After all the bad news — the tumbling stock market, the sleepless nights and penny-counting days, Thursday’s 2009 Rim Country Business Awards offered local business leaders a chance to celebrate.
“This is all good news here this afternoon,” said Ken Volz, the executive director of the Northern Gila County Economic Development Corporation.
The first reward for surviving this year’s brutal business environment, besides staying open of course, was that each business nominated for an award received the highest possible score in the business challenges category.
“You have certainly faced some huge challenges,” Volz said. “This is what’s right about the business environment in Payson.”
A panel of six judges evaluated the nominated businesses on growth and performance, innovation, employee culture, community involvement, and quality of products, among other things.
And the winners are:
Small Business of the Year — Fossil Creek Creamery: The Strawberry-based ranch and creamery offers hikes and tours. “About five years ago I was sitting at Kevin’s (Dick) house and told him about a dream. He said you’ve got to go for it and we did,” said owner John Bittner.
Large Business of the Year — Tonto Basin Marketplace: Offers Tonto Basin residents a place to shop without driving to Payson, takes food orders when floodwaters trap community members, provides banking services and also accepts UPS and FedEx packages for residents.
Business Person of the Year — Ray Pugel of Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty: “This isn’t just mine,” Pugel said, adding that his wife works alongside him.
Business Excellence Award — Vita-Mart: Offers local, grass-fed meats, organic produce and vitamins. “For me, it’s pretty special to make a living in my hometown,” said co-owner BJ Bollier.
Award for Service Excellence — Kevin Dick Investments & Financial Services: “I especially want to thank my team,” Dick said, adding that most of his employees are active in the community.
Small Business Advocate Award — Small Business Development Center at Gila Community College. “Ron (Nielsen) couldn’t be here today, but he works so hard to help small-business owners and potential small-business owners,” said representative Erin Fitt.