MORRIS — The Grundy Economic Development Council and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry came together again this year at the Morris Country Club for their annual dinner and awarded area businesses, entrepreneurs and organizations for their contributions to the community.
"I've been doing this dinners for 16 years and we've never been sold out," Nancy Norton Ammer, CEO of GEDC said after the awards presentation. "Not only were we sold out but there was a waiting list to attend the event."
She said the county has a lot to celebrate and with businesses doing well they wanted to participate.
More than 270 business leaders and guests attended the event Wednesday night for dinner and combined recognition of both organizations.
Norton Ammer and Chris Breyman, Vice President at the Grundy Bank and vice chairman of the GEDC presented GEDC awards to three area businesses.
The Welcome to Grundy County award went to Airgas.
"Business attraction is a very competitive business, especially when the prize is a first class manufacturing facility," Norton Ammer said during the event. "Thankfully with the help of many people including Grundy County and Village of Minooka, the GEDC was successful in attracting Airgas to the community."
Airgas is a $40 million plus, state of the art, air separation company that went online in December 2015.
Jerry Anderson, plant manager for Airgas said after the event that they were grateful to be welcomed to the county with the award and they have a lot of new things coming with them, including a commitment to being part of the community.
The Partnership Award went to Marquette Properties.
Owners Pete Fleming and his father Mike Fleming were presented the award for their commitment to attracting new commercial and industrial developments.
"Pete Fleming and his father, Mike Fleming don't just broker property, they work tirelessly to move economic development forward for the entire county," Norton Ammer said.
The Business of the Year Award from the GEDC went to U.S. Cold Storage.
They broke ground on their facility 20 years ago this month with a 150,000 square foot facility and the goal to employ 40 people.
Today, U.S. Cold Storage in Minooka covers 500,000 square feet and employs 235 people.
Grundy County Chamber of Commerce awards were presented by executive director Christina Van Yperen and Jill Behning.
The Business of the Year Award from the chamber went to the Joliet Slammers and was accepted by Ken Miller, director of community relations and general manager Heather Mills.
"Joliet Slammers minor-league baseball team has spent the last six years making strides in representing more than just Joliet," Van Yperen said. "To date the team has 12 community nights, including a night each for Morris, Seneca and Coal City, with the goal of adding more."
The Entrepreneur of the Year Award this year was given to both Jane and Stu Kerr of Apple Butter and Shugies and Kevin Brown of Brown Bear Painting.
"The Kerrs put Grundy County on the map when they were honored in August in New York City as a finalist in the 64th annual Retail Excellence Award hosted by Gifts & Decoration Accessory Magazine," Van Yperen said. "In November, the magazine featured Apple Butter and Shugie's as one of the top 25 stores in the United States."
VanYperen also recognized the Kerrs for their local support of organizations such as Grundy County's Festival of Trees, Morris Community YMCA, Hospice, and United Way of Grundy County.
Van Yperen said Brown of Brown Bear Painting was chosen after his company grew from a one-man operation to employing five full-time employees year around with 12 full-time employees in the summer.
"While running and growing his business, Kevin still finds the time to give back tot he community," Van Yperen said. "He currently serves as vice president of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity heading up the organizations fundraising as well as volunteering for Team Make A Difference and the Morris Community High School Education Foundation."
Organization of the Year went to Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity with board president Julie Wilkinson and executive director Sarah Peterson accepting the award.
"'A world where everyone has a decent place to live,' - this is the vision of the Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity," Van Yperen said. "As they celebrate 20 years this July, they have more than made strides on that vision right here in Grundy County."
Ambassador of the Year was awarded to Angela Baumeister of WCSJ/WJDK Radio.
Behning, who presented the award, said chamber ambassadors serve as liaisons between the Chamber members and staff.
Baumeister won the award Wednesday night for the second time. She has served as an Ambassador chair, vice chair, and secretary since joining the Ambassador program seven years ago.