CELEBRATING EXCELLENCE: CHAMBER AWARDS HONOR COMMUNITY LEADERS
The much heralded revitalization of the Lewiston-Auburn community is being led by an ever more robust business community that has been creating and preserving jobs, nurturing fellow entrepreneurs, supporting the civic infrastructure of L-A, and helping make the Androscoggin Chamber the most dynamic business organization in Maine.
The Ray Geiger Award, named in honor of the brother who first brought Geiger Brothers to Lewiston and who became a tireless community advocate, has often been conferred on people who have had close connections to the Chamber and have served the organization in various capacities. Few people have demonstrated longer or more substantive support of the Chamber than this year’s recipient of this prestigious award, Larry Raymond of the law firm of Isaacson and Raymond. Engaged in active service with the Chamber for nearly half a century, Raymond first served as chair of the Chamber board from 1967-1969, then again for three more terms between 1999-2005, followed by continued service on the Regional Image Committee.
The Business Leadership Award for a larger company will be presented to Carbonite. Ranked 51st Fastest Growing Company in North America on Deloitte’s 2012 Technology Fast 500(TM), an international leader in providing backup protection for computer data, Carbonite has recovered more than 7 billion potentially lost files. Less than two years ago, the company chose Lewiston as home for its customer service center, bringing back to America scores of jobs that had previously been filled in India. The company employs more than 350 people and has been the recipient of numerous regional, national, and international honors since its founding in 2010.
There will be two Business Leadership Awards for smaller companies. The first will be presented to Next Level Business Coaching and Kurk Lalemand. Dedicated to helping clients grow and prosper, Lalemand has twice been declared “Coach of the Year,” by the Professional Business Coaches Alliance of Canton Ohio, the only individual ever to have been a multiple recipient of his industry’s highest recognition. Lalemand has been a staunch advocate for the Chamber and has served as board chair. The second will be conferred on Katahdin Studio Furniture and John Stass. Since 1997, they have created handcrafted hardwood furniture for the music room, the home, churches, museums, libraries, etc., for some of America’s best known musicians and celebrities including such notable figures as Melissa Etheridge and the late Andy Griffith. Since 2000, they have been located at the top of the historic Hill Mill, in Lewiston.
Two Community Service Leadership Awards will be presented again this year, further reflecting the scope of exceptional contributions to the quality of life in L-A. The first will be given to Rita Dube for her extraordinary efforts to establish the Franco American Heritage Center as a premiere performance venue in Lewiston-Auburn and as a great place for functions of all kinds. Dube retired as the Center’s first and only director in December, in the process having helped save the historic St. Mary’s Church from the wrecking ball and facilitating millions of dollars of renovations and improvements. But the Franco Center was just the latest in a long line of civic engagements by one of the community’s most treasured leaders.
The second Community Service Award will be presented to Tree Street Youth and founders Julia Sleeper and Kim Pelletier. A program which began as a homework help program in 2005 has grown geometrically into a comprehensive center for downtown young people to get help with their studies, apply for post-secondary schools, and generally maintain a nurturing environment. Located in the heart of downtown Lewiston at 144 Howe Street, it serves as a vibrant hub of daily youth-driven activity for 120-150 students in grades K-12 and is the only center solely focused on meeting the educational and social needs of at-risk youth.
The Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce functions at the convergence of business, education, public service, and community. At the height of awards season each year, the Chamber recognizes those whose contributions to the quality of life in our towns in the past year were among the particularly notable.
Dick Roy, of Mechanics Savings Bank, whose illustrious 30-year career in local banking and as an advisor to countless area businesses absolutely personifies the values honored by the Ken Additon Small Business Advocate Award. The award has been conferred annually since 2004 to those who best embody Additon’s unique spirit and dedication to his clients. Additon was a great friend to the Chamber and the small business community, and all past recipients of this award have cited Additon’s inspiration as the source of their own motivation.
Auburn’s innovative alternative education high school is among the most successful programs of its kind anywhere in the country. It has been a model of transformation for young people at potential risk, helping them transition into productive adult members of our community. The program is administered by principal Russ Barlow, who works directly with the business community to identify work-study opportunities for his students, and has direct personal relationships with each individual participant in this ground-breaking program, as well. Barlow is the 2013 recipient of the Chamber’s Education Award.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Chamber will present the Cool Chamber Award to an entity which has made a significant difference in reducing energy usage and preserving resources. Auburn’s Procter and Gamble – Tambrands, among the largest commercial employers in the twin cities, announced a long-term vision for environmental sustainability in 2010 and has already achieved the goal of sending zero waste to landfills.
