It’s an event that has been 50 years in the making and Thursday evening it will celebrate the business community’s growth in Mississippi’s third-largest city.
The Southaven Chamber of Commerce is set to hold its 50th Anniversary Gala and Awards event at the Landers Center in Southaven. Activities will begin at 6 p.m. and will feature a program from 7-8 p.m., dinner, silent auction, a wine toss, presentation of the Chamber’s annual awards, and will be climaxed with live entertainment featuring the classic rock and blues band, The Dantones.
Most importantly, however, is the evening’s recognition of the Chamber’s impact on the community, its past, present, and what it can be in the future, said Executive Director Carmen Kyle.
“We were incorporated in 1969, but the city was not incorporated until 1980,” Kyle explained. “I think the visionaries at the time realized that there needed to be a business entity formed to bring about a positive climate for businesses to want to come to Southaven. That would mean getting people to promote Southaven to some companies, share information about available land, or they might know some investors that were interested. That entity was the Southaven Chamber of Commerce.”
Edgar McKenzie was the first board president of the Southaven Chamber of Commerce in 1969, and ironically today, his granddaughter Lauren McKenzie Norton is a Southaven business leader as owner of Ultimate Gifts on Getwell Road near Goodman Road.
“That story right there speaks volumes of why we have been successful,” Kyle said. “Not just as a Chamber, but as a city. People want to come here and have their dreams realized here.”
The Chamber, in respect to its past, has also reached out to as many of the organization’s former board presidents as possible to invite them to the celebration. Among those who will be in attendance will be Tommy Clymer, who led the Chamber in 1974. Kyle said 25 former board presidents will be at the gala.
“I think there are a lot of stories that these past presidents that will be at our gala can tell,” Kyle said. “I have no doubt these people have a lot of stories to tell.”
Along with celebrating a prosperous history, the event will also recognize what it is today, with the presentation of its annual awards to businesses and leaders in the community.
Kyle pointed out that a Chamber is a vital organization to making a city grow and be successful, as it likely is the biggest promoter of the city to possible new business opportunities and even new people looking at Southaven to relocate.
“A successful and long-serving Chamber is key to the positive business environment of any community,” Kyle said. “I think that our past record shows that we have sustained the integrity of the corporation and the serving to the community. That’s what a Chamber does.”
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite believes the foundation set by the Chamber and what is being done today will help Southaven move even more forward in the future.
“The vision and persistence of our former business leaders in Southaven played a huge part in the success we enjoy today,” said Musselwhite. “Carmen Kyle and her team have taken our Chamber to new levels that will pay dividends to our business community and city, in general, for many years to come.”
Kyle said Thursday’s event is a sellout. For more information, contact the Southaven Chamber of Commerce office at 662-342-6114.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.