Thursday, April 27, 2017

Biography of Emissaries


Kellie  Andrews

Kellie Andrews
Huntsville Hub - APEX Business Centers, Inc.

Kellie is the Founder of the Huntsville Hub, the original alternative workspace provider in Huntsville, AL. She has a passion for helping small businesses grow and succeed! The Huntsville Hub caters to the needs of the local business community by providing their clients with quality shared office space, state-of-the-art technology, and a support team dedicated to outstanding customer service. The Hub goes a step further than most shared office facilities. They don’t just provide office space, they get actively involved in their customer’s businesses to help them succeed. Kellie is creative, innovative, and helps her customers come up with unique and effective ways to grow and develop their businesses.


Kellie's background is in project and operations management, strategic planning, market planning, new business development, and customer service. She is experienced in all aspects of starting, growing, managing, marketing, and expanding new businesses.

Shannon Drake

Jason Blount

Jason Blount serves as Vice President, Commercial Lending Officer for BancorpSouth in Huntsville, Alabama. In this role, he focuses on obtaining new customers by providing commercial and business loan financing and other Bank products and services, as well as ensuring that existing customers’ financial needs are continually met.


Jason has over 10 years of financial services experience. Prior to joining BancorpSouth, he served as a Senior Vice President for American Bank of Huntsville for several years, where he led the Finance department, oversaw the Secondary Marketing of the Mortgage Department and was a Commercial Lending Officer.


Jason is a graduate of Lee University in Cleveland, TN with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and minors in Computer Information Systems and Theology. While at Lee University, Jason played for the men’s soccer team and had the opportunity to study abroad in Cambridge, England for a semester.


Jason stays active in the local community where he is a member and Past President of the Huntsville Civitan Club, is a board member of Cove Church in Hampton Cove and serves on the Local Missions Board. He resides in the Hampton Cove area with his wife Carrie and son William. He also serves as a volunteer coach for his son’s soccer team in the Eastern League at Cove Park.

Shannon Drake

Michael Brazier
Ability Plus, Inc.

Mike, a Huntsville native with over 25 years of experience, is a life long entrepreneur, expert sales professional, business consultant and speaker. Mike’s career has allowed him to work in multiple markets and various areas of the country. Its also included growing up in a 30-year family business, owning and selling a successful business, working in the Chamber industry as an executive and consultant, contracting as a successful business consultant, implementing and managing capital campaigns, speaking/training engagements on local, regional and national levels, coaching and mentoring small business owners.


In 2012, Mike received a lifetime achievement award for sales from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives. His family business was a 1998 finalist for the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year. Mike has served on multiple local, regional and national boards. He’s a graduate of Leadership Huntsville/Madison County, Focus Class 24 and has served on multiple committees within Leadership Huntsville.


Mike is a graduate of Lee High School, 1987. He attended UA Huntsville, studying Finance and later completed his degree at Oakwood University. Mike received his BSBA in Organizational Management and graduated Magna Cum Laude.


Mike is currently involved in multiple projects, working as a consultant and an entrepreneur. He’s married with three children; all three children are currently in college. Mike’s passions are helping others and spending time with his family.

Shannon Drake

Shannon Drake
Still Serving Veterans

Shannon O'Meara Drake is a native of Huntsville and a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College.


Shannon has a diverse spectrum of experience from her technical background at Intergraph and her marketing background at ADTRAN. She also has a passion for owning and operating a variety of businesses. She currently owns and operates Drako Engineering with her husband James. Drako Engineering was established in 2005 as a home-based mechanical engineering company specializing in aerospace engineering. As a second love for advertising and marketing, Shannon established Drako Communications, an employee-owned and operated creative enterprise specializing in all areas of advertising and marketing design for start-up companies in the Huntsville area.


Shannon joined the Chamber of Commerce in 2006 as a way to strengthen and grow her businesses. This enabled her to become familiar with the programs the Chamber offered and led her to becoming involved in various activities such as the Total Resource Campaign and the Emissary Program. Shannon lends her success to the great networking opportunities and activities the Chamber offers to connect their members.


