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Chamber holds annual awards dinner, considers future

The Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards event on March 14. Photo by Mahira Faran.
The Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual awards event on March 14. Photo by Mahira Faran.

On March 14, the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its Annual Celebration to recognize outstanding local businesses and workers. This year, almost 200 business owners, employees and community members attended the event, which was held at Hotel Grinnell.

Awards were presented for  Retail Business of the Year, Anna Kayte’s Boutique, Service Business of the Year, Renfrow Senior Care, Entrepreneur of the Year, Joey and Haylee Pagliai of Pagliai’s Pizza, Economic Impact Award, Hotel Grinnell, Community Betterment Award, Central Park, and Volunteer of the Year, Paragon Church.

In addition to these business-focused awards, the Chamber’s “20 under 40” awards recognized 20 individuals under 40 years of age for doing exemplary work as part of a company, either as a leader or as an employee. The 20 recipients included Amelia Nickle of Hotel Grinnell, Ashley Grundler of Big Brothers Big Sisters and Brian Conway of the Grinnell-Newburg School District.

Five “One to Watch” awards were given to individuals who have been involved in starting their own businesses. 

“These are people who we think are going to go on to do great things,” said Rachael Kinnick, Director of the Chamber. “Some of them meet the ‘20 under 40’ criteria, [and] maybe have already been recognized in that capacity in the past, but some of them are just at that breaking point.”

Any member of the Grinnell community had the opportunity to nominate a business or individual. Chamber staff vetted those nominations, and the Executive Committee ultimately decided on the winners. According to Kinnick, the volume of nominations made decision-making process difficult. 

“We had so many nominations that it was really challenging to choose who is doing the best of the best,” Kinnick said.

The annual awards ceremony and celebration, though, is far from the only project of the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber’s other activities, based on a strategic plan created in fall 2017 by the Chamber’s Board of Directors, focus on three main areas: community growth, business development and community vitality.

The community growth committee is currently partnering with Early Childhood Iowa and Poweshiek Iowa Development to finalize their childcare survey, the aim of which is to identify solutions to Poweshiek County’s childcare desert. They are also working to survey employees of Grinnell businesses on current strengths and possible areas of improvement in the community.

The business development team, on the other hand, works to pair entrepreneurs with capital investors to create “in essence, a shark tank kind of model,” Kinnick said, adding that the Chamber expects doing so will yield a couple of new businesses in the community. 

The team is also working to implement a succession plan to help business owners plan for the future. 

“Most times, businesses are so in the day-to-day that they don’t think about what’s next, and ‘how do I get out of this if and when I want to,’” Kinnick said. “We clearly have a few businesses that we want to make sure are here long term, and we’re working with those business owners to make sure that happens.”

Finally, the community vitality committee is focusing on attracting more visitors to Grinnell through a community-wide marketing campaign, and by organizing community events in Central Park now that construction is complete.

According to Kinnick, one of the Chamber’s overarching goals is to facilitate connections between businesses and people, and the Annual Celebration is the perfect way to do just that. Kinnick noted that the event is more than simply an awards ceremony.

“Instead of hosting just a sit-down dinner where everyone comes and sits with the same people, [it is] more of a networking event where people can really meet other people and get to know others in a different setting,” Kinnick said. “This event is a great opportunity to bring people together in a different way, get them to interact, make new connections, meet new people … and to ultimately learn more about the work that we’re doing and how they can help.”

A full list of the 2018 award winners is posted on the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce website.

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