Paducah Chamber Celebrates at Annual Meeting and Business Celebration

Published Friday, January 25, 2019 9:00 pm

The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Celebration sponsored by Mercy Health and CSI was held at the Julian Carroll Convention Center on January 25 with a crowd of more than 700 attendees.  

Outgoing board chair Leon Owens, President of Swift & Staley, Inc., officially passed the gavel to Daniel Jones, co-owner of Strawberry Hills Pharmacy, as the board chair for 2019. The Chamber also honored several area businesses and individuals with their annual awards (note: additional information on the awards is attached): 

  • Business of the Year – Credit Bureau Systems, Inc. 
  • Small Business of the Year – i5 design group, inc. 
  • Entrepreneur of the Year – the dirt road boutique and owner Heather Abanatha 
  • Non-Profit Organization of the Year – Family Service Society 
  • Summit Award – Milner and Orr Funeral Homes 
  • Citizen of the Year – retired McCracken County Judge Executive Bob Leeper 
  • Chamber Volunteer of the Year – Bradley Shoulta 
  • Leadership Paducah Alumnus of the Year – Susan Guess. This award is selected and presented by the Leadership Paducah Alumni Association. 
  • Young Leader of Western Kentucky – Lakilia Bedeau, Director of Tornado Alley YSC, Paducah Public Schools. This award is selected and presented by the Four Rivers Business Journal of The Paducah Sun.  There were 10 finalists honored.  


The entertainment for the evening was Louis Feuer, a featured speaker at many conferences and events, especially those held at Disney.  His message was funny, inspirational and informative. He shared a message of how to make personal experiences magical in business and personal life. 

Suzanne Farmer (Mercy Health) and Todd Duff (Innovations Branding House) served as the emcees for evening. 

The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce is the region’s largest business advocacy organization with approximately 1,000 member firms and is the fifth largest Chamber in the state. The Chamber is 5-star accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was named “Chamber of the Year” in 2017 and 2011 by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). 

Additional information about award winners: 

2019 Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce Award Recipients Information 

Note:  All recipients must be a member of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce  

Business of the Year – Two Categories – Attributes for this award included: possesses staying power, has seen company growth, and involvement in the community.  

Business of the Year (more than 15 employees) – Credit Bureau Systems, Inc.

Credit Bureau Systems (CBS) completed a major expansion in 2017 with the addition of a new 10,000 sq. ft. second building next to its corporate headquarters in the Commerce Park.  They have continued to increase their employment numbers throughout 2018.  Credit Bureau Systems is a local family-owned company founded in 1952.  The company moved to its current location in 1997 and has become one of the region’s largest employers.  Through the years the company has experienced steady growth and had outgrown its corporate office requiring the new space to accommodate more employees.  The company was established as a local credit reporting agency, and now operates six divisions servicing clients in 24 states. Hospital/physician billing, insurance claims processing and followup, debt recovery, consumer credit products, public bulletins and EMS/ambulance billing are some of the services provided.

Small Business of the Year (15 or less employees) – i5 design group, inc.

i5 design, owned by Chad Beyer, opened in 2005 and has been located in downtown Paducah for the past 13 years.  i5 is an interior design firm that partners with other professionals including architects, engineers and contractors to deliver innovative and unique design solutions.  Their experience is as varied and diversified as their client base. From creating corporate offices to drill instructor schools, barracks to branch offices, residential remodels to private rail care renovations, they deliver with an attitude of service and creativity to respond to the needs of their clients.  

Entrepreneur of the Year – the dirt road boutique and owner Heather Abanatha 

This award is open to Chamber members who established a business within the past five years, recognized for innovative products or services, demonstrates community involvement and exceptional performance and growth.  

Opening for business four years ago, Heather Abanatha brought the first traveling boutique to the area in a truck.  After several months of taking the business to the customers, a brick and mortar storefront was opened and then expanded to double in size. But this visionary had her sights set on the large abandoned building across the street, an old state department building that had sat empty for many, many years. After more than a year of renovation, the dirt road boutique opened for business in their new location at 541 North 32nd Street.   

Non-Profit Organization – Family Service Society 

Note:  They received a $1,000 award from sponsor The Orthopaedic Institute of Western Kentucky. 

Family Service Society was established in 1927 by Paducah business leaders who sought to help families in need within our community. For more than 90 years they have served as a crisis resource to the people of Paducah and McCracken County. Though many of their clients fall at or below the poverty level, when a crisis arises, they also serve the middle class. This organization serves the community through assistance with clothing, food, hygiene items, utilities, medications, eyeglasses, dental and Christmas food assistance. 

