BURLINGTON — As it has for decades, KeyBank played host to the annual Holiday Party in downtown Burlington in December.
The event served as a networking event of Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce (LCRCC), with Farrell Distributing, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and Cheese & Wine Traders joining as sponsors. Several local businesses celebrated both the season and strong economic years, and that included the hosts.
Don Baker, Vermont market president at KeyBank, said, “We’re coming off maybe our strongest year ever. The economy is gradually getting better, and there’s lots of optimism, post-election, for growth. We’ve really increased market share, focusing on differentiation and how we can make a difference with specific types of customers.”
KeyBank completed its acquisition of First Niagara, the bank’s largest-ever acquisition. “I think it was second largest bank acquisition since the financial crisis. It brought us from about $98 billion in assets to about $135 billion.”
Moving forward, Baker said, “There are a lot of advantages, not only on the cost side but on the products, services and revenue potential side, and that’s been well received by analysts. They’ve really signed on to the KeyBank story, and a lot of people are optimistic about our future with that acquisition.”
Baker said KeyBank has hosted the annual holiday party “literally since we built this building in the late 1980s. I think I’ve attended every one. Because of the season, it’s more than just a business event. People are celebrating, looking forward to a new year, and there’s always a charitable component, as there is this year with Spectrum. It’s a feel-good event that we’re thrilled to be part of, and want to continue well into the future.”
John Welch of Saba Marine continued the positive reports. “We’re coming off our best year — we sold over 100 boats,” he said. Welch noted that Bay Harbor Marina, under the same ownership, is a plus. “We’re proud to have a first-class marina with premium services — docks, fuel, storage,” he said. “It helps when our customers can not only buy the boat from us, and service the boat with us, but keep the boat with us as well.”
Kristopher Larson is the new sales manager at Otter Creek Awnings. “We’re rocking and rolling” Larson said. “This time of year, with not as many residential jobs, we direct our energies toward commercial customers.”
Barbara Swan works at Winooski-based Marathon Health. “We do on-site employee health centers all over the country — 75 centers in 40 states,” she said. “We just launched a brand-new Electronic Health Record to all of our sites this week.”
Margi Swett, co-owner of Vermont Trophy & Engraving, said, “We are having a banner year, which is exciting. The economy has healed a lot since 2008.”
During the past year, she said, “We’ve added sand carving to our menu of processes — we’ve gotten really good at it — and we launched a new website. We also joined Better Business Bureau, and have an A-plus rating.”
Stephanie Kozikowski, a third-grade teacher at Shelburne Community School, said construction is currently underway on expansion and renovation at the school. “It will add more classrooms as well as improve energy efficiency,” she said.
Julie Gaboriault is a realtor at Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman. “It’s going well, and I love what I’m doing,” she said. A founding member of Shelburne BNI, Gaboriault said the local networking and referral group currently has about 30 members. “Anyone with a business and looking to grow should consider joining.”
Gail Henderson King said White + Burke Real Estate presented its third annual Vermont Development Conference at the Hilton Burlington in November.
“Nearly 300 development and real estate professionals attended a full day of networking, seminars and workshops,” she said.
Pam McCarthy, CEO, said Vermont Family Network just hired Claire Giroux-Williams as marketing and events coordinator. “She’s helping us plan our annual conference at The Sheraton in April,” McCarthy said. “It’s a day of learning and networking for families of kids with special needs, and the people that serve them.”
Marsya Mind Body Spirit of Winooski offers healing jewelry and energy and crystal healing. “I’ve been making healing jewelry for the past 15 years,” founder Marsya Ancker said. “I do custom consultations, and my marketing is primarily word-of-mouth.”
LCRCC encouraged guests to bring donations of new hats, gloves, scarves or socks to benefit homeless youth through Spectrum Youth & Family Services.
Donors earned chances to win a gourmet gift basket from Cheese and Wine Traders.
“One individual brought 20 handmade hats and scarves,” said Mary Anne Sheahan, who helped collect donations. Sheahan is the new director of workforce education, and executive director of Leadership Champlain at LCRCC.
Mike Reilly offers regular coverage of Chittenden County business networking events, with notes on events, hosts, and sponsors, with news and snippets from those in attendance. For events sponsored by Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, check the website at www.vermont.org.