NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 90th anniversary last week, with local businesses and town officials all coming together at the Quidnessett Country Club to mark the occasion.
Along with the celebration, several businesses were also given various awards, from the Rising Star Award to Employer of the Year Award.
Chamber director Kristin Urbach, who has been in the position since 2015, said the role has been an “amazing opportunity.”
“It’s been an amazing opportunity for me personally to be a part of for the past few years, to cement those relationships with all the business,” she said, adding that there was a “wide representation” of local businesses in attendance. “We have a wide representation tonight, from having small businesses to General Dynamics Electric Boat, Ocean State Job Lot, they’re all with us tonight.”
Other businesses and organizations in attendance included Creative Graphic Design, Flowers By Bert and Peg, North Kingstown Food Pantry, Swipe for a Cause, Enviroclean Liberty Mutual and Ocean Essence, among several others.
Urbach also said that the chamber would be honoring 90 businesses who had been members for 20 years or more, with 16 representatives of which in attendance at the anniversary party.
“It’s our 90th anniversary, but we also have 90 members who are celebrating being a member for 20 years or more, so we’ll be honoring them,” she said.
Among the people and businesses honored for their 20-year-plus commitment to the chamber were 143rd Air National Guard, Amblin International, Canvas Works Plus, General Dynamics Electric Boat, The Inside Scoop, James Halley, McKay’s Furniture, Ocean State Job Lot, Quidnessett Country Club, Quonset Development Corporation, Randall Realtors, South County Health, Southern RI Newspapers and Washington Trust Bank.
And premiere sponsors of the event included South County Health and Global Photonix, with showcase table sponsors Bank of Newport, VFW Post 152, Homesmart White Lion, Centerville Bank, West Bay Christian Academy and the Jennings Financial Group, as well.
Along with chamber members and business representatives, town and school officials were also present, including members of the town council, school committee and department, showing their support and taking part in the celebration of the anniversary.
“The business community in North Kingstown, of course, supports a lot of our tax revenue and [the chamber] makes it capable for us to have a good, vibrant business community in North Kingstown,” town council member Stacey Elliott said. “They support a lot of the activities we like to do. Hopefully they’ll help us in implementing new businesses coming into Post Road. They provide a really good resource for both the public and private sector.”
And town council member Mary Brimer said it was “important to support the small businesses that are here thriving and contributing to the community.”
Other officials in attendance included town council members Richard Welch and Kerry McKay, town manager Ralph Mollis, superintendent Philip Auger and school committee chair Gregory Blasbalg, among others.
Chair of the chamber’s board of directors James Halley said he appreciated the support the town gave the chamber.
“We’re happy to work with the town, we’ve always been happy,” he said, adding, “We have a vital and excellent chamber going here. I want to thank all of the businesses that supported it.
And in his speech to the guests in attendance, Halley proceeded to give an overview of the chamber’s 90-year history, which began in January of 1929.
“People from the family of the Cranstons, the Ryans, the Wilsons and the Baileys got together and they said North Kingstown needs to have some kind of business advocacy group,” he said. They started meeting in the Old Meeting House… and at the Old Library. They met for 10 years.”
“Then,” he continued, “when the hurricane of 1938 came, they decided that we needed to have a formal organization. They got together and they created the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce basically so that businesses would have an opportunity to deal with events and to work together to find ways of advocating and pushing forward business.”
Invited speaker Steven King, managing director of the Quonset Development Corporation, congratulated the members of the chamber while also detailing its lengthy history that’s taken place throughout the years since the chamber was formed.
“The 80-year history of Quonset is outshined by the 90-year history of the chamber of commerce,” he said. “To put that in perspective, 90 years ago, as the chamber was being formed, the world was on the verge of the Great Depression.”
During the 90-year history of the chamber, he added, “we’ve witnessed many things.”
“The second World War, the Vietnam conflict, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, the advent of the internet, the 9/11 attacks and the wars in the Middle East,” he said. “Throughout all this time and these events, the chamber has consistently provided members of North Kingstown and its residents opportunities to succeed here in Rhode Island. The Quonset Development Corporation is proud to be a member of the chamber and contribute to the North Kingstown economy.”
He went on to say that he was “excited to keep this momentum going,” adding that he was thankful for the chamber’s support.
“Dozens of Quonsett companies are active members of the chamber,” he said. “We look forward to many more years of working together to bring continued development to South County.”
Following King and Halley’s speeches, awards were given to various North Kingstown businesses or employees.
Recipients included Michaela Joly of Randall Realtors, a real estate agent who won the Rising Star Award for demonstrating promise of continued success; Tom Iacobucci, owner of Sears Hometown Store, who won the Renaissance Award for successfully rebranding the business; Blakely Interior Design, which took home the Digital Innovator of the Year Award; Casey Farms, which received the Nonprofit of the Year Award; Karen Bruno, owner of Tate’s Italian Kitchen, who received the Citizen of the Year Award for her charitable work; and General Dynamics Electric Boat, who won the Employer of the Year Award.
Finally, the Bob Coie Award was given to Rick Laviolette of Anvil International.
Coie, the founder of Wickford Junction, was on hand to present Laviolette with the award.
“He leads by example and is always thinking of others,” Coie said. “He truly cares about North Kingstown and is continuing to make it a better place.”
Laviolette said he was at a loss for words after receiving the award.
“This does come as quite a surprise. I’m humbled, flattered and honored,” he said. “The Anvil philosophy is always to try and give back. Because when we do that, people flourish. And when people flourish, businesses prosper.”
Other members of the chamber to speak during the evening included Sean Davies, VP of General Dynamics Electric Boat; John Bucci, CFO of Edesia; John Conforti, CFO of Ocean State Job Lot; Justin Dalton-Ameen, Owner of Back 40; and John Reindeau, of RI Commerce.