Ada’s movers and shakers celebrated business achievements and honored a new class of leaders Thursday.

More than 100 people attended the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center, located on the East Central University campus. The event gave Chamber officials a chance to review the highlights of 2013, recognize graduates of the Leadership Ada program and honor award winners.

The Chamber launched several new initiatives in 2013, including a community visioning project focusing on what people want Ada to look like. The Chamber collaborated with the city of Ada and the Ada Jobs Foundation on the project, which spawned several task forces charged with examining various facets of community life.

The Chamber also launched a series of meetings with local businesses, dubbed “12 by 12s,” said board chairman Chris Feiler. Those meetings, which take place at noon once a month, bring 12 businesses together for a brainstorming and networking session.

“We focused on retail, housing, manufacturing and workforce development and several other ideas to help us in creating some great ideas to better serve our community,” Feiler said.

Feiler also touched on other Chamber projects from the past year, including a “Shop Local” campaign that encouraged Adans to patronize local stores during the holiday season. The campaign included a short video to remind viewers that shopping locally generates sales tax dollars for the city, which helps fund essential services.

Feiler thanked the audience for supporting the campaign by shopping in Ada.

“The January sales tax deposits were reported today, which reflect most of the holiday shopping,” he said. “There was an increase of 13.4 percent.”

A new class of leaders

State Sen. Susan Paddack honored Ada’s up-and-coming leaders by introducing 21 graduates of the Leadership Ada program. The program gives participants a chance to learn about the community from dedicated professionals, with the goal of creating a new group of leaders.

Paddack said the program helps Ada’s potential leaders polish their skills and prepare to step up to the plate when necessary.

“The world needs more leaders, and we have those in front of us this evening,” she said. “I want you to look at them and remember them, because the fact that they have made this commitment to go through the Leadership Ada class says they want to step up to the plate and take on more opportunities to lead. And I hope you will give them those opportunities.”

The audience cheered and applauded as the graduates received their certificates and an award.

The Chamber also honored its business, community impact and volunteer of the year for 2013. The winners were:

• General Aviation Modifications Inc.: Business of the year.

• Chickasaw Business and Conference Center: Community impact of the year, which is awarded to a facility.

• Chea Christian: Volunteer of the year.

Christian said she wasn’t sure why she was chosen for the award, especially when the room was full of people who have served their community for several years.

“It’s definitely a privilege to get this and very humbling,” she said. “So thank you.”

Chickasaw history

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby capped the evening with a short history of the nation, which was created after the Chickasaws were forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1830s. He said the nation struggled in its early years, but it survived because its members focused on working toward success.

Anoatubby said the nation had a governor in the beginning, but there was no legislature or judicial system. He said the nation’s members wanted to re-establish a tribal government and enjoy sovereignty, and they worked toward that goal.

In the early 1970s, the Chickasaws bought a motel in Sulphur and converted it into the hub of the nation’s government. Then in 1976, the nation received a grant to build its new headquarters — but there was no land for the building.

Chickasaw officials asked several communities if they wanted the nation to move to their area, and three cities — Tishomingo, Sulphur and Ada — said they were interested, Anoatubby said. He said Ada submitted the best proposal, paving the way for the Chickasaws to set up shop here.

“If it weren’t for the community leaders in Ada and their foresight and their generosity to the Chickasaw Nation, we may not be in Ada today,” Anoatubby said. “We may have been in Tishomingo. We may have been in Sulphur.

“But they had foresight. We felt wanted because of the wonderful opportunity that they gave us.”

The nation’s headquarters opened in Ada in March 1977. Six years later, the nation established a new constitution and reclaimed sovereignty.

The nation had only 30 employees in the 1970s, but today it employs roughly 13,000 people — 3,300 of whom work in Ada.

Anoatubby said the Chickasaw Nation’s partnership with Ada played a key role in the nation’s success.

“We owe this community — we owe the leadership of this community  — and we’ll never be able to fully repay you for what has been done for us,” he said. “So we reach out and we do our best to work with you.”

Reach Eric Swanson at

This Week's Circulars