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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Record crowd at Chamber’s annual dinner
PHOTO: Lee Anderson, owner and chairman of APi Group Inc.
There was palpable excitement in the air at the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Dinner on Thursday evening.
The record crowd of approximately 1,300, gathered at the DECC on the theme of “optimism in action” and recent developments within the city were on the minds of local business leaders as well as city officials.
In opening remarks, Duluth Mayor Don Ness said that among other recent developments, there were “51 reasons for celebration,” in a reference to the decision this week in federal court that upheld 51 counts against Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson for the sale of synthetic drugs.
“The city was on the front lines of a national battle that everyone thought we were going to lose,” said Ness to a cheering audience.
Keynote speaker, Lee Anderson, also was greeted with enthusiasm by the capacity crown.
In his address, Anderson recalled his early life with a “tough” father who valued hard work. The West Point graduate also remembered his first investments in Duluth – when his APi Group acquired Jamar Cos. in the mid-1980s and when he formed A&L Properties with Rob Link.
From a small operation which only employed 13 in the mid-1960s. Anderson grew the APi Group to a company which today boasts $2 billion in annual sales and 10,000 employees. In Duluth alone, he has helped develop more than 2 million square feet of property.
Anderson, however, reserved most of the passion of his presentation not for his business accomplishments, but rather to acknowledge the country’s veterans.
His companies have made a commitment to hire veterans, not based solely upon qualifications but also on a desire to work.
“Five years ago, I decided to do more than talk about veterans, I was going to hire them,” he said.
The APi Group hired 150 veterans this year and plans to hire another 150 next years.
“I dream of the day that people can go into the service and know when they come out, corporate America will find a job for them,” Anderson concluded.
In other business, the Chamber acknowledged incoming and outgoing board members and presented awards as follows: Jamie Loftis (WDIO-WIRT), Ambassador of the Year; Sheila Hawk (Essentia), Volunteer of the Year and Brittney Hanson (WestmorelandFlint) Fuse Duluth Person of the Year.
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