Berrien Chamber hosts Annual Awards Banquet

The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce hosted its Annual Awards Banquet Tuesday, January 31st at Camp Tygart’s Pipkin Center.  Chamber Board Chairman Bo Lovein, provided an update on the Chamber’s activities in 2016.  The group of more than 200 was entertained by the musical group Three on a String.  During the event, the Chamber also presented its annual awards for Industry of the Year, Agribusiness of the Year, Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, the Community Service Award, and a new recognition the Outstanding Achievement Award.  The winners of the annual awards are voted on by the entire Berrien County Chamber of Commerce membership.

Industry of the Year:  Chaparral Boats

Chaparral has been building quality boats since 1965. Founded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida by Buck Pegg, Chaparral has called Nashville, Georgia home since 1976.  Encompassing over 1 million square feet of manufacturing facilities, Chaparral is one of the South Georgia’s largest employers with a full-time roster of over 825 employees.  Chaparral and Robalo are the largest single site boat builder in the world. Building high quality boats is still a process completed by hand by skilled craftsmen. At Chaparral, many of their builders are second or third generation boat builders that take personal pride in every boat they build.

Chaparral and Robalo Boats manufacture premium fiberglass sport, jet and fishing boats ranging from 16-33 feet and ships boats to 195 dealers all over the United States and Canada and over 51 dealers internationally. Our boats provide fun and excitement to families around the world!  Chaparral is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol of MPX. The company is managed by a 4-person Senior Management team:  Buck Pegg, Founder, Executive Vice President, Ann Baldree, Senior Vice President; Mike Fafard, and Senior Vice President Bill Pegg.  Chaparral currently is ranked #1 in market share nationally and Robalo is ranked #3 in national market share on a fast track to #1 market share.

Chaparral is unique in that they build many of their accessory parts, upholstery, and cabinetry in house.  Chaparral being headquartered in Berrien County has drawn in suppliers of the company.  Chaparral is responsible for bringing BH Electronics to Nashville which supports our wiring and instrumentation.  Also, Coyote trailers began a very successful startup in Nashville to supply trailers and other metal accessories for our boats. Bradford Machine Shop also supports us with welding and metalworking.   Chaparral, BH and Coyote provide a total of 980 plus jobs in Berrien County.

Both Chaparral and Robalo have been awarded the NMMA Award for Excellence in Customer Satisfaction 9 years in a row for every boat line they build, the highest recognition awarded in the marine industry.   In 2016 the Vortex Line of jet boats also received the first award ever presented for Customer Satisfaction it the Jet Boat category.

Chaparral team members serve the marine industry as well as their home community.  Ann Baldree, Senior Vice President is currently serving on the National Marine Manufacturer’s Board and the Boat Manufacturer’s Board based in Washington D.C.  Locally Donna Giddens and Nancy Pegg serve on the Family Connections Communities and Schools Board.  Bob Ellis represents our company at the Rotary Club.  Ann Baldree is a Chamber of Commerce board member.  Chaparral has plans for expansion in 2017 to accommodate an increased demand for additional production.

Agri-Business of the Year:  Ag Aviators

Ag Aviators set up shop next to the Nashville Airport in a small trailer and storage building.  At that time, David Hendley was the only pilot and he was flying a Cessna plane with a 300-gallon capacity.  Ag Aviators is a family owned and operated business.  David, his wife, Carolyn and children Shae, Cliff and Lyly have been the ground crew through the years. Marking maps, calculating rates, mixing and fueling are all in a day’s work.

In 1990, Ag Aviators purchased its present location, the old Glass Stream hanger at the Berrien County Airport and added an office and an efficient loading pad mixing facility.  The operation has gone from using old soil FSA maps and marking fields with buckets to using google maps and a GPS system to insure more accuracy when spraying.

In 2014, his son Lyle joined the operation as a pilot, flying a 402 Air Tractor with a 400-gallon capacity.  David currently flies a 502 Air Tractor with a 500-gallon capacity.  David and Lyle have both served on the Berrien County Airport Authority, contributing to the current airport improvements.

Ag Aviators participates in aeroculture conventions and seminars to renew their licenses and to stay informed of current regulations.  David and Lyle are both engaged in farming, growing cotton, peanuts and tobacco, but when it really gets down to it…or should we say up to it..the sky is where they’d rather be.

Business of the Year:  Barry’s Deli

The Business of the Year was born out of the tobacco buyout.  Barry McMillan was looking for something to take the place of tobacco and still allow him to row crop farm.  Barry’s Deli opened in 2006 with a lunch menu that featured salads, wraps, sandwiches, hot dogs and the Barry Mac burger.

