Chamber presents awards at annual meeting

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LEWISTON — Members of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce celebrated innovation, cultural heritage, and leadership in community, business and education at their awards banquet Thursday night.

About 450 area business leaders gathered at the Ramada Conference Center for the 125th annual meeting. Chamber President Chip Morrison called it “the largest single celebration of excellence in our communities.”

The honors included Turner Business Award winner Ricker Hill Orchards, which has been operated by the same family since 1803, as well as a couple of new enterprises, including the Lisbon Business Award winner, Benoit’s Bakery and Wine Cellar. Susan Hall, owner of The Vault, a one-year-old wine and craft beer establishment in Lewiston, received a President’s Award.

A second President’s Award was given to Kevin Dean and Emile Clavet, founders of the innovative alternative electricity producer, Electricity Maine.

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Another recipient of honors was Carbonite, a newcomer to Lewiston which brought scores of jobs that had been filled in India. That firm is ranked as the 51st fastest growing company in North America by Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500. It provides backup protection for computer data.

Less than two years ago, the company chose Lewiston as home for its customer service center. Carbonite won a Business Leadership Award.

In the video presentations which accompanied the evening’s awards, it was announced that Carbonite has plans in the works “for a large expansion in the future.”

The chamber’s prestigious Ray Geiger Award was given to Larry Raymond of the law firm of Isaacson and Raymond for his long and substantive support of the chamber. Engaged in active service with the chamber for nearly half a century, Raymond first served as chairman of the chamber board from 1967 to 1969, then again for three more terms between 1999-2005, followed by continued service on the Regional Image Committee. He is a former mayor of Lewiston.

For the first time, the Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area presented their own awards as part of the chamber’s program. YPLAA is a division of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce.

The first of two YPLAA awards went 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. Another of Dow’s recent endeavors is MenusInLA.com, an online directory of local restaurants.

The second YPLAA honoree was Cam Luu, owner and operator of Wei Li Chinese restaurant in Auburn. He was recognized for his “generosity of spirit” and support for musicians at Auburn’s Edward Little High School, the folk dance programs at Lewiston Public Library, and the Franco-American Heritage Center, among others.

The chamber’s 2012 New Member of the Year award went to Kim Jacques and Revelation Massage in Auburn.

Jones Associates received the Poland Business Award. The firm consists of 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.

In addition to Carbonite, Business Leadership Awards went to Kurk Lalemand of Next Level Business Coaching, and to John Stass, whose Katahdin Studio Furniture produces handcrafted hardwood furniture for the music room, the home, churches, museums, and libraries. It also makes furniture for some of America’s best known musicians and celebrities, including such notable figures as Melissa Etheridge and the late Andy Griffith.

Rita Dube received Community Leadership Recognition for her extraordinary efforts to establish the Franco-American Heritage Center as a premiere performance venue in Lewiston-Auburn. 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.

The second Community Service Award was presented to Tree Street Youth and founders Julia Sleeper and Kim Sullivan. It began as a homework help program in 2005 and has grown into a comprehensive center for downtown Lewiston young people to get help with their studies, apply for post-secondary schools, and generally maintain a nurturing environment.

The Ken Addition Small Business Advocate Award was presented to Dick Roy of Mechanics Savings Bank in recognition of his 30-year career in local banking.

Russ Barlow, principal of Auburn’s innovative alternative education high school, was honored with the Education Leadership Award.

The Cool Chamber Award went to Proctor & Gamble-Tambrands for its extensive recycling efforts.

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