Chamber celebrates 2016, looks ahead to more milestones in 2017

When Dick Estus came to Savannah in the early 1970s, the native New Yorker brought with him the inspiration for Savannah’s first visitors’ center and essentially helped lay the groundwork for tourism in the city.

On Tuesday, Estus became one of only 29 other people in the 210-year history of the Chamber to receive the organization’s prestigious Oglethorpe Leadership Award.

“The Oglethorpe Leadership Award is named for Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, a humanitarian, leader and visionary who led 120 colonists in founding Savannah and the Georgia colony in 1733,” said outgoing Chamber Chairman Whip Triplett before presenting the award at the Chamber’s annual meeting at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort.

“Today we’re here to honor another great leader.”

Accepting the award after a video presentation that featured friends and former colleagues, Estus recalled how drastically and fast Savannah’s tourism landscape had changed in the past four decades. What started with one hotel, the DeSoto Hilton, has grown to hundreds of hotels encompassing thousands of rooms that welcome 14 million visitors each year.

”We had one trolley car and one hotel and that was the start of our tourism reach — and look where we are today,” Estus said. “… I found that selling Savannah is one of the pleasures of living life in Savannah because it’s the greatest product you could ever have.”

Before passing the gavel to incoming Chairman Sam McCachern, Triplett touted the many accomplishments of the chamber in 2016, including more than 40 networking events, more than 50 ribbon cuttings, the addition of more than 250 new members and the success of Visit Savannah, who celebrated 40 years as an organization in 2016.

McCachern, who serves as president and CEO of Thomas & Hutton, promised to continue to build on the Chamber’s success into 2017.

“… The Chamber developed a strategic plan to help guide us in building a stronger business community. We need to be known as a community which encourages investment and where people choose to invest,” he said, highlighting several large projects around the city, including the Plant Riverside complex and the President Street infrastructure project.

“All of these investments are going to shape Savannah’s future.”

McCachern also challenged all those in attendance on Tuesday to get involved in the many opportunities the chamber provides.

“This organization and this wonderful community that we call home — whether it’s been 15 years or longer or less, it doesn’t matter — it’ll all be a better place with your involvement,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to the coming year and working to make a difference in this region through the power of the American system of business and commerce.”

Click here for entire article: