Timken Corp.'s commitment to business, industry and the community is unsurpassed by any and all who have come before it, Torance Inman, executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce said Thursday night.
For that reason, Timken received the "Shining Star" award for its contributions to the community during the Union County Chamber of Commerce Annual Member Banquet at Tabernacle Baptist Church.
"And although they have done great things in the past, they have stepped up once again and made a contribution to this community that will draw attention for years to come," Inman said. "One day very soon, lifelong memories will be made on a parcel of land given by Timken to build a sports complex. Not only that, but a substantial contribution was also given toward the construction."
Timken was named "Industry of the Year" at the 2007 banquet.
The 2008 "Small Business of the Year" award was presented to Liberty Tax Service and Katherine Pendergrass.
Inman said Mrs. Pendergrass and her husband conducted a basic budgeting and financial workshop which drew outstanding reviews. Through the business they have completed more than 450 tax returns for senior citizens at no charge, helping to bring refund money back into Union County. Mrs. Pendergrass also addressed the entire seventh and eighth grade classes of young women at Sims Jr. High on the challenges that face women in the workforce and the personal commitment needed to succeed.
ConTech Industries was named 2008 "Industry of the Year."
"In the past year, what started in a small house in the country now occupies a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 15 acres which provides adequate off site storage to stage both large and small products," Inman said.
ConTech is focused on producing products that are essential to continue building the infrastructure in the Southeastern United States. The facility has a product list of over 15 engineered precast concrete structures. Plant manager Paul Stoltzfus has created an atmosphere of growth through an assembled team of hard working, dedicated individuals committed to quality and integrity, Inman said.
The Union County Health Care Foundation was named "Service Group of the Year." The group was founded in 1993 and has raised approximately $2 million for health care needs in Union County. Major projects include upgrading rooms at Wallace Thomson Hospital at a cost of $160,000; providing $1 million for outpatient surgery and raising $215,000 for a new rescue truck for Union County EMS.
Their current project is to raise $250,000 to convert the radiology department's information system to digital at Wallace Thomson Hospital.
Mike Petrie was named "Volunteer of the Year." Consideration for this distinction is given to persons whose overall contributions impact an entire community.
"He has over the course of several years spent countless hours promoting Union County to a worldwide audience," Inman said. "He has established an association that is likely to be one of a kind anywhere in the United States. He has elevated a group of men and women that have been somewhat obscure in recent years. His volunteer work has brought to life motorsports in Union County."
Thanks in part to Petrie, Team Aruba located in Union County, Inman said.
"He has single-handedly generated an atmosphere of racing throughout the entire community," he said. "Drag racing to motocross to kart racing and dirt track and everything in between draw thousands of people to Union on any given weekend."
Petrie quietly assisted a Greer businessman in his quest to build a competitive drag racing and test facility in Union County, Inman said.
Petrie was out of town at a racing event. The award was accepted by his daughter-in-law, Kacie Petrie.
"Friends of the Chamber" awards were presented to the City of Union and Union County for showing an intense interest in the Chamber and investing time, energy and money into helping it succeed.
"These two are closely stitched together and have an uncommon drive in seeing not just the chamber succeed, but all of Union County," Inman said. "In doing so, they have established a working relationship with the Chamber unlike anything in the past. Not only does the leader of each organization take an active role in this partnership, but so does every person at ever level. There are open doors for us to share ideas and problems and to obtain direction when needed."
Dr. Hugh Rowland, USC-Union dean and president of the chamber's board of directors, presented the "President's Award" to The Union Daily Times.
"When my wife and I moved here, we thought that there were two groups not recognized enough for the work that they do, one was the Health Care Foundation and the other was The Union Daily Times," he said.
Rowland praised the newspaper for its efforts in covering issues important to the community.
In other business, new chamber board members were elected - Mary Susan Gregory of Union County Disabilities and Special Needs, Bill Balkum of Union Industrial Services, Bill Leonard, CEO of Wallace Thomson Hospital and Eric Holland of Timken.
Outgoing board members were recognized - Lewis Jeter, Frank Alexander, Carolyn Belue and Mary Foster.
Bryan Stone is the new vice-president of the chamber.
Dr. John C. Stockwell, chancellor of USC-Upstate, was the keynote speaker. Stockwell also is the president of the Spartanburg County Chamber of Commerce.
"It is important that we as a Chamber of Commerce agree that in an economic agenda, knowledge economy becomes very critical," Stockwell said. "Corporations invest where the brains are."
Stockwell pointed out that in 17 of the largest cities in the United States, the high school graduation rate is less than 50 percent.
"A two-year degree is now a fundamental requirement for participation in the economy of the future," he said.
The Chamber of Commerce needs to be concerned about educational attainment. The extent of education correlates directly with the earning capacity of a family, he said
One role the Chamber can play is to consistently underscore the importance of an education culture.
"Our focus ought to be to educate our young people to the level of their capacity," Stockwell said.
The county is very fortunate to have USC-Union, Stockwell said. He commended the county for its support of the school and suggested that more need-based scholarships be donated. He pointed out that the requirements for the LIFE Scholarship are high, including maintaining a 3.0 GPR on 15 credit hours each semester.
Also during the meeting, William Jeter gave an update on the Patriot's Lake Project. He said government bodies on the federal, state and local level are working together on the project. He said the lake is important because population growth in the drought-plagued area will place critical demands on the water supply.
Union County Supervisor Donnie Betenbaugh and Union Mayor Bruce Morgan provided updates on economic development and other projects.
Morgan said Team Aruba moving to Union will help recruit other racing teams to the area.
"We are creating an atmosphere where people are coming to Union who wouldn't have come here previously," he said.
Upcoming Chamber programs
Inman said two programs are planned in the coming weeks in response to a survey from the Chamber about what small businesses need in terms of seminars and training.
On April 30 at Career Source on 103 West Main St., Union natives Jan Harris-Fahr and Sherry Sutton of Thinking Partners will present the first of four "Pack More Into Your Lunch" seminars. It is titled, "Confidence - Turn It Up a Notch." Lunch is included and the cost is $50 for non-Chamber members and $25 for Chamber members.
The second annual Union County Spotlight on Business, hosted by Leadership Union, USC-Union and the Chamber of Commerce, will be held on May 14 at Truluck Gym. Vendors and sponsors are being sought.
"It is designed to show people in Union what is here and on the flip side, to show what is not here and the things we need," Inman said.
Anyone wanting information on either program may call the Chamber at 427-9039