December 2, 2016

Networking is appetizer for Chamber’s Annual Dinner

Mike Reilly Photo

From left, Dave Saraceno of Union Street Media, Cari Kelley of United Way of Northwest Vermont and Suzanne Johnson of HealingWindsVermont and RE/MAX North Professionals pose for a photo at the chamber’s recent Annual Dinner.

BURLINGTON — The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (LCRCC) held its 106th Annual Dinner on Nov. 10 at the Hilton Hotel in Burlington. The dinner was preceded by a Networking After Hours cocktail reception.

Event sponsors included Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, FairPoint Communications, KeyBank, New England Federal Credit Union, People’s United Bank, REM Development, and David Seaver Photography.

During its Annual Dinner, LCRCC welcomed Tom Clavelle as the incoming chair of its board of directors. Clavelle is executive vice president, chief financial officer and co-owner of Engelberth Construction in Colchester. The chamber offered thanks to outgoing chair Ron Boucher for his service.

LCRCC presented five major awards recognizing area businesses. Leunig’s Bistro & Café earned Business of the Year recognition as a business that contributes to our economic vitality while guided by the principles of community service and philanthropy.  Leunig’s serves approximately 140,000 meals with panache each year, actively supports such organizations as Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, First Night, and the Flynn Center, and contributes more $50,000 annually to local nonprofits.

The chamber’s annual Community Award went to Farrell Distributing, while Burlington Bytes took home the A. Wayne Roberts Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and HMC Advertising earned the Free Press Media Digital Edge Award.

This year’s Rising Star Award went to Maria Arnold of Revision Military. Sara Byers, president of Leonardo’s of Vermont, nominated Arnold, citing her contributions to Lund’s board of directors and her commitment to her community.

At the networking reception, Dr. Michael Sommers said Sommers Chiropractic has been operating in South Burlington for a little over a year. “I’m also the chiropractor for the Vermont Lake Monsters,” he noted.

The business is growing, and Sommers expects to be in expanded offices, also in South Burlington, by March.

“We have 600 square feet now, and we’ll soon have a nice 1,600-square-foot space,” Sommers said.

This summer, National Response Corporation (NRC) acquired ENPRO, according to senior project manager Thomas Murphy.

“We are an emergency spill response contractor, specializing in hazardous materials, hazardous waste, chemical cleanups, oil spills — all those nasty things no one wants to deal with.” While NRC is a globally situated company, Murphy said, “Locally, the footprint is Lake Champlain, northern Vermont, New York and New Hampshire.”

Jennifer Ciechanowicz is manager of Vermont Federal Credit Union’s St. Albans branch. “Right now we are running a special on credit card balance transfers,” she said. “It’s 2 percent, with no transfer fee, and it’s for new or existing members.”

She said VFCU is a financial cooperative with branches in Chittenden, Addison and Franklin Counties.
Autumn Harp celebrates its 40th year next year, according to Heather Streeter, in her first year with the company.

“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” said Streeter, who works in human resources. “We have 237 employees, and we’re running just about 24/7 right now. We have a very diverse workforce, including many new Americans.” The Essex Junction firm is a specialized R&D and manufacturing partner in the skin care and cosmetics industry.

Things are bustling at ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.

“This has been a great year for us,” said Phelan Fretz, executive director. “Last February we launched a new permanent exhibit called Champ Lane for the 0-to-6-year-olds, and it’s been amazing.” Overall, Fretz said, attendance is up about 8 percent over last year and, he said, “The best part is young families are loving the space.”

Wright Preston represented Northfield Savings Bank. A commercial lender at the College Street branch in Burlington, Wright said, “For us it’s all about service. If we can provide our customers with timely, speedy service, and a smile, we’re there. And that’s what we want to do.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, Sara Byers of Leonardo’s Pizza said, “What I think right now is just how incredibly grateful I am to be in this community and have the support of this community.”

Attorney Chris Roy said, “I’m a litigation partner at Downs Rachlin Martin in downtown Burlington. I focus primarily on real and commercial property litigation, and I’m interested in meeting and talking with people here at this event.”

Kyle Dodson, president and CEO of the Greater Burlington YMCA said, “There’s a lot going on at the Y. We’re in the process of raising money to build a new Y. We’re currently in a building that has worked very hard, but is beyond its prime, so we’re really eager to give this community a new, modern Y with more capacity to serve the community.”

Dodson said the Y purchased the former Ethan Allen Club at 298 College Street — just up the hill from its current location — to serve as the site of the new facility. The Y is Vermont’s largest daycare provider and, Dodson emphasized, “We are notably, and by some magnitude, the largest infant/toddler daycare provider.”

Dodson said because of the level of care and commitment to quality required, infant-toddler daycare is a difficult area for providers to offer and make money.

“But it’s a big need for parents, so we stick in there, even though we do it at a loss,” Dodson said. “We basically use other operations to subsidize it so we can offer that service to parents.”

Dodson said plans are for the new Y to offer an additional 50 infant-toddler daycare slots.

Juliana Dixon, program director at Lake Champlain International (LCI), said, “As always, we’re still out there working for drinkable, swimmable, fishable waters. We had a season that did have multiple bacteria outbreaks, and we had 116 combined sewage overflows from storm water in the Lake Champlain Basin. So, we are advocating for appropriate infrastructure upgrades, because that is not acceptable.”

Dixon said, “LCI does have a business membership program, so any organization that believes in a clean-water economy is welcome to show that support.”

Becky Holt of COTS (Committee on Temporary Shelter) said, “We are heading into the holiday season, and year-end giving is the biggest time of year for us,” Holt said. “We have a number of great events for business leaders, like our ‘Coolest Lunch,’ where people pay to eat outside,” she said. “Diners” make a $25 donation and local restaurants provide the food. The event is held on December 14 on Church Street in Burlington and the Winooski traffic circle.

Marc Stein is with Comcast Spotlight.

“We’re the media sales division of Comcast, and we help small businesses grow by helping them reach their customers through television and streaming media,” he said. “I’m a local sales manager, and we can help your business build a campaign to reach more local customers.”

Suzanne Johnson is an agent with RE/MAX North Professionals, and founder and executive director of HealingWindsVermont, which offers free sailing cruises for cancer patients (all ages and all types of cancer) and their families.

“This is our third season, and we’ve taken 536 people out on the Lake,” Johnson said. “Each year, we’ve been growing by 30 to 50 percent.” Johnson’s organization has been receiving national attention, and she said, “People are contacting me from all over the United States wanting to open up a HealingWinds. That’s exciting because the vision has always been to outreach the idea and mission to other areas, and helping more and more people.”

Johnson now has a three-quarter-time assistant at HealingWinds, which has enabled her to do more with real estate.

“I do all residential, all over Chittenden County,” she said.

Business Vermont roving reporter Mike Reilly offers regular coverage of Chittenden County business networking events, with notes on events, hosts and sponsors, plus news and snippets from those in attendance. For events sponsored by Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, check the website at

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