Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is nationally recognized

From left, Bridgett Massengill, Eric Lisica, Diane Parks, Amanda Ellis, Cheryl Millsaps, Sybil Topel, Taylor Belcher, Kerry Beth Carico, Anne Schwenke, Bill Kilbride, Maria Noel, Sandra Brewer, Dustin Harris and Jeremy Henderson. Meredith Rivers is not pictured. (Photo by Jim Brewer)

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce won 2017 Chamber of the Year for midsize cities at the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives annual convention Tuesday night.

At this year's convention, held at Nashville's Music City Center, Chattanooga beat out competition from the cities of Charleston, S.C., and Dayton, Ohio.

"Lo and behold, the little dog catches the school bus," Chamber President and CEO Bill Killbride said in a phone call shortly after the awards ceremony.

Killbride said Chamber employees learned they were finalists in mid-June. That's when they started preparing for five-on-one interviews with a panel of judges, he said.

The application process entailed several key questions about how chambers grow and retain membership and how they interact with the community. Applicants are allowed to attach any evidence that supports their answers, he said.

Killbride said he believed the key points in Chattanooga's application were the four initiatives the Chamber has been working on. Those initiatives included Chattanooga 2.0, the role of chamber councils, Thrive 2055, and engagement with businesses and board members.

Chattanooga 2.0 is a community-wide effort to improve academic excellence and work opportunities in Hamilton County. The Chamber's 12 councils have their own boards and hold their own meetings. Thrive 2055 is a partnership among the 16-county tri-state region that focuses on implementing "responsible and inspired growth for the next four decades," according to the organization's website.

"We're feeling pretty good about it," Killbride said of the honor. "We're happy for Chattanooga and Hamilton County. It's really our community's award. It's not the chamber's award; we are the community."

Since 2007 the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives have awarded chambers across the country for their work leading businesses and communities.

The Chamber of the Year Award recognizes excellence in operations, member services and community leadership, according to the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executive's website.

photo The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce claimed the title of 2017 Chamber of the Year during a national awards ceremony Tuesday, July 18.