VALDOSTA -- The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce currently has more members than the organization has ever had in its history -- 1,381.

The Chamber recently completed a membership drive, recruiting 69 new members in September, according to Jennifer Powell, vice chairman of membership and marketing for the Chamber, in a presentation to the Chamber Board Wednesday.

Powell thanked the Chamber for its efforts as well as the media for its support, and gave a special thank you to Paula Brown for managing the membership campaign.

Myrna Ballard, Chamber president, informed the board that Brown has since resigned from the Chamber to accept the position of director at the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts, and Mary Bione has been promoted to fill her position at the Chamber. Bione will be the Membership and Community Affairs coordinator.

The Board heard a number of committee reports, including:

l Fred Wetherington, Governmental Affairs Committee chairman, said a special Legislative Eye Opener breakfast will be held jointly with the Sunrise Rotary Club at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 11;

l Ron Cowart, chairman of the Transportation Committee, reported on the restructuring of the committee so as not to duplicate efforts with city's new transportation committee, the Metropolitan Planning Organization;

l Kevin Griffin, chairman for Leadership Lowndes, stated that 70 applications have been returned for the 2004 class and approximately 30 will be chosen to attend;

l The Board held the meeting at Hahira United Methodist Church, which it does once annually, and heard a report on activities of the Hahira committee, which includes a recent well attended Food For Thought tax seminar and an upcoming Business Card Social on Dec. 8;

l The Manufacturer of the Year will be honored Nov. 13 at a Rise 'N' Shine breakfast, with nominees including Regal Marine, ERCO, PCA, Fresh Beginnings, MAAX Southeast and Bathcraft. Several new awards have been added, including a Well Workplace recognition and a World Class Employee of the Year;

l Steve Cooke, chairman of the Triple Crown Hometowns initiative, stated that during a highly successful event Tuesday evening, several new investors pledged support to the retiree attraction program, which is only $11,000 below its goal;

l A new Chamber committee to recruit new businesses was discussed, and Ballard reported that she attended the recent International Council of Shopping Centers trade show in Atlanta, with the No. 1 new business on the list that everyone wants to see come to Valdosta a fabric store, second only to Olive Garden;

The Chamber board also heard reports from the Valdosta City Schools, Lowndes County Schools, Valwood, Valdosta State University and Valdosta Technical College, updating the board on a number of activities and initiatives currently under way.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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