By Jessica Vaughn

FOLEY – Tommy Rachel has been named the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s 44th Walton M. Vines Free Enterprise Person of the Year.

“The people of Baldwin County have helped me tremendously as far as taking their time, their wisdom, and their experiences and sharing them with me, and I can’t thank them enough for the time that they spent and the ear that they gave me when I needed one,” said Rachel. “It’s an honor to be recognized like this, especially with the [past recipients] on this list. I’ve always had lots of respect for all of them and admired them tremendously, and to be part of that is a true honor.”

The Walton M. Vines Free Enterprise Person of the Year was created as a way to recognize someone in the community who exemplifies the spirit of free enterprise. Award recipients are nominated based on being an active part of the business community and civic affairs, must have good moral character and be committed to helping others grow.

“It’s been said that [Tommy Rachel] encompasses all that is good in our South Baldwin home,” said 2019 Free Enterprise Recipient Perry Hand. “Caring for the community, working tirelessly and selflessly behind the scenes to make it a better place to live, work and play. [Tommy] is the epitome of an entrepreneur, having owned and operated a successful business in Foley for a number of years, volunteering countless hours with local schools and businesses, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for both the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce … If he believes in it, you better believe that the world around him is going to benefit from his work and what he has done.”

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Rachel began by owning a local information/technology business. In 2003 he obtained a pilot license and began Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company. He was largely instrumental in the creation of the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival and continues to be heavily involved in the event each year.

“He encompasses strength, honor, integrity, tenacity, and salt of the earth genuineness,” said Hand. “He has significantly impacted Foley as a business owner, leader, and citizen.”

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