By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

The Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce (MMCC) held its annual meeting on Jun. 12 at the James Madison Inn Conference Center to distribute this year’s awards to six local community members making a difference in Morgan County. categories: small business, hospitality, restaurant, manufacture, legend, and teacher of the year. Hiren Patel of Super 8 received the Chamber’s Hospitality Award, while Jim Boyd and Esther Peters of Jim Boyd & Associates received the Small Business Award. David DiRocco of Rema Tip Top has been named the Manufacturing Award winner for the year for 2013-2014, and Francisco de la Torre of Town 220 is the winner of the Restaurant Award. Bill Wood won the Legend Award from 2013-2014, and Amy BeMent will be honored as System Teacher of the Year. Bob Hughes, president of the MMCC, and Ellen Ianelli, director of the convention and visitors bureau for the MMCC, introduced the awards. Hughes praised Jim Boyd & Associates, an insurance company in Madison, for their steady growth over the course of 44 years.

Boyd opened his business in 1970 and now has over 3,000 clients. “It is something to be very proud of,” said Hughes. Ianelli praised local Super 8 Owner, Hiren Patel, for overtaking the business and completing a “desperately needed renovation.” Ianelli pointed out that Patel was diligent in ensuring that all materials used in the renovation were American made and of high quality. “He put in a tremendous amount of hours to get it just right. I saw personally that he has accomplished that goal,” said Ianelli. Ianelli also recognized restaurant of the year winner, Francis de la Torre of Town 220, for his long career as an accomplished chef. Torre started as a dishwasher and Hollywood 30 years ago and worked his way up to become a gifted and renowned chef. He trained in Hollywood and lived in France to expand his expertise in the art of French cooking. “Wow, it has been a long journey to Madison,” said Torre. “I never even dreamed of being in a wonderful place like this, I am grateful, thank you.” Hughes introduced David Rocco, operations manager for Rema Tip Top, a global market leader specializing in Automotive and Industrial product sectors, which opened a center in Madison in 2003.

“The Madison facility has become the global distributor center for the company,” said Hughes. “Thank you for this award. I wanted to tell everyone that we are very happy to be here in Madison,” said Rocco. “This award is not just me, but it is a total team effort of all of our 1000- plus employees we have here in North America.” Hughes also paid omage to Bill Wood, of the Morgan County Recreational Department, who was named a Legend by the MMCC because of his exceptional work over the last 37 years in the county. “This is a special award. We don’t do it every year, but every so often we recognize a person who has risen to the level of legend,” explained Hughes.

“Bill Wood has convinced people to invest in the lives of our young people. He has built program and facilities that are the foundation that has shaped the lives of many people.” “I appreciate this very much,” said a choked up Wood. “But the greatest thing I have accomplished in my life are my kids and grandkids. And they are here tonight. I appreciate it all just so very much.” Ray Stapleton, chairman of Partners In Education (PIE) introduced Amy BeMent, teacher of the year for Morgan County. “She has represented out system as teacher of the year with excellence,” said Stapleton. “Teaching is definitely a labor of love,’ said BeMent. “The Chamber of Commerce has been a great support to that labor. We could not have done this without you,” said BeMent. Sherry Alexander, chair of the MMCC, addressed the audience during the ceremony, reviewing the most successful events and developments in Morgan County over the past 12 months including the filming of Goosebumps and Selma, the expansion of Mannington Mills that is expected to generate an investment between $40 and $50 million into the county, the ongoing construction of Georgia BioScience Training Center that is expected to generate over 3,000 construction jobs, the coming farmer’s market, zoo, and Chrysler car dealership, growth of the retail and restaurant industry, and the Super 8 Motel completing updated renovations.

Alexander also noted that this year the MMCC was accepted into the list of Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (GACCE) certified chambers. “We want to thank everyone for being open-wide this past year and working together to make Morgan County an even better place,” said Alexander. Alexander, whose term as chair is up at the end of this fiscal year, welcome the new incoming chairman, Lee Abney. “I am honored to be the incoming chair for the chamber. We are working toward a better future for our community,” said Abney.