Business as Usual: Chamber makes changes
by Star staff
Sep 30, 2012 | 12498 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Patrick McCreless

Changes are underway at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, with the goal of better assisting area workers who've lost their jobs due to military cutbacks.

The chamber has shifted personnel and will hire others while simultaneously expanding services to better help laid-off residents in the community. The chamber's board of directors approved the changes during a meeting Thursday.

“This is to support the community and support workers who have lost their jobs due to the downsizing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said John Blue, chairman of the chamber.

Hundreds of area workers have been laid off in the past year since the last chemical weapons were destroyed at the incinerator in 2011 and because the Anniston Army Depot has had less work due to the drawdown of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Among the changes is the resignation of Sherri Sumners as chamber president. Instead, Sumners now will be executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Coinciding with the move will be an expansion of the foundation’s mission to include workforce development, entrepreneurship and military and security affairs. Founded in 1979, the foundation has traditionally been used to funnel grant money to other groups.

With Sumners in her new role, current chamber director Linda Hearn will handle the day-to-day operations of the chamber, Blue said.

To help with the expanded services of the foundation, the chamber hired a deputy program manager and is interviewing for a full-time human resource specialist, a part-time communications and technology employee and a part-time bookkeeper.

The changes are possible due to a recent $740,000 federal grant for the chamber’s Operation: 1st Rate program. The grant is nearly three times the amount of money the chamber received last year to establish the program to help find new jobs for depot and incinerator employees.

Sumners said Operation: 1st Rate will be folded into the foundation as part of workforce development.

“Placing people in new jobs is our top priority,” Sumners said.

To date, more than 500 people have registered with Operation: 1st Rate and the program has so far found new jobs for more than 120 residents. Sumners said those jobs will have an estimated $10 million total economic impact on the area.

Currently, the program offers multiple services to help displaced depot and incinerator workers find new jobs. For example, program employees work with other companies in the area to fill any jobs with displaced incinerator workers as soon as they become available.

And in keeping with its expansion efforts, the chamber will open an office for the Operation: 1st Rate program in the Quintard Mall by the end of October, Sumners said.

“We’ll have expanded hours so people can come by after work,” Sumners said.

Oxford businessman to head state trucking association

An Oxford businessman will head the state’s trucking trade association for the coming year.

According to an Alabama Trucking Association press release, the organization elected Jack Brim, executive director of Oxford-based B.R. Williams Trucking Inc. as chairman of its board of directors for the 2013 fiscal year.

The 57-year-old resident of Weaver replaced outgoing chairman Bill Ward of Ward International Trucks in Mobile.

Brim said his plans as chairman include expanding the association’s membership and increasing existing members’ participation in association events and safety initiatives.

“It is my privilege to serve this great Association, and I commend the members of our leadership board for their commitment to Alabama’s trucking community,” Brim said in the press release.

Brim is vice president of operations for B.R. Williams and has worked at the trucking and warehousing business since 1985. Prior to that, he spent two decades in the industry working as a dockhand and driver, eventually working his way up to various managerial positions for United Parcel Service and Smith’s Transfer, both in Nashville, Tenn.

- Patrick McCreless

Wakefield's earns honor from Carhartt

Longtime local retailer Wakefield's has been recognized by the Carhartt brand of work clothing for its efforts to to market the brand.

Wakefield's Family Clothing, which operates a store by that name in Anniston, along with Martin's stores in Anniston, Oxford and several other cities, received the clothing brand's Hamilton Carhartt Retailer of Excellence for being a top-selling retailer The local chain was one of four winners, according to a press release from the clothing manufacturer.

 “This is the most prestigious award a Carhartt retailer can win and we are very proud to honor Wakefield’s Family Clothing,” Steve Carter, vice president of corporate sales for Carhartt, was quoted as saying a press release. “Our retailers are very important to us; they are on the front lines working with our customers on a daily basis and we are fortunate to have very good retail partners.”

Carhartt representatives visited Anniston last week to present the award to Wakefield's.

Retailers are selected for the award for their efforts to promote the Carhartt brand through their sales, product positioning and store marketing to increase sales and awareness of the brand, according to the press release.

- Star staff

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