LEWISTON — Nearly 450 area business and civic leaders honored excellence in community commerce, service and leadership at the 124th annual meeting of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.
A sold-out crowd gathered Thursday night at the Ramada Conference Center for the dinner and awards. In opening remarks, Paul Anderson of Androscoggin Bank challenged attendees to create one job in coming months. He praised the chamber for promoting job creation in many ways, and he emphasized that “everything flows through L-A” in relation to the state’s economic significance.
The chamber’s prestigious Ray Geiger Award was given to Steve Closson, recently retired president of Androscoggin Bank. He was honored for leading Androscoggin Bank as a major engine of growth in L-A.
Closson told attendees that support of the chamber should be a paramount responsibility for each of them.
Kurk Lalemand, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, was master of ceremonies. He said worldwide issues of climate, economy and conflict are presenting major challenges to even the smallest of local businesses, yet many of them meet and exceed expectations in the face of these tests.
He pointed to Jason Agren of Agren Appliance in Auburn, whose family started the business 1969 with a telephone and two repair trucks, as an example of many businesses that are “the lifeblood of our communities.”
The firm now has 49 employees and stores in five towns.
“You guys are my heroes,” he said. Agren Appliance received the chamber’s 2012 Business Leadership Award for a larger business.
The Business Leadership Award for a smaller company went to Baxter Brewing Co. The firm opened in recent months at the Bates Mill in Lewiston. It is New England’s first craft brewery in which the beer is sold in cans.
The Poland Business Award went to Pike Industries. It was founded in 1872 and under five generations of ownership it now has 35 locations throughout northern New England.
Baxter Brewing was the newest of the award recipients and Pike Industries was the firm with the longest history.
Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell was recipient of the Public Service Leadership Award, which recognized his distinguished work from his days as Officer Friendly in the schools to a recent period of appointment to the position of acting city manager.
Crowell was unable to attend the awards event. Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte accepted the award for him.
In many cases, groups of six or more employees came to the front of the banquet hall to accept awards.
One of them was Healthy Androscoggin, recipients of the Education Leadership Award.
The Ken Additon Small Business Advocate Award was given to Lewiston CareerCenter.
Art Walk Lewiston Auburn and L-A CA$H Coalition received awards for Community Service Leadership and Center Street Dental in Auburn was honored as New Member of the Year.
In recognition of its solar energy projects for area business, Industrial Roofing Companies received the Cool Chamber Award.
Two President’s Awards from chamber President Chip Morrison went to The Library Cafe at the Auburn Public Library and to Northeast Charter and Tour, of Lewiston.
Susan Stacey received the chamber’s Past Chairman award.
Nomad Pictures Inc. produced video shown before each award.
Chamber Awards slideshow