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59 posts categorized "Awards"

October 27, 2012

New Chamber chair want to create entrepreneurial center

I realize it is kind of late now, a few days after the event. However, here's my piece on the annual Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce bash on Thursday. Scott Heck electricfied the room with his speech an incoming board chair.

The pic is of Heck and the chamber's omnipresent membership director Judy Braatz, who is also featured in this month's Rochester Magazine's Single in the City issue.

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His voice cracking with emotion, Scott Heck told the crowd at Thursday's annual Rochester Area Chamber Celebration about his wife's experience of being laid off and her struggles to launch her own business.

Heck recalled her calling him in 2002 to say she had been laid off. While he was apprehensive, she was excited.

Get_photo"She said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do, but I want it to be fun. Whatever I do, I want it to be my passion,'" he said.

In the end, she decided to open a floral business specializing in design with a European flair. Even though he was a leader in his RBC Wealth Management office, Heck says he didn't know where to point her for help to start a new business.

However, Pat Heck worked it out and launched Le Jardin. One of her first gigs was providing flowers for the chamber's 2002 annual meeting. Still choking with emotion, he said that this year's event marked her final night with Le Jardin. After creating a successful small business, she has sold it to one of her employees.

"Everything thing Pat (Heck) did, she did herself. She did it on her own," said Heck, pausing to gain control over his tears. "Wouldn't it be cool if there was one place for people like her to go to get their questions answered?"

As the incoming chamber board chairman, he is proposing creating just such a place. Calling his concept an entrepreneurial center, he described it to the hundreds of local business leaders.

"It'll be a place for one-stop shopping to come for the advice you need to start your own business," Heck said. "Let's get this figured out. That's my deal as this year's chair."

He pointed out that the chamber has more than 700 members that are businesses with four or less employees. An entrepreneurial center is way for the chamber to better serve those members.

"This chamber's all about you. Everything is about making life better," Heck said.

Heck's speech followed the annual presentation of business awards.

• Business of the Year: Sontes. Owner Tessa Leung, who opened the popular restaurant and wine bar at the corner of Historic Third and South Broadway in 2006, accepted the award,

• Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Mark Schleusner of Mayo Clinic won the award for his work with the chamber's STEM education initiative.

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Rochester Community and Technical College President Don Supalla.

• Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: Following a long list of his activities and accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Ken MacIver of Greenway Cooperative.

November 14, 2011

Where do you like to eat out in Rochester?

 Do you think you know best?

HogIf so, then go vote for your choice of the Med City's Manliest Meal, Best Happy Hour, Best Cup of Joe, Best Breakfast Spot, Best Steak Dinner, Best Waiter/Waitress and lots of other tasty and subjective categories in Rochester Magazine's annual Best Restaurant poll.

This annual poll decides who gets the always hotly contested titles of Best New Restaurant, The One Restaurant Rochester Needs Immediately and Rochester's Best Restaurant.

Go to this link at www.rochestermagazine.com and tell Roch Mag's Steve Lange what you think.

October 21, 2011

Roch. chamber bash 2011 wrapup - Priorities and awards

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's annual member celebration drew a big crowd Thursday as business leaders packed the Rochester International Event Center.

Outgoing Chamber board chair Melissa Brinkman of Custom Alarm handed over the reins of power to Alan De Keyrel of CWS.

Here's the story I scribbled out about the event.

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The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce's political priorities for the coming year were made clear at its annual member celebration Thursday night.

Get_photo"There is no political agenda item that we are more committed to as an organization than the passing of the extension of the local sales tax," chamber president John Wade told the crowd of business leaders filling the Rochester International Event  Center.

He said the renewal of the sales tax in November 2012 would fuel a boost to the local economy and benefit Rochester's schools, libraries, infrastructure and more.

The tens of millions of dollars generated by the tax will help leverage hundreds of millions in private sector investment, Wade said.

"Trust me, I can give you a whole list of taxes I don't like. This one is good for business," he said. "I believe in my core that this one is good for business."

To lead the drive toward the passage of the sales tax extension, the chamber is launching a new committee.

Former Rochester school superintendent Jerry Williams will be the chairman of the new group. He also was presented with the President's Award for community service.

Williams accepted both the job and the award.

"As I look out amongst the group here, there are so many of you who have given service of self to this marvelously amazing community," he said looking at the tables full of the local leaders. "To those of you who give so generously of your time, talents and efforts for this marvelous community, I share this with you. I am deeply, deeply appreciative."

While the sales tax extension tops the chamber's political wish list, the expansion of the Mayo Civic Center remains a goal, but is not a pressing one, Wade said.

"Our hospitality industry knows how important the expansion of the civic center is," he said. "But it has to be done at the right time in the right way."

While the presentation to Williams was the most dramatic of the night, it was not the only award given out.

Business of the Year: Creative Cuisine, the company behind many popular Rochester restaurants that includes Newt's, City Cafe, City Market, 300 First and the recently revived Redwood Room.

