• 55°

Gavel switches hands

As the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce enters a new decade, incoming president Jed Blackwell said he hopes the organization continues to grow and flourish.

“I want to continue the success our past president, Joey Langley, has begun,” said Blackwell, who took over duties as president at last night’s chamber banquet. “I would like to see our membership increase from its current 357 members to 400 by the year’s end. I also am going to work hard to continue to make our annual events, like the Christmas parade and monthly chamber breakfasts, even better.”

Blackwell said the down economy will make his new job challenging, but he believes Andalusia can still be an attractive market for businesses and that the chamber can be a useful partner.

“We’re going to do everything we can to help our existing members and those who may join in the future,” he said. “One of the chamber’s most important duties is to provide useful information to the community, and those who are moving to the area — including population, cost of living, taxes, labor force, transportation, recreation and business trends and more.”

Blackwell said the chamber recently lowered some of its membership fees anywhere from $25 to $50, depending on the chamber member’s number of employees. He also said the chamber is exploring options to either renovate its existing facility, or move to a new location sometime in 2010.

“Right now, we’ve got a few different routes that we’re exploring, but we haven’t decided just yet,” he said. “We could possibly renovate the existing facility, or we might decide to move closer to the downtown area to give us more exposure to that part of town.”

Blackwell is the co-executive director at South Alabama Regional Airport at Bill Benton Field. He replaces Langley, owner of Massey Automotive.

“It has been a great honor and privilege to serve the local business owners, and I’ll cherish the experience forever,” Langley said. “I will take with me a sense of pride that I was involved with such a dynamic and dedicated business community that knew the importance of sticking together.”

Blackwell also expressed his appreciation to Langley.

“I think Mr. Langley did a great job and I appreciate his leadership,” he said. “I hope to continue what he started.”