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Business leaders optimistic for new year while attending annual chamber banquet

By Ken Hedler
Jan. 10, 2017 at 10:39 p.m.
Updated Jan. 10, 2017 at 10:39 p.m.

Linda Fullman, right, accepts the Ambassador of the Year award from Wade Johnson and Lori Valenti during Tuesday's January 10, 2017 Longview Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Several members of the Longview business community who attended the annual banquet of the Longview Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night expressed optimism for the new year with the presidential election being over and the oil industry recovering from its slump.

"I think everyone has gotten the election behind them," said Stephen Taylor, president of Central Title Co., which has offices in Longview, Gilmer, Tyler, Hallsville, Marshall and Kilgore. "They can look forward to the future."

While acknowledging interest rates are going up slightly, Taylor said, "I don't think it will affect the residential or commercial (real estate) economy in the area."

The election of Donald Trump as president will be positive because he is pro-business and has made good picks for his Cabinet, according to Joe Bob Joyce, owner of Joyce Crane, a company that rents heavy equipment to oil refineries and mining companies.

"I believe we will see more changes in the second half of the year," Joyce said. "There is a real good, upbeat attitude now, just as far as business is concerned."

Gregory Cuke, broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Miles Realty commercial division, said an election usually leads to a bump in the economy.

"I think oil is going to help" by rising in price and oil companies hiring people in the area, Cuke said.

Oil prices have stabilized, said Jim Hugman, owner with wife Anne of Hugman Architects and Construction. "I don't foresee in dropping anymore," he added.

Hugman and the others were among an estimated 500 people who attended the 2017 chamber banquet at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

Chamber officials used the occasion to present the Ambassador of the Year Award to Allstate agent Linda Fullman and honor Martin Resource Management Corp. as Large Business of the Year, The Crosby Group as Manufacturer of the Year and Brad Tidwell, chief executive officer of Citizens National Bank, for the Chairman's Award.

Fullman, an insurance agent for four years and formerly a real estate agent for 13 years, said before the program that she is excited about "representing the chamber and supporting all the local businesses in Longview."

As one of about 40 ambassadors, Fullman said she attends chamber mixers and identifies resources to help local businesses market their companies.

Lori Valenti presented the award to Fullman while Steve Brown presented the large business award to Ruben Martin, president of Martin Resource Management Corp., a transportation and distribution company for all types of oil products.

Martin said his father, R.S. Martin Jr., started the business in Kilgore in 1954. It has about 2,000 employees who have an employee stock ownership plan.

By contrast, The Crosby Group has been in Longview since the 1940s, according to plant manager Chris Burbick. The company, which manufactures lifting and heavy rigging equipment for the oil industry, has about 450 employees.

"It's a big honor for Crosby Longview to receive the award because I think it was recognizing the efforts and hard work of our hourly team members over the past two years as we have worked to move our facility," Burbick said. Crosby moved from Fisher Road to Nieman Marcus Parkway in South Longview.

Wade Johnson, the chamber's 2016 chairman, presented the awards to Burbick and Tidwell.

Tidwell, a Longview native and 1979 Longview High School graduate, said the award is "fantastic. I've had lots of wonderful support and comments throughout the community."

Tidwell, who started at Longview-based Citizens 10 years ago, heads a bank with 28 branches and 420 employees.

Past chairman Johnson and 2017 Chairman Richard Manley and others spoke during the program.

Johnson talked about the chamber's numerous accomplishments, including a 90 percent retention rate over the past few years. He added the chamber conducted 45 events, one of almost every week of the year.

The Longview chamber was among 142 in the country that signed on as plaintiffs to challenge the overtime rules that the U.S. Department of Labor proposed, Johnson said. The chamber also hosted summits on cyber security and other issues.

His successor, Manley, talked about the REACH campaign, which stands for Redevelopment Education Advocacy Collaboration Health. He introduced chamber members who spoke separately about each letter.

"REACH is our roadway to the future," Manley said. "It's a new day for the chamber of commerce. We'd like to thank all of you for helping to kick off the next century of the chamber."

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