From a group of dedicated search and rescue volunteers to a humanitarian chef, an eclectic group of business owners and organizations were recognized Thursday at the fourth annual Rim Country Business Awards.
Some 170 business leaders, residents and elected officials gathered at the First Church of the Nazarene to celebrate those who exemplify exceptional business excellence and service to the community even in challenging economic times.
After completing 52 rescue missions last year, totaling up more than 2,300 hours of volunteer time, it is no wonder that Tonto Rim Search and Rescue took the top honor in the non-profit category with one or no paid employees.
TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle said volunteers put in 2,000 training hours in 2009 and are dedicated to serving the Rim Country at a moment’s notice.
In the non-profit category, with two or more paid employees, Gila Community College swept the category as the only nominee. Moderator Cameron Davis said GCC has 2,500 students, 110 employees and offers 419 courses. Last year, nine associate degrees were handed out and in the fall, the school is doubling the size of the nursing program to 20 students.
In the Small Business of the Year category, Plant Fair Nursery was recognized after 27 years in business. Last year, when the town’s Christmas tree died unexpectedly, nursery owners Glen and Linda McCombs drove hundreds of miles and spent $2,500 $2,500 to pick up a new tree and plant it in Green Valley Park.
The couple said it was great to be acknowledged.
In the Large Business of the Year category, Rimside Grill and Cabins in Pine took top honors.
Owners Tamara and Steve Morken accepted the award. It was an honor to be even nominated, Steve said, obviously stunned after winning.
“I saw the list (of nominees) and never thought I’d be here,” he said. “It is hard to believe.”
This year’s award ceremony included two awards renamed to honor prominent business leaders who recently passed away..
The first, the Pat Willis Business Excellence Award, recognized National Bank of Arizona as the organization that most exemplifies the late Pat Willis’ business ethic.
“He believed in treating all customers with respect and caring,” Chamber officials said in a press release.
“He kept his door open to all customers and associates, working to meet their needs, even if it meant sending them to the competition. His motto of ‘people do business with people, not institutions’ meant that those he dealt with knew they would get the best he had to offer.”
Julie Ruttle, bank vice president, was moved to tears as she accepted the award.
“Pat was so special to us,” she said.
“I knew Pat really well and helped create this award. It meant a lot that we could win it.”
The James Young Business Person of the Year, went to Gerardo Moceri, owner of Gerardo’s Italian Bistro.
A panel of seven judges, including Davis, director of the Payson Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Economic Vitality Department; Payson Town Councilor Su Connell; PostNet owner Diane Enos; Judy Smith, with the Chamber; John Bittner, with the Ranch at Fossil Creek; Jan Parsons with the Gracie Lee Haught Children’s Memorial Fund; and author Christine Harrison selected this year’s winners.
The event’s keynote speaker Lattie Coor, president emerits of Arizona State University and chairman and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, discussed the “Arizona We Want” study, which details where Arizona residents see the state and where they would like to see it go. Read more about Coor’s findings in next week’s Roundup.
The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Northern Gila County Economic Development Corporation and the Town of Payson Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Economic Vitality Department hosted the event.