Summit Award – Milner and Orr Funeral Homes 

This award is not presented annually.  Attributes include significant volunteer and financial contribution to the community, excellent business practice and excellent leadership skills. 

Milner and Orr was selected for this honor in recognition of their community service project to secure the “Wall that Heals” for the Paducah region.  In 2018 a long time vision and dream of theirs became reality when they were selected to host the traveling exhibit of The Wall that Heals. This ¾ size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that stands in Washington, DC was open 24 hours per day October 25-28 while in Paducah.  Partnering with WPSD, The Paducah Sun and many other community sponsors, this event drew over 23,000 attendees and 300 volunteers. Only a handful of communities nationwide are chosen annually and Andrea Orr applied three times to host this exhibit before being accepted. 

Citizen of the Year – Bob Leeper 

This award is also not presented annually.  Attributes include significant volunteer and financial contribution to the community, excellent business practice and excellent leadership skills. 

Leon Owens, 2018 Chair of the Chamber Board, presented the award to retired McCracken County Judge Executive Bob Leeper for his service to the community.  Owens stated, “When we talk about progress made in our community, our honoree has had a hand in it.  First as a city commissioner, then as a state senator and most recently as judge executive.  About 30 different Chamber Chairs have had the privilege of working with him – and we hope he would feel the same way – that he has had the privilege of working with about 30 of us.  He is a person of extreme integrity.  We honor him for his service, partnership and friendship with the Paducah Chamber, plus our community and our region, for the past 30 plus years.  You have taken our letters, calls, texts and face to face meetings with an open mind and willingness to serve.”  

Chamber Volunteer of the Year – Bradley Shoulta

This award is presented to someone who has made significant contributions to the goals and mission of the Chamber, donated time and/or resources and embodies the ideals of volunteerism and provided leadership in a key area.  

Bradley Shoulta has been the winning individual and Team Captain for the past two years for the Chamber’s Annual Membership Campaign.  He singlehandedly recruited 62 new Chamber members along with multiple renewals, sponsorships and in-kind donations. As captain of the Payment Plus team for two years, his team took top honors in 2017 and again in 2018.  

Leadership Paducah Alumnus of the Year – Susan Guess with Paducah Bank and Leadership Paducah Class #8 

This award is selected and presented by the Leadership Paducah Alumni Association.  Criteria includes:  sought out opportunities to improve the Paducah community; innovative; inspired others to assist in the process of accomplishing the vision; leads by example; provided encouragement and recognition to those who worked together to accomplish the goal.  

Terry Bradley, President of the LPAA, presented the award to Susan Guess.  He stated: “Susan Guess has a long list of accolades that make her more than qualified to receive such recognition. She was named Kentucky’s top volunteer twice, has received national recognition for effective use of social media in the workplace and is a contributing author to college textbooks. This person has also received a national HUD community service award for starting Girl Scout troops in Paducah’s public housing and was the second female to serve as the Board Chair for the Paducah Chamber and served two terms. Along with her daughter, she has co-founded the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation and lobbied the governor to appoint a statewide task force on the issue. On top of all that, she has served on the Murray State University Board of Regents for nine years and was recently elected chair.”  

Young Leaders of Western Kentucky – Lakilia Bedeau 

The winner received a $1,000 continuing education award from the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce.  This award is selected by The Four Rivers Business Journal published by The Paducah Sun. 

Bill Evans, Publisher of The Paducah Sun presented the award. He stated:  “Paducah is indeed blessed to have so many young leaders willing to take an active role in making the community a better place. Our 2018 Young Leader of Western Kentucky truly believes that we all reach our full potential when we help others reach theirs.  As an educator, her career has been dedicated to helping future young leaders develop the skills necessary to be successful in life.  This recipient’s achievements have been recognized from Paducah all the way to the White House.  As an entrepreneur, she is dynamic proof that learning extends beyond the classroom.” 

Other finalists included:  

  • Casey Brantley, Assistant Director, Mercy Health-Lourdes Emergency Department
  • Betsy Burkeen, Executive Director, United Way of Paducah-McCracken County
  • Matt Carter, Sheriff, McCracken County
  • Mason DeJarnett, Territory Manager, FabickCAT
  • Andrew DuPerrieu, Investment Advisor, Blythe CPAs & Advisors
  • Whitney Evans, Director of Neuroscience Service Line, Mercy Health-Lourdes
  • Bryant Hileman, Co-Founder, HEART USA
  • Nathan Lynn, Library Assistant, McCracken County Public Library
  • Corbin Snardon, Educator, Paducah Public Schools


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