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Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce debuts Young Professional of the Year award at annual gala

Themes of leadership and community were at the forefront of the 115th Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Celebration held Thursday evening.

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Great River Rescue Executive Director Brandon Mustful presents Hannah Chandler with the inaugural Young Professional of the Year award during the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
We are part of The Trust Project.

BEMIDJI — Themes of leadership and community were at the forefront of the 115th Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Celebration held Thursday evening as the chamber debuted both a new award and a keynote speaker during the event.

Eventgoers gathered at the Sanford Center ballroom to kick off the night with a social hour accompanied by live music from Brock Beaulieu. After browsing a silent auction and wine wall area, attendees were welcomed by Abby Randall, the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce’s executive director.

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Attendees browse the silent auction items available during the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Randall started off by describing how she feels the chamber has succeeded in making members feel welcome and accepted throughout the past year.

“We know that an organization’s strength depends on a group of like-minded, passionate individuals who wholeheartedly believe in its mission to serve our members and advocate for the business community,” Randall said about the chamber. “We know that our chamber is composed of busy business owners, professionals and caring individuals just like you — it’s our mission to make sure you feel welcome and invited to be engaged in any way that you can."

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Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Abby Randall speaks during the Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince also took the podium to extend his gratitude to the members of the chamber, as well as the business and nonprofit community in Bemidji.

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“I recognize fully that the business community and nonprofit community truly is the economic engine of our city,” he said. “It’s a known fact that commercial real estate pays 43% of all property taxes in our city, and provides many jobs and opportunities to the people of our community.”

Prince also mentioned the strong culture of collaboration within the chamber and said he believes the community can continue to expand and improve in years to come.

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Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince welcomes attendees to the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“Over the last couple of years, our city has been working to engage chamber members through a variety of meetings, listening sessions and one-on-one meetings,” he continued. “My hope is that we can continue to grow and expand these lines of communication so that government, business, and nonprofits can work together in shaping our community to be a place that we all want to live and conduct business in.”

Prince also took a moment to offer words of advice and encouragement to young leaders attending the event, specifically those who are a part of the Young Professionals Network.

“As young leaders, you have so much to offer our business community and your voice matters,” Prince said. “Life goes by quickly so stay engaged, get involved and lean on the experiences of those around you.”

One such young leader was honored at the gala with an inaugural award, as Hannah Chandler, senior career development consultant with Sanford Health, was named Young Professional of the Year.

“The 2022 Young Professional of the Year is an engaging, upbeat, inspiring young professional,” Brandon Mustful, Young Professionals Network chair, said about Chandler. “She isn’t afraid to speak her mind, ask questions and stand out in a crowd. She is a great collaborator, positive and eager to help.”

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Young Professionals Network Chair Brandon Mustful presents Hannah Chandler with the inaugural Young Professional of the Year award during the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Mustful also noted Chandler’s dedication to her job with Sanford Health, where she helps guide high school students in their health care career paths.

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“In her career, she is passionate about helping students find their path forward,” Mustful said, “all while strengthening the pipeline for our future workforce.”

Barb Treat was also named 2022 Ambassador of the Year during the event for her dedication and community impact.

In keeping with the theme of community and connection, keynote speaker Bob Schlichte shared a presentation titled, “The Power of Shipbuilding,” on the importance of creating meaningful friendships, relationships, partnerships and sponsorships.

“There’s nothing that’s going to make your business stronger than face time with your community, that’s how you build trust,” Schlichte advised. “Let them know who you are, introduce yourself, tell them who you work for. It’s pretty simple. With trust, you start getting that communication.”

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Keynote speaker Bob Schlichte talks about building relationships during the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Along with trust, Schlichte explained that values like hard work, respect, goals, passion, and breaking out of comfort zones can create strong leaders within organizations.

“When there’s leadership in your chamber, in your business, in your community, in your church, in your schools, it only makes sense,” Schlichte said. “The (Bemidji) community I saw 30 years ago and the one I see now — it can be so much bigger and better, even more than today.”

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Tables are adorned with “Babe it’s cold outside” themed decor for the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Attendees listen to keynote speaker Bob Schlichte during the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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The popular Wine Wall was a highlight of the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Tables are adorned with “Babe it’s cold outside” themed decor for the Bemidji Chamber’s 115th Annual Celebration on Thursday evening, Dec. 8, 2022, in the Sanford Center Ballroom.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: BEMIDJI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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