By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Listening to past chairmen recount some of the top accomplishments by the Slidell Chamber in the past 50 years, it is clear what an impact the organization has had on the community.
Now named the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce, the “Slidell Chamber” last week celebrated 50 years of supporting business here with a luncheon at Trinity’s Banquet Center.
The highlight of the gathering, which was attended by nearly 200 local businessmen and businesswomen, was listening to past chairmen recount stories and accomplishments of the past 50 years.
It is an impressive list, to say the least.
Starting with its formation in 1962 by Gus A. Fritchie Jr., Lionel G. Pichon, George Broom, Michael Haas and W.F. Eddins—pioneers in Slidell’s business history—the Chamber has been a leader of the business community here ever since.
John Smith was “honored” as he acknowledged his role as the Chamber chairman twice in its history, including the 50th year. He led the proceedings and talked about the 60s and then later, the decade of 2000.
In between, former chairmen Lynn Barthelemy, Dave Anderson and John Case discussed stories and successes from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
It was the Chamber that was instrumental in Slidell’s Home Rule Charter that established its form of government in the early years, then began a highly-successful annual Trade Fair, that has evolved into today’s Business and Community Showcase. That event is getting close for 2012, set for April 12 at the Northshore Harbor Center where over 150 businesses will be set up to meet between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors.
The Chamber was instrumental in the Economic Development Foundation, helping begin plans for what is now the Northshore Harbor Center, the redevelopment of the current train depot, and a big supporter of many different arts and cultural programs here. The achievements of the Chamber are far too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say these examples are just the tip of the iceberg that display the impact the group has had on the community.
The Leadership Slidell program began in 1990 and has produced some incredible stories of achievement in Slidell with four or five annual projects for improvement in the area.
In recent years behind the leadership of CEO Dawn Sharpe-Brackett, the Chamber has been recognized statewide (2010 Louisiana Chamber of the Year) to nationally (2011 U.S. Chamber of the Year), and has been rated with a five star accreditation by the U.S. Chamber, the highest level of achievement a local Chamber can achieve.
Any business that would still like to secure a booth for the Business and Community Showcase can call the Chamber at 643-5678 or go online to estchamber.com.