CRANBERRY TWP — THE CHAMBER of Commerce said goodbye Tuesday to its first leader and welcomed its new leader at the group's annual meeting. Executive director Susan Balla, who attended her final annual meeting, thanked her board, members, volunteers and the staff for their efforts over the past 3½ years she has served. “As I now end my time, THE CHAMBER is in good hands,” said Balla. “We're recognized as the leaders in business in the region.” She added it's good to leave on a high note with all the accomplishments THE CHAMBER has achieved in the past few years. Her replacement Rebecca Martin, a Pennsylvania native, comes from the Austin, Texas, chamber and brings a broad resume to her new post. She was chosen from 180 applicants to become president and CEO of THE CHAMBER. Martin said she looks at her appointment as an evolution, a natural progression for the business leadership group. “I stand here so excited, so terrified, so professionally energized,” said Martin, adding that she, like everyone in attendance, has a passion and commitment for THE CHAMBER and looks forward to working with the membership. Keith Colonna, a former THE CHAMBER board member, gave the annual state of the chamber presentation that showed the organization is financially sound and has a growing membership base. Its budget for the past year was $542,000 and its foundation had a budget of $105,000. Each area ended with a surplus that was put in the reserve fund. The membership grew to 976 as of December, which Colonna said was a 6.2 percent increase from the prior year. It is averaging about 80 percent of membership retention. He added THE CHAMBER had developed a number of new programs that have been successful including: Women in Business, Veteran's Task Force, Chamber Classroom, Non-Profit Conference, Cranberry Job Fair and Men in Business. THE CHAMBER also honored its business members with these annual awards: n Distinguished Business Award — First Commonwealth Bank n Prestigious Business Leader Award — Autumn Edmiston, Edmiston Group n Women Entrepreneur Excellence Award — Terri Hammond, Echo Restaurant n THE CHAMBER Young Professional of the Year Award — Lisa Hunt, USX Federal Credit Union n Veteran in Business Award — Bob DeLucia, Cranberry/Veteran's Taxi n Outstanding Volunteer Service of the Year Award— Bruce Conley, The Computer Coach Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the keynote speaker, said the region is a leader in the country in job creation and development. He cited five economic projects averaging $1 billion that have been announced in recent years. Fitzgerald pointed out these are private investments and done with no taxpayer initiatives. “Our best days are ahead of us,” he said. However, he pointed out work still needs to be done on public transportation and improving the number of flights at Pittsburgh International Airport.