“Having the opportunity to select those organizations or individuals I consider to be especially worthy of recognition each year is one of the greatest perks of the presidency of the Chamber,” Chip Morrison believes. This year, there will be two recipients of the President’s Award. Presented only when appropriate recipients have been identified, the first of this year’s awards will be conferred on The Vault, and owner Susan Hall. Purveyors of fine specialty wines and exceptional craft beers, Hall’s unique shop has been among the driving forces in the revitalization of Lewiston’s Lisbon Street neighborhood, and through a variety of wine and beer tastings and other special events has supported a growing list of area nonprofit and charitable efforts, as well.
The second President’s Award will be presented to Emile Clavet and Kevin Dean, founders of the innovative alternative electricity producer, Electricity Maine, which has provided a way for consumers and small businesses to save money on their electricity bills. This year they are expanding to New Hampshire and are planning several other states. The entrepreneurial team of Clavet and Dean has started more than 20 businesses in the past two decades and they have been full participants in the local business community. They are being honored for their true entrepreneurial spirit.
For the first time, the Young Professionals of the Lewiston Auburn Area (YPLAA) will present their own awards as part of the Chamber’s annual meeting program. YPLAA is a division of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and is a part of REALIZE!Maine’s statewide initiative aiming to develop a network of young people to promote and expand on professional and personal opportunities in Maine. YPLAA works to strengthen a vibrant young professional community by promoting career, social, and community development.
The first of two YPLAA awards will be presented to Travis Dow, head of sales for Uncle Andy’s Digest. In the past two years, Dow has launched the Maine Home Show, an opportunity for more than 100 vendors of home-related products and services like landscaping, pool and spa pros, insulation and weatherization, new construction and additions, window and door, kitchen and bath, lawn care equipment and power tools, generators, green and health-related products, financial and investment specialists, and much more, to exhibit to the L-A community. Dow’s other recent effort is MenusInLA.com, an online directory of local restaurants.
The second YPLAA honoree is Cam Luu, owner/operator of Wei Li Chinese restaurant, in Auburn, who was nominated for his “generosity of spirit,” and support for musicians at ELHS, the folk dance programs at Lewiston Public Library, and the Franco American Heritage Center, among others. Recognition of his dedication to the support of the cultural development of his adopted home community comes despite Luu’s largely anonymous efforts in the course of the past 10 years.
The 2012 Chamber’s New Member of the Year award will be presented Revelation Massage, whose mission is “to increase the wellness of individuals and communities.” The mission is accomplished by delivering high-quality, customized, and user-friendly massage therapy to its clients, and the commitment to community outreach initiatives include offering education to the local community, and supporting the arts, education, and health organizations through financial support and outreach initiatives. In their first year of operation, owner Kim Jacques has been an active member of The Chamber Regional Image Committee and an ambassador at almost every single Chamber event over the past year.
Part of the vitality of the L-A community is that it is the service center anchor of a larger civic and business community, and the Chamber annually recognizes outstanding regional business leadership as well.
The 2013 Poland Business Award will be presented to Jones Associates, state-licensed and nationally certified professional foresters, licensed surveyors, wetland biologists, and individuals trained and experienced in erosion control techniques and all facets of mitigation design. The newest program in the firm’s 20-year history has been the formation of an environmental restoration services division which uses specialized equipment to implement restoration and mitigation/compensation projects.
The Lisbon Business Award will be presented to Benoit’s Bakery and Wine Cellar. Specialists in the creation of artisan cakes, breads, and pastries, Benoit’s unique wine cellar offers a selection of more than 500 bottles, along with a consultation service to help facilitate exactly the right choice. Nick Benoit’s goal was to create “a great classic feel combined with a nostalgic atmosphere.”
The Turner Business Award will be presented to Ricker Hill Orchards, which has been growing apples for 10 generations, since 1803. Donuts, pies, a corn maze; school tours and other kids’ activities, and an on-site disc golf course, are all part of the total experience, but the orchards have always been about apples – modern, heirloom, specialty, and traditional Maine crops. In the mid 1990s, Ricker expanded into cranberry cultivation, an effort to diversify crops and provide another delectable, locally harvested fruit.