By Bill Sumrall
Volunteerism drove a successful 2009 for the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, outgoing board of directors chair Robert Hughes said.
“That’s what makes our organization what it is today,” Hughes told members attending the 96th annual Chamber meeting Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Sai Convention Center on 2301 N. MacArthur Drive in Alexandria.
Brigadier General James C. Yarbrough, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, was featured speaker at the event, where Bonnie Lemoine was installed as chair of the 2010 board of directors.
Hughes presented the Chamber’s 2009 Small Business Person of the Year award to Dwight and Jillian Epperson of Jiffy Lube, who expressed gratitude for their business and its staff.
Hughes told members that a summary of the Chamber’s major accomplishments this year were contained in an annual report published in brochure form that had been distributed among members’ tables at the luncheon.
“We have achieved all the goals we set for 2009, and in process of finishing those that carry-over in 2010,” Hughes said.
Hughes stressed volunteerism as “how we get things done” at the Chamber.
As examples, Hughes cited 70 ribbon-cutting ceremonies in Central Louisiana last year as well as the efforts of 66 volunteers who worked half-days to bring in more than 100 new members.
Membership is the heartbeat of the Chamber, Hughes said, noting some 200 volunteers participated throughout the year.
“Stay involved, and if you’re not involved, get involved,” Hughes said.
Yarbrough used a Power Point presentation as he walked among members seated at tables to illustrate his talk.
Yarbrough cited $1.6 billion annual economic impact that Fort Polk generates, which makes it the number one economic engine in the state of Louisiana, according to 2008 figures, with $349.7 million to be spent for projects in 2010.
In the past four to five years, some $750 million has been spent, Yarbrough said.
Among the projects coming to Leesville and Fort Polk is a new Chili’s restaurant, a children’s recreation park, and renovations of barracks, Yarbrough noted.
Fort Polk is slated to expand by 100,000 acres in federal property also, Yarbrough said.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity in our way ahead here,” Yarbrough said.
“When you see the enduring nature, that the missions that we’ve got and the growth of what we’re doing, the things on post are doing really well, frankly,” Yarbrough said.
“We are part of you; we couldn’t do it without you,” Yarbrough added.
In her address, Lemoine outlined goals for the five major divisions of the 2010 plan of work for the Chamber, which she said would be published on their Web site.
The Web site can be accessed online at www.cenlachamber.org.
“For education, our goal is to ensure an adequate and trained workforce — we need to be ready,” Lemoine said, citing one of the five divisions.
The other four divisions include economic development, governmental affairs, membership and military affairs.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and know that we have some very challenging times facing us in the next two years, at least,” Lemoine said.
“We’re successful when we face challenges. We are also poised on the brink of growth. We need to take advantage of all opportunities. We can accomplish everything and overcome every challenge if we all work together,” Lemoine said.
At the end of her chairmanship, Lemoine said she’d like to look back and see her vision for a community totally working together and accomplishing insurmountable tasks had been accomplished.