It was a packed banquet room at the Missouri S&T's Havener Center Saturday night. The Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce (RACOC) hosted their 98th Annual Awards Banquet with the theme, Paint the Town Red. Here are the winners of the festivities that go above and beyond in the community . . .

It was a packed banquet room at the Missouri S&T’s Havener Center Saturday night. The Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce (RACOC) hosted their 98th Annual Awards Banquet with the theme, Paint the Town Red. Before dinner, RDN asked ex-mayor Bill Jenks (serving from 2006 to 2014) about the importance of the Chamber of Commerce to a growing town like Rolla.
“It’s important for the business community, by presenting opportunities for businesses to know each other, so they can work together for a common cause,” said Jenks. “I think every community has to have a strong Chamber, or it’s going to have some big problems.”
From a mayor’s crows nest perspective, Jenks said Rolla’s challenges will be the trend of decreased sales taxes due to internet shopping as opposed to shopping local and trying to get industry into the community. “It’s a tough hill to climb.”
He joked that a “1-800-I-want-an-industry,” number unfortunately does not exist. “You’re always in competition with other communities,” he explained. “Other industries want to look at you, but they’re also wanting to ask, ‘What kind of a deal can you do for us?’”
He said Rolla has a lot of strong points—the Chamber being one of them— and “we just need to continue to support those.”
The banquet room was lively—this was a celebratory event, dampened only by polite dinner conversation before the evening program that recognized the service of various RACOC members and the successes of exceptional local businesses and individuals.
RACOC Past President Cansada Hines kicked off the night’s recognition program.
“In business, you face your fears daily,” she said. You are forced to deal with things without having the option to ignore them or pass them up. All of you have overcome [your challenges], faced your fears, pushed through in 2017 and you’ve come out on top. You survived—and you’re stronger for it.”
She said 2017 has been a very rewarding year for the Rolla business community and that the RACOC has grown as well, from 500 members in 2016, ending 2017 with 524, with a retention rate of 95 percent.
Chamber leadership was passed from Hines to Tony Froehlich for the upcoming year. He jumped in talking about the opening of Westside Marketplace, the expansion of small and medium-sized businesses and the Hwy 72 Extension project completion and renovation.
“Rolla will be changing greatly,” he said. “I’d like to thank the Rolla community for your support of both the Chamber and the business community throughout the years. Rolla is a great community in which to live, to locate your business, work and to raise a family. For all that you do to make Rolla great, we thank you.”

RACOC Executive Director Stevie Kearse shared a few things about the importance of Chamber membership. She stated that dues make up 40 percent of the Chamber’s budget. She said RACOC was unique with a tiered membership dues structure—that this is just one way the Chamber makes it easy to be a member, no matter the size of the business entity—“we’re here to serve the business community.”
Kearse painted a realistic picture of a typical entrepreneur, juggling business, customer and family demands.
“You do it all—and all of this just for the betterment of the community, the betterment of your businesses and the betterment of your family,” she shared. “The entire purpose of this banquet is for every single person in this room. It’s all about you. You are the heart of Rolla—you are Rolla’s backbone—and you are Rolla’s core.”
Besides Chamber recognitions, there were six awards given out during the evening’s festivities.

* The Edmund Ward Bishop Award, is presented to an individual who is generally recognized as having made a significant contribution to the prosperity and the quality of life in Rolla.

Director Kearse presented Jim Marcellus, a fourth generation Phelps County resident, with the award. Kearse recited his accomplishments, such as his decades-long banking accomplishments, as well as serving on the PCRMC Board of Trustees for ten years, PCRMC’s Personnel Board and Auxililary, involvement in the Rolla Rotary Club, Rolla Police Board, the St. James Lions Club, United Way of South-Central Missouri and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Community Alliance Board.

Marcellus currently serves on the Rolla Public Library Board, the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, Rolla Chamber Ambassadors and is a Volunteer in Police Service (VIPS) officer with the Rolla Police Department.

* The Annual Achievement Award is presented to an individual or group of people that have shown exceptional service by volunteering and significantly contributing to the RACOC and/or the Rolla community over the past year. This award was presented to The Rolla Sisters City Committee for their efforts to organize and implement not only the downtown German Christmas market (5th year for Christkindl Markt), but also First Night, that featured a s’mores station, performers, a Christmas tree lighting and music that kicked off the holiday season downtown.

* The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award is presented to an individual  who has led their company toward significant entrepreneurial success in their industry. This year, the award was presented to Katie Langston-Combs owner of Red Door Gifts  and More Red Door Boutique.

* Small Business of the Year Award is presented to a business in the Rolla area that has excelled in one or more of these categories: business growth, business management and human capital, community involvement, intangible considerations and marketing. This year, the award was presented to The Rolla Farmers Exchange, celebrating 95 years in business in 2017. They have grown and expanded, with plans to construct a new feed mill for their customers on their new 20-acre tract on Hwy 72.

* Spirit of Rolla is sponsored annually by Kent Jewelry and presented to a woman in the community in recognition for significant achievement and/or lifetime contribution to the spirit of giving that is so indicative of Rolla and the surrounding community. This year, the award went to Dr. Mary Bruns, a certified family medicine physician at the PCRMC Bond Clinic. She serves on the Salvation Army and ABLE Commission Boards and raises awareness and money for American Red Cross.

* Tourism Champion Award

is presented to an individual  or business that embodies the spirit of tourism in Rolla. This individual or business has made a substantial contribution to Rolla’s tourism industry by supporting Rolla events and/or attractions, partnering with the Chamber on tourism related projects or any other effort designed to bring visitors into the Rolla community. This year, the award was presented to Jim Taylor and Dewayne Phelps and the entire team at the Missouri S&T experimental mine for their work in organizing and coordinating the Haunted Mine that attracts around 3,000 visitors every year.