Shannon is a member of the Women's Economic Development Council (WEDC), the Women’s Business Council, Women in Defense, an Ambassador and Emissary with the Chamber of Commerce, a volunteer with Junior Achievement, and the Christian Women’s Job Corps. She is actively involved in several non-profits within the area, as well as, a travelling classical ballet teacher for Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

Connie Earp

Connie Earp
New York Life Insurance Company & NYLIFE Securities, LLC.

With more than 20 years of management experience, Connie currently serves as Director of Recruiting with New York Life Insurance Company in Huntsville, Alabama. She takes great pride in building relationships with applicants and clients.


With experience in sales, event planning, marketing, leadership and community awareness. Connie has been involved as a volunteer with the Emissary and Ambassador programs for the Chamber of Commerce Huntsville/Madison County for a number of years . She was also a Total Resource Campaign (TRC) participant and was the "rookie of the Year" 2014. Connie lends her success to the great networking opportunities and involvement with the Chamber of Commerce. Connie joined the Chamber in 2004 and was named ambassador of the month in April of that year.


Connie is a second generation Huntsville Native who stays involved in the community by volunteering with non-profit organizations and is currently serving on the board of CAFY (Community Awareness For Youth), as well as, serving as a team leader with the March of Dimes.

James Froman

James Froman
Supreme Lending

Originally from Gulfport Mississippi, I moved to Huntsville as a freshman in high school. Directly after graduation I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17, serving as an Avionics Electronics Technician. From there I moved to Houston, TX where I was recruited into the residential mortgage lending industry. It was there I found my passion for helping people with their goal of home ownership.


After achieving high levels of success and recognition in the industry I followed opportunities that lead me to Austin, TX and then on to Nashville, TN where I was eventually recruited to come and work for Churchill Mortgage Corporation. Most recently I have moved from Nashville back to Huntsville to open the first branch of Churchill Mortgage in Alabama. After 20yrs my life has come full circle back here to Huntsville. I could never have imagined that my dreams would have come true right here.


Churchill Mortgage is the only mortgage lender ever endorsed by Dave Ramsey. As the trusted source for Dave Ramsey mortgage services, we embrace our responsibility to serve our clients , business partners and our community to the fullest of our ability. With over 13 years of experience in the mortgage industry my passion is providing homeowners guidance on how to deal with the biggest debt they will ever take on. With the heart of a teacher, I pride myself on helping to educate my clients on how they can realize their goal of truly Owning their home.

Crystal Gilreath

Crystal Gilreath
Avadian Credit Union

Crystal Gilreath serves as a Commercial Lending, Business Loan Officer for Avadian Credit Union in Huntsville, Alabama. In her role, she focuses on being a trusted and dependable resource for her members to help them achieve their financial goals.


Crystal has over 12 years of financial service experience in multiple capacities within the local economic market. She is a graduate of Athens State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management and Human Resource Management.


Crystal joined the Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and has had the privilege of meeting many extraordinary people. She stays active in the local community as a volunteer with Junior Achievement, Southeast Family YMCA and attends Whitesburg Baptist Church. Crystal is married to her husband, Chad Gilreath, and currently resides in South Huntsville.

Dave Knowles

Joe Knoch
Air Essentials, Inc.

After a successful stint as a Sr. Account Executive for New Horizons Computer Learning Center, Joseph co-founded Air Essentials Inc. in 2001 with business partner Travis Vines. Now in its 15th year of business, the company distinguishes itself from the competition in many ways. Joseph requires his employees to continually stay up to date with the latest technologically advanced improvements in the industry. Air Essentials Inc. is the only HVAC company in this area that has its employees certified as air systems cleaning specialists, certified ventilation inspectors, as well as ventilation systems mold remediators. Air Essentials Inc. currently has more NADCA certifications than any other company in the state of Alabama. In addition, Air Essentials Inc. pays for all professional development of its employees.


As an example of Air Essentials Inc. commitment to maintaining the highest degree of business ethics, Air Essentials Inc. is unique in the fact they do not pay commissions or even have sales quotas for the employees. This eliminates the question of whose best interest is at stake during a service call or initial assessment of a customer's system.