Brothers Dave and Mark Currie accepted the award.

Chamber Volunteer of the Year: Jaimi Stejskal-Kent of Broadway Residence & Suites by Bridgestreet won the award for her work with the chamber.

• The Lamp of Knowledge award: The annual award for outstanding work with education was presented to Wendy Shannon, superintendent of the Byron Public School system.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year award: After reciting her long list of accomplishments with the chamber's Ambassador program, the award went to Karen Hanson of Home Instead Senior Care.

October 14, 2011

PossAbilities honors local employers

This is a little late, because I got distracted earlier in the week by other stories like The Loop coming to Rochester and the fourth Hy-Vee store.

However, I did go to this luncheon on Tuesday (Yes, I know. That was THREE days ago. Sigh. Again sorry for being slow on this)

Anyway, here's some from my belated story slated to go into print this weekend.

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Employing people with disabilities is not just good the employees, but it is a benefit to the businesses, say the winners of the annual PossAbilities Employer awards.

On Tuesday, Rochester-based PossAbilities honored some of the businesses that employ its disabled clients at its award luncheon.

PossAbilities is a non-profit United Way agency serving individuals with disabilities. It provides services and programs for hundreds of Olmsted County residents.

When Spencer Burton of the Pine Island Greenway convenience store accepted the Joseph Fitzpatrick Guide Award for his work with PossAbilities client, he said that he is the one who is inspired by his co-worker.

"Jay is committed 35886_138736896137121_138720579472086_400651_4776597_nevery single day," Burton said of his employee. "He is always ready to work."

Jay said he feels very comfortable working at the Pine Island Greenway and he enjoys meeting all of the customers.

That was not Greenway Cooperative's only appearance on the awards stage.

Greenway’s General Manager Tim Clemens accepted the John Ellingson Summit Award as the top PossAbilities employer of the year. Greenway employs PossAbilities workers at three of its locations in the area.

"Not only do we support employing people with disabilities, but we are rewarded by employing people with disabilities," Clemens told the audience gathered in the downtown Doubletree hotel.

PossAbilities Executive Director John Flanders says the organization's value is increasing as finding workers becomes more difficult.

“As we come closer to the looming workforce shortage, PossAbilities is strategically placed to be a reliable supplier of excellent workers for local businesses," he stated.

Another example of PossAbilties positive impact on the lives of its clients and the businesses to which it provides employees was Alex Ward.

Ward, who works for Rochester's south Walmart store, won the PossAbilities Explorer Award.

The Explorer award honors a person with a disability who has demonstrated an incredible work ethic during the past year. It is the most eagerly anticipated award among the PossAbilities clients.

Ward, who takes care of the shopping carts in the parking lot, made an impression by asking his manager for information of where departments were inside the store.

When asked why he wanted to know, he said that shoppers often asked him in the parking lot where to find something specific within in the store. Ward wanted to be able to answer their questions and provide better service.

An emotional Lawrence Ward, Alex's father, told the crowd as he accepted the award on his son’s behalf that the job had made a huge difference in Alex's life.

June 24, 2011

Halcyon days at Halcon

I think it is really interesting that a significant percentage of the highest end furniture in big corporate offices on both coasts and everywhere else was made in Olmsted County.

Two of the top competitors in that niche are based right here - Tuohy in Chatfield and Halcon in Stewartville.

I wrote about a new product line from Tuohy in Thursdays column and today I followed that with a piece about Halcon winning a top industry award and expanding its Stewartville plant.

The slow bounce back of the corporate office market is good for both of those companies and for two local communities.

Here's some from my piece today on Halcon. The full deal is in today's print edition.

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These are sunny days, even halcyon days, at Halcon in Stewartville.

As the high-end office furniture maker gears up for an expansion to accommodate its growth, its new product line won top honors at the industry's most prestigious show.

Earlier this month, Halcon's new Motus Collection of transformable executive tables, cabinet and accessories won the Best of Competition Award at NeoCon World’s Trade Fair 2011.

Motus table "It is a really big achievement," says Executive Vice President Ben Conway.

 The conference, the largest of its kind in the United States, is where companies such as Steelcase and Herman Miller show off their new office furniture designs.

"It's where everybody goes to compete," he says. "We're just this small company in Stewartville competing against billion-dollar corporations."

Halconmotus1 Halcon's new Motus Collection was named the best out of all of the 325 new products on display at the show.
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These awards put the cherry on the top of what Conway describes as "a huge rebound year" for Halcon.

After picking up many new contracts, the manufacturer plans to add to its workforce of more than 200 people.

And Halcon is about ready to break ground on a new 12,000-square-foot expansion expected to be finished by October.

June 03, 2011

Roch. native named 'Person of Year'

One of Rochester's very own has has been named Person of the Year 2011 by the Webbys, the online techno Oscars.

The twist is that the winner of this award, which has been given to Roger Ebert, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Cobert in recent years, is not an actual "person."

