Logan County Alliance caps a year of change with Lincoln Grand 8 Theater dinner experience

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[February 02, 2016]   LINCOLN - On Thursday evening the Logan County Alliance hosted its annual dinner at the new Lincoln Grand 8 Theater. The evening began upstairs in the area that will soon be the theater restaurant, as well as the glass-enclosed balcony overlooking the lobby of the new theater.

Food for the evening included a wide variety of tasty bites as prepared by Hilltop Caterers. Savory items were offered in the restaurant area, while desserts were available on the balcony.

The Knights of Columbus provided a cash bar with the Alliance offering two signature cocktails free of charge.

The event began at 6 p.m. The reception area filled quickly as guests arrived for a red carpet themed evening dressed to the nines.

At 7:30 p.m. everyone was invited to adjourn to Theater Four, where the annual business meeting would take place along with the presentation of the Pride and Progress Awards.

In the theater, a slideshow presentation was given offering a review of events that had been held by the Alliance this year including the Pigs & Swigs, Art in the Park, Balloon Festival, and the annual Chamber Golf Outing.

Local Attorney Jim Grimaldi served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Grimaldi opened with a personal resume of his membership with the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber and moved quickly into some of the “Thank you's” for the evening’s event including to theater owner David Lanterman for the use of the theater, Hilltop Caterers, and the Knights of Columbus. He also acknowledged the dinner planning committee, Allison Pharis, Tammy Thomas, Marsha Darlington, Leslie Bennett, Jennifer Kirby, and Konnor Browne.

Alliance staff was also recognized - Jamie Bishop, Konnor Browne, Tina Rusk, Maggie McMurtrey, Andi Hake and Cara Barr.

It was noted that Representative Tim Butler had been on hand. City officials present included Mary Marty Neitzel, Aldermen Todd Mourning, Kathy Horn, Michelle Bauer, Jeff Hoinacki, Steve Parrott, Rick Hoefle and Tracy Welch. Others there representing the city of Lincoln: City Administrator, Clay Johnson; and Building and Safety Officer John Lebegue, and Assistant Officer Corey Ingram.

The various factions within the Alliance were also recognized. Grimaldi asked members of each committee or council to stand as he named the group. Those recognized included members of the Chamber Council, Young Professionals Network, Chamber Ambassadors, Events Council, all the event planning committees, the Development Council, Downtown Business Committee, Logan County Tourism Council, Save the Tropics Sign Committee, and the LCA Board of Directors.

After announcing the last call on raffle tickets and 50-50 drawing tickets, the new Alliance/Chamber members for 2015 were named, of which there were many. The podium was then turned over to LCA Chairman of the Board, Tom O’Donohue, and Tourism Council, Vice-Chairman Kristi Powell.

The two jointly called to order the business meeting portion of the Alliance, Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce, and Logan County Tourism Bureau. O’Donohue asked for a motion to approve the annual report. The motion was made and passed.

Powell then announced the proposed officers for the 2016 year for the Tourism Council: Chairman Sal Pollice, Vice-Chairman Renee Martin, and Treasurer Paresh Patel. The motion to approve was made and passed.

Officers proposed for the Logan County Alliance: Chairman Tom O’Donohue, Vice-Chairman Greg Basford, and Treasurer Keith Snyder, Treasurer. Again the motion was made and passed.

O’Donohue then called to the podium Alliance President and CEO Andi Hake. Hake discussed her history with the Chamber as she prepares to depart from the organization. (See separate article) Greg Basford delivered a brief speech addressing Hakes departure; then O’Donohue presented her with a plaque and a gift basket from Giggles and Gab.

It was also announced that there will be a reception held in Hake’s honor on February 10th at the Elks in Lincoln.

O’Donohue gave an overview of the past year on the newly formed Alliance and a look into the future. O'Donohue began with the formation of the Alliance in January and the process of getting to know the board members who had not worked together in the past. He noted that coming up with a name for the new organization was a challenge that took months to conclude. He talked about the structuring of the by-laws that would incorporate the various organizations into one entity.

