“One of the most fun parts of this job,” said Chip Morrison, the long-time (and out-going) president of The Chamber, “is that we never run out of people and businesses that deserve to be recognized and honored. We are really fortunate to have such a wonderful collection of fabulous corporate citizens. Our annual awards are a great opportunity to focus on just a few.”

The Ray Geiger Award recognizes how deeply its namesake, the founder of Geiger Brothers, cared for his adopted hometown, and this year’s recipient, Patti Gagne of the Patti Gagne Allstate Agency, exemplifies exactly that spirit. Past chair of The Chamber board of directors, Gagne has been involved in chamber leadership for more than a decade, was a candidate for state senate in 2014, and has throughout been among the most ardent cheerleaders on behalf of the Lewiston-Auburn community, reflecting both the primary role of The Chamber as well as Ray Geiger’s personal commitment.

The Business Leadership Award for a larger company will be presented to Thayer Corp., a major Auburn-based specialty contractor that has been providing Maine with a wide range of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and refrigeration solutions since 1981. Recognized several years ago as the best commercial HVAC&R contractor in the U.S., according to Contractor Magazine, Thayer specializes in design/build projects and performs all trade functions in-house. The company has been the recipient of numerous awards, has provided nationwide peer training and has contributed to the industry knowledge base.

CEO Dan Thayer holds several patents and has been personally engaged with numerous civic initiatives and associations, including leadership positions with the Auburn Business Corp. and LAEGC. The company was ranked among the Best Places to Work in Maine in 2014.

A second Business Leadership Award will be presented to Payroll Management, of Auburn, a family-owned company led by Gary Hemenway. Hemenway founded the company in 1989 and it is now one of the largest independent payroll companies in Maine. Understanding the need for small and mid-size businesses to remain nimble, Payroll Management provides custom reports and flexible services. The company has been experiencing significant growth including an expansion a year ago into central and southern New Hampshire.

A Business Leadership Award for a smaller company will be presented to New Auburn’s iconic Rolly’s Diner, and owner Ken Blais. There is no better description of this local institution than a recent YELP review: “Fantastic little diner with a charming old town atmosphere … it’s open early, and generally packed with locals who clearly know where the good stuff is. It’s not a big place, and feels old fashioned in all the good ways … Wait staff is always friendly, quick to get your order through, and the portions are generally massive enough to fill the most hungry bellies.”

For the past 34 years, much of the economic character of Auburn, and indeed of the entire Lewiston-Auburn community, has been shaped by Roland Miller, recipient of the 2015 Public Service Leadership Award, and Auburn’s Director of Economic Development.

One of the most visible and active public faces of the city, Miller has represented Auburn on numerous boards, committees and associations, and he has been instrumental in the development of the Port of Auburn intermodal transportation facility near the airport, several business and industrial parks, and the retail mall district that has become a magnet for consumers from throughout central and western Maine. At the same time, he has helped preserve the historic buildings and streetscape of downtown Auburn and is helping position the community for the diverse economy of the 21st century.

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