They were opened Monday through Friday 11 am to 2 pm which allowed Barry plenty of time to continue to farm.

After more than 10 years in business Barry’s Deli has expanded more than their menu.

Barry’s has increased its staff from three employees to five full time and two-part time employees.  Barry’s wife Angela and their children Andrea and Brandon also pitch in at the restaurant from time to time.  Barry’s has also expanded its hours, opening for dinner Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights serving local favorites like fried quail, steak and fish with all the trimmings.  Barry’s Deli has recently remodeled their dining room and has plans to a tin porch front in the near future.

Their “old timey cornbread” attracts customers far and wide.  Barry is an active member in the community serving on the Farm Bureau Board since 1999 and the Berrien County Tax Accessors Board since 2003.

Entrepreneur of the Year:  Hayley’s Coffee, Tea & Sweets

Hayley’s Coffee, Tea and Sweets is owned and operated by Rick, Amy and Hayley Postell.  The family thought Nashville needed a coffee shop and with their daughter Hayley, having barista experience with Starbucks it would be a good fit for their family and the community.

Entrepreneurship runs in the family.  Amy’s Great grandfather and grandfather launched New Ideal Sprayer Company, her father with Obsolete Ford, both sisters have businesses, Julie Jones owner of Arts Afire and Laura McMillan with Southern Grace Farms.

The Postell’s made the move to Nashville in the spring of last year, began remodeling in August and opened for business 55 days later on September 24th.  Hayley’s offers a major leader in coffee branding with Caribou Coffee, along with a large variety of flavors to satisfy any pallet including iced coffee, hot brewed coffee, lattes, hot chocolate, as well as hot and iced teas.  Hayley’s can also cure your sweet tooth with their fresh baked scones, cookies, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts and famous sticky cakes.  They also feature a daily lunch special.

 Community Service Award:  Historical Foundation

The Berrien County Historical Foundation was formed in 1995 by Judge Jack and Jane Knight.  In 2006 the Historical Foundation organized the 150th anniversary celebration of the creation of Berrien County.  Since that event the Historical Foundation has continued to develop exhibits and events.  The Foundation’s first large exhibit was held in conjunction with the 150th anniversary celebration and included 600 photos of the county’s history displayed in a 90-foot wall display at the Perry Memorial Library.

In 2008 the Berrien County Commissioners offered the Old Courthouse on the square to the Foundation as museum and archive.  The Historical Foundation has hosted numerous exhibits including Heroes of Berrien, Learnin in Berrien, and centennial farm exhibit.

The Historical Foundation’s website includes a photography bank of more than 14,000 historical photos.  It is the largest photo collection available on one website.  In 2013 the Historical Foundation partnered with Nashville Main Street to host the Smithsonian Institution’s New Harmonies musical heritage exhibit.  The 90-foot exhibit attracted visitors from across the state during the 6-week event.

The Historical Foundation was awarded a second Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit in 2016, Hometown Teams—How Sports Shape America.  Over 200 Georgia communities applied to host the exhibit and because of the success of the previous New Harmonies exhibit the Berrien County Historical Foundation was moved to the top of the approval list.  The Georgia Humanities, which oversees the Smithsonian exhibits says of the Berrien County Historical Foundation, “Without a doubt, the greatest exhibit on tour of any host community in Georgia.”

The Berrien County Historical Foundation is a complete volunteer organization funded exclusively through donations.  The work of the Berrien County Historical Foundation attracts Heritage tourists throughout the year.

Outstanding Achievement Award:  Berrien County School System

There is an important relationship between our Chamber of Commerce and our local school system.  In Berrien County, as our school system looks for ways to improve instruction and learning, we often look to the local Chamber of Commerce for support and help.  Likewise, when businesses are interested in beginning or expanding their operations here, one of their first questions relates to the quality of the school system.

School systems throughout the state of Georgia are scored on a number of factors in order to determine the quality of education provided for students. These factors include:

  • Student test scores in academic classes
  • Student participation and success in career, technical and work preparation programs offered through the schools
  • Graduation and attendance rates
  • Inclusion of students with disabilities in general classrooms
  • Participation in accelerated classes like Advanced Placement

The Georgia Department of Education released their scoring report earlier this month. It is my honor to announce that Berrien County School System ranked number thirteen out of all systems reporting across the state. This rating means that Berrien County School System is in the top 7% of school systems in Georgia.