The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's annual member celebration drew a big crowd Thursday as business leaders packed the Rochester International Event Center.
Outgoing Chamber board chair Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm handed over the reins of power to Alan De Keyrel of CWS.
Here's the story I scribbled out about the event.
The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's political priorities for the coming year were made clear at its annual member celebration Thursday night.
"There is no political agenda item that we are more committed to as an organization than the passing of the extension of the local sales tax," chamber president John Wade told the crowd of business leaders filling the Rochester International Event Center.
He said the renewal of the sales tax in November 2012 would fuel a boost to the local economy and benefit Rochester's schools, libraries, infrastructure and more.
The tens of millions of dollars generated by the tax will help leverage hundreds of millions in private sector investment, Wade said.
"Trust me, I can give you a whole list of taxes I don't like. This one is good for business," he said. "I believe in my core that this one is good for business."
To lead the drive toward the passage of the sales tax extension, the chamber is launching a new committee.
Former Rochester school superintendent Jerry Williams will be the chairman of the new group. He also was presented with the President's Award for community service.
Williams accepted both the job and the award.
"As I look out amongst the group here, there are so many of you who have given service of self to this marvelously amazing community," he said looking at the tables full of the local leaders. "To those of you who give so generously of your time, talents and efforts for this marvelous community, I share this with you. I am deeply, deeply appreciative."
While the sales tax extension tops the chamber's political wish list, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center remains a goal, but is not a pressing one, Wade said.
"Our hospitality industry knows how important the expansion of the civic center is," he said. "But it has to be done at the right time in the right way."
While the presentation to Williams was the most dramatic of the night, it was not the only award given out.
• Business of the Year: Creative Cuisine, the company behind many popular Rochester restaurants that includes Newt's, City Cafe, City Market, 300 First and the recently revived Redwood Room.
Brothers Dave and Mark Currie accepted the award.
• Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Jaimi Stejskal-Kent of Broadway Residence & Suites by Bridgestreet won the award for her work with the chamber.
• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Wendy Shannon, superintendent of the Byron Public School system.
• Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: After reciting her long list of accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Karen Hanson of Home Instead Senior Care.