Chamber honors local businesses, entrepreneurs | Business

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BENNINGTON — Bennington County businesses, including the Bennington Banner’s parent company, and local entrepreneurs won honors at the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce annual meeting Friday, held at the Park-McCullough Historic Governor’s Mansion Carriage Barn.

With more than 120 members attending the organization’s first in-person annual meeting since the start of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, Vermont News & Media — owner of the Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal — as well as local businessman Paul Carroccio of TPW Real Estate, were awarded Regional Visionary.

In addition, the Young Professional of the Year in a Business award went to the Banner’s Ahmad Yassir, digital advertising and marketing specialist.

“The newspaper industry is one that has challenges,” said VNM President and Publisher Jordan Brechenser in accepting the Regional Visionary award. “Despite those challenges, we at Vermont News & Media continue to innovate and expand our coverage across Southern Vermont like nobody else does. But it doesn’t happen alone. It takes the support of our community, our readers and our advertisers to allow us to continue to thrive, and for that, we thank you.”

Carroccio, who also won that recognition, said, “In all the work that we do, we strive to make our community better.” He said that happens in different ways — renovating an old mill, providing space for new businesses to grow, or supporting the arts. “The vision is always the same, supporting the people that make living in southwestern Vermont so great.”

The Chamber event included live music, food and bar, and a complimentary sparkling beverage for all attending.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be back in person after a two-year hiatus,” said Matt Harrington, the executive director of the Chamber. “There is just something that sparks and crackles when 120 stakeholders, influencers, business owners and community leaders get together in a room to celebrate. It feels really good to be back in person.”

In addition to the Visionary and Young Professional of the Year awards, other recipients for 2022 included:

• Member of the Year: Hoffman Real Estate

• New Member of the Year: The Coffee Bar

• Volunteer of the Year: Joel Howard

• Young Professional of the Year in a Nonprofit: Beth Wallace of United Counseling Services

• Lifetime Achievement: Jim Sullivan of the Bennington County Regional Commission

The Chamber also presented the findings of its recent survey of members. Those included:

• 93 percent of members think that Southwestern Vermont is a good place to have a business, which was up by nine points from 2019;

• 87 percent of members thinking that Southwestern Vermont will be a better place to do business in the next three years, which was up 7 points from 2019;

• Garlic Town, USA, the flagship event of the Chamber, had consumers spend over $130,000 with merchants in downtown Bennington in one day.

The meeting began with the introduction of a new slate of officers: Shannon McLenithan of the Bank of Bennington was elected as the board president; Nancy Koziol of couch + cork as vice president; Erica Lawrence of Union Underground as vice president; William Deveneau of William C. Deveneau Attorney at Law as treasurer, Brian Maggiotto of the Inn at Manchester as past president; and Brenda Jones of KW Vermont as ex officio.

Additionally, new board members were also welcomed and included Mark Grossarth, AVP of Marketing for Heritage Family Credit Union, Tammie Reilly, executive director of Greater Northshire Access Television (GNAT), and Lillie Williams, owner of Maple Leaf Realty. The Shires Young Professionals have a voting seat on the board and Beth Wallace was renewed for a second term as chair of the young professional organization back in December.

Retiring board members were also honored, including Michael McKenna of D.B. McKenna, Art Whitman of A&G Agriservices, Matt Willey of Ramuntos and Lynn Green, formerly of the Four Chimneys Inn.

“Looking forward, we are optimistic about our future and our members’ future,” said McLenithan. “That optimism is fueled by the resiliency that this region has shown through the navigation of a pandemic. While no easy challenge, we all had to pivot quickly, day by day, to keep moving forward. And through it all, we saw a region come together growing stronger together.

“Pulling up our bootstraps, making grassroots efforts to find creative ways for progress,” she added. “For that we should be proud!”

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