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Chamber SWLA Hosts 116th Annual Banquet

Published Friday, February 7, 2020

Southwest Louisiana - The 116th Annual Chamber SWLA Banquet was held Thursday (January 30) inside the Golden Nugget Casino Resort in Lake Charles. On the menu were Grit, Leadership and Breaking Barriers.

This year’s speaker was Shannon Huffman Polson, one of the first women to fly an Apache combat helicopter in the U.S. Armed Forces. Ms. Polson served on three continents and led two flight platoons and a line company. She is the founder and CEO of The Grit Institute and the author of the memoir North of Hope. Her new book, The Grit Factor, will be coming out in September 2020.

The banquet began with the handing off of the gavel from 2019 Chair Phil Earhart of IberiaBank (right) to 2020 Chair Kristy Armand of Healthy Image and Thrive Magazine (left).

 This year’s banquet also highlighted the efforts of the 2019 Volunteer of the Year, the Small and Large Business Diversity Awards, and the 2019 Civic Service Winner.

 Jennifer Spees of Louisiana Mortgage (Pictured with Paula Ramsey, VP, Chamber SWLA on the right) was the 2019 Volunteer of the Year:

“This year’s volunteer of the year is a wonderful example of someone who fights for the things she believes in. She is hugely successful at work due to this trait and we benefit from it as well. She will be the first person to promote the chamber to someone she just met, to explain the programs of the Chamber in person and online and tell people – “Hey, you need to join!” – serving as a team captain during our last membership drive.

If you need her, you call her and she is there.” – from this award presentation


Dalia Matheus of Global Management (Pictured with Diversity Chair Ernie Broussard to the left) was the 2020 Small Business Development & Inclusion Award Winner:

“Global is committed to diversity and is knowledgeable of both human resource issues and immigration law. Global believes that producing a staff of employees who each contribute in unique ways will bolster the company as a whole. Diversity among a group of problem solvers is more important than individual excellence.”- from this award presentation

The Billy Navarre Auto Group was the 2020 Large Business Development & Inclusion Award Winner (Pictured with Diversity Chair Ernie Broussard to the left):

The Navarre Auto Group is currently home to approximately 480 employees. and is considered the largest family-owned business in Southwest Louisiana.  Central to the Navarre success model is its deliberate and comprehensive policy of inclusion and overall diversity which fully reflects the character, personality, and decor of Southwest Louisiana.

Ryan Navarre with the Billy Navarre Auto Group was also awarded the 2019 Civic Service Award

In 2019,“he started an annual 5K in memorial to Trooper Steven Vincent raising enough money to buy bulletproof vests for 40 troopers. He noted ““I sat behind Trooper Vincent in church and I would see him and his family every day. And this is a special event for him because he made the ultimate sacrifice for us.”

“At work, he mentors his staff – offering them on-going training and room for advancement and off the clock, he talks to high school and college students about their dreams and goals. He is a long-term member of the Chamber Southwest, serving on our board, and is a mentor and leader within our community.”

“This is the first time we have given this award to a father and then later his son.  His nomination application said “his focus is legendary and stems from his father who taught him that anyone can make a profit, but only through reinvesting can one help grow his community.” – from this award presentation 

CITGO was the title sponsor for this year's event. Golden Nugget was the presenting sponsor. 

Other sponsors: Sasol Chemicals; Billy Navarre Auto Group; HGA, IberiaBank; Insurance Resource Group of SWLA; Lake Charles Memorial Health System; and Scofield, Gerard, Pohorelsky, Gallaugher & Landry, LLC. 

About the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance

To streamline economic development efforts throughout the region, the Chamber SWLA, its Foundation, and the SWLA Partnership for Economic Development joined forces in October 2006 to form the SWLA Economic Development Alliance. Since its formation, the Alliance has played an integral role promoting Southwest Louisiana as a great place to live, work, and raise a family. For more information, visit

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