The award is the Chamber's highest honor presented to an individual member. A longtime Chamber member and supporter, Nichols has been a leading voice in workforce development efforts in this region for many years. When the Chamber was first asked to become the fiscal and managing agent of the Region 3 Workforce Development Council, Gary’s leadership and personal example of service ensured a business and industry-drive approach would guide workforce development efforts in the area. The Chamber’s workforce development arm, West Alabama Works, was launched. In just under three years of the Chamber’s engagement with West Alabama Works, hundreds of our citizens have found high-quality employment through hiring fairs, many employment shortages have been addressed for local companies, and the Worlds of Work event has exposed almost 10,000 West Alabama students to the life-changing career opportunities right here at home.
“As Chairman of West Alabama Works, Gary leads the way and sets an example for others to follow,” said Jim Page, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. “West Alabama Works is the premier workforce development council in the state, and was the model for the Alabama Works initiative recently unveiled statewide. Gary’s vision and leadership has greatly contributed to the success of the organization.”
The Chairman’s Leadership Award was presented to Lee Garrison, former City Councilman and outgoing Chairman of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education. Garrison served 16 years on the City Council during a period of unprecedented investment and growth in Tuscaloosa.
The Robert C. Tanner Corporate Service Award, which recognizes the corporate leadership, philanthropic efforts and community service by a member entity in the West Alabama region, was presented to the law firm of Rosen Harwood, P.A.
The inaugural Non-Profit of the Year Award was presented to The Phoenix House, Inc., a free-standing transitional housing agency that began operations in the late 1960s and assists individuals recovering from addition to return as productive members of society.
The Minority Business Council Trailblazer Award was presented to Cynthia Burton of Community Service Programs of West Alabama; Jheovanny Gomez of Jalapeños Mexican Grille and Drs. Belinda and Melinda Rhodes of Rhodes Family Dentistry.
Jennifer Taylor of the City of Tuscaloosa was named the Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year for her exceptional service to and on behalf of the Chamber’s membership. The Ambassadors are the Chamber’s official hosts for all functions.
The Chamber also recognized outstanding community leadership with the presentation of three Distinguished Service Awards, which are presented to individuals or organizations for their service and leadership. The 2016 awards were presented to Bobby Bragg of JamisonMoneyFarmer PC, Carl Jamison of JamisonMoneyFarmer PC and Cynthia Kirkley of the University of Alabama.
The Chamber also launched a new strategic plan, entitled The Next Level Initiative. This strategic plan and capital campaign will encompass four primary areas of focus: Lead workforce readiness and quality education; diversify our economic growth; engage the community to create true quality of place; and drive public policy and business advocacy.