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Chamber honors broadcaster with top award

Chamber President Bob Wiliford, as G. Ray Cantrell Award. Chamber President Bob Wiliford, as G. Ray Cantrell Award.

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Art Cooley, who has served his hometown for more than 60 years in radio broadcasting, business development and civic life, was honored Friday night as the G. Ray Cantrell Award winner at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Blue Ridge Conference Hall at BRCC.

The 95th annual Chamber Dinner and Awards program also honored Bob Wiliford for his 20th anniversary as chamber president, thanked 2017 chamber Chairman Dave Modaff and heard from 2018 Chairman Michael Thompson.

A graduate of Hendersonville High School and UNC-Chapel Hill, Cooley served in the U.S. Army. His community service includes Hendersonville Country Club and Hendersonville Lions Club president and serving on the boards of Carolina Village, Boy Scouts of America, the American Red Cross and Jaycees. He has also served as president of the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce and was involved in radio station ownership in Hendersonville, Canton, Brevard and Tryon. He helped bring cable television to Henderson County as an owner of Cablevision, the first cable provider in the county. He co-founded an outdoor advertising company that operated for 25 years and was a member of the investor group that purchased the Skyland Hotel in the mid 1970s and changed it from a summer hotel to year round condominiums. He was inducted into the NC Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Hendersonville High School Hall of Fame in 2007. He has two daughters.
The lifetime achievement award honors a person who has made outstanding contributions. It was started in 1996 to honor the many years of service to the chamber and the community provided by Ray Cantrell, who served as executive vice president of the chamber from 1959 until 1999.
Past recipients include Duane McKibbin, R.E. Harmon, Dan Gibson, Sam McGuirt Jr., Bill Stokes Jr., Bill McKay, Tom Shepherd, Albert Gooch Jr., Dan Waddell, Herb Young, Jim Crafton, Bill Lapsley, David Reeves, Bill McGee, Rob Cranford, Roger Hill, Bud Hunter, Jim Maher, Jeff Egolf, Fred Pittillo and Ervin Bazzle.

Camp Industry Leadership

Karl and Shelley Alexander, owners of Camp Highlander, were honored as the recipients of the Camp Industry Leadership Award.
In Henderson County there are more than 20 Youth Summer Camps that have a combined economic impact of more than $120 million per year. A 2011, NC State University Economic Impact Study of the industry in Buncombe, Henderson, Jackson and Transylvania Counties found that camps account for 10,335 Full Time Equivalent Jobs – Beyond Camp Staff, $33 million in tax revenue and an overall economic impact of $365 million.
“In 1970, at age 20, Karl asked his dad to help him buy the all-boys sleepaway camp in western North Carolina where he had been a camper and counselor. His dad told him NO and to go get a real job.”
So he worked as a loan officer, owned a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership and did marketing for a Louisiana company that turns rice hulls into energy.
However, camp kept calling because Karl and Shelley had long dreamed of owning and operating a summer camp of their own with the hope of making a positive impact on the lives of children.
After many years of prayer and waiting, they finally fulfilled their dream in November of 2000 when they purchased Camp Highlander, a coed residential camp in Mills River.
Karl, Shelley, their five daughters (then ages 13 to 23) packed up and moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In the early years Karl and Shelley plowed a lot of their operating income back into improvements – adding 70 adjoining acres to the original 170 for a total of 240 pristine acres on the banks of the South Mills River.
Since then, they have dedicated themselves to improving and expanding the Highlander experience as they seek to live out the camp mission of building boys and girls of courage, honesty, integrity and faith, and helping them become all that God intends them to be.

Ambassador of the Year

Ambassador of the Year Award was chosen from among four quarterly winners: Chuck Hill of Chuck Hill Photography, Susan Elmer with Warren Restoration, John Powers with Advantage Direct and Krystal Romps with ServPro of Henderson County.
Points are awarded to Ambassadors that assist at Chamber events, attend ribbon cuttings and grand openings, serve as greeters at Business After Hours and other events as well as making personal contacts to welcome new members to the Chamber.
The winner was Hill, a Chamber Ambassador since early 2015. A professional photographer, he takes the majority of the Chamber’s ribbon cutting and groundbreaking photos along with photographing several of our annual events.

Duke Energy Citizenship Award


The  Duke Energy Citizenship Award went to state Rep. Chuck McGrady. The award honors an individual who through volunteerism and community service has gone beyond the usual call of duty to make our community a better place.
Born in Baltimore, McGrady graduated from the Mercer University School of Law and worked as a corporate counsel. Moving to Henderson County, he operated Falling Creek Youth Summer Camp and served as president of the Sierra Club from 1998 until 2000. From 2009 -2010 he was the Executive Director of the NC Youth Camp Association.

He also served on the Village of Flat Rock Council from 1997 until 2001 and was served on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners and from 2004 to 2010, when he was elected to the state House of Representatives.

