The more things change the more they stay the same.
That was the message beneath the theme “A Century of Innovation” at the 100th Annual Chamber Dinner sponsored by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center in Reading on Monday.
"Even 100 years later it's still about relationships," said Donald H. Moll Jr., president of R&G Glass in Reading.
"You still have to get out and meet people," said Pat Barrett, former Berks County assistant district attorney.
According to Ellen T. Horan, president and CEO of Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry, members still believe that stronger businesses make for a stronger and more vibrant community.
Even though the faces have changed over the years, the member focus is on making a difference and giving back to the society that makes success possible.
"The big difference from the original chamber is women – it was all men," Horan said. "It was more of an exclusive club, but now the chamber is more inclusive and diverse."
Monday's social event began with a two-hour networking reception and buffet-style dinner during which members shared what works and what doesn't in the business world.
"It's vital for the business community to get together, mingle and mix to share ideas," Barrett said. "We have a tightknit business community in Berks County."
Zane Collings, regional general manager of the center, said that the facility holds about 1,800 people, but they expected between 700 to 800 at Monday's event.
"The toughest thing is coordinating all the people supporting the event – the lighting, serving, decorating, the building, video and the chamber," Collings said. "It takes a lot of different folks to make that happen. Some people say, 'the most important thing is the food,' but everything is important."
The cuisine was a favorite of most visitors, including Lisa-Marie Stonaha and Debi Pletscher, both of Laughing Rock Technology.
"The food is excellent," Stonaha said. "It was very well done. It's a great way to get everybody to mingle before they sit down."
The top five companies in the Eighth Annual Greater Reading Top Business awards, ranked according to revenue growth by dollar and percentage increase, were: Customers Bank, Singer Equipment Company Inc., Appeeling Fruit Inc., TRIOSE Inc. and Omega Systems Consultants.
The top five companies in the 2nd Annual Emerging Entrepreneur Awards for exceptional sole-proprietors and small business owners were: Environmental Cleaning Concepts, RER Energy Group, Justin F. Bortz Fine Jewelry, Colorfin LLC and Michael's Classic Limousine.
Later the keynote address was given by motivational speaker Daniel H. Pink to a group that believes the economy is on the mend.
"The chamber membership is up 100 people from just last year," Horan said. "That's a positive sign that businesses are doing a little better."