When business leaders from throughout Saline County gather in February for the 2014 Winter Banquet, they’ll come together in one of the biggest and best new additions to region – The Benton Event Center.
Since opening in October of last year, an estimated 12,000 people have already come through the new Center’s doors, much to the delight of Benton Area Chamber President Gary James. “The Event Center serves as a great example of where this region is headed,” he said. “It’s positioned perfectly between Little Rock and Hot Springs, attracting those from both cities here to show what we have to offer.”
The Center’s opening serves as an exclamation point on a year of noted success and growth, not only for Benton and Bryant, but also for many communities along Saline County’s I-30 corridor. “With the Bass Pro Shop (near the Saline/Pulaski County line) recently opening and the possibility of a new shopping center at Exit 114, there’s a 15-mile radius that’s such a growing area and provides a wonderful quality-of-life,” James said. “People are wanting to live and move here.”
With that almost never-ending opportunity for new faces to call the Benton area home, James and the Chamber of Commerce understand that community service must remain a top priority among the citizenry,
but most importantly, among business leaders.
“That’s what our roots are made of,” James said. “Arkansans tend to just believe in helping one another whenever possible. It’s in our nature to love helping each other. It’s one of those things that makes us so unique.”
Past Chamber Winter Banquets have resulted in a “call to action” for area business leaders to both focus on their respective professions and to get involved with community organizations. “It didn’t matter if it was through a business or through the home, maybe helping with a nonprofit, we just challenged our leaders to find something with which to make a difference and get involved,” James said.
To get Chamber members motivated last year, they welcomed in Chad Pegracke. His initiative to clean small portion of the Mississippi River years ago has grown to now include large portions of that massive waterway and its surrounding streams and rivers.
For his efforts and dedication, Pegracke was named one of CNN’s Heroes of 2013. “By the time he was 36-years-old, Chad had 70,000 people volunteering for his organization,” James said.
This year, as Gary James puts it, the Chamber is taking things to “the next level,” combining the excellence of business with a commitment to community service. To get things off on the correct foot, the group will welcome in national entrepreneur, spokesman and motivational speaker Bill Rancic.
“We’re thrilled to have Bill joining us this year,” James said. “He brings with him a business savvy and understanding that shows how one person can make an incredible difference. We’re really looking forward to what he’ll bring us in this year’s banquet.”
Rancic is an award-winning entrepreneur, personality and host of the successful nationally-syndicated television show, “America Now.” He serves as co-executive producer with his wife Giuliana Rancic on the top-rated reality show, “Giuliana and Bill,” and is a spokesperson for Intuit, AT&T and Rogaine.
“[Bill’s] speech will take the audience through his early beginning phase as an entrepreneur, including stories of things he learned from success and failure,” said Rancic’s manager Karen Soenen. “It could be applied to almost any business model there is.”
Rancic’s business endeavors started as a child, but he at 23, he launched his Internet company, “Cigars Around the World.” That company originated on a modest budget, virtually no cash for advertising and a computer Rancic bought from a family member.
In 2004, Rancic burst onto the national scene, winning the inaugural season of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” Rancic relied on the skills and knowledge gathered through his own business triumphs and failures to outlast his competitors and earn top honors on the NBC reality hit.
Upon winning, Rancic stayed on for a one-year apprenticeship with Trump where he oversaw construction of the Trump Tower Chicago. After that year expired, Rancic stayed on with Trump for a second year, furthering his business understanding from one of the world’s most successful and experienced leaders.
“I believe he’s the only one who stayed on with Mr. Trump for two years,” Soenen said.
While working with the Trump team, Rancic further developed his own philosophy of balancing a career in business with the quality of a personal life. “[Bill] believes we should make each day count,” Soenen said. “Also, don’t limit yourself and your thinking. Those are just two of the qualities he picked up along the way, but there’s so much more he’ll share with his audience.”
Along with his work in business, real estate and television, Rancic has also taken on the mantel of restaurateur in Chicago through his RPM-Italian chain. “Bill is so excited about expanding the RPM brand soon to include a restaurant in Washington, DC,” Soenen said.
Rancic is also the New York Times best selling author of “You’re Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life” and “Beyond The Lemonade Stand.” He’s also co-written the book “I Do: Now What?” with his wife, E! Television personality, Giuliana Rancic.
While Rancic will certainly admit he’s been blessed in life and in his career, Soenen says he’s also well aware of the frustrations that come with building a business from the ground up and the challenges that can sometimes be daunting.
“There is a lot of frustration out there,” she said. “I think one of the things a lot of people believe is that they’re automatically going to be a success. Sometimes it takes a couple tries to get going in the right direction. It’s difficult. Bill knows that firsthand, and I think everyone can certainly benefit from hearing about
The Benton Area Chamber Winter Banquet is scheduled for Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Benton Event Center. An estimated 750 business and community leaders are set to attend.