Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce Announces 2017 ATHENA and 2017 Small Business Person of the Year

Published Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce today awarded two prestigious awards to outstanding business people in our community: the 2017 Small Business Person of the Year and the 2017 ATHENA.


Vicki Hawkins Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, was named the 32nd recipient of the ATHENA Award, given by the Chamber and Martin Dodge Jeep Chrysler RAM.

Fitch began her tourism career in 1982 at Conway Twitty's Twitty City and then at Music Village U.S.A., both in Hendersonville, Tenn. She joined the BGACVB in June 1991 as marketing director and served in that capacity until being promoted to executive director in August 2005.

"Her contributions to our community, our region and our state are unmeasurable," said 2002 ATHENA Mary Cohron. "While, like most of us, some of the service she has provided has been job related, her community and Chamber involvement certainly go far beyond that required by her job."

Originally from Nashville, Fitch graduated from Western Kentucky University with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Business Administration. Fitch is the current Chairperson of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association and recently served on the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus.

The six nominees for the award were:

  • Amanda Ashley, SKY Pediatric Dentistry
  • Janette Reed Boehman, WBKO-TV
  • Jean Cherry, Med Center Health
  • Ginger Cleary, State Farm Insurance
  • Vicki Hawkins Fitch, Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Cathy Palmer, Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC

The ATHENA award recognizes women in our community who have been positive role models, are successful in their profession and who have contributed significantly to our community in some way," said Chamber chairman Robbin Taylor. "Vicki represents every quality of a true ATHENA. We are pleased to honor her with this award, and we congratulate her on being selected as the 2017 ATHENA."

2017 Small Business Person of the Year

David Sears, of Center of Insurance Inc. - Van Meter Insurance, was named the 2017 Small Business Person of the Year presented by Citizens First.

Sears, a lifelong Bowling Green resident, has helped to grow KOA from 15 to 100 billboards throughout the region. Current entities that he has ownership interest in include: Kentucky Mid-South Storage, S & H Industrial Properties, Campbell Hills LLC, Sears Development Group and Green Hills Development.

President and co-owner of Kentucky Outdoor Advertising, Sears is active in The Presbyterian Church, Meals on Wheels, Boys and Girls Club, Bowling Green Youth Sports and Bowling Green High School sports programs.

"David quietly lends a helping hand to many disadvantaged individuals and families that are in need in our community with housing, furniture, work, advise, counsel and encouragement ... whatever their need might be," said Tad Donnelly, co-owner of KOA.

Since 1985, the Chamber has annually named a community member the Small Business Person of the Year. The award recognizes a business leader who:

  • Owns and operates a for-profit company that employs 100 or fewer full-time employees
  • Has invested his or her own money in that small business
  • Has experienced recent business growth
  • Is involved in the development and growth of the Bowling Green community

The four nominees for the 2017 Small Business Person of the Year were:

  • Kelly Arnold, Gemini Homes, Inc.
  • Tony Bishop, Hot Yoga Bowling Green
  • Susan Hoechner, Barbara Stewart Interiors
  • David Sears, Kentucky Outdoor Advertising

"Our selection committee is faced with an incredibly tough decision each year when choosing from such strong nominees," said Chamber President and CEO Ron Bunch. "The highest quality of businessmen and women represent our small business community, and we are honored to recognize those leaders through this award. Small businesses make up 90 percent of the Chamber's partnership, and we couldn't accomplish what we do without their support."

Both award recipients will be honored at the Chamber's Excellence Awards Luncheon on May 18 at 11:30 a.m. at the Sloan Convention Center. The event is the highlight of Small Business Appreciation Month and will feature both winners as keynote speakers. Online registration is required at Individual tickets are $32, and corporate sponsor tables of eight are $300.  


About the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce:

Incorporated in 1935, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce is a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was named the 2009 Chamber of the Year by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. As the fourth largest chamber in Kentucky, the Chamber serves as a premier business advocate for its more than 1,200 partners and is the driving force for economic development in South Central Kentucky. Its primary goals are to promote growth and success in the business community, reaching its small business partners and those in large industries alike. With leadership programs, governmental relations projects, educational initiatives and involvement opportunities, the Chamber aims to support the community and its neighbors in order to enhance the business climate and continue to grow the region.