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Chamber changing Community Pride Award procedure

Posted: January 23, 2014 5:00 p.m.
Updated: January 24, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce wants to recognize businesses that have improved the exterior look of their buildings and is asking for community input. The chamber has presented Community Pride Awards in the past, but Chamber Director Liz Horton told the chamber board of directors at its Jan. 16 meeting that changes are being made in the process.

She said the chamber’s executive committee would evaluate nominations on a monthly basis and select businesses to receive a “Certificate of Distinction.” The criteria to select winners includes the total investment made into the improvements, overall impact on the community, economic impact, visual appeal and chamber involvement. Horton said the awards have previously been given during the chamber’s annual gala, which made the event excessively long and made some recipients wait several months to receive recognition.

“Last year we gave out 24 at the annual gala. If someone got their renovation done in June, it’s not until the next May before they’re recognized. So, we’re going to start presenting Community Pride Awards on an ongoing basis,” Horton told the board. “We are taking nominations now. We will do it similar to a ribbon cutting. We will schedule it with the business owner to present their plaque and take a photo. We will still announce who received Community Pride awards at the gala during the program, but we won’t take up as much time.”

Also during the meeting, KershawHealth interim CEO Terry Gunn spoke to the chamber board and said the hospital faces challenges, but that they are manageable.

“With patience and perseverance, we will get through this,” Gunn said. “We’ve had our challenges financially and that’s certainly not unique to KershawHealth. But that’s short term. We all go through business cycles where there’s times when it’s wonderful and there’s times to hunker down and get through it.”

Gunn said KershawHealth is the smallest hospital in the nation to have invest-grade bond financing.

“We’re in very big-league company. Most hospitals our size do not enjoy investment-grade backing. The yield on that bond is 6 percent, so it’s a good investment,” he said. “We don’t do knee-jerk reactions. We don’t make poor decisions on the short term. We make good long-term strategic decisions. We stay the course and we have the financial wherewithal to do that.”

Gunn said the healthcare services offered in Kershaw County are more abundant and varied than in most communities its size.

“We’ve been blessed here with a tremendous breadth of healthcare coverage. The level of specialty care, the breadth of service delivery that’s provided here without the assistance of other organizations is pretty impressive,” he said. “This is not typical of what I see in communities and healthcare systems of our size around the country.”

Gunn said KershawHealth is looking for other healthcare providers with which to partner, adding depth to our local medical services and ultimately better serving area residents.

“Some of the biggest names you can think of in healthcare are very good at taking some of the services they provide, say in cancer care or heart care, and partner with us to deploy those in our community,” Gunn said. “So, you don’t have to take a trip across the country to find the best cancer care. You can find it here because we’ve partnered with those where you would find it.”

He concluded by saying the future of healthcare in Kershaw County looks bright.

“The benefit to you, as business leaders and industry leaders here in our community is that you will have something to really be proud of, to take full advantage of and something that elevates Kershaw County to the forefront of the healthcare piece of the economy,” he said. “It’s an exciting time and we’re certainly looking forward for big things to come.”

In other business, Jonathan Brody of Collette Vacations gave a presentation on his company offering “all-inclusive” package tours. Brody said his company has partnered with chambers of commerce in other communities to organize and promote the tours, and the chambers receive revenue for their part of the project.

“We’ve been around since 1918, which makes us the oldest and largest U.S.-based tour operator. We’re also a family-owned company on our third generation of ownership,” he said. “We want to be sure when we put you in an area, you’re not going to have to search too far for things to do, restaurants or sightseeing. All your meals, entertainment and gratuities are included.”

Brody said the company hires local guides in their destinations to give the tourist the best possible experience.

“A lot of our guides have been with us more than 10 years. They have a vested interest in making sure that everybody has a great time,” he said. “We provide all the transportation and hotel and motel baggage handling.”

Brody said partnering with Collette Vacations would give the chamber the opportunity to work with a local travel agent such as Camden Travel Services whose owner, Julie McKelvey, attended the meeting.

“Our job is to oversee travel, start to finish, making sure we have good airline schedules and making sure all the documentation is correct and you have your passports or visas or whatever is needed,” McKelvey said. “We’re there for support and to be somebody to call if something goes wrong.”

Brody said other chambers that have done business with Collette have selected their tour destination a year or more in advance to give ample time to promote and sell the packages. He said the most popular tour destinations are Italy and Ireland.

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