Some 400 members and guests of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce met Friday, Feb. 1, at The Regent in Riverview, where Darren Dennington took the gavel as this year's chairman of the business networking group.
Also announced at this year's dinner were the newly named recipients of the annual Key Citizen of the Year and Greater Brandon Community Leadership awards.
Last year's honorees, Tammy Holmberg and Earl Lennard, respectively, announced this year's recipients, Susan Saunders and Rich Glorioso, respectively.
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Dennington took the gavel from Bob Bivins, the outgoing chairman of the two-time, five-star accredited chamber, noting that the drive to "raise the bar" must be tested against today's reality, to "just hang in there."
"But that's okay, because these are challenging times and what I have seen over the past four or five years has proven to me that this is an organization and a community that is strong and driven," Dennington said.
Bivins in 2012, also at The Regent, gave his views on the local economy, before a chamber crowd that was about 100 attendees fewer than this year's gathering.
At the time he noted that just six years ago, "everything was booming."
"The economy was great, there were home prices going through the roof," said Bivins, an attorney with Bivins & Hemenway, P.A., in Valrico. "As an attorney [who] counsels businesses, I can attest to you guys, whatever challenges you have, you are not alone."
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This year, in introducing Dennington, Bivins noted: "He's one of you guys, he's one of us."
As the owner of the Copper Bell Cafe in Riverview, with businesses in the restaurant consulting and secret shopper industries, Dennington has always been careful in a confusing, rough economy.
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At the Feb. 1 chamber dinner, Dennington said in an interview before leaving that he sees signs the economy "is turning."
As Dennington put it: "It feels like there's momentum."