GARNER — As new Chamber of Commerce chair Tommy Sims looks back at the last year in Garner, he simply hopes the town can maintain its trajectory during his term.
It might not be easy. A $35.7 million bond passed, a new emergency room was built and Garner won All-America City honors.
“Garner has obviously had wind behind its sail for the last couple of years,” said Sims, who owns and operates All Star Waste Services. “It’s been such a crazy ride the last couple of years we’re just trying to hang on and keep the momentum.”
Outgoing chair Barry Driver, general manager of Capital Chrysler Jeep Dodge, passed the gavel to Sims at the Summit Awards on Sept. 26. Sims now assumes leadership of the board and serve as liaisonbetween members and staff.
Sims put forth four areas of focus for the chamber: Supporting education in Garner, continuing efforts to look at development rules and fee structure, studying transit plans and lobbying for ones that help Garner, and marketing the town.
Steeped in Garner
Sims, like Driver, grew up in Garner. After graduating from Garner High and Wake Forest University, with degrees in business and accounting, he moved with his wife, another Garner native, to Richmond, Va. But ultimately they decided to raise their three children in Garner.
He spent 15 years working in the solid waste industry, one his father has been in for 40 years. Then he started his own company; he said he knew all along he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
That company, All Star Waste Services, won the contract to serve the town’s trash and recycling needs in 2009, a contract it retains.
“What an honor to be able to get up and go to work every day in your hometown and provide services for your municipal government that every resident needs,” Sims said.
That contract did involve controversy, as All Stars’ bid was not the lowest. Council members voted to pay $121,000 per year more – an upcharge of 8.5 percent – than the low bidder offered. Then-councilman and current mayor pro tem Jackie Johns opposed shunning the low bid; the rest said they believed All Star’s service level justified the extra expense.
Sims joined the chamber board after winning that bid to get involved in the business community and give back. Driver said the board would be in good hands.
“I’ll miss it a little bit, but I’m also excited to watch Tommy take over. He’s a businessman I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” Driver said. “I think he will do an outstanding job.”
Like Sims, Driver took the helm with board experience. He said the experience largely matched what he expected, but that the surprises came outside of Garner when other chambers would ask about some of the Garner chamber’s efforts.
“The one thing I didn’t expect, which was pleasant surprise, was going to the Wake County chamber association meetings (and learning) how much respect the other cities had for Garner and what we were doing here,” Driver said.
Sims said he’s excited about the upcoming year and expects growth to continue over the course of the next year.
“We’re fortunate to be in one of the top regions in the country for continued economic growth. The chamber wants to be proactive looking at what kind of development comes to Garner and what the right development is for us,” Sims said.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland