Chamber honors members, touts success

BENNINGTON — The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated its continued growth and honored five of its own during its annual meeting and dinner at the Elks Club on Saturday.

The chamber's efforts at regionalization, incorporating Bennington, Manchester and the 13 other towns that make up the county into a rebranded "Shires of Vermont" approach, have been bearing fruit, Matt Harrington, the chamber's executive director, told the crowd of 130 members and supporters. He said membership has grown to 380, an increase of about 15 percent from last year, and that the Northshire now accounts for 15 percent of that membership.

"Part of our mission is to lead and advocate a unified effort, on behalf of our members," said Jonah Spivak, president of the board of directors, "and by combining the voices of the Northshire and Southshire we make a larger impact in our efforts at the state level to enable that advocacy, and at the local level to enhance cooperation among the towns in our region that maximizes efficiency and gets more done."

Harrington, now in his third year as executive director, said new initiatives for 2018 include a regional marketing campaign called "15 Quintessential Towns of the Shires," and programming such as "Lunch and Learns" and "Coffee and Conversations," a program with round-table discussions with key industries. "We heard you last year. Businesses, especially professional and service members, want more support. We're working hard to provide those types of supports for you," he said.

Receiving the D. Ed Moore Award, given to the member who best enhances the effectiveness of the Chamber and its programs, were Patty and Milt Surdam. The President's Award, given to recognize outstanding volunteer work for the community, was awarded to Lynn Green. Southern Vermont College received the Community Spirit Award, given to an organization for supporting community events and presenting Bennington in the most positive light, while Erika Floriani received the Mike Williams Hospitality Award, given in recognition of efforts to promote Bennington.

The Surdams "like to be silent givers and do not expect anything in return," Harrington in making the presentation. "I see this first hand every year when Garlic Fest comes barreling down our path. These two show up with a smile on their face ready to help on Day 1.... They are true volunteers and have enhanced this chamber tremendously."

Harrington noted that Green, the owner of the Four Chimneys Inn, "has invested more time, energy and heart into this community than dozens combined. She personally spreads her enthusiasm and passion for Bennington to hundreds of travelers and locals alike and reaches thousands daily via her social media posts."

SVC has undergone "a transformative couple of years," most recently becoming the steward of the Laumeister Art Center, donated to the college by its founders, Harrington said. "This institution's programs prepare students to look beyond boundaries, to engage their communities, and to excel in their professional endeavors."

Floriani, director of operations and marketing at Oldcastle Theatre Company, is "a tireless booster, not only of her organization, but of Bennington," Harrington said. "Erika has a trunkful of hats and wears each with grace and charm. They are lucky to work with her and Bennington is a far better place because she is greeting crowds at 331 Main Street."

The awards were determined by multiple factors that include membership write-in vote, past recipients of these awards, chamber staff, the annual dinner committee and board members.

David LaChance can be reached at


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