The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce hosted its Annual Awards Banquet Thursday evening at the Family Life Center of the First United Methodist Church. The group of 200 people in attendance gathered to honor winners of the annual awards — Industry of the Year, Agribusiness of the Year, Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and the Community Service Award — voted on by the entire Berrien County Chamber of Commerce.
“The Berrien County Chamber of Commerce is only as strong as its members,” said Hiram Griffin, past chair of the Chamber Board.
There are 243 chamber members which is an increase of 40 members since 2010.
“We expect to top that next year,” said Griffin.
Industry of the Year went to Petroflex, a Texas based manufacturer of high density polyethylene duct and accessories for the telecommunications, electric-utility and cable television industries.
“I’m very, very proud of this company,” said
presenter General John Folkerts (retired), with WF & Associates and retiree of the United States Air Force.
“Petroflex currently has 23 full time employees at the Berrien County plant which runs three shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Agribusiness of the Year was awarded to Farm Bureau who works to represent the producers of food and fiber which works to maintain a safe and abundant food supply and a strong economic base for the nation.
“We try to promote what would be good for Berrien County,” said Tim McMillan, Farm Bureau representative.
The Chamber had such a difficult time picking just one Business of the Year, they awarded two--Mike Burch Ford and Berrien County Hospital.
“There are over 450 businesses in Berrien County,” said presenter Paul Hamilton of Hamilton & Perryman Attorneys at Law. “It was hard for the board to pick just one.”
According to Hamilton, Ford has a long standing history in Berrien County. The first Ford dealership opened in Berrien County in the early 1920’s. Mike Burch, who accepted the award, took ownership of the dealership in 2010.
“The name isn’t the only thing new,” said Hamilton. “The dealership has added three new employees, refurbished the body shop, and purchased a digital front end alignment system, a load bearing tire balancing machine, a tire truing machine and software to assist in used vehicle marketing.”
Berrien County Hospital has also made vast improvements to their facilities.
“Improvements have been made in almost every department including the nurse’s station, reception area, emergency room and patient rooms,” said Hamilton. “Berrien County Hospital is a rural community hospital providing state of the art healthcare.”
After CFO of Berrien County Hospital, Stephanie Fletcher, accepted her award, Griffin made a tearful and heart-felt remark.
“That’s the reason I’m here today, because of the staff in that hospital,” said Griffin.
Julie Jones, owner of Arts of Fire, was honored with Entrepreneur of the Year. Arts of Fire is a paint your own pottery shop which also offers gourmet food items, fresh fruit from Southern Grace Farms and a gift shop with handbags and accessories.
“Arts of Fire has attracted an out of town following as well as local patrons,” said presenter Phyllis Boyd of the Berrien County Farm Bureau.
Although all of the awards that were presented Thursday night were honorable, the only award which received a standing ovation was the Community Service Award which was given to Betty Dupree of Health Care Advocates. Dupree helps provide support to people who are in need of medicine, transportation to doctor’s appointments, food and countless other needs.
“Mrs. Betty has a heart of gold and a tireless desire to help those in real need,” said presenter Mellisa Watson of Watson’s Pools & Patios.
The Chamber Board also presented a special honor to Crissy Staley, Executive Director of the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce. Staley was named to the Top 40 Under 40 in Georgia Trend magazine. However, Staley did not want to take all the credit for the chamber’s abundant success.
“This has certainly not been the Crissy show,” said Staley.
Staley feels that nothing could have been accomplished without the support of the board and the dedicated chamber members.
At the end of the banquet, Griffin, 2010-2011 Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors, stepped down to his successor, General John Folkerts (retired), who will serve as the 2012 Chairman of the Berrien County Board of Directors.