The Greater Lexington Chamber and Visitors Center honored four business women and two businesses Thursday night at the annual Chamber Awards Night, an emotion-filled evening of celebration and socializing.
The festivities were emceed by Meredith Allen of The Meredith Show, which airs on WISTV.
Southern First, the sixth-largest bank headquartered in S.C., sponsored the event for the fourth consecutive year. Southern First President Justin Strickland addressed the crowd, noting the success of the bank’s Lexington branch, which is led by Nancy Hutto.
“We are extremely proud of Nancy and her team,” Strickland said, pointing to growth that has reached $60 million in deposits under Hutto’s leadership.
Southern First employs 139 people, including 29 in the Midlands at two Lexington offices and one Richland County office. The bank also has four offices in Greenville, one in Charleston and one under construction in Mt. Pleasant. Southern First has grown to $900 million in assets over the past 14 years, according to Strickland.
Debbie Thomas, Minuteman Press
“We like to grow one client at a time. We grow one banker at a time. Our growth strategy is to hire great bankers and build a team around them and do it at a little slower pace,” Strickland said. “We’re not in it to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger. We’re in it to provide superior service and provide a client-first style of banking.”
Putting the clients first was a central theme among the night’s honorees.
That was evident when listening to a story about Debbie Thomas of Minuteman Press, which was named Small Business of the Year.
Scott Adams of Adams, Gyemant & Griffin LLC presented the award and talked about driving around town during the recent snowstorm. The only lights on in town were at Minuteman Press. When Adams asked Thomas what she was doing at work when no other businesses were open, she had a quick and easy answer.
US Foods President Durwood Owens
“I promised a customer they would have their job done today, and I wanted to stand by my promise,” Thomas told Adams at the time.
That commitment to her customers epitomizes Thomas.
“This is a fantastic honor, and it’s great to look out over the crowd and see so many friends and business partners,” Thomas said. “And I don’t look at it as customers, I look at it as all of us helping one another. I’m honored to be a member of this community and the Lexington Chamber.”
The Chamber also presented the honor for Large Business of the Year to US Foods, which moved to Lexington about 25 years ago, after starting in downtown Columbia in 1983.
“The winner has been rooted in our community for decades,” said senior commercial banker for Wells Fargo Marvin Robinson, who presented the award. “While the corporate headquarters are not here in the Lexington community, its presence and footprint is the largest within its corporate structure. We’ve been fortunate over the years to have them as long-time members and sponsors of major events.”
Tia Williams, co-owner of ServPro
US Foods President Durwood Owens accepted the award and pointed out the Lexington location is the largest division of the company when it comes to volume and profit level, despite not being the largest structurally.
“We really appreciate this. We’re very honored to accept this award,” Owens said. “We feel like over the years we’ve had a great relationship with the Chamber. They’ve done a great job bringing in small and large business in the Lexington area.”
Tia Williams, co-owner of ServPro, was honored as Young Professional of the Year.
“One cool thing is when I go to Columbia, I get called Lexington. I feel honored by that. I think it’s real cool that the whole region is starting to recognize how awesome this area is,” said Williams, who moved back to the area about five years ago. “There were so many people in the Chamber that reached out to me when I moved back and kept me wanting to stay in this area.”
Shelley Metropol of Experienced Real Estate Group
Shelley Metropol of Experienced Real Estate Group was named Business Person of the Year, and she echoed the sentiments about the community we call home.
“I thank God every day that this is where we have grown our family and grown our businesses. I’m proud of everybody in this community,” said Metropol, who is dedicated to Chamber activities and has been instrumental in bringing in new members. “We are blessed, and I count myself blessed to be friends with you guys.”
The award was presented with a touch of humor by North Lake Construction owner Royce Lehman, who won the award last year.
“I’m just warning the recipient that the next 48 hours are going to be unbelievable. You’re talking Letterman, Leno, Good Morning America, The Today Show,” Lehman said. “It’s been said of her that everything she touches turns to gold, so she’s going to get a huge hug when she comes up here.”
Lauren Scurry of Crescent Financial
“I’m honored to be associated in any way with the Chamber and with our business community,” said Metropol, who then changed roles and presented the award for Ambassador of the Year.
“To be an ambassador and really be the good will person for the Chamber, you have to have a tremendous positive attitude. You have to always take the high road, because believe it or not, we do get complaints,” Metropol said. “You have put a good face on that, appreciate the input you get, and leave it with a mark of professionalism. This year’s ambassador of the year does all of that in spades.”
As Ambassador of the Year, the honoree is involved in countless Chamber events, including the monthly breakfast, where she is a mainstay.
“If you’ve ever come to a breakfast, you’ve most likely been greeted by that 100-watt smile, because she’s almost always working the sign in table, and what a smile it is,” Metropol said, as she presented the award to Lauren Scurry of Crescent Financial.
“I was basically born a member of the Chamber,” said Scurry, whose father, the late Mike Till was a pillar in the community. “I just really want to thank every one of you guys for being members of the Chamber. I’m especially grateful for this wonderful community.”
Sylvia Backman, owner of Unicorn Printing
The evening concluded with GLC&VC President/CEO Randy Halfacre presenting the Mike Till Award.
“Mike Till was an unbelievable individual. He was a very caring individual,” said Halfacre, who described Till as a beloved leader in the Chamber and in the Lexington community. “He always smiled. I don’t think I ever saw Mike Till frown.”
The award winner demonstrates many of the same qualities.
“The individual that will be winning and receiving this very special award tonight embodies all of those qualities and traits,” Halfacre said, holding back tears. “I must say the one that stands out the most in my mind, is her caring outpouring and her willingness to give. This individual demonstrates her heart and soul in everything she does in the community.”
The Mike Till Award winner was Sylvia Backman, owner of Unicorn Printing. Backman has been a dedicated and involved Chamber member for years, and she has won just about every award the Chamber gives out.
But this one was special.
“I met Mike Till when I first came to work at the Chamber. I met him at Kids’ Day,” Backman said. “I can’t think of any other award I would ever want. This is really it. It’s really a humbling experience, and it’s an honor.”
And definitely a deserved honor.
“She has a heart of gold, a faith that is as solid as granite, and the inability to say no,” Halfacre said.
The Greater Lexington Chamber and Visitors Center strengthens and promotes economic prosperity, public policy, quality of life and workforce development in the greater Lexington community and MidState Chambers Coalition region. A nonprofit, 501 (c) 6 organization, the GLC&VC represents approximately 950 businesses and more than 30,000 employees.