SHELBURNE — Berlin City Auto Group and the Androscoggin Valley Fish and Game Association were recognized for their contributions to the community at Friday’s Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.

The event drew a record crowd to the Town and Country Inn and Resort to celebrate the chamber’s successes and hand out awards for lifetime achievement and volunteer efforts.

Berlin City Auto Group was recognized with the chamber’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award given to a business that contributes to the community, perseveres though good times and bad, and invests in the community.

In making the presentation, chamber board member Kimberly Poirier recounted how Berlin City started in 1981 with one small dealership in Berlin. Eventually it moved to the Berlin-Gorham Road, expanding over the years to include a second location in Gorham as well as sister stores in Maine and Vermont.

Berlin City Auto now employs about 180 full- and part-time employees at the two Gorham locations plus another 370 in Maine and Vermont.

“Over the years, this company has given countless financial contributions to the betterment of the community,” Poirier said.

Their Drive For Education Program funds programs and supplies in local school systems including all the schools in the valley. Since 2011, the Drive For Education Program has given over $637,000 to local schools in the three state region. The company has also donated to many local charities.

Poirier noted the company has had the foresight to diversify its core business offerings and add additional services to allow them to keep employees working and ensure the longevity of Berlin City Auto.

“To grow a community often requires private investment that often comes with great financial risk to the investor. This year’s recipient believes in our community and has developed properties in anticipation of new opportunities resulting from the recent transformation of our local economy,” Poirier concluded.

The 2019 Boom Pier Award, given in recognition of extraordinary volunteer efforts consistent with the focus and mission of the chamber, went to the Androscoggin Valley Fish and Game Association.

Poirier said the AVFGA, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, works to preserve and promote outdoor recreation in the valley. The association includes more than 400 associate members as well as a 30-member board of directors and two junior directors.

Their activities include sponsoring local kids at the Barry Conservation 4-H camp, co-sponsoring the annual Kid’s Fishing Rodeo, and awarding annual book scholarships to a graduate of both Berlin and Gorham High Schools pursuing a career in forestry, wildlife, wildlife biology, conservation or Fish and Game law enforcement.

The association maintains a very active shooting range that hosts the annual hunter education program, a women’s firearm familiarization program, and a weekly trap shoot program.

AVFGA monitors legislation regarding fish and game issues and provides 13 boats for fishing enthusiasts to enjoy state waters.

Chamber Executive Director Paula Kinney said the chamber continues to market the valley as a tourist destination with its “Your Adventure Starts Here” promotional campaign. This is the fifth year the chamber has received a joint promotional grant from the state.

Kinney said the chamber tracks results of its marketing efforts by the use of Google analytics and Facebook Insights that count website visits, Facebook likes, and email clicks.

For example, she said there were 123,418 visits to the chamber’s website by 50,378 total users with almost 85 percent new users. The top five pages viewed were the Jericho ATV Festival, the homepage, RiverFire, ATVing, and Where to Stay. Kinney said there were 4,200 views of the Where to Stay page, which she noted are people actively considering coming here.

The chamber’s winter campaign on Facebook garnered 239,926 views by 113,482 people and 2.325 times the viewer clicked on the link to the chamber’s webpage.

Kinney said the chamber also ran print and digital ads, sent out emails, and handed out its brochures at all 12 Welcome Centers in the state and at various tourism shows. She said the chamber has just added videos to its marketing plan.

It was also another successful year for the various chamber events, ranging from the Jericho ATV Festival, WingZilla, BrewTopia, and RiverFire. All are designed to attract tourists to the region.

Kinney credited the hard work of her board of directors and officers, reminding the audience that the board members are all volunteers who also have full-time jobs.

In a brief business meeting, the following officers were approved: President Bronson Frizzell of Granite Bank, Vice President Diana Berthiaume of N.H. Employment Security, Secretary Carissa Dupont of Caron Building Center/SAU 3, and Treasurer Nancy Lacasse of Service Credit Union.

The title sponsor for this year’s annual dinner was Northeast Credit Union.

The annual dinner is above all a social affair and the 12th annual was no exception. The approximately 300 in attendance enjoyed a reception before the dinner and the event ended with a show by comic Josh Blue.

Editor

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