Education Champion Award

Curt & Sue Marker were honored with the Education Champion Award. Developed by the Chamber’s Education Committee and Board of Directors in 2001 to honor individuals and organizations that make significant contributions to our community’s educational systems, recipients have made Henderson County home to one of the best public school systems in North Carolina.
Curtis H. Marker attained a B.S in Engineering from Purdue (1965) and an MBA from Northwestern (1967) and went on to a thirty-one year career with ExxonMobil in the international oil business. Sue was an elementary school teacher for many years. Curt & Sue have two adopted children – a son from Japan and a daughter from Indonesia.
They searched for the perfect place to retire and found it in Hendersonville. In retirement he has served on the board of the Children and Family Resource Center and in numerous positions on the boards and committees of his local country club and property owners association, Champion Hills. Curt is currently on the board of the Henderson County Education Foundation where he serves as treasurer and chair of the HCEF Golf Classic. 
They established The Marker Science Scholarship in 2006 with the Henderson County Education Foundation. The scholarship covers tuition, room and board for one student majoring in science. The scholarship still exists today and has been awarded to 7 individuals, totaling over $150,000 in awards. 
In 2017, they joined the Education Foundation’s effort to expand the Leader in Me initiative in Henderson County Public Schools by sponsoring Upward Elementary to implement the model, an over $70,000 investment. When Curt had the opportunity to speak to the Upward Elementary school staff in June of this past year, he said, “by embarking on this mission to transform the culture of your school, you will make them better human beings and students. The new culture you create will have a positive impact on every child who walks through the doors and the thousands of students who will follow them in years ahead.”

Environmental & Sustainability Award

The recipient of the 2017 Environmental & Sustainability Award is a company that has deep roots in Henderson County. Wilsonart, a global manufacturer of high pressure laminates, headquartered in Texas, open a facility in Fletcher in 1979 to meet growing demands for its product. It quickly grew to become one of Henderson County’s largest employers and continues to play an important role in our community’s success.
Wilsonart practices Zero Waste: No unnecessary materials or processes; Zero Impact: Environmentally responsible materials; Zero Barriers: Individual growth and engagement.
As a corporation Wilsonart is the first North American laminate manufacturer to achieve Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody Certification. Locally, the company has recycled almost 7.6 million pounds in 2017 — 675,000 pounds from new materials that had not been recycled before; saved 49,000 trees and 9,294 cubic yards of landfill space by baling and recycling paper; achieved Greenguard Gold Certification for low chemical emissions on all of its laminate products; installed 2,964 300-watt solar panels and 27 28,000 Watt Inverters, producing over 1 million KW in each of the past three years for an energy cost savings averaging over $80,000 per year.


Amazing Customer Service Award


This year’s recipient is Summey Plumbing & Heating, a third generation Henderson County company founded in 1954 when Harold Summey and a partner purchased a 30-year old contracting firm on King Street. They successfully operated the business through 1975 when sons Steve and Jack Summey took the reins and incorporated Summey Plumbing & Heating, Inc. The company continued to grow moving to a larger location on King Street in 1976 and finally settling in to their current Greenville Highway location in 1987. Their road to amazing customer service began in 1995 when the company started a service department to better serve customers and complement the contracting business. Today Keith and Mike Summey operate the business along with longtime employee Norma Corn. Employee morale and engagement play a critical role in Summey’s customer service culture.

A social media review sums up the Summey secret.

“It is intimidating to try and find a plumber. I have had to call on this business three times in the past five years. Every single time, I have been met with professionalism, knowledge, punctuality, and great people. They take time to explain the problem. They give options for the solution that will fit your budget. They do not overcharge. In an emergency, which I have had once, they are at your house ASAP. Every person who works there that I have been contact with is amazing, from the owners, to the technicians, to the receptionists. I cannot recommend this company highly enough.”

Past recipients include Louis Williams & Sons, Miller’s Fine Dry Cleaning
, Summit Marketing Group, the 1898 Waverly Inn
, the Flat Rock Playhouse, Southern Alarm & Security
, Whitley/Economy Drugs, Friday Staffing Services
,AutoWorx, Mind Your Business, 
Morrow Insurance, Brookdale Hendersonville East, the City of Hendersonville, Chick-fil-A of Hendersonville.

Industrialist of the Year

The 2017 Industrialist of the Year and first ever two-time winner of the award was Brian Cavagnini of Meritor.
The award goes to manufacturing leaders who have been instrumental in rowing their company’s presence in Henderson County by increasing investment and creating jobs., leading in their specific field of work and giving back and investing in our local community.

Over the past two  years, Meritor has invested over $30 million in state of the art equipment and new processes to upgrade their operations. The company has added over 100 good paying jobs over these past 2 years. The company is a proud supporter of Henderson County. Many of their employees are volunteers, serving on many community organization committees and boards. In fact, the plant has been recognized as the largest corporate sponsor for United Way for the past 3 years.
Cavagnini is currently on the Board of Directors at the Chamber and has previously served on the United Way Board.
He has been the director of company’s Carolina Enterprise — responsible for both the facility in Fletcher and a facility in Forest City. 

He and his wife Karen are the proud of parents of six children.
Previous recipients include 
Paul Morse - GE Lighting, Dr. Molly Parkhill - BRCC, 
Dan O’Connell - UPM Raflatac, Pete Szalwach - Lassonde Pappas, 
and Tammy Albrecht - Wilsonart.

Small Business Leader of the Year


The Small Business Leader of the Year award is given to a company that has served Henderson County for more than three years, has grown to employ workers in our community and has given back to the community through non-profit avenues.

Southern Appalachian Brewery is the 2017 recipient. Owned and operated by Andrew and Kelly Cubbin, Southern App produces quality, craft beer for the tasting room as well as local bars and restaurants. Since they opened six years ago, they have continued to expand their distribution as far east at Wilmington and into South Carolina including Hilton Head. An equally important focus has always been to serve their community. Kelly and Andrew strive to create a comfortable, family and pet friendly environment in the tasting room.
Southern Appalachian Brewery hosts numerous fundraisers for local non-profits including Council on Aging, Blue Ridge Humane Society, Homes for Youth, Pisgah Legal Services, Land of Sky Regional Council and many others. They are also very generous donors of product for gifts and events including tonight’s Chamber Annual Dinner.

The other 2017 quarterly recipients were Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique, the Blood Connection and 
Hulsey Media.