Last Thursday evening, January 25, a crowd of nearly 200 Emanuel County business folks and visitors from surrounding areas turned out for the 69th annual banquet of the Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce. The annual banquet is actually the “official” meeting of the full Chamber membership. Chamber President Cason DeVane called the meeting to order following a welcome by CEO Ken Warnock. Customarily, the highlights of the banquet are the honoring of a business of the year, a person of the year, and the Star students and Star teachers from around the county schools. This year’s honoree for Person of the Year was former school superintendent Butch Frye. Frye served as head of the Emanuel County schools for ten years and has thereafter continued to play a major role in the life of the community in various capacities including many years of service on the Joint Development Authority. The Star student and teacher of 2024 were Ricardo Jose-Lara and Selena Reynolds. The 2024 Business of the Year was Wincore Corporation. This company relocated from West Virginia and came to Swainsboro in 2020. They quickly developed a winning strategy in their field, and expansion soon followed with a growing number of jobs. The company has been a great addition to our manufacturing community in Emanuel County.
The presentation of these well-deserved awards made for an impressive program, but this year’s event was special not only for the achievements that were honored but also for where it took place. The site of this year’s banquet was the latest addition to downtown Swainsboro. It is a building that has undergone a complete revival and repurposing to become an updated, upscaled, and restyled meeting facility that can accommodate groups of up to four hundred. This year’s Chamber Banquet was the “christening” of the new Swainsboro/Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce Community Conference Center Complex, and from all the comments received, it was also voted to be a winner. The building has long occupied a spot on the “Boneyard” and has been home to a variety of businesses over many decades. Several years ago, it was acquired by the City of Swainsboro as part of a downtown revitalization plan. In 2019, the Chamber of Commerce approached the City with the idea of creating a partnership with the County and the Chamber to renovate the building and put it back into service. On Thursday night, it was unveiled in its new role. The contemporary downtown building will house the “Nordson Center” Banquet Hall as well as the “Mill Creek Meeting Room” and is the result of a good idea that developed into a cooperative effort to make a positive contribution to the business district of Swainsboro.
Going forward, the facility will be managed by the Chamber of Commerce who took the lead in the project’s creation and provided the major portion of funding. Along with the public partners, (City, County and Chamber) the Nordson Corporation and Mill Creek Foundation were two private concerns that played instrumental roles in the completion of this project. Both of these entities deserve the thanks of this entire county for their support of not only this outstanding effort but of so many other good works, as well. Once again, these two community-minded organizations serve as sparkling examples of what is possible through good old-fashioned teamwork and a little positive thinking. Public and private partnership is a great tool for growth in small communities. That’s a good thought to nurture as we head into February of the new year. Maybe we can keep that trend going and growing! Congratulations to the Chamber and the community!