Vilonia chamber celebrates accomplishments

by Rachel Parker Dickerson

The Vilonia Chamber of Commerce recently celebrated the accomplishments of the past year and looked forward to 2011 at its annual banquet.

At a sponsors’ reception before the banquet, board member Gay Leifer said the chamber has much planned for 2011.

Walt Coleman (from left), Chris McDonald and Will Schultheis.

“We’re going to continue to have the (Miss Vilonia) pageant. We’re talking about doing a fall festival. We have a few new members. Hopefully we’re going to grow,” she said.

Jill Bonnema, executive officer, said of the banquet, “It’s a celebration of the past year. It’s a time we can come together, all our local businesses, and talk about our goals for the next year.”

She said one big project the chamber is working on is a Select Site partnership with Entergy. If Vilonia is approved for the program, the chamber will receive assistance in marketing a large piece of property in the town for industry.

“We know that we’re eligible,” Bonnema said. “We’ll be the only one in Faulkner County. It could be something as big as a core manufacturer.”

Walt Coleman, controller at Coleman Dairy and an NFL referee, was the guest speaker for the evening. He frequently appears at events such as the Vilonia Chamber banquet, speaking on the topic of teamwork and supporting the community.

“Football is the only sport where not everybody gets to touch the ball,” he said. “But if (the players) don’t do their job, the team doesn’t work. It’s the same in a community.”

Webco Inc. was the major sponsor of the event. Charlie Weaver of Webco said while the Vilonia chamber is still in the early stages of development, he believes it will grow to benefit the community.

“We have to look at every opportunity as far as bringing industry in. We have a good school system, and that’s one thing we can build around to develop the community,” he said.

Awards were presented at the banquet. Jerrell Coker was named Citizen of the Year. The Business of the Year award was presented to Webco Inc. Alli Reed received the Youth of the Year award. The City Employee of the Year award went to Trisha Witcher. Carolyn Frazier was the recipient of the School Employee of the Year award.

Vilonia Mayor James Firestone said the city has a good working relationship with the chamber. He said he hopes to see the organization work toward promoting economic development so that the city will have more jobs and a broader tax base.

“Our chamber works very hard. They do a good job,” he said.