Chamber installs new officers at annual banquet

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 15, 2012

By David Vitrano

VACHERIE – The River Region Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards ceremony and officer installation this week at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie.

Now in its ninth year, the Chamber has continued to grow each year and was recently named the state’s midsize chamber of the year. A continuously expanding offering of events such as the Washington fly-in have added to member benefits as well.

“It’s been a very good year,” said Chamber Executive Director Chassity McComack, adding that the award “is a sign of all we’ve achieved value-wise.”

She said the Chamber now has 253 business members representing about 14,000 employees. She said 45 percent of those are from St. John the Baptist Parish.

The Chamber has seen a bit of a shift in its membership recently toward smaller businesses. Whereas last year the average member had six to 20 employees, this year’s average member employed two to five people.

“With that, values change,” said McComack. “Networking is first and foremost.”

She said the annual membership survey this year found that 91 percent of members valued the organization’s credibility most. Last year’s most important asset was public policy.

At the event, the Chamber installed its newest chair, Mike Palamone of Urban Systems Associates. Palamone takes over for Henry Friloux, who held the position for two years.

“We met Mike when our chamber first formed,” said McComack. “He does bring that outside-the-box thinking. Mike was instrumental in taking our chamber to the next level.”

Chamber members may also expect to see some changes in the coming year.

“He’s got a different strategy as far as leadership style goes,” said McComack.

Friloux will not be fading into the background any time soon, however.

“He has been in the trenches since day one,” McComack said. “He brought a lot of fun to the Chamber.”

Friloux will head the Public Policy Committee for the time being while he trains someone to take on the role. At that point, McComack said Friloux is looking forward to being an active committee member.

The event also saw the inauguration of a new Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

The new Executive Committee includes Nathan Stein, chair elect, Palamone, Annette Wray, secretary, and Ralph Phillip, vice chair.

The 2013 Board consists of Friloux, Paul Aucion, Stein, Phillip, Doug Rhodes, John Harmon, Ray Dussold, Randy Mire, Sheila Butler, Palamone, Randy Noel, Wray, Mac Bordelon, Jordan Tremblay, Rene Ockman and Craig Carmen.

Additionally, the Chamber handed out several awards. Award winners were Palamone, Board Member of the Year; Brandy Zeringue, Shining Star; Stein, Shining Star; Sheila Butler, Business Development Team Leader, Committee of the Year; Carl Pasquarelli Jr. of Nalco, Large Business of the Year; Natalie Tatje of Tatje Insurance, Small Business of the Year; Buddy Boe, program manager for the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy; Mary Ellen Pratt, Community Leader of the Year; John Harmon, special acknowledgment as Crawfish Boil/ Super Raffle chair; and Cherie Scioneaux, special acknowledgement as Golf Tournament chair.