Businesses, individuals honored
by Chris Norwood
Jan 23, 2014 | 5937 views |  0 comments | 157 157 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brian Schoenhals/The Daily Home
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The Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce, with director Jason Daves, honored some of the past year’s outstanding contributors, including Lincoln Parks and Recreation Director Roben Duncan (public servant of the year, Lincoln), citizen of the year Johnny Ponder, Ken Allen Sr. (Talladega business owner of the year) and Fire Chief Danny Warwick (public servant of the year, Talladega/Munford). Not pictured are Lincoln business owners of the year Bobby and Diane Smith
Brian Schoenhals/The Daily Home

The Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce, with director Jason Daves, honored some of the past year’s outstanding contributors, including Lincoln Parks and Recreation Director Roben Duncan (public servant of the year, Lincoln), citizen of the year Johnny Ponder, Ken Allen Sr. (Talladega business owner of the year) and Fire Chief Danny Warwick (public servant of the year, Talladega/Munford). Not pictured are Lincoln business owners of the year Bobby and Diane Smith
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TALLADEGA - The Greater Talladega Area/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce honored the business people, public servants and citizen of the year Thursday at their annual banquet at the Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center. Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield was this year’s guest speaker.

Business person of the year honors for the Talladega/Munford area went to Ken Allen Sr. According to presenter Billy Sparkman, Allen went into the service station business with his father and brother in Sylacauga in 1955. Allen eventually struck out on his own, locating in Talladega. He currently owns eight stores, a truck stop, a restaurant, three convenience stores and warehouses, and was instrumental in founding the Texaco Walk of Fame in Talladega. He also helped carry the torch for the 1996 Olympics.

The Lincoln business people of the year were Bobby and Diane Smith, who were not present. Lincoln Mayor Bud Kitchen accepted on their behalf.

The Smith’s opened Montana’s in Lincoln about 10 years ago, as well as the Club Caribe Marina, which opened more recently and has already become a popular night spot. There are currently plans in the works to add cottages to the club, and the Smiths have hosted numerous fundraising events, including a casino night to benefit the Lincoln public library.

The public service award for Lincoln went to Parks and Recreation Director Roben Duncan.

Duncan was described as being deeply passionate about not only a variety of youth sports but also senior activities. According to presenter Wayne King, she was also a driving force behind the Christmas parade and the Lincoln archery park, and is also a gifted fundraiser. She has also been chosen as president of a statewide group of parks directors.

Talladega’s public servant award went to Fire Chief Danny Warwick, both for his leadership in the fire department and his long military service.

King said Warwick graduated from Talladega High School and joined the U.S. Army Reserves shortly afterward. He joined the Talladega Fire Department in 1989, where “his military skills were an asset.” He worked his way up through the ranks before being made chief in 2006, shortly before being sent to Iraq. In Iraq, he helped track and return shipping containers.

He later served two more tours in Iraq during the drawdown, helping break down bases there and sending the equipment either back to the states or to Afghanistan.

Warwick has implemented several community programs, including free smoke detectors for the elderly and households with small children.

Talladega County Board of Education Member Johnny Ponder was named citizen of the year for the entire region.

According to presenter Becky Griffin, Ponder graduated from Munford High School in 1967 and served in the National Guard from 1969 to 1977. He was first elected to the school board in 1994. He also worked for many years in the procurement department at Georgia Pacific.

Canfield’s remarks centered around Accelerate Alabama, which he characterized as the state’s first comprehensive, strategic partnership with the various regions and communities throughout the state. The purpose of these partnerships is to grow jobs and capital investment, as well as creating new job opportunities for the children of those present.

Perhaps the most important partnership involves all levels of education, from pre-K through the state’s community colleges, universities and research facilities. All came to the table with equal voices to help formulate a five year plan for the state. The importance of education in this endeavor could not be over-emphasized, he said.

The project, which is currently being implemented and not

“gathering dust on a shelf in Montgomery,” consists of five major divisions. The first of these is the Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute, which works with industries needing to train and recruit new employees to expand, as well as employees for new businesses. Last year, AIDT worked with 153 different businesses and trained 24,000 new workers.

The second group is the International Trade Division, which helps small and medium size companies find opportunities to sell their products in other countries. Last year, they worked with 50 small businesses who made 1,100 one-to-one business linkages. Exports from the state were up 54 percent in 2013, he said.

Thirdly, the office of small business advocacy is responsible for events like the 2013 Business Expo and the Micro-Enterprise Conference, which helped not only the smallest businesses but also works with particularly job-challenged communities through the Blackbelt Commission.

The Alabama Film office pooled $15 million in tax incentives that ended up being worth $53 million in investments from movie studios. Movies recently filmed in Alabama include “42” and “Space Warriors” as well as upcoming films starring Nicholas Cage and Bruce Willis.

Lastly, the business development group was responsible for 17 international and out of state missions last year, resulting in new markets for 137 existing businesses 87 new businesses.

During the initiative, which Canfield said coincided with Gov. Robert Bentley’s tenure in office, a total of 1,029 projects had been undertaken, resulting in 48,152 jobs, not counting construction. New investment comes to $12.6 million, he said, and unemployment now stands at 6.2 percent, the lowest it has been since 2008. State gross domestic product is expected to grow at 2.4 percent for the current year and another 3.1 percent in 2015.

During Thursday’s banquet, outgoing board chairman Joel Taylor said farewell to departing board members Suzanne Lacey, Fran Pope, and Grant Lynch. New chairman Chip Moore welcomed board members Griff Hill, Sonya Jacks, Wayne King and Jim Townsend.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com