Joseph has served as both a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and Emissary. He is currently serving on the Boards of the Better Business Bureau and the YMCA and is an elected Board Member of the Madison City Chamber of Commerce. A proud alumnus and avid fan of the University of Alabama (1994, B.S. in Business Administration) Joseph has been lucky to be married to the lovely Tammy Knoch for the last 19 years and most importantly the proudest Father in the world of his daughter Madelyn.

Dave Knowles

Dave Lakin

Dave Lakin is a devoted father and husband, and a 24 year Navy Veteran awarded numerous times for outstanding achievements in Leadership and Management. A licensed Program Management Professional (PMP), and a certified Business and Executive Coach with ActionCOACH Business Coaching, he helps committed business owners rapidly grow and improve their businesses so they can reach their full potential and achieve the goals and dreams every business owner expected from the start.


For over two decades, ActionCOACH has served thousands of businesses around the world in every category imaginable. Delivering more time, better teams and more money on their bottom-line, ActionCOACH has grown to be The #1 Business Coaching Firm in the World, with hundreds of proven systems and strategies… guaranteed to get results.


With more than 1,200 offices in 56 countries, ActionCOACH delivers its proven systems to business owners every week; owners who turn to business coaching to get the success, freedom and lifestyle they sought when they first went into business for themselves.

David McElhaney

Matt Leahy
Investor's Resource - Raymond James Financial Services

As an Associate Wealth Advisor at Investor’s Resource my job is to service existing clients as part of a team as well as develop a select group of new wealth management business. I believe integrity and transparency in this business are key to having the best client relationships. I am a Huntsville native and studied Finance and Portfolio Management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


I serve on the Investment Committee within our firm and oversee the Outside Account management program, which delivers advice on assets like 401k’s and TSP plans outside our firm. I specifically enjoy helping a select group of engineers, business owners and government contractors have a clear plan for retirement or other financial goals important to them.


Besides currently holding the Series 7, 66, Life and Health insurance licenses, I am studying for the AAMS® certification which is a prerequisite for the CFP® designation. My favorite quote to live by is “Do things that failures don’t like to do” – Stephen R. Covey author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.


I met my wife Lina on the tennis courts at UAH and continue to play at a high level on local USTA leagues. Other hobbies include Golf, Snowboarding trips, and always planning the next travel destination.

Jennifer Middleton

Jennifer Middleton
Candlewood Suites Huntsville

Jennifer Middleton grew up in Huntsville and graduated from Huntsville High School.

She has spent most of her career in the Hospitality Industry. After graduating from the University of Alabama she served as Sales Manager for the Bevill Center at UAH hosting meetings and events for the US Army Corps of Engineers, UAH students, staff, Research Park Companies and the community. She went on to sell and manage the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel for Premier Hotel Corporation where she earned Director of Sales of the Year Award in 2005. Jennifer joined LBA Hospitality in 2009 as the Director of Sales at the Homewood Suites - Village of Providence. In 2009 she received a Steward Ship Award for Outstanding Community Service and Director of Sales of the Year Award of Merit in 2010. She left Homewood to serve as the Interactive Media Director for Rocket City Broadcasting before returning to LBA Hospitality in 2012 as an Area Director of Sales for the Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn by Marriott. In 2015 she joined IHG as the Director of Sales for the Candlewood Suites Huntsville-Research Park.

Jennifer credits the Chamber with giving her the opportunity to network and build relationships as key to her success. A Chamber volunteer since 2004, Jennifer has served as an Ambassador, Total Resource Campaign Volunteer and Emissary and member of the Leadership Council. She has also served on other boards such as the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Executives, Public Relations Council of North Alabama and currently serves as the Vice President of Communications for the Huntsville Youth Orchestra and the 2nd Vice President of Membership for the Rocket City-Alabama Chapter of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals.

When not networking to put heads in beds at the Candlewood Suites Huntsville-Research Park, Jennifer likes to spend time with her husband, Chris and daughters Hannah and Raegan.

