Attendance increased by nearly l00 seats at this year’s Zionsville Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

Outgoing board of directors president Dan Rhodes said Allyson Gutwein, who was appointed as executive director in November, has invigorated the membership.

“Dan has been the glue that held the chamber together this year,” incoming president Kate Swanson said Friday evening to a packed house of business leaders at the Golf Club of Indiana. “There has been a lot of transition this year, but it’s great to feel like we’re going in a good direction now.”

Emcee John Stehr spoke about the difficulty and risk of operating a small business and of living in Zionsville.

“When I walk downtown, I appreciate the robust business environment you’ve created,” he told the entrepreneurial crowd.

Stehr also announced annual awards.

The chamber ambassador award went to John Lehner, who attended nearly every chamber event through the year and whose “commitment to the chamber is immediately evident,” Stehr said.

The community service award recognizes institutions or organizations that demonstrate commitment, leadership and service to the community and went to Witham Health Services, which partners with many Zionsville organizations including the Lions and Rotary clubs, the after prom program, the fire department and others.

The town crier award went to Erica Carpenter, who is “instrumental in pulling together the Christmas in the Village programs, advertising, festivities, and consistently sponsors events through the school and town,” Stehr said, adding, “Her heart is set on making Zionsville an amazing place to work and live.”

Lee Irwin was named emerging professional of the year. The distinction recognizes an outstanding young professional who demonstrates leadership within their business and in public service.

SafeKeeping, an integrated dashboard that shares electronic medical records to improve health outcome, was named zWORKS business of the year. The company connects residents, families and caregivers to maximize facility ratings, referrals and reimbursement strategies and is in more than 65 facilities with more than 6,000 users and growing.

Zionsville Community Schools Superintendent Scott Robison was named business professional of the year. The person who nominated him said he introduced the “innovative Strong in Every Way program that was much needed in Zionsville and will be emulated by other school systems across the country.”

Zionsville Eyecare was named business of the year for its significant and lasting contribution to the local economy and for setting high standards for financial performance.

Zionsville Eyecare has “consistently delivered vital service and care to our community with leadership and their steadfast attention to be the best at what they do for four decades,” Stehr said. “Without fail, the owners and personnel … have demonstrated via untold monetary donations, strong support and countless hours of volunteer work, the desire to better our community.”

The crowd’s strongest applause and a lengthy standing ovation came when Zionsville Police Chief Robert Knox received the Dahlia Award for outstanding service to the community.

Most of the town knows Knox, who “embodies the spirit of Zionsville and love of a community,” Stehr said. “His pride and community spirit will be missed when he retires this spring.”

In closing remarks, Stehr said to chamber members, “I think what you’re doing is making life around here better for all of us.”

Gutwein said she and the board of directors have new initiatives planned for 2020.

One program will make the chamber more accessible for those who may not have felt comfortable with it before. There will be a new quarterly lecture series, and podcasts are in the works to make valuable information available whenever someone has time to listen, Gutwein said.

Gutwein has been spending two hours a week in the employment of different chamber members to familiarize herself with them, including working at a coffee shop.

The Zionsville Chamber of Commerce represents more than 450 businesses in or near Zionsville, and is committed to advancing Zionsville’s economic vitality through the education, promotion and networking of its members.

To learn more about the chamber, visit the website at Zionsvillechamber.org.

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