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VIA celebrates three decades

Posted: October 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Valley Industry Association past chairmen gather on stage to honor Kathy Norris, center, at the VIA 30th Anniversary Gala held at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Friday.

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In a packed ballroom, the business community gathered Friday night in tribute to the Valley Industry Association’s 30th anniversary.

Testimony to the tight-knit Santa Clarita Valley business community came in the form of 13 former presidents and chairpersons walking on stage at the Hyatt Regency Valencia to honor VIA’s 30 years of representing local businesses, including Lou Garasi, who served as chairman in 1985 and 1986, and Connie Worden-Roberts, who served as chairwoman.
Other past presidents and chairpersons in attendance included Alan Kanase (1999), Dan Goetz (2000), Denise Henderson (2001), B. J. Atkins (2002), Stella Pilarski (2003), Alan DiFatta (2004), Jorge Lopez (2005), Bill Kennedy (2006), Julie Weith (2008) and Randy Moberg (2009 and 2010).

Current Chairman Tim Burkhart and incoming 2012 Chairwoman Diana Meyer, along with Kathy Norris, president and CEO of VIA, joined the former leaders on stage in celebration of the organization’s three decades of service.

“May the next 30 years be as fruitful and productive as the last,” Burkhart said.

Norris has represented VIA for 16 of its 30 years, and many credited the president and CEO with keeping the organization going on a daily basis. She was given a special recognition award for her efforts.

“VIA has been firmly invested in the vitality of the Santa Clarita Valley,” Norris said. “VIA carries a special philosophy: to move quickly in identifying and satisfying member needs.”

Special tribute was also paid to Connie Worden-Roberts, formerly with SCV Transportation Management and originally with HR Textron, and Lou Garasi, of Gruber Systems Inc., who formed part of the original smaller group that first envisioned the need for, and created VIA back in 1981. Both Worden-Roberts and Garasi received a Founder’s Award for their efforts.

Mayor Marsha McLean opened the ceremony by presenting VIA with a certificate from the city in honor of the organization’s anniversary. Also on hand to do the same were representatives for Congressman Buck McKeon, state Sens. Sharon Runner and Tony Strickland, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

Also honored at the formal gala were companies that have supported VIA with employees of those organizations serving multiple terms over the years.

Honored with a Legacy of Leadership Award was Gruber Systems Inc., a founding organization and strong supporter of VIA. Three former presidents and chairmen, Lou Garasi, Alan Kanase and Bill Kennedy hailed from Gruber.

Also acknowledged with a Legacy of Leadership Award was Southern California Edison, which became a member early in VIA’s history. Since 1983, the utility company has actively supported VIA’s education efforts through a $25,000 grant for the Connecting to Success program, as well as sponsor support for the VIA business-to-business industry show for the last several years. Denise Henderson and Ernie Villegas of Southern California Edison served as VIA chairpersons.

A group of some 20 companies located in the Valencia Industrial Center came together in 1981 to advocate for transportation improvements in the center.

At the time, only a single road led in and out of the area. And that one road was reserved only for official vehicles in the event of responding to an emergency, virtually trapping business owners and employees during an emergency situation.

After experiencing fires that erupted in the area and knowing the region sits on the San Andreas Fault, the companies banded together to successfully secure an extension of Avenue Scott, connecting it to a main thoroughfare, allowing industrial-park residents and employees a secondary route for entering and exiting the area.

The team of companies later formed the nonprofit organization, VIA, which three decades later is still advocating for the many businesses in once was solely a manufacturing region. Today, the industrial park is home to a wide range of prospering businesses.

The ballroom full of members from the local business community were on hand to watch a video tribute to VIA’s 30 year history.

“VIA’s 30th anniversary celebration was a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase our rich history and to highlight the key individuals significant to our success,” Norris said.

“VIA was honored that so many of our past, present and future leaders were in attendance at the event as well,” she said.

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