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Woods: Chamber must have new mindset, renewed commitment heading into 2015

Posted December 10, 2014    

Taking charge of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce board of directors Tuesday, Troy Woods issued a challenge to its members and staff.

Addressing the organization’s annual meeting at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center, he said what’s needed heading into 2015 is a new mindset, expectations and behaviors.

“If we’re going to bridge the gap of where we are today — our current state — and where we want to take this chamber tomorrow — our future state — then I think we need a different rigor, a different commitment from all of the stakeholders who support this chamber in everything that they do,” said Woods, whose day job is president and chief executive officer of TSYS, a Columbus-based credit-card and payment processor that does $2 billion-plus in business each year around the planet.

Woods succeeds Columbus attorney Alan Rothschild, who began his stint as chair last January. On Tuesday, Rothschild extolled the value of the 20-member chamber staff, the organization’s 36 board members, its 1,200 members, the many volunteers, and the record $843,000 raised during this year’s capital campaign.

“Our chamber is a 100-percent volunteer membership organization. Without members, there simply would not be a chamber,” said Rothschild. “A strong chamber means a strong and successful business community.”

In fact, it was the capital campaign effort by W.C. Bradley Real Estate executive Leah Braxton, who headed one of the fund-raising groups, bringing in $243,000, that put a capper on her receiving the annual Chair’s Award from Rothschild, who praised her energy, enthusiasm and “above and beyond” efforts for the chamber.

He noted she has served on and led various boards, including at The Family Center, Uptown Columbus, Historic Columbus Foundation and the chamber itself. She has volunteered with the Valley Partnership and been honored by Big Brothers Big Sisters, as well as the local Girl Scouts, he said.

“I’m surprised,” Braxton said as she accepted the award. “This community does mean so much to me. It’s easy to go out and sell the chamber because I believe it is the heartbeat of our community.”

The J.R. Allen Young Leader Award went to W.C. Bradley Real Estate commercial manager and sales associate Chris Woodruff, who Woods said “epitomizes” the honor through his many volunteer endeavors. Those include serving on foundation boards with Columbus State University, St. Francis Hospital and Historic Columbus. He has chaired the chamber’s Young Professionals group, and been recognized by Georgia Trend and Columbus and the Valley for being among the “best and brightest” up-and-coming leaders in the state.

Capping off the meeting was presentation of the Jim Woodruff Jr. Memorial Award to Mike Gaymon, who retired as president and CEO of the chamber Nov. 1. The search for his successor continues.

Last year’s recipient, Gardiner Garrard, made the presentation, noting Gaymon’s tenure included several accomplishments. Those, Garrard said, included creation of Muscogee Technology Park, pushing for the special purpose local option sales tax that funded South Commons construction leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympic softball competition here, and fostering the rezoning effort that paved the way for Columbus Park Crossing, which created sales tax revenue for the city, while boosting commercial amenities for residents.

“When Alan (Rothschild) first mentioned it to me, I said I’m not worthy to receive the Jim Woodruff Award. I’ve been on that committee for 26 years. I know what it takes to get that award,” Gaymon said. “So it’s very humbling that, looking at the list of folks who have received this award, to have my name there. I am almost speechless, but I am extremely, extremely grateful.”

Past Woodruff Award honorees include D.A. Turner, Judge Aaron Cohn, Sara Spano, William B. Turner, Bill Heard Jr., John B. Amos, Paul S. Amos, Gunby Jordan, Rozier Dewylder, Marvin R. Schuster, Jim Blanchard and Carmen Cavezza.

A featured speaker during Tuesday’s meeting was Karen Paty, executive director of the Georgia Council for the Arts. She pressed home the strong economic impact that the arts, and culture and heritage tourism have across the state, and how it also helps communities redevelop areas and structures that once were vibrant, but have fallen on hard times through the years.


Original article, written by Tony Adams, can be viewed here.


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