Business Excellence Awards honor those going extra mile in community during Wed., March 11, gathering

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Business Excellence Awards. The Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce hosted an event Wednesday, March 11, dedicated to celebrating amazing businesses and volunteers throughout the community.

The annual Business Excellence Awards was held Wednesday afternoon, March 11, at Pathways Church, 3848 N.E. Division St. The winners were all selected for their heroic efforts in 2019 — from uplifting employees, overcoming daunting obstacles, championing diverse causes, hosting gatherings, and being a foundation for Gresham.

"This event lets us celebrate those making a big impact on our community," said Lynn Snodgrass, Gresham Chamber CEO.

What makes the Gresham Chamber Business Excellence Awards special is that they recognize businesses big and small, across all sorts of industries. The awards were presented by last year's recipients.

The event was made possible thanks to sponsorships from Edward Jones/Christina Price, The Boeing Company, Columbia Bank, FedEx, Portland General Electric, Metro East Web Academy, Gresham Ford, AXIS Design Group Architecture & Engineering Inc., and Gresham Sanitary Service Inc. Many others supported the event as well.

The Business Excellence Awards recipients were:

Small Business: Whites Country Meat Market

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Randy Feigner celebrated Whites Country Meat Market being named best small business.  White's Meats is a third generation family-owned business that prides itself on providing high-quality meat while keeping a laser-focus on customer service.

At the meat market you can discover the best steaks, ribs, roasts, hams, chops, sausages, jerky, pepperoni, poultry and more. There are rubs and sauces, side dishes, and everything else needed to cook the best meals. White's also enjoys giving back to the community, and is a significant sponsor of local sports teams.

"We love being a part of this community," said Randy Feigner. "Thank you Chamber for honoring us."

Medium Business: Gresham Ford

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Ford received the medium business award, accepted by General Manager Bess Wills. Gresham Ford takes its motto — The Dealer with a Heart — to, well, heart.

As a business, Gresham Ford goes beyond selling cars and pickups to delivering top-notch service. Driven by general manager and co-owner Bess Wills, the business cares about uplifting people throughout the community.

"We have been blessed to be a part of this community," Wills said. "I am thankful every day for our employees and customers."

Backing dozens of local nonprofit organizations and causes, Gresham Ford is always in the pole position when it comes to giving back time and funds. The dealership shares what it has with others.

"From the bottom of my 'dealer with a heart' I thank you for this (award)," Wills said.

Large Business: The Boeing Company

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Tom Dickey, site leader at The Boeing Company Gresham.The Boeing Company has been innovating in Gresham for decades.

The local manufacturing campus employs more than 1,600 employees who develop parts for the latest airplanes. The business has been a leader in investing in its own people, as well as uplifting students in Gresham who want to pursue a career in the industrial sector. Boeing is a leader in energy-savings upgrades, creating grants and handing out scholarships.

"We are committed to good corporate citizenship," said Tom Dickey, site leader at the Gresham facility. "Many of our employees and leadership love to volunteer in the community."

Family Business: Leathers Fuels

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Lila Leathers, Leathers FuelsLeathers Fuels is a family business in many ways.

The first is in the literal sense. Lila Leathers, the matriarch of the family who has been a force in the fuel industry and Gresham staple for more than 50 years, helped establish 28 stations across the region.

Working alongside Lila are her two children, daughter and son-in-law, husband and many more.

But Lila said that at Leathers Fuels all of her employees are family, a mindset that has allowed the company to thrive despite facing difficult hurdles.

"I want to thank the community for all of your support through the ups and downs," Lila said. "There are so many great people (at Leathers Fuels) — I look forward to another 50 years in this community."

Nonprofit: Gresham Rotary

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Rotary Club of Gresham was named best nonprofit organization during the award ceremony, accepted by President-elect Steve Brown. It is difficult to list everything the Rotary Club of Gresham does annually in pursuit of its mission to build a better world through service activities and creating understanding among all people.

The club hosts in annual Steak Fry to give scholarships to students at Mt. Hood Community College; visit YMCA Camp Collins to help maintain the site; support families in need over the holidays; spend hours assisting SnowCap Community Charities' Fill-A-Bag fundraiser; pass out dictionaries to third graders; drive for Meals on Wheels; and so much more.

"As Rotarians we strive to follow our motto of 'Service Above Self,'" said Steve Brown, the club's 2020-21 president-elect.