O'Donohue spoke about the Alliance partnership with the city of Lincoln for economic development and noted that the Alliance had played a large role in getting the new application for the 2017 Enterprise Zone completed. He noted that application has been filed and that it is vital for the future of Logan County business development that the designation made by the state of Illinois be granted to Lincoln and Logan County.

He talked about the business retention plan working with local businesses that is now in place, so they may continue to grow in Logan County.

O'Donohue explained that the Tourism Bureau had previously been an entity of the county, and had to be re-defined as a standalone, not-for-profit.

He also offered a review of the funding from the state for tourism, how it has now gone away. He said that the bureau had last year awarded $22,000 in mini-grants for advertising to various organizations so they could promote their events held in Logan County.

The Alliance has begun developing a strategic plan that includes the county on the whole, as well as the city of Lincoln, and the organizations within the Alliance. He noted the plan is still a work in progress as the group begins its new year.

He talked about the expansion of the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival into three events. O'Donohue noted the balloon festival was the largest it has ever been, and the Pigs and Swigs was also a great event. He said that while the Art in the Park was not as successful, changes were going to be made that he believed would make it a much better event this year.

He acknowledged Maggie McMurtrey of the Tourism Bureau; and Alliance Events Coordinator, Cara Barr, saying that both had done incredible jobs in their respective roles inside the Alliance.

For the 2016 year, O’Donohue said, “membership is going to be a major focus for us; improving the services that we offer to the members of the Alliance.” He added, “You can join the Alliance for free, so the board feels there is no reason everyone shouldn’t be a member.”

For 2016, the Alliance will revive the Legislative Affairs Committee. O’Donohue explained that Legislative Affairs has always existed, but in this year of transition, it had been pushed to the back. Now it will be brought back into the foreground.

There is a hiring timeline for a new President and CEO of the Alliance. O’Donohue said there were currently approximately 40 applications for the position, including some local applicants.

O’Donohue ended his speech with the following statement: “I’m proud to have been the president, I am proud to be the president for the second year. I am proud of my board, and the members of my staff. They have done an excellent job for this community and do not get the recognition they have earned.”

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Grimaldi returned to the front and acknowledged the retiring board members for this year. Those people included: Kristi Powell from the Tourism Bureau Council; Michael Gowin (unable to attend) and Matthew Xamis from the Alliance Board.

Tom O'Donohue, Kristi Powell, and Andi Hake

O'Donohue, Matthew Xamis, and Hake

Next came the announcements of the Pride and Progress Awards.

Pride and Progress Award winners

Distinguished Business of the Year:
Martin Leon, El Mazatlan Restaurant

Excellence in Service Award:
Elaine and Steve Awe,
Culver’s Restaurant

New Business of the year:
Chris and Jamie Beard, Reps Gym

Educator of the Year:
Kathy Stoyak, Spanish teacher,
Lincoln Community High School

Beautification Award:
David Lanterman,
Lincoln Grand 8 Theater

Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Karen Hargis, Lincoln Daily News

Mike Abbott
Volunteer of the Year Award:
Konnor Browne

To wrap up the evening of events, Sal Pollice was welcomed as the new chairman of the Logan County Tourism Bureau. Other members of the Tourism Council were introduced including Steve Parrott, Renee Martin, Shawn Taylor, Ron Keller and Paresh Patel.

O'Donohue and Sal Pollice

The 2016 members of the Alliance board were also called to the front. They are Tom O’Donohue, Greg Basford, Keith Snyder, Frank Adubato, Sal Pollice, and Jean Bruner-Jachino.

Grimaldi then delivered the oath of office to all members present. The meeting was then called to a close by the two chairs; O’Donohue and Pollice.

The last events of the evening were the drawing of raffle and 50-50 winners and winners of the silent auctions. One silent auction item, tickets to a Chicago Bulls game, will have the proceeds given to the “Save the Tropics” fundraiser that is currently ongoing.

The evening closed with Grimaldi thanking CEFCU for sponsorship of the reception event and Frontier Communications for sponsorship of the Pride and Progress Awards.

[Nila Smith]

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