Several Independence companies – large and small, new and long established – got a moment of recognition Friday from the Independence Economic Development Council.
Doug Cowan, president and CEO of the Community Services League, underlined the community’s need for growth and paychecks.
“You are keeping our city moving forward, and it is truly wonderful,” he said to all of the winners at Friday’s EDC luncheon.
Those winners are:
• B Vogue Salon and Gallery in Englewood is the small business of the year. Owner Tammy Parsons started the business in 1991 and has the business involved in community events such as Englewood’s monthly art walk.
“We believe that service is the rent that we pay to be on this Earth,” she said.
• Speaks Legacy Chapel is the philanthropic business of the year, and company President Brad Speaks was singled out for his efforts to work through Independence Rotary and raise nearly $400,000 in private money in recent months to help pay for the city’s $3.3 million Uptown Market.
That facility, under construction on the north edge of the Square, will house the local farmers market and is expected to attract a wide range of other events, including concerts, small festivals, weddings and family gatherings.
“Brad and his team at Speaks Chapel helped rethink community involvement this year,” Cowan said.
• Hemco, a 60-year-old company that makes fume hoods, modular labs, clean rooms and similar products – many of them for export – is the manufacturer of the year. It’s the first company to win the award twice in the 10-year history of the EDC awards.
“Customer service is one of the key things,” said owner Ron Hill.
• Blue Ridge Bank & Trust Company, also 60 years old, is the major employer of the year. It’s gone from from six employees in 1958 to more than 150 now, with several branches. President and CEO Bill Esry said the company encourages its employees to embrace civic work.
“We’ve got caring people who want to make a difference in the community, not just be a bank,” he said.
• The McClain Restaurant Group is the hospitality business of the year. Its dozen businesses include Ophelia’s, UpDog, Cafe Verona, Square Pizza, the Main Street Coffee House, El Pico and even the Pharaoh Theatre – “many one-of-a-kind businesses on the Independence Square,” said award presenter Sam Rushay, representing Independence Tourism.
“The McClains (Ken and Cindy) have had a lot to do with revitalizing the Square …” Rushay said.
• The Church of the Four Corners, which draws 600 to 700 each Sunday to its location on U.S. 40 east of Noland Road, is the non-profit of the year.
• Matchstick Websites, begun 2 1/2 years ago by Andrew Lightfoot, is the emerging business of the year. The business is a spin-off in a sense. Kelly Lightfoot founded her company, ampersand, several years ago, focused on branding and graphics.
She found many clients needed website services too, and her husband saw an opportunity. He said he enjoys both the creative and technical aspect of the work.
“Working with my wife is great because we’ve been able to collaborate on projects,” he said.