Boasting economic growth and attracting new residents, Saline County provides a quality place for development and everyday life. As Gary James, president and CEO of the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce, puts it: “Saline County is considered an emerging market with substantial and exciting economic growth and development. It has become a place where companies are looking to grow and create their businesses and where the quality of life for its residents is first class.”
The county’s chambers of commerce help propel this growth. To celebrate all of the exciting things happening in different parts of the county, the chambers host their anticipated banquets each year.
Both banquets are fortunate to have notable keynote speakers. Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous for the film in which Julie Roberts portrayed her, is the featured speaker for the Benton banquet. Former TV sports anchor Paul C. Morrissey who is now traveling the world pursing his comedy dream is set to entertain guests at the Bryant banquet.
The Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet takes place first on Thursday, Jan. 31, at The Center at Bishop Park. Benton’s banquet will take place Tuesday, March 12, at the Benton Event Center.
The mission of both the Benton Area and Bryant Area chambers of commerce is to serve their members and the region by fostering growth of business, education and economic development that will enhance quality of life for the good of the community.
The banquet is an opportunity for area professionals to come together to network, get to know each other and to have a fun evening, says Amy McCormick, director of special events. “We also strive to secure a speaker who inspires and motivates people in both their personal and professional lives.
“We want each attendee to relate to the speaker on some level and take away something from the evening that can help them in their unique circumstances. The speaker needs to be someone who hasn’t spoken in the area recently, who has a first-class reputation and who is likeable.”
When organizers saw Erin Brockovich’s name as a prospect, they were immediately interested, McCormick says. She is a well-known consumer advocate, author and television host. As president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she is currently involved in numerous worldwide environmental projects. She first gained attention while working as a file clerk in the law office of Masry & Vititoe in California. There, she found medical records that would eventually catalyze a direct-action lawsuit resulting in Pacific Gas & Electric’s paying out the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history to over 600 Hinkley, California, residents. This part of her life formed the plot of the Julia Roberts film.
Brockovich is one of the most requested speakers on the international lecture circuit, so for her to make a stop in Benton is an honor, McCormick says.
More than 700 people are expected to attend the banquet, McCormick says. Being able to accommodate a larger audience since the Event Center opened in 2013 has been a welcome change. “The event has become an evening people look forward to all year and plan their schedule around so they can attend.”
In choosing this year’s featured speaker, Bryant Event Coordinator Anna Brimhall says the chamber wanted to do something that they had not done in the past. So, they chose a comedian.
Paul C. Morrissey has gained a loyal fan base from various TV appearances and headlining events. He headlined the 2018 4th of July Armed Forces Entertainment Tour for US & Coalition Troops in Iraq, and he has headlined several comedy festivals throughout the world.
He co-hosts the popular “Come To Papa” podcast and radio show with Tom Papa on Sirius XM. He also has appeared in the Nike “Riquickulous” commercials with NBA star Chris Paul. Morrissey’s one-hour comedy special, “A Real Humdinger,” premiered in 2018 to rave reviews.
Throughout the Bryant banquet’s history, Brimhall says, “We have looked for ways to make it intriguing for our members so they look forward to attending. We are always looking for new and fresh ideas to keep our members engaged.”
About 450 people are expected to attend this year.
Bryant is growing “by leaps and bounds,” Brimhall notes, adding that the largest upcoming impact exciting the city is the Heart Hospital. Groundwork has alreay begun, with plans to open the doors in 2020.
Membership is not a requirement for attendance to either banquet. “The banquet is a wonderful opportunity for someone who is not familiar with the Benton chamber to get a small taste of who we are and meet wonderful people from our community,” says McCormick.
Brimhall adds, “This is our annual meeting for our members, but we would more than welcome future members to attend the banquet.”