HEBRON — At the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and awards ceremony Saturday, the owner of Oxford Plains Speedway and chairman of the Maine Red Claws reminded Oxford Hills business leaders to remember the good things about doing business in Maine.
“It’s a small state. You have connections,” William Ryan Jr. said. He said when he was working to start up the Maine Red Claws, he heard a lot of negativity about the possibility of starting a basketball team in Maine. Ryan said he was able to call Gov. John Baldacci, who supported the venture.
While Ryan acknowledged the bureaucracy entrepreneurs can face, he said the flip side is that officials are accessible. “We have personal connections with our government officials,” that don’t exist in larger states, Ryan said.
Ryan, one of the night’s two keynote speakers at the Lepage Center for the Arts at Hebron Academy, owns the Oxford Plains Snow Tubing Park, Oxford Plains Fun Park and the Outdoor Adventure Center in Bethel.
The second speaker, Dick Berggren, is the founder and editor of Speedway Illustrated Magazine, and the chief announcer for Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage. He told the story of his rise from a kid who graduated near the bottom of his high school class and wanted to be a stock car racer.
He said that after scoring high on an Air Force aptitude test, he started attending college classes so he could later get a job that allowed him to own and race stock cars. His journey led to his getting a doctorate and becoming a college professor before taking a job as the editor of a motor sports magazine, and eventually founding his own magazine and becoming a TV racing announcer.
He passed on a piece of advice from a book he read in college, telling business leaders to ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing now getting me where I want to go?”
Rightstart, which runs Christmas for Kids, Christmas for Teens, The Coat Room and other programs, won the chamber’s Community Service Award.
In his introduction, Rev. Don Mayberry of the First Congregational Church in Paris said Rightstart’s work was “very quiet. Very humble. It goes on behind the scenes.”
Karen Ellis, who spoke for Rightstart on Saturday, said she wished the group could finish its work and no longer be needed one day. “But the reality is, here in Oxford Hills, there are a lot of children that still need us.”
The Business of the Year award went to New Balance Footwear, which runs a factory in Norway and a store in Oxford. Factory Manager Darien Keaten accepted the award, and said the environment at New Balance was one of constant improvement.
“We’re always striving, no matter how good it is, to make it better,” he said.
Employee of the Year was Ted Moccia, principal of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. In his introduction of Moccia, Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett called Moccia the “Mount Rushmore of Oxford Hills” and complimented him on his hard work. It was Moccia’s second major award in 2011, after the Maine Principals’ Association named him Principal of the Year.
Moccia said there were a lot of great people who helped him. “I really do believe I have the best job in the world,” he said.
The Rising Star of the Year award went to Crazy Horse Racing, a store specializing in parts and engines for racing cars. Owners Mitch and Judy Green accepted the award. The Greens said they love their job. “It’s great, for Mitch and I finally got the opportunity to work together, in a business that we both love.”