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For the second consecutive year, the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce has been forced to scramble a bit in order to present its annual Excellence in Business Awards program.
Both times, the COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for the difficulties, although this year the chamber was able to hold the awards at the normal time — in late March — when the organization held a virtual awards ceremony Tuesday night to announce the winners.
In reality, those who were recognized had received their awards earlier in the month, with the chamber making those presentations in-person and videoing the presentations, which were then included in the online program shown on the chamber’s YouTube channel Tuesday evening.
“The chamber congratulates all of the winners of our 2021 Excellence in Business Awards,” said Randy Collins, president and CEO of the chamber. “The committee had a tough task in reviewing a large number of nominees. This group of winners represents the very best of our business community.”
The winners in each category were:
• Business Longevity Award —Surry Communications. Incorporated in 1951, Surry Communications offered its first dial tone service to 192 members by November of 1954. By 1957, three more exchanges were in service, with members served to more than 1,100. In the beginning, members utilized party-line service, with four parties per line. With four exchanges covering the rural areas in Surry and Stokes counties, this company had six employees and two service trucks headquartered jointly with the electric cooperative in Dobson. In 1958, direct dial long-distance service was introduced and by the end of this decade the cooperative was serving 1,569 members.
Seventy years later the firm has expanded to a network that includes 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable serving more than 12,230 customers and 1,310 businesses in Surry, Stokes and Davidson counties with Internet, phone, TV, security and more.
• Ambassador of the Year Award — Robin Edwards. Each year the chamber selects one ambassador as its Ambassador of the Year. “This year’s award winner is a great choice. She is dedicated, hardworking and believes in what the chamber stands for,” said the presentation notes with the award. “Whenever the Ambassadors gather, you can find her there. One unique service she provides as an ambassador really shows her passion. When she visits her assigned members, she will often bring a goodie bag, filled with little gifts and candy. This type of service to chamber members (that she did on her own) makes them feel great about the organization.”
• Administrative Professional of the Year Award — Debbie Benge, who serves as executive assistant to the Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Puckett, as well as the board of directors, for Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation.
”One of her greatest strengths is her ability to adapt to any situation and think quickly and efficiently to solve any problem thrown her way,” said the presentation notes of her award. “She remains calm through any situation, whether it be major outages, board meetings, or other tasks that need to be completed at once…She is always more than willing to help her coworkers in different departments accomplish whatever the task may be for the cooperative. She has a very broad skill set and knowledge base from the different roles she has held…”
• Outstanding Public Service Award — Traci George. The presentation notes made deep use of a recent Mount Airy News article about George, which outlined how she was committed to helping children and the homeless. She’s done considerable work helping the homeless locally, and led other projects that have included aiding patients at Brenner Children’s Hospital, helping to launch a mentoring program for local students, leading a campaign to provide coats to those in need, chairing the March for Babies and more.
“Community service has been a part of her life from a very young age. Public service is who she is,” the notes said.
• Excellence in Tourism Award — White Sulphur Springs Wedding and Venue.
“One of the challenges in our region is limited meeting space and event venues. That changed recently with the addition of a brand-new venue, with an old name,” the chamber presentation said. Spread across 15 acres White Sulphur Springs resort, with its origins dating back to the 1880s, is now offering a wedding and event venue.
“Just minutes from downtown Mount Airy, it offers couples and their guests a secluded space to celebrate in the heart of North Carolina wine country. It features a range of event spaces, amenities, and accommodations to create moments full of magic.“
• Agribusiness of the Year Award — Round Peak Vineyards.
“Agriculture has been a part of Surry County for many years. There are many family and corporate farms still operating in our region,” the chamber presentation noted.
“A couple from Ohio moved to Charlotte in 2000 and loved their new home. As life sometimes takes you in a different direction, the couple ended up moving to California in 2006. While on the West Coast, they fell in love with visiting vineyards and enjoying the great California wines. They especially liked the small, family-owned vineyards. In 2008 they had the chance to return to North Carolina, leave the corporate world and purchase a local winery called Round Peak Vineyards…In addition to the wine, they produce some great craft beers under the Skull Camp label. The winery hosts many events and has become a popular gathering place for locals and tourists.”
• Business and Education Partner Award —Northern Regional Hospital.
“Listed as the third largest employer in Surry County, it is no surprise that this organization is heavily involved in providing unique educational opportunities to our community’s youth,” the chamber said. “In addition to supporting career and technical student organizations such as HOSA, they have a long history of providing job shadowing, clinical hours, certifications, internships and pre-apprenticeships. Health science students have had direct contact with personnel and administration through class visits, special events and regional competitions. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has altered many of these activities for the time being, they remain committed to fostering local talent through employment opportunities and the introduction of new scholarships.”
• Duke Energy Citizenship & Service Award — The Surry Sunrise Rotary Club.
This group has been involved in many projects over the years, here are just a few: Feeding the Hungry through School Backpack Programs; funding equipment for local firefighters, police and rescue personnel; blood drives for the American Red Cross; picking up litter in the community; raising money for the public schools; trick or treating family events at Halloween; creating a new dog park in Mount Airy; a Flight for Kids Pigeon Race; and others.
• Pandemic Leadership Award — Surry Health and Nutrition Center was selected as the recipient of this new award added in 2021.
”It seemed that the entire country mobilized against COVID-19,” the chamber said. “The federal government began to work with each state, then in turn each state began to organize local towns, cities and counties to fight this pandemic…Early on it became clear that this was a public health emergency. Federal government agencies connected with state departments of health. From there it became clear the members, local health departments around the nation would lead the charge. For Surry County that meant the Surry Health and Nutrition Center.
“When the pandemic was upon us, Surry County Health and Nutrition sprang into action,” posting informational materials on the website to educate the public; giving regular briefings to the citizens, businesses and organizations on the status of the pandemic; coordination of personal protective equipment to all groups; coordination of services to vulnerable populations; managing hourly, daily and weekly updates; coordination of a large vaccination program to thousands of citizens.
“This was all done while also doing their regular long list of services provided to citizens. The Surry Health and Nutrition Center has performed at a very high level and have gone above and beyond the call of duty during a national public health emergency.”
• Business of the Year Award — Xtreme Marketing.
“There are many elements that the owner of a business must have to be successful. You have to have a business plan, understand sales, finance, human resources and so much more. One area that successful businesses must master is marketing. Our winner of the business of the year knows marketing, inside and out,” the chamber said.
Founded in 2001, Xtreme Marketing is a full-service marketing agency, providing design, print, vehicle wraps, engraving, fabrication, trade show displays, custom vehicles, logistics, brand education, social media solutions and more.
”The owner of the business had a long successful career in the military and is proud that his organization is a certified veteran owned business. This company has clients around the country that include Jack Daniels, Korbel, Charles Schwab, Coca Cola, the PGA Tour and Dell, just to name a few,” the chamber said.
“When the pandemic hit in March 2020, this company was one of the first to pivot to other lines of business. They developed their own plastic face shield that could be used by medical personnel and others to protect them from the virus. They sold many of the shields around the country but also donated many to non-profits and health care groups in our community. The owners have a passion for their business but also a big passion for their community.”