member of the Albany, Georgia, Sports Hall of Fame.

Growing region

Surles noted that the recently-announced Toyota-Mazda plant in Huntsville, Alabama, plugs "the last gap" in the Southeast's automotive industry and could have an impact on automotive parts suppliers. However, he noted that it took much longer than anticipated for parts suppliers to follow the Toyota-only plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Surles noted that carbon fiber research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory increases the potential for manufacturing jobs throughout the TVA region.

Surles said that without an industrial park, like the one Bedford County is developing, it may be hard or impossible for a community to meet the timeline of a prospective industry. He also stressed the need for workforce development, saying that virtually every company he deals with has some sort of workforce issue, whether it's difficulty in hiring or whether it's losing employees to a better-paying company across town.

He said it's important to work with schools and try to change the image of manufacturing jobs. Such jobs are often portrayed in popular culture as dirty and unpleasant, but many modern jobs in high-tech manufacturing are well-paying and satisfying, and students whose interests or abilities run in that direction should be encouraged by parents and teachers, said Surles.

Hobbs recognized the Chamber's member service director, Stephanie Price, who is leaving the Chamber in a few weeks to accept a new position.