Chamber gives out awards to businesses, community members

Published 1:08 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

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A who’s who of community and business leaders gathered Friday at Callaway Conference Center for the annual LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Gala.

The fancy affair shined a spotlight on local businesses that had amazing years in 2023, as well as thanking those who helped the chamber of commerce go above and beyond to do its job to serve the community.

At the end of the night, outgoing chamber chairman Brandon Eley turned the gavel over to new chairman John Westmoreland, who, along with president Connie Hensler, will lead the chamber through 2024.

Here’s a look at the winners of the awards:


Four businesses were awarded Small Business of the Year awards —Emberglow Handmade,
Atomic Brand Energy, the LaGrange Housing Authority and Auto Gallery Chevrolet Buick GMC.

Nikki Franklin, owner of Emberglow, reflected on a few years ago, when she moved to LaGrange and didn’t “know a soul.” She started her business in the middle of the pandemic because she was home and wanted something to do.

“… Being plugged into the chamber, being plugged into the DLDA …this is the true definition, if you want to see your business grow, if you want to see your business thrive, it’s important to stay connected to your community,” Franklin said.

Andy Fritchley, owner of Atomic Brand Energy, thanked his staff for the work they do everyday.

“I’m really thankful for my clients … and thankful for my team,” Fritchley said. “Thank you for your effort, your ambition, and I’m really proud of the culture we’ve created together.”

Zsa Zsa Heard, executive director of the LaGrange Housing Authority, also thanked her team for all they do.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you — most importantly thank that team at the back [of the room]. I am only as good as they are,” Heard said. “They are the smartest people, the best people you will ever find.”

Mark Foster, general manager at Auto Gallery Chevrolet Buick GMC, thanked God for the difference the business has been able to make in the community.

“When I left the car business a few years ago, I never thought I’d have an opportunity to make such an impact,” Foster said. “It’s only because God wants me here and wants us to make a difference, a positive impact on those we serve and those we work with.”


The chamber, and award sponsor Kimberly-Clark, also handed out awards for Large Business of the Year (Jackson Services), Manufacturer of the Year (Hyundai Transys Georgia Powertrain) and Nonprofit of the Year (Communities in Schools).

“This is for those little girls and little boys who don’t have that family at home, and we become their family,” said Tabitha Lewis-Coverson, executive director of Communities in Schools. “I want them to know and look at me and see me and realize that they’re enough and there are people out here in this community that care about them and care about their success.”


The chamber also gave out seven awards, recognizing people who work in the chamber and in the community to help promote LaGrange and Troup County.

The Young Professional of the Year award was given to Nick Griffin, who was recognized for all of the work he is doing in the community.

The Ida Tarver Jones Volunteer of the Year recipient was Kesha Coniglio, who was credited with bringing unique, creative ideas to anything she’s involved in.

Bret Bryant was named the Otto Korth Diplomat of the Year for always being there, representing the chamber.

DASH was recognized with the Tom Hall Innovation Award for the work it’s doing around the
county, particularly in the Hillside community.

Pastor Hugo Oropeza was recognized with the Commissioner Richard English Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of serving as a mentor, mediator and advocate in the community and his service as a Spanish teacher and minister.

Kathy Tilley was recognized with the Jane Fryer Community Impact Award for the work she’s doing with Visit LaGrange.

The Chairman’s Award went to previous chamber chair Jamey Jackson, who is seemingly involved in everything the chamber does in some capacity.