It just acts like one on TV.

The Webby person of the year is Watson, IBM's "Jeopardy" winning computer.

WatsonIBM1 Watson is comprised of 10 refrigerator-sized racks filled with 90 Power 750 servers built in Rochester. In February, Big Blue's Watson cleaned the clocks of the two best-ever Jeopardy players.

And it even weathered Alex Trebeck's gentle jabs on the rare occassions it missed a question.

It isn't clear if Watson will attend the award ceremony on June 13 to receive its honor from host Lisa Kudrow.

January 20, 2011

Business events TONIGHT

Here's a quick reminder about business networking as well as an award program tonight in Rochester.

Business After Hours, the monthly Rochester Area Chamber networking night, is slated from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastwood Bank is hosting the event at its 1625 U.S. 14 East. This is the branch near Big Lots.

Workforce Development, Inc. is hosting an awards program tonight to honor eight southeasthern Minnesota business as qualifying for their Best Places to Work designation.

Companies in the Fewer than 100 Employees Category
IBI Data, Brownsdale
LarsonAllen LLP, Austin
POET Biorefining, Preston
Commercial Water Distributing, Zumbrota

Companies in the Over 100 Employees Category
Olmsted Medical Center, Rochester
Pearson, Owatonna
Mrs. Gerry's Kitchen, Albert Lea
The Bergquist Company, Cannon Falls

December 20, 2010

Small Houston hotel named best in state

When John and Eileen Loken walked in the conference center in the Twin Cities last week, leaders of the biggest, most expensive hotels in the state surrounded them.

“We felt like the country cousins going up there from Houston (Minn.),” says John Loken.

It is a safe bet that most of the executives at the Minnesota Lodging Association’s annual meeting couldn’t have found the small town of Houston on a state map. However, by the end of the night they knew about Houston and its small hotel, Loken's Sawmill Inn & Suites.

The Lokens won the association’s Property of the Year award for hotels with 50 rooms or less. With its mere 14 rooms, Loken’s Sawmill is the smallest hotel to ever win the award.

“It felt pretty special. There you are being honored by all of these big hotels,” says Loken. “It was real exciting to win, since we’re new to this.”

Actually, Loken is probably best known in the area for his many years selling used cars at Clements Chevrolet in Rochester. After he left the car business, he and his wife moved to John’s hometown of Houston. There they bought the land where his grandfather’s sawmill had once stood along Highway 16, on the east side of the town.

At the time, a car wash was on the site and they ran that business for a while.

Then in 2005, the Lokens noticed that Houston was attracting many hunters, autumn leaf spotters, snowmobilers and others to the head of the Root River Trail.

“We saw a need for some lodging and we just took a chance,” says Loken.

So they tore down the car wash and built their small inn.

Now five years after opening, he says the homey hotel is really coming into its own.

Staffed by six plus the Lokens, it has been running at about 45 percent occupancy this year logging about 2,300 room nights in 2010.

“It has had an impact on the Houston economy,” he says, noting people spend more time and money in the town now that visitors have a place to stay,

When asked what made the Sawmill Inn stand out from the six other nominated hotels, Denny Breamer of the Minnesota Lodging Association said the drive they had to build this hotel themselves and work to make the business grow.

Positive customer reviews plus attractive and clean rooms helped the Sawmill cut through the competition.

So the “country cousins” ended up with a night in the spotlight and their urban peers learned a little about the geography of southeast Minnesota.

September 30, 2010

Mayo Clinic lands $9.87M fed contract

Here's a tidbit I just noticed:

800px-Gonda_building,_closer_up
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 -- Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., won a $9,867,850 federal contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., for the development of a population genetics analysis program.

I have a call into Mayo Clinic to find out the details on this. I know $9.87 million is not a big number for a Mayo contract, but I'm interested in what "a population genetics analysis program" is.

August 26, 2010

Research grant to bring $12M stimulus money into Roch.

Here's some from a piece I have in today's paper. The full article is in the print edition:

A new five-year study into human immune system responses to vaccines is expected to bring more than $12 million in stimulus money to Rochester.

Poland Mayo Clinic is one of six medical centers that were will share  a $100 million research grant. Mayo's Dr. Greg Poland will lead the work at the six sites.

"We know grossly how it (a vaccine) works, but nobody can explain to you very well what is actually happening at the genetic and molecular level," Poland says. "What we're essentially doing is reverse engineering the immune system."

Using technology that wasn’t available even a year or two ago, the plan is to study patient reactions to vaccines for influenza, pneumococcus and the West Nile virus.

Flu patients between the ages of 50 to 75 years old will be studied. That group is particularly vulnerable to the flu, which kills 40,000 people in the U.S. a year, according to Poland.

This vaccine research will not just benefit the scientific world, but it should also give local businesses a shot in the arm.

“At the local level, it will bring in excess of about $12 million into the Rochester economy,” Poland said. “We will be hiring people and those people will live and work here, buy cars, newspapers, food …”