CCDA event held to honor Gray

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Industry and community leaders from across the county gathered at the Five Points Farm vineyard Wednesday to celebrate Valerie Gray for her service as the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) Director for the past 25 years.
“I’m extremely humbled that this many people showed up,” Gray said during the dinner.

The event was held after Gray announced her retirement from the CCDA during the summer. Chris Busby, who has served as assistant director under her, has taken on the leadership role. Many community members were invited to honor Gray as she passed the reins over. 

During the dinner, Bubsy also announced the recipient of the annual Manufacturer of the Year award as Mr. ICE, one of Chambers County’s first food and beverage manufacturers and owner and Gray’s brother Mickey Givorns.

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“From $220,000 in sales in 2003 to over $3.5 million just last year, this is a true success story for a company that was homegrown started by Mr. Michael Givorns and Shelvie Givorns and now run by Mikey Gibbons,” Busby said. 

Busby also announced the award would now be called the Valerie Gray Manufacturer of the Year award.

Busby and Board President Bruce Emfinger thanked Gray for all she has done. Busby said Gray excelled as a boss for the same reason that she excelled as an economic developer.

“She was a great leader and catered to the needs of our employees. And she did that when she was dealing with companies. She knew what companies needed to hear. She knew how to close the deal,” Busby said. “And to sit there and watch her do that was one of the best things.”

“Valerie, thank you for what you’ve done for our community and for our county,” Emfinger said.

Gray said her goal as the CCDA director was to create a competent and effective staff. She mentioned each of her employees. 

“There’s not a better team to sell our community,” she said. “And I encourage all of you elected officials and local people here to hold on to hope and to support our staff members and support the people that are working tirelessly to bring jobs and opportunity and help our businesses expand in Chambers County.”

Alabama Representative Debbie Wood, Representative Bob Fincher and Senator Randy Price presented a resolution commending Gray for her professional achievements after 25 years of service.  

Throughout her time at the CCDA, Gray made many impactful contributions to the county’s industries. According to the resolution, Gray has gained national international companies for Chambers County. 

Since 2009, Chambers County has led the nation with a 72.1% reduction in the unemployment rate. In the last 10 years, the county has gained 16 industrial projects involving nearly $1 billion in capital investment and over 3,500 jobs. 

Gray was also the 2019 recipient of the David R. Eccles Distinguished Service Award for service to Alabama’s economic development. According to Wood, Gray is the first economic developer from a rural county to win the award.

“Therefore, be it resolved that Valerie Gray is very highly honored and commended on the occasion of her retirement as executive director of the Chambers County Development Authority,” Wood said, reading from the resolution. 

Many local industries including Kia, John Soules Foods and others were present for the event. Emfinger and Busby thanked the representatives for their support of the community.

“Existing industries are the lifeblood of our community,” Busby said. “The majority of our investment of our job creation throughout the history is existing industry. One of my goals has always been to foster and to provide a lot of support for existing industries.”