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Columbia County Chamber of Commerce honors local businesses at 17th Annual Banquet

Businesses and entrepreneurs gather at the reception and business expo, precursor to the awards ceremony at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s 17th Annual Banquet.

Thursday evening saw a major gathering of local businesses as the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce held its 17th Annual Banquet at the Exhibition Center in Grovetown. The event comprised of a networking cocktail and business expo, followed by an awards ceremony honoring merchants throughout the county.

“I like to call it the premier business event in Columbia County for the year,” said chamber president and CEO Russell Lahodny. “It’s more of a celebration. But it’s also an opportunity to give a state of the of the chamber, an update on what we’re working on and what we’re focused on in the year ahead. But that again, celebration is really what we’re what we’re here for.”

Along with many business leaders who in the chamber, several Columbia County leaders were in attendance to acknowledge county businesses, including the Board of Commissioners; School Superintendent Steven Flynt; and members of the Board of Education and Grovetown City Council.

From right, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce CEO Russell Lahodny, Southstate Division President Jay Forrester and Mike Swain, Senior Vice President of Technical Services at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, accepting the award for Large Business of the Year. Staff photo by Skyler Q. Andrews.

Several speakers offered remarks throughout the evening, including 2021 Chairman Adam Williams, who noted the chamber’s progress over the course of the previous year.

“We started off on a rocky start, still dealing with things in our world and none of us expected us to deal with but here we are,” said Williams. “We were able to get to 1,000 members, which is a fantastic accomplishment.”

In Lahodny’s State of the Chamber address, he discussed the Chamber Foundation’s many programs such its summer intern program, inaugurated in 2021; Educators in Business, Students in Business and the Career and College Expo.

“We’re creating a strong workforce pipeline for future needs,” Lahodny said. “When talking about workforce, we can’t overlook the fact that we’ve seen a record number of new business licenses being issued in the last few years to support these new businesses.”

Lahodny referred to an upcoming new program called the Columbia County Small Business Institute, a four-part series sponsored by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and SRP Federal Credit Union offering small businesses information on various topics such as marketing, procurement and public relations.

Lahodny also spoke about the chamber’s advocacy efforts, focusing on the topic of redistricting legislation. He stated the chamber’s aim to link with other Georgia chambers through its Government Affairs Committee.

“It matters to the business community when district lines shift towards urban areas like Atlanta, when those urban areas have increased representation, or the other parts of the state lose representation that matters to the business community,” said Lahodny. “We are looking to create a grassroots network with local chambers across the state to ensure our voices are heard.”

The award presentation portion of the banquet recognized several awards, including Ambassador of the Year, which went to Meybohm Realtor Liz Bragg; Volunteer of the Year, presented to Amanda Clements Drake of C & C Automotive; and the Leadership Columbia County Alumni Award, which went to AT&T Regional Director Stan Shepherd.

“They’re nominated by their peers,” said Lahodny. “And it’s a great opportunity to really showcase some of the businesses and what they’re doing right here in our community.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to William Cleveland, CEO of Cleveland Group Certified Public Accountants. The Non-Profit Member of the Year Award went to the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, the Small Business of the Year Award to Jordan Trotter Commercial Real Estate and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions took away the final award of the night, the Large Business of the Year Award.


Skyler Q. Andrews is a staff reporter covering business and community news with The Augusta Press. Reach him at

Author: Skyler Andrews

Date: February 4, 2022