Last night the Ames Chamber of Commerce and affiliate organizations celebrated their 2019 annual award winners during a special ceremony at Ames Golf & Country Club. I am always impressed to see the number of award winners we have each year, because they represent a part of the incredible momentum and growth of our community.
This year we had a remarkable number of 24 individuals and businesses receive awards for their hard work, commitment, and contributions to the Story County community. Learning about the incredible work these winners accomplished over the year was a great reminder of how much our community is thriving. Let me tell you about some of the highlights that our award winners do to build our community’s vitality.
The staff of Renewable Energy Group, Inc. nominated their Chief of Staff and Vice President, Natalie Merrill as Business Person of the Year. It always speaks volumes to me when a staff bands together to nominate a leader for an award, because it shows how much she has inspired and empowered them through the last year. Natalie has helped REG accomplish many great things through her tenure and the team mentality and pride among her staff is moving.
Gary Botine, Chief Financial Officer at Mary Greeley Medical Center, has spent the last year sitting on not one, not two, but three boards within the community to further enhance the vitality of Ames and Story County. His dedication toward giving back to our great community is inspiring and well deserving of the Community Impact award.
Seeing an entrepreneur’s dream come to life is fantastic, which is why we were proud to award Mindy Bergstrom, owner of Cooks’ Emporium and Nook & Nest, the Entrepreneur of the Year award. She took one staple business of Downtown Ames and remodeled it, then turned around to open the doors of a brand-new business shortly after to further expand on the experience she was selling. Business owners like Mindy know that running a business is more than just the product you sell; it’s creating an experience for your guests that inspires and enriches them to come back again and again and seeing your dreams come to life.
This year we were excited to partner with Iowa State University and the City of Ames again to host the second Symposium on Building Inclusive Organizations. Joel Hochstein of Iowa State played an integral role in bringing this event to life, acting as a planning committee member of the event, serving as chair of the Ames Human Relations Commission, and mediating a panel. With his never-ending work to build Story County as a more inclusive place to live, work and play, it was only natural that he received the Diversity and Inclusion award.
The Ambassadors of the Ames Chamber of Commerce serve as representatives to welcome new businesses to the community, celebrate accomplishments for our members, and build a bridge for those who may not know how to get involved with the Chamber. David Tucker, Great Western Bank, has gone above and beyond this past year ensuring new members and existing businesses feel welcome in our community. David’s dedication to make others feel included is the epitome of the ambassador program, and why he was awarded Ambassador of the Year.
We were pleased to offer nine businesses in Story County Economic Impact awards: Accurate Development, Alliant Energy, the City of Collins, Deere & Company, Gross-Wen Technologies, Landus Cooperative, Performance Livestock Analytics, Verbio North America, and Vertex Software. Each of these companies have provided outstanding contributions to support economic growth in Story County. From partnering with existing organizations to provide opportunities for growing manufacturers to create new technology, to redeveloping and enhancing a budding downtown district, to building a startup business and growing faster than anyone could have realized, each of these entities have done great things in Story County this year.
Our young professionals organization, FUEL Story County, recognizes four members of the community under the age of 40. This year, Brianne Anderson from Ames Public Library, Lawrence Cunningham from Iowa State Daily Media Group, Christian Hempen from GVL, and Taylor Hopper from FOX Engineering walked away with the awards. While each individual accomplished many great things, one thing they have in common is their passion for growing the current and future generations and engaging them through programming like that offered through our FUEL Story County organization.
Our affiliate organizations like the Campustown Action Association, Ames Main Street and The Ames Foundation recognized volunteers who have helped their organizations grow and thrive in the past year. Letitia Kenemer of Iowa State University Memorial Union for leading Campustown events with a can-do attitude, Eric Abrams of Duck Worth Wearing and The Loft for his meaningful support of Ames Main Street, and Ben Hershey of Country Landscapes for doing above and beyond to assist The Ames Foundation with their beautification projects. The Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market recognized VisionBank for their support toward local vendors and opportunities. As non-profit organizations, it is with the support of the community that we are able to succeed, and when our volunteers and businesses believe in the visions of these entities, we can accomplish great things.
These 24 individuals and businesses represent just a fraction of the great things happening in Ames and Story County right now. As we look ahead into 2020 there are many more incredible things on the way, and I can’t wait to head into the new year with a bold vision for what is to come.