Gaines Penn’s term as Chamber President draws to a close

by Mandy Hicks

Gaines Penn

Gaines Penn, Managing Partner and an attorney at ELPO, served for a year as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the year, he represented the Chamber at various public events, including ribbon cuttings, dinners, workshops and led the Board of Directors throughout the year.

His theme for the year was “Building talent, leading innovation.” Gaines formally turned over the reins of the Chamber board to Brad Howard on February 12, 2013.

A copy of Gaines’ presentation is pasted below:

I apologize to any of my old English teachers in the audience. I am sure they would tell me in no uncertain terms that the word “Chamber” is a noun.
But for me,… the word “Chamber” has become more of a verb.
About a month into my term as Chairman, we developed a code at the office.
Instead of some long explanation of why I was late or where I was going I simply started saying “Chamber” or “ I’m Chambering”.
Brad Howard, as you take over the Chair, I am pleased to report that using the “Chamber” code will get you out of attending many of your bank meetings but it will not get you out of clearing the dishes or mowing the grass at home….
Believe me, I tried.
The good thing about “Chambering” is that it appears to be contagious.
So many of our partners, volunteers, Board members, Ambassadors, and staff are “Chambering” every day too.
Simply put, my hat is off to all of you who contribute your time, talent and treasure to make this organization one of the best Chambers in the nation.
A special of word of thanks to my wife Donna and my two girls for all their love and support and for showing me even more patience than usual this past year.
A special word of thanks to my colleagues at English, Lucas Priest & Owsley for allowing me the time away from my regular responsibilities so I could work on Chamber matters.
Finally, a special thanks to Ron Bunch and his Chamber team for all the help they’ve provided me during the year.
It takes a lot of hard work to make this operation run smoothly but our skilled Chamber staff makes it look easy.

So, what happened in 2012 at the Chamber?
As always, our Chamber strives to be the driving force for South Central Kentucky’s business community.
Our mission is:
• To provide valuable services to our partners;
• To advocate for a positive business environment; and
• To stimulate economic development throughout our region.
Thanks to the support of our partners we stayed on course and accomplished many good things last year.

One way we measure success is by the numbers.
• How many expansion projects did we have?
• How many new jobs were created?
• How many new dollars were invested in our community?

In just a minute Ron Bunch will give you the numbers.
I promised Ron I that I would not steal his thunder so I will touch on some of our other accomplishments.
One of the bright spots in 2012 was the way our Chamber rallied behind The Leader in Me Program.
After much thoughtful consideration and work with our city and county school officials, The Leader in Me Program went from the boardroom into the classroom.
We kicked off a capital campaign to help fund this program.
Because of your generosity we are well on our way to raising the $1.6 million required to launch this program in all of our city and county schools.
As of this date, the program is now in 19 schools and we need to push hard this year to finish up the fundraising.
This is a long range plan that will improve the lives of our children and make us a better, stronger community.
I can’t think of a better economic development program than investing in our future leaders.
So if you have not done so yet, I encourage you to pledge your financial support for this project.
As the saying going “extra hands make for light work.”
I could ramble on and on about the Chamber’s other accomplishments last year; however, I think I can sum it up nicely by simply looking at the 7 Habits.
Number 1: Be proactive.
The Chamber continued to take the initiative and lead the way towards growth in the region.
We sought out new opportunities to forge relationships, increase business, and create more wealth for the region.
Number 2: Begin with the end in mind.
We started 2012 with a plan to build talent and lead innovation. That is a fancy way of saying we need a well trained work force. As the voice for the business community the Chamber is working with WKU, Bowling Green Technical College, the Local Workforce Investment Board and the KY office of employment and training to develop a new and better system to recruit, screen and train skilled workers for our new and existing industries.
Number 3: Put first things first. Our partners are our first priority.
Staff and volunteers spent significant time in 2012 researching and developing new benefits and ways to help our partners grow.
Number 4: Think win-win.
Number 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
One of the greatest assets of our community is that we can work together.
We spent a lot of time last year talking with different stakeholders to strengthen relationships, and we’ll continue this well into the future.
Number 6: Synergize.
Like Habits 4 and 5, synergize is all about working together for a greater goal.
It means believing that 1 + 1 = 3, not 2.
As a lawyer, I’m a big fan of flexible numbers.
Number 7: Sharpen the Saw.
At the heart of everything the Chamber does is to help enhance our quality of life.
As our region grows, we’re working together to make sure that we have the best infrastructure, the best education systems, the best businesses, and the best attractions available so that the Bowling Green area is a great place to live, work and play.
So there are the 7 Habits of the Chamber. But what do they really mean? What is the result?
Well, at the Chamber, the result is growth.
Last year alone there were some 68 ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings.
That’s a lot of ribbon and a whole lot of dirt! But those events are more than just times for our partners to celebrate.
Those events represent new businesses, new jobs, and new dollars for our residents.
From the opening of a new gas station to the groundbreaking for a new bank location, those businesses are helping our economy grow. And those are the results we want to see.
So Brad, as you take over the gavel this year, I hope your weeks are filled with even more ribbon cuttings and groundbreakings than we had last year.

I really wish I could end this speech with something dramatic. Like Oprah does.
Maybe give each of you a new Corvette. But that got cut out of the ELPO budget.
But really, it has been a pleasure serving as your Chairman this year.
It has been an extremely busy, fun and rewarding experience. This past year has confirmed my belief that we truly live in a great community and that our future is bright.
Thanks for the opportunity!