GLADWIN COUNTY – On Thursday, Sept. 26, the Gladwin County Chamber of Commerce (Chamber)held their Annual Membership Dinner. The resurrection of the Annual Dinner started last year after an absence from the community. The Chamber has moved forward with business and community involvement since June 2015 when Yvette Keast, the Executive Director took the helm. 

Yvette stated that  “Bringing back the Annual Dinner was a goal I had from my first year in this position, it is important to let all members know that we appreciate their support.” When a business becomes a member of the Chamber, the support from fellow Chamber members, the Chamber board of directors and the Chamber is a benefit that cannot be calculated in a number. It is the collaboration, the camaraderie of other small and large businesses that creates the uniqueness of a Chamber. 

The feeling at the Annual Dinner this year was celebratory with 65 member businesses attending who were greeted by the long-time Chamber volunteer, Karen Breault and Dawn Morris of 989 Real Estate. After socializing with each other over business issues or just asking how each other’s families are doing a delicious dinner was served by the Riverwalk Grill staff. 

Yvette gave an update on the Chamber to everyone, from the exciting Gladwin County Branding and Marketing plan with the USDA Grant received, new website changes coming, the creation of a Chamber Ambassador Program and the collaboration with many Chamber businesses on projects. 

Brandon and Becky Hodgins were the keynote speakers and gave a heartfelt presentation on their dream of owning their own business, Pale Blue Smoking Co. The decision was not made overnight, however it was endearing to hear the tipping point was their daughter telling them to “Just do it already” and they did do it and have done it well. Earning them the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Gladwin County Chamber, presented by Bob Balzer with his endearing remarks on watching them rise to success. 

The Annual Awards were given out for the first time in 23 years and along with the Entrepreneur of the Year, local businessman Dirk Presidio received the Business Person of the Year Award. Jim Jacobs spoke of the many ways that Dirk has been a community leader and business person for Gladwin County. 

The last Award given was the Business of the Year, presented to Jimmy Wrembelski and his parents Jim and Kelly Wrembelski for their successful renovation and historic restoration of The Gem Theatre in Beaverton. Rev. Karen Blatt spoke of their efforts and the positive effect it has had on our community. 

This year was a particularly special dinner as Jim Jacobs, a board director and board President has resigned after 32 years involvement, Rev. Karen Blatt resigned with over 15 years as a director and Vice President, and Mitch Kahn five years resigned. This opened three Chamber board positions that were filled with a nominated slate accepted by the members in attendance. Yvette gave the awards with a heartfelt thank you for their leadership and direction for their years of service to the Chamber. She spoke of Jim being the “go to” guy when she needed anything, he was there, from fixing the toilet to contributing to a heavy decision. Karen with her quick stops to check in to share her new ideas she found on her excursions. Mitch with his ability to bring a different perspective in many ways. 

Jim Jacobs in his last official act as President of the Board presented the slate of new board members: Dawn Morris of 989 Real Estate, Cory Barz a local Entrepreneur/Clare City County Transit, Michael Murray of Burkhart-Presidio Insurance which was accepted by members Joe Myers and Dirk Presidio.  Jim Jacobs said it well in the anecdote, when he started in his 20s on the board the Chamber grew with new ideas and fresh faces and he believes the three new board members will continue the tradition while moving the Chamber forward with guidance into the future. 

An exciting evening was enjoyed by all who attended. Yvette looks forward to next year with more awards to honor those who give of themselves to improve Gladwin County that will take us in a continued upward direction for success.

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