RACINE — The Meigs County Chamber of Commerce and the local business community came together on Thursday evening for the annual Chamber Gala.
The annual event recognizes those who have stood out during the past year, as well as provides a recap of the activities of the chamber and what is still to come.
Each year the Chamber presents six awards — Best First Impression, Economic Impact, Entrepreneur of the Year, David P. Baker Award, Community Pillar and Lifetime Business Achievement.
The Best First Impression award went to Maple Lawn Brewery in Pomeroy which opened its doors to customers in April after purchasing and renovating a building in Pomeroy during late 2015 and early 2016.
The Economic Impact Award was presented to Imperial Electric. Nidec Corp., Imperial Electric’s parent company announced earlier this year that it would be investing $3.2 million in its Middleport location, creating 18 new jobs.
Entrepreneur of the Year was presented to Mark Porter. In presenting the award, Thoene said that in 10 years, Porter has expanded from the one location to add two others, as well as opening a new dealership in Meigs County. Porter’s dealerships in Pomeroy, Athens and Jackson now have around 105 employees.
The David P. Baker Award is presented each year to a chamber member who is a reliable source for the chamber, as well as stepping our of their comfort zone for the good of the chamber. The award for 2016 was presented to Chamber Board Member Sarah Dawn Roush.
Roush then presented the Community Pillar Award to Duane Weber. Roush explained that in 1948 the Weber family opened Quality Print Shop, where Weber continues to print many programs, invitations and other items for local sports programs, schools and event the program for Thursday’s chamber event.
But that is not all, as Weber and members of his family also have a Christmas tree farm at the old home place in Rutland. Roush said that in addition to helping families find their Christmas tree, Weber makes sure that the children all leave with candy canes.
Weber has also worked over the years to restore many items, including lockers from the former Rutland Elementary, seats from the Meigs Theater and a barbershop pole. Weber and his wife, Edna, have also worked to restore the family’s home place in Rutland where they reside. Roush called the process a “labor of love” and a way to preserve history for the younger generations.
The final award of the night was the Lifetime Business Achievement Award which was presented to Vera Crow.
At age 91, Crow remains an active member of the business community, working seven days a week at what is now KFC-Long John Silvers in Pomeroy.
Crow’s granddaughter Lindy Gilkey told the story of her grandmother’s journey that led to her receiving the award on Thursday.
Gilkey said that Crow’s work ethic began on the family’s ranch in Texas during her childhood. She went to college at 17, earning a degree in business administration in three years and meeting Tom Crow. It was then that she came to Pomeroy, raising three children.
In 1953, the Crow family opened the restaurant in Pomeroy which was known for its home-cooked food. In 1960, the restaurant joined with KFC and for the next 44 years was KFC and Crow’s.
During the years, Vera Crow worked in many aspects of the business from grilling to cleaning, and loved her daily banter with the regular customers, said Gilkey.
In 2003, the Crow family had no choice but to build the new KFC-Long John Silvers, said Gilkey.
While the family was concerned what the change would mean for Crow, Gilkey said, “even at 91 she is the heart and soul of the restaurant.”
Prior to the award presentations, Chamber President Lori Miller and Director Whitney Thoene spoke to the Wizard of Oz theme for the evening and that there is truly no place like home (in this case Meigs County).
Miller said the board includes a very diverse group who work throughout the year. “We are fortunate to have chamber members we can rely on on trust,” said Miller.
Miller spoke of the chamber members in Meigs County, listing many of the businesses,individuals and organizations, along with the goods and services they provide.
“All of these things are in Meigs County so that means there is no place like home,” concluded Miller.
Thoene reviewed the chamber’s past year, as well as what is planned for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017.
“Brains, heart and courage are never in short supply,” said Thoene of Meigs County.
Throughout the year, the chamber has been part of the 70th anniversary business after hours celebration at Swisher and Lohse, hosted the golf outing at the Meigs County Golf Course and ribbon cuttings at three businesses with a fourth scheduled for this week.
The chamber also launched the “cash mob” with its first event at Front Paige Outfitters. A second cash mob is planned for Novermber at King’s Ace Hardware. Thoene said that the events will be scheduled quarterly in 2017.
Thoene said that earlier in the week the chamber added its 100th member, a 26.5 percent increase from 2015.