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Posted by: Steve Kimmel

The Huntington County Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner on Tuesday, March 14. The following photos show those that were given various awards. Shown in the top photo are members of the Huntington County Disaster Team that were named Volunteers of the Year by the Chamber for 2023. Pictured from left are John Garrott, 2022 Chairman of the Chamber board; Lenard Zeller, Max Kaylor, director, and Fred Crago, all volunteers of the Huntington County Disaster Team and Brock Zehr, 2023 Chairman of the Chamber board.

The middle photo, at left, shows John Garrott; Rick Doering, plant manager, Teijin Automotive Technology and Brock Zehr. Teijin Automotive Technology was named the Business of the Year for 2023. The bottom photo shows Ian Stallings, second from left, investor and owner of the Silver Moon 3 Pub and this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year. Also shown are John Garrott, left, Ian Hasselbacher, manager, Silver Moon 3 Pub, second from right, and Brock Zehr.

The Huntington County Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner on Tuesday evening with the theme Celebrate Huntington. The dinner was held at the PAL Club in Huntington.

Celebrate Huntington was put together by a group of Huntington County leaders to help showcase all the wonderful things about Huntington and Huntington County. The event was emceed by Mike Perkins with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Brooks Fetters, owner of The Huntington Bicycle Shop and the invocation was given by Steve Kimmel, executive director of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce.

Mayor Richard Strick then gave a brief talk about the history of Huntington, and named a few individuals that were relevant to the founding and growth of our fair city. Dinner followed provided by HolmStyle Catering with the Brick House Grill handling the bar for the evening. Music was provided by Pat Teusch of Elated Entertainment, and Adam Skiles of Huntington University managed the technology.

After dinner several speakers shared with the audience and gave updates on their places of employment. Topics of conversation for the evening included Small Business, Industry, Education, Sports, Enjoying Life in Huntington County, the new Entrepreneurial Council startup led by the Chamber of Commerce, the Fortitude Fund and finally Chamber of Commerce programs. The evening concluded with the Chamber giving awards to the Volunteers of the Year, Business of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year.

The group attending the dinner first heard from Ian Stallings, owner and investor of the Silver Moon 3 Pub. Stallings shared some history of the building, showed a video of the renovations and shared photos of the building from start to finish. Stallings has invested much of his talent, time and money into restoring one of Huntington’s oldest structures, built in 1883.

Mark Wickersham, executive director, Huntington County Economic Development, talked about local industry. He shared information about several different businesses in the county, and touched upon the more recent victories at Ecolab where the company has expanded and built their own laboratory. Wickersham talked about the $4.67 million expansion at Shuttleworth, the $35 million expansion at Novae Corporation and the good news of Teijin Automotive Technology, where the company has invested $110 million in a new building in the new Riverfork West Industrial Park. Wickersham stated that 2022 was a record year with $234 million dollars of industry investment in the county.

Chuck Brimbury, assistance superintendent of schools for HCCSC, shared information on the school corporation’s Strategic Plan along with the five pillars of the plan, leadership beliefs, Moving Forward – Good to Great and all the great things taking place with skilled trades classes at the Huntington County Community Learning Center. Brimbury stated that the cafeteria is about to be renovated at the high school, and went on to mention there will be new science labs, classes, technology upgrades and safety and security upgrades for students throughout the school system. The safety of students is very important to the HCCSC administration and school board.

Dr. Sherilyn Emberton, president of Huntington University, spoke of the good things happening at Huntington University. She talked about the 125th year of HU which took place in 2022, the UB Launch and the co-working space available in the UB Block on E. Franklin Street. Emberton also discussed the National Voices that came to Huntington during the 125th year, record enrollment, the University’s Step Forward Comprehensive Campaign, the Digital Media Arts program and Esports. Emberton shared information about the agriculture majors at the University, and the programs offered at Huntington University’s campus in Peoria, Arizona. Emberton said that Huntington University has a very bright future.

Huntington North High School sports successes were shared with those attending by Jeremy Markham, athletic director at Huntington North High School. Markham shared that HNHS athletes are expected to focus on academics along with being respectful and supportive of each other. He said they are expected to be competitive and show pride. Markham went on to talk about the new all-purpose stadium, HNHS sports fans, The Pit, HNHS Bob Straight Arena, the fieldhouse, weight room, TCU softball field, HNHS baseball field and the success of Addy Wiley. She set a state record running the 1600 in the state finals in 2022, and continues to set records at the collegiate level.

Huntington University sports were discussed by Russ Degitz, chief operations officer at Huntington University. He spoke about the renovations that took place at the fieldhouse, softball diamond and the new renovations currently happening at the Huntington University PLEX scheduled to open for the HU basketball season next fall. Degitz also touched upon the record number of athletes at the university participating in sports. He said HU has a record 300 students participating in sports where 15 of those athletes were named All-Americans.

Mike Perkins followed showing a video of bowling champion, EJ Tackett. Tackett won the Triple Crown earlier this year and continues to win championships since his Triple Crown win in Indianapolis. Tackett is a Huntington North graduate that turned pro after graduation and is poised to have a long rewarding career in his sport.

Also shared during the event were many ways to enjoy life in Huntington County. Included were a video of the Purviance House Bed & Breakfast, downtown retail establishments, Heritage Days, Music in the City, Christmas in the City, churches, trails, the successes at Parkview Huntington Hospital, Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, Two EE’s Winery, Rustic River Outfitters, Historic Forks of the Wabash, Huntington County Historical Museum and the GQT Huntington 7 theater under new ownership. The theater reopened after COVID where many theaters across the country did not.

John Niederman, director of the Fortitude Fund, shared the partnership the Chamber of Commerce and the Fortitude Fund have developed to support entrepreneurs and create entrepreneurial wealth in the county. A group was organized late last year to work with entrepreneurs interested in starting a business or helping with the business. This group will act as a support group, and also look to establish new businesses in the county to complement the existing businesses already established.

Brock Zehr, chairman of the Chamber board of directors, shared several of the programs the Chamber offers to individuals to help educate and grow their businesses. Zehr said the Chamber is responsible for Heritage Days, Farmer’s Market, Student Leadership Luncheons, new member breakfasts, networking events including its very popular Huntington County Coffee Connections and much more.

Huntington County Coffee Connections are held on the first Wednesday of each month at the Habecker Dining Commons on the campus of Huntington University at 8 a.m. This gathering has connected many individuals with other individuals and their businesses.

Zehr also spoke of the Chamber’s collaborations with local non-profits, HCED, city and county government, SCORE, Small Business Development Center, NIIC and others. Also mentioned were the redesign of the Chamber’s website where members can publish their help wanted ads, hot deals, events and more for free. Members also receive weekly Chamber Notes and have access to the Chamber’s Facebook pages.

The evening concluded with Steve Kimmel, executive director, recognizing the winners of this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, Ian Stallings, Volunteers of the Year, the Huntington County Disaster Team and the Business of the Year, Teijin Automotive Technology.