Vicki Morris

Vicki Morris
Matt Curtis Real Estate, Inc.

Vicki Morris is a graduate of Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. After graduation, Vicki obtained a position with Nortel Networks as a Systems Application Engineer. While at Nortel Networks, Vicki held several positions to include Marketing Communications Specialist, System Pricing Specialist and Human Resources Clerk.


Vicki has always had a talent for planning and organizing events, both professional and personal. No matter the reason for the existence of the group, if there is a task at hand for the group to deliver, it needs a well thought out organization plan. This is an area Vicki tends to shine brightly. Over the years, Vicki has organized several multi-state events to include hotel and catering arrangements, entertainment, and event day facilitation. Vicki has found effective ways to manage scheduling needs, transportation logistics, and speaker preparations for groups of varying sizes. She has planned many successful events in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Huntsville, and Madison Alabama. She has developed excellent working relationships with commercial and civic organizations in the greater Huntsville area to include Madison, Decatur, and Athens.


Not only can Vicki organize and plan events for your organization efficiently, she is also an excellent speaker. Mrs. Morris has spoken for several groups as the featured presenter. In her role as Public Relations Manager for Matt Curtis Real Estate, she is responsible for managing the public image for the company, serving as a point of contact for media relations, and managing special projects. Vicki is also the host and program director for HOT Coffee, a local networking group for hi tech startups, small business owners, and entrepreneurs.


Vicki has been married to Earl Morris for the past 22 years, and the couple has 2 young adult children.

Field Thomas

Drew Tomlin
Southern Development Council, Inc.

Drew Tomlin, is a Business Development Officer with the Southern Development Council, Inc., and is responsible for marketing and business development within Alabama, concentrating on the Greater Huntsville area and the northern portion of Alabama. The Southern Development Council, Inc. (SDC) is a private, not-for-profit Certified Development Company engaged in economic development by providing capital to growing businesses that have a high probability of enhancing local employment. Partnering with Alabama banks, the SDC makes loans to growing businesses for up to 90% of the cost associated with acquiring major fixed assets, long-term at fixed, low interest rates. The SDC helps businesses overcome the obstacles normally associated with traditional commercial loan criteria. Its involvement in a loan spreads the lending risk and thereby encourages private sector lenders (banks and credit unions) to participate in projects they might otherwise not be involved in. Project sizes range from $200,000 to $18,000,000 (the largest to date). Fixed assets eligible for financing include building acquisitions, expansions, renovations, new construction, machinery, long-life equipment and leasehold improvements.


Drew began his career in banking over 25 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia with the Citizens & Southern National Bank. Drew received his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia and his MBA in Finance from Mercer University’s Stetson School of Business and Economics in Macon, Georgia. Drew is also a graduate of the Commercial Credit School at NationsBank, now Bank of America and was a member of Leadership Huntsville/Madison County Focus Class 27.

Tom White

Tom White
U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Tom White is the Director of Sales and Outreach with the US Space and Rocket Center, Home of Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. He oversees leading a team of inside and outside sales/education professionals to produce revenue for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center by selling a variety of different programs, including Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, Robotics Camp, Corporate Space Camp, museum guests, museum groups, field trips, and special events programs. His team works as the call center operations for the Space Center and he works on the Development team on marketing, media relations, and sponsorships.


Mr. White attended Western Governors University studying in Sales and Sales Management. He is a graduate of Leadership Class 27 of Huntsville/Madison County Leadership . He serves on several boards including Executive board for Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance Foundation Board of Trustees, Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance Board, Alabama Travel Council Board, Huntsville Madison County Hospitality Association and the Madison County Career Technical Center Advisory Committee including the Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Committee.


He works within the community as a sports official refereeing football and lacrosse, serving on the board for Alabama Lacrosse Officials Association. As well as a baseball coach in Madison Baseball Association and football coach in Tennessee Valley Youth Football Association. He is married to Michele White, 3rd grade Teacher at Heritage Elementary in Madison. They have two sons, Nick and Jack.