Business Ethics: TSP Technology Inc.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Nic Castaneda, TSP Technology, Inc. An award given out by the Gresham Rotary to a business that pursues truth, fair business practices to all customers, builds goodwill and works hard for whoever walks through its doors.

This year's recipient was TSP Technology, which supports small business owners navigate emerging technology, including cybersecurity, application support, communications, network management and more.

"I know technology can be scary — but we want to bring goodwill to the industry," said owner Nic Castaneda.

Try Local First: Shannon Chisom, SRC Community Consulting

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Shannon ChisomThe Try Local First recipient is a woman who not only helps showcase local businesses across Gresham, but also puts on fun community events that bring people together.

Shannon Chisom is a key component to events like the Gresham Arts Festival, Spirit of Christmas celebration, festivities at Gresham Station and so much more. She was selected because of how she is able to handle adversity, work hard at local events, and is always looking for ways to improve a city she loves.

"This means the world to me," Chisom said. "I am blessed because being a part of this community is so important to my family."

Rising Star: Colin Rath, Migration Brewing

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Colin Rath, Migration BrewingMigration Brewing's doors are always open for community events as it's a mindset that is important to the Chamber's rising star recipient.

"When we opened we had two objectives — make great beer and support the community," said Colin Rath, owner of Migration.

The brew pub opened a 20,000-square-foot facility in Gresham and from the beginning it was designed as a place where people could gather. The brew pub hosts monthly fundraisers, forums and meet-and-greets.

"It's important to do what you can with your time," Rath said.

Volunteer: Sue Piazza

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Sue PiazzaWhile many look to take vacations or buy a new hot rod for their 50th birthday, the Chamber's volunteer award recipient had a different idea. Sue Piazza wanted to use the milestone as the impetuous to raise $50,000 for local charities.

"I wanted to do something different for my birthday surprise," she said.

And, no surprise, she succeeded. Piazza raised $78,000 for six local nonprofit organizations that support children.

From cocoa crawls to paint nights, Piazza brings energy and vision to Gresham while raising important funds for nonprofit organizations. She hosts Christmas Cookie fundraisers, is a founding member of the Gresham-Barlow Education Foundation, and a driving force behind 100+ Women Who Care East County. That group has raised more than $68,000 by bringing together women who are passionate about improving their community.

"It takes a village to do all of this," Piazza said.

Exceptional Mission: The Gresham Reads Program, Alix Bemis

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Alix Bemis and The Gresham Reads Program received the first-ever exceptional mission award. The Exceptional Mission is a new category at the Business Excellence Awards, and the Chamber knew it had to select an inaugural recipient who was passionate and driven — someone who volunteered their precious time in service of the community.

Alix Bemis and The Gresham Reads Program was selected because of the honorable mission to promote child literacy. How it works is participating businesses have bookshelves where kids can take free books that were donated by other community members.

But it is the tireless work from Alix that has allowed Gresham Reads to continue. Despite running a restaurant, raising her children and often finding her living room overflowing with literature — Alix has continued to champion Gresham Reads. She drives around the city weekly restocking the bookshelves, garners more donations and recruits new businesses to join in.

"It's so amazing to be able to do what I do for these kids — there is nothing better than seeing how excited they are to discover new books," Alix said. "Thank you for your donations, we have the best city and all of you are phenomenal."

Honoree of the Year: Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said it was an honor to receive the honoree of the year award from previous winner and friend Greg Matthews. The final recipient during the Business Excellence Awards was Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis.

Bemis moved to the city one day before he began attending Gresham High School as a freshman. His family didn't know anybody, had little financial flexibility, and was living in a motel. But things quickly changed for the future mayor in a place that would become his home.

"Gresham High was the first place I really felt like I belonged," Bemis said during an emotional speech. "This community has given me everything. It is an incredible honor to serve each and every one of you."

At 34 Bemis became the youngest mayor in Gresham's history. He has been recognized nationally for his efforts, is a founding member and current chairman of the Metropolitan Mayors' Consortium, and has been a champion for youths nationally and in his home city.

He, alongside his city councils, has developed city parks, created a Garage to Storefront business program, pushed for the Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant to achieve net-zero energy, established the Neighborhood Enforcement Team and much more.

Bemis thanked his mother, three sons and wife for their support. He also recognized the dedicated employees at Gresham City Hall.

"I stand in awe of each one of them and their incredible work," Bemis said. "We get to show the rest of the region the smart way to do things."

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

Have a thought or opinion on the news of the day? Get on your soapbox and share your opinions with the world. Send us a Letter to the Editor!