Carrie Dixon, Lynn Hennessy, Linda Hardee and Abby Green all competed in the Chamber's Crazy Christmas Sweater contest. President Anne Gill displays the prize.

Submitted photo

We will remember 2012 as a year of change and extremely hard work by our board, staff and countless volunteers. As we wrap up the year, we thought we would take this opportunity to summarize what your Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce has been up to since January of this year.

Few things are more important to our work than recognizing small businesses and helping them to grow. A hands-on approach to helping these businesses succeed leads to innovation and a culture of entrepreneurship which, in turn, leads to the creation of new wealth. This year we partnered with SCORE to provide monthly business education workshops that covered topics ranging from marketing and social media to taxes, from legal aspects and financing options for small business, as well as facilitating networking. The chamber offers a number of networking and referral opportunities for members to enable them to make new business contacts and to encourage them to do business locally with their fellow chamber members.

This past spring we launched our redesigned website to help small businesses and people who are looking to join the Ahwatukee Foothills community to better find information, events and support. The increased website traffic means more exposure for our members and we encourage our members to keep their website profile pages up to date and relevant to potential customers.

The chamber moved into its conveniently located new office space at Chandler Boulevard and 45th Street this past spring. We also welcomed Shannon Kinsman as our membership development director. The chamber continues to actively recruit and grow its member base, the lifeblood of the organization, and Kinsman provides leadership and direction for designing and implementing programs and activities focused on recruitment and retention of chamber members.

Probably the most noticeable change in 2012 was with our events. We kicked the year off celebrating our pride in our business community at our 13th Annual Chamber Day of Champions award breakfast. San Tan Ford was named Business of the Year, Spinato’s Pizzeria won New Business of the Year, Darla Salem of A-Peeling Faces was honored as Volunteer of the Year, and Stephen Heiser from Mountain Pointe High School was recognized as the Educational Mentor of the Year. In addition, Martha Neese was honored with the Spirit of Ahwatukee award for her dedication to the chamber and the community. Mayor Greg Stanton was the keynote speaker and Sen. John McComish provided an update on the state, while Councilman Sal DiCiccio recapped what the City Council had been working on during 2011.

Following the awards breakfast we hosted our 16th Annual Chamber Masters Charity Golf Tournament at Foothills Golf Club. Sponsored by Brewer’s Refrigeration and TRANE , the sold out event raised funds for the Red, White and Boom Community Fireworks Festival.

The 37th Annual Red, White and Boom Community Fireworks Festival, sponsored by Vision Community Management, celebrated our country’s independence to a record crowd this past July. More than 60 vendors provided food and services, and for the first time we added a Kids Zone with activities and water slides to help keep cool. Entertainment included local country artist Casey Smith followed by the rockin’ road crew from Radio Disney. The evening was topped off by a fabulous fireworks display by Fireworks Productions of Arizona.

The year was capped off with the Third Annual Palo Verde Award Gala hosted by the Women in Business Committee. Presented by Clean N Fresh Cleaning Services, the event recognized Martha Neese of Von Hanson’s Meats & Spirits as Business Women of the Year. In addition, two $1,000 scholarships were awarded to Allicyn Phillips and Sarah McGrain.

Without the tireless work of our board, this past year would not have been possible. Their dedication to our chamber and this community is inspiring. We extend our deepest thanks to board members who are retiring at the end of this year: Harvey Gibson, Larry Hughes and Jeff Schenk. Continuing board members for 2013 include Peter Menor, chair, Lindy Lutz Cash, vice chair, John Hetrick, treasurer, Dawna Lepler, secretary, Karen Starbowski, past chair, Christie Ellis, Kendra Fleetwood, Tim Hovik, Kent Johnson, Norma McCormick, Martha Neese and Alan Southergill. We are thrilled to have Beth Amoroso, Jim Hunt, Larry North, Bruce Peterson, Liane Rouzaud and Janet Schwab joining our board for 2013. We are excited about the strength and diversity of our board as we head into the new year.

The chamber could not provide its programs and services without the generous support of our countless volunteers and supportive members who donate services, time and ideas. We very much appreciate the support and guidance of our long-standing members, and the energy and enthusiasm of our new members. I am honored to be the leader of this great organization and I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to lead such a wonderful group of dedicated business leaders.

Anne Gill is president and chief executive officer of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at (480) 753-7676 or

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