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Downtown Gateway Building to be renamed for late Paul Fisher

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s 95th annual meeting was hosted virtually Thursday morning and featured award ceremonies, remarks from business leaders and a surprise announcement.

In a pre-recorded video shot outside of the Gateway Building in downtown Salisbury, Rowan County Tourism Director James Meacham announced that the building will be renamed the Paul E. Fisher Gateway Building in honor of the late F&M Bank CEO and community leader.

“His faith knew that things could come together that he didn’t see, that you couldn’t see at the time,” Meacham said. “His initial vision — how could you see this building come to fruition? There was nothing like it in the community, but his faith drove that. He used his vision and his leadership to make that come to be.”

Paul Fisher. File submitted photo

Fisher was instrumental in planning and fundraising efforts for the building now bearing his name, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. The building is home to the Chamber of Commerce, Rowan County Tourism Authority, Rowan Economic Development Commission, Salisbury Symphony, Three Rivers Land Trust and Communities in Schools.

In addition to being honored with the building name change, Fisher was announced during the meeting as the recipient of the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. Representatives from the chamber presented his family with the award outside of their home.

“We are forever grateful for all that he has done for our community,” said Randy Welch, district manager for Duke Energy Carolinas. “It’s a lasting legacy for the community for what all he has done.”

Welch handed the award to Fisher’s wife, Sue Palmer Fisher, who said her husband loved the community, county, city and “everybody he laid eyes on.”

Pete Teague, who helped Fisher make the Gateway Building a reality, spoke about Fisher and presented Sue Palmer Fisher with a bouquet of flowers.

Fisher was one of three award recipients highlighted during the virtual meeting.

P.J. Ricks, a chamber ambassador and retired educator and alcohol abuse counselor, was announced as the winner of the Paul E. Fisher Chamber Volunteer of the Year award. Ricks, who made a run for city council, is heavily involved in various community organizations, including the Chamber’s Minority Business Council and Rowan Helping Ministries.

P.J. Ricks received the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Paul E. Fisher Volunteer of the Year Award. Photo submitted.

Ricks was presented with a trophy during a pre-recorded ceremony inside the showroom at Pottery 101.

“Thank you so much,” Ricks said. “This means so much to me, especially since it is named for Paul because he was a dear friend and a confidant.”

After Ricks received her award, the Chamber announced that Pottery 101 was the winner of the Small Business of the Year award. Novant Health Rowan Medical Center President and CEO Gary Blabon, the outgoing chair of the board, presented Pottery 101 owner Cheryl Goins with a trophy. Blabon said the Chamber added a requirement this year that the recipient of the award supports diversity, equity and inclusion.

“In August 2020, during the summer of racial justice issues, Cheryl placed a large window-sized Black Lives Matter poster in front of the window of Pottery 101,” Blabon said. “For months, the poster was a fun place for justice supporters to take pictures.”

Gary Blabon hands a trophy for Small Business of the Year to Cheryl Goins, the owner of Pottery 101.

During the meeting, Blabon conducted a “passing of the gavel” to 2021 Chair Bob Honeycutt, who said the chamber would carry on the “clear vision” put forth by Blabon in 2020.

Honeycutt, executive vice president of F&M Bank, outlined the Chamber’s top five priorities for the coming year: business advocacy, diversity outreach, youth leadership, business and education partnership, workforce development and talent attraction. Honeycutt said the Chamber will research the feasibility of a two-year youth leadership program in which high school seniors facilitate sessions for high school juniors.

Gary Blabon conducted a passing of the gavel to Bob Honeycutt, who is serving as the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 chair of board.

Several small business owners, including Nicole Holmes Matangira (Holmes Iron and Metal), Alissa Redmond (South Main Book Company) and Pam Coffield (Stichin’ Post Gifts) spoke about how the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce has helped them, particularly during the pandemic.

Chamber President Elaine Spalding announced the 2021 Dragon Boat Festival will be held in July after being canceled last year and that the Chamber hopes to host its 96th annual meeting in person in January. There will be a “super duper” business after hours mixer held at the Bell Tower Green in the fall to celebrate the Chamber’s 95th year, Spalding said.

As always, Spalding asked people to continue to support local businesses who are still dealing with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The next Power in Partnership event will be held on May 20 and will serve as the graduation of the Chamber’s Leadership Rowan class.

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