Callahan taking over as chamber chairman

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/31/17

Jasper auto businessman Kevin Callahan capped off a successful 2017 by preparing to take over for 2018 as chairman of the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.

Callahan, 56, was recently named …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

Callahan taking over as chamber chairman


Jasper auto businessman Kevin Callahan capped off a successful 2017 by preparing to take over for 2018 as chairman of the board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.

Callahan, 56, was recently named one of 14 winners of the Vulcan Award in Birmingham, in his case for community service rendered by someone who moved into the area.

While cleaning off a vehicle at his first local dealership, Honda of Jasper, on Thursday, Callahan talked about his new duties, saying that he takes over on Jan. 1. He said chamber president Linda Lewis needs someone to help her when she requests help — but to trust her and let her take the lead when she does what she knows to do.

“I think my goals for the year will be to assist Linda. Linda does a spectacular job of representing the Jasper area and the chamber of commerce. She has won just about every award in the state for what she does. So what my job is to assist her in any way I can,” he said. “I’m going to let her direct me more than me directing her.”

He said the goals of the chamber have been the same since the Forward Walker County program was started, something he has been involved with. The campaign, which started about five years ago has raised $1 million in commitments from the business community for economic and retail development. He said that program is now concluding.

“We’ll have to plan what is next after that,” he said, noting the goals of the program had been to improve tourism, economic development and retail growth. Those goals will still be included in the primary mission of the chamber, including the fishing tournaments and other activities the chamber carries out.

Callahan said between the different initiatives locally, including Jasper Main Street and the Jasper Downtown Association, as well as different retail developments in recent years, the area is moving in the right direction. He pointed to Walker County’s unemployment rate for November was 3.9 percent, “which says we’re moving in the right direction.” He said the Yorozu plant is up to between 125 to 145 jobs, with the goal of getting the plant to 300 to 350 workers.

“We have areas where we still have opportunity. There is no question,” he said. “What we want to do more than anything is to replace a $9 (an hour) job with a $12 (an hour) job, and $12 (an hour) jobs with $15 (an hour) jobs. That’s where we will see the true real strong economic development. That is what the Yorozu’s and the HTNA’s and all of those bring to the table.”

Asked for what areas he would like to work in during the coming year, he noted he likes to work with anything sales related that involves going one-on-one with people.

“Jasper Mall, if I were to throw something out, that would be a huge win, if we can find somebody, some more anchors to come into the Jasper Mall,” he said. “The mall business is a tough business, but I still think there is some economic upside of what can be done with the Jasper Mall. If we got something in there this year that would stabilize that, that would be a huge win for the community because that is a big taxpayer and employer.”

Callahan said he looked forward to work with volunteers for the chamber. He said people who volunteer on such boards as the chamber’s board of directors give much time to their efforts.

“We can’t ever thank them enough for what they do with no pay,” he said. “They all have a huge passion for this area to be successful.”

In a recent interview concerning the Vulcan Award that, Callahan said he and two other partners bought the Jasper Honda dealership in December 2009. Two years later, the partners opened up Hyundai of Jasper. Callahan serves on the Hyundai National Dealer Council and is president of the Hyundai Dealer Association.

Callahan, who moved his family to Jasper in 2010, has a broad participation in community service. He is the president of Musgrove Country Club and has chaired the United Way drive twice and the annual Boy Scout fundraising.

He has been a board director for the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County for a number of years, as well as the Jasper Industrial Development Board, the Beacon House Board of Directors and the Walker Area Community Foundation Board. As the fundraising chairman for the Rotary Club of Jasper, he launched the annual Rotary Club Trivia Night. He is also the St. Cecilia Catholic Church Finance Council chairman.

He has also supported the arts by underwriting community concerts like Birmingham Smooth Jazz at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center amphitheater.

He and his wife of 32 years, Pam, have two grown children, Daniel and Katie, in Memphis. Mrs. Callahan is on the Jasper Main Street Board of Directors and the Walker Area Community Foundation’s Grant Review Committee, as well as serving as president of the Walker County Arts Alliance.