VILONIA — A peek into the board of director’s crystal ball will show 2011 is a year of changes for the Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce.

At a board meeting held Monday night, it was announced the chamber will drop some of the activities they have generally sponsored in previous years and add some new ones as well as move forward on developing a strategic plan. 

"I would like to see a strategic plan for the businesses of Vilonia," president Debbie Townsend said. "Primarily because that is what our mission statement is about."

Another topic of discussion, Townsend suggested the chamber take the lead in developing a survey to send out to business members pinpointing "things they would like to see happen." The data, she said, then could be compiled and made available to other entities

The survey could also be expanded, she said, to include the residents. The information could be helpful in planning for growth and development, she added.

The chamber, Townsend said, will not be holding Eagle Fest this year. Instead, they are planning a fall festival to be held in September or October. There was conversation about coupling the event with the school district to focus on more school and local participation rather than being an out of town draw. The chamber will not be selling booths for Bargains Galore on 64. 

"It’s a good deal," Townsend said. "We encourage the community to participate. It’s just the chamber will just not set up and sell booths. It’s not something the Chamber needs to be involved in."

Instead, there are plans for a Business Expo to be held in conjunction with a teacher’s breakfast in August. 

On another note, it was said a Vilonia Economic Development Board is in the works. Also, Townsend said, 500 acres of land has been identified as land that could serve as a draw to a large-scale business looking for a location to build. Chamber officials, she said, will be involved and provide office support in helping to meet guidelines making the property an Entergy Arkansas select site. In that capacity, Vilonia will be added to a list that is provided and marketed by Entergy to companies searching for a new business location.

Other business

A majority of the meeting centered on the annual chamber banquet set for 7 p.m., Feb. 19. The theme for the event will be "Doing Business in Vilonia is a Great Call" with the guest speaker to be Walt Coleman of Coleman Dairy, also a NFL referee.  More than 150 tickets have been sold, said Jill Bonnema, executive officer. 

However, she said, the deadline is Jan. 31 and up to 200 may be sold. At a cost of $25 per ticket, she told the board she anticipates there may not be as much profit from the event as last year but there should be no loss. 

"We need to sell the rest of the tickets," she added. Tickets may be purchased from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays at the chamber office (located inside Gordon Financial). The board also reviewed and voted on recipients of awards that will be presented at the banquet including Business of the Year, Youth of the Year, Citizen of the Year, School Employee of the Year and City Employee of the Year. The meal will include pork loin and roast beef catered by D&L Catering of Conway.  

The chamber is still needing youth volunteers to help with the event to set up tables and chairs and to serve as greeters. Students, Bonnema said, may receive club service hours for volunteering. 


• The Vilonia Royalty Pageant is set for April 9 and will be held at the primary school. Andy Pennington, assistant principal of the Primary School, will serve as the emcee. There were 120 participants last year. Proceeds go toward several projects including scholarships and a sign account. It was said that volunteers will be needed for the event. 

• Membership renewals are due by Jan. 31. Also, Buffengbarger Appliance and Service was approved as a new member. 

• The chamber will jointly meet with the Vilonia Lions Club at 11:30 a.m., Feb. 2, at Big Ben’s Pizza for a presentation by local members of the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA). The event is also open to the public.