"I want all of you back here in 10 years," Mark Grenier told the crowd of 250 at the Cruiseport gala Saturday night, "for an even bigger celebration of the Chamber's 100th year centennial."
With that, Grenier, incoming president of Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, brought the house, gathered to celebrate the chamber's 90th anniversary, cheering to its feet.
Long an active member of the chamber, he's played an integral banking role in the Cape Ann business community, and as vice president and senior commercial banking officer of BankGloucester that role has grown exponentially.
"Wow," exclaimed Grenier in his Saturday night installation speech, "2012 is a big year for me, becoming president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce on its 90th anniversary, and part of BankGloucester as it celebrates its 125th anniversary."
Along with celebrating its 90th anniversary and installing a new president, Saturday's gala ushered in a new era of chamber leadership under CEO Robert Heidt, who was at the door shaking hands and later took the podium to briefly address the crowd.
The theme of the evening was "Celebrating the Past and Embracing the Future," with a journey down through the decades of memory lane, saluting dozens of businesses who contributed to community progress with certificates of "Recognition and Appreciation."
Most of the current owner and operators of those businesses were in the audience, and several were founded before the chamber's founding in 1922.
Some, like Gloucester's Building Center, founded in 1903, and Rockport's L.E. Smith Co., founded in 1874, are still family-owned and -managed. Others, such as the North Shore Art Association, also celebrating its 90th anniversary, and Sawyer Free Library, founded in 1830, are nonprofit organizations.
But Grenier addressed the other side of the evening's theme — the future — in a speech that, among other things, addressed the all-important issue of development of Gloucester's waterfront.
In a nod to its potential pivotal role in the city's future economy, Grenier said he wants to see the chamber "play a key part in its planning," adding that "I'd like the chamber and member businesses to have a strong say in the development and revitalization of the harbor."
Commenting on the chamber's relationship with the city, he said that although it's been great, "I believe we can enhance it."
"I know that public officials would like to work with the chamber more," he said. He would, he said, "like to bring back the Government Affairs Committee of the chamber." He also said he'd like "to restore and re-energize the chamber's Tourist Division."
Finally, he said, he wants to see the chamber "become even more relevant and more valuable to our members and our communities."
It is, he concluded, "about maximizing the value our members' membership."
In a salute to outgoing chamber President Sal Frontiero, Grenier said, "Sal has guided us during these difficult economic times. Because of strong leadership, commitment and vision, we are ready and eager to embrace the future."
Frontiero, who remains on the chamber board as chairman, addressed the crowd with a retrospective "year in review" that wrapped quite surprisingly when the attorney suddenly switched from business to show business — belting out a rocking rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Call Me The Breeze."
With the Garfish big-sound band backing him up, Frontiero took front and center stage and the crowd took to the dance floor.
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3457, or at email@example.com.