W - Chamber Pope Davenport   L-R: Outgoing Alachua Chamber of Commerce President David Pope congratulates Julius Davenport for his selection as the chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

ALACHUA – The Alachua Chamber of Commerce got back to its roots Tuesday when it held its annual banquet at the Alachua Woman’s Club in downtown Alachua. The change in venue for the banquet was the first in more than a decade.

The annual event is also a special occasion when business leaders recognize people and organizations who have contributed to the community in a host of ways.

The banquet featured award presentations as well as the ever popular silent auction. And before the evening was over, outgoing President David Pope passed the gavel to newly-elected President David Flinchum, and a new Board of Directors was installed.

Pope provided a year in review, highlighting the accomplishments, endeavors and successes of the chamber and the business community as a whole.

In delivering a state of the city address, Alachua City Manager Traci Cain offered riveting statistics on the city’s growth over the last year. The common thread in Alachua’s success, Cain said, is its people. She pointed to corporate achievements and expansions, particularly within Progress Corporate Park.

Among the more exciting news Cain highlighted was the recent naming of the University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator as the 2013 Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association. The incubator, which is located in the corporate park, was among 7,000 contenders worldwide.

Other recent success stories include Alachua-based Nanotherapeutics, which recently won a U.S. Department of Defense contract in an amount up to $360 million to develop medical countermeasures, including the development and manufacture of drugs and vaccines to combat bioterrorism. The company is expanding in Alachua, with plans of constructing an entirely new facility and reportedly employing an estimated 150 additional people with a median income of $90,000.

The success of Alachua is tied to the success of companies like Nanotherapeutics and other businesses in the town and is ultimately thanks to the people, Cain insisted.

In carrying forward that theme, the Chamber honored some of those people who are credited with improving the quality of life in the local area.

Chief among those receiving accolades Tuesday evening was Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. Coerper was named the Volunteer of the Year for his community involvement, which includes tutoring and organizing Shop, Dine and Stroll events among other activities. But in a special move, the Alachua Lions Club also asked to honor Coerper at the chamber’s annual banquet. The club bestowed upon Coerper Lions Club International’s highest award, the Melvin Jones Award.

The chamber named Capital City Bank as its Small Business of the Year and Dollar General as its Large Business of the Year. Both companies have received the award previously. It is awarded in part based on the business’ support of chamber and community events and activities.

The Educator of the Year award went to Jessie Jung, an Alachua Elementary teacher who also recently won the countywide Elementary Teacher of the Year award.

Alachua Police Department Officer David Floyd was selected as the Police Officer of the Year. Police Chief Joel DeCoursey presented the award, saying “[Floyd] is someone you want on your team.”

Julius Davenport, who served for many years on the chamber’s board of directors, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Davenport was recently promoted at Farm Credit of Florida, which required him to transfer to south Florida. He returned Tuesday evening to accept the award, saying he appreciated the opportunities and guidance provided to him by members of the chamber.

Before the evening’s festivities concluded, Pope was honored for his service as the Alachua Chamber of Commerce President over the last year.

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