"We have a lot to celebrate," Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mike Beard said Thursday as the chamber honored dozens of businesses with Awards of Excellence.
Quoting business author Tim Peters, Beard said good businesses are noted for their aspirations, for listening, for asking the right questions and learning from failure.
"It's a great day for Bemidji companies and Minnesota companies in general," said Minnesota Chamber President David Olson, keynote speaker to the Bemidji Chamber's Awards of Excellence luncheon at the Hampton Inn & Suites.
"Thank you to all the business people in the room for the jobs you provide and for the services and products you produce and for the taxes and charitable giving which you give to this community and the state of Minnesota," Olson told the 225 lunch participants.
Olson gave out certificates signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty for "Bemidji Business Gives," a statewide program noting those firms that give the equivalent of 2 percent or more of their profit back to their communities in service and volunteer work.
With Bemidji one of 36 chambers of commerce in the program this year, Bemidji's 26 honorees was the top number statewide, Olson said. Eight new companies joined the previous two years' 18 firms that continue to give 2 percent or more.
"What's important about these numbers is that even in a difficult economy, local businesses remain committed to their communities," Olson said. "Whether they're experiencing layoffs, loss of business or lower earnings, businesses are still concerned their communities remain a healthy place for their employees, families and neighbors."
Needs range from food shelves, community centers, arts groups and others who seek for their basic needs, he said.
"It's the commitment of these businesses to give back in difficult as well as in good times that sets Bemidji apart," Olson said.
The Bemidji Chamber gave its first Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously to Charlie Naylor, 94, who died last year after a career that spanned from retail to industrial development.
He was the long-time founder and only president of the Bemidji Development Corp., which developed the Bemidji Industrial Park.
"You've got to give something back and we have to stand on our own two feet and provide for ourselves -- these were the visions and philosophies of Charlie Naylor," Beard said.
He sold bait, worked as a fishing guide, and took over the family's electric appliance business in the family garage. He and his brothers expanded it to today's Naylor Electric, since 1988 in its north Paul Bunyan Drive location. He started the Bemidji Development Corp. in the 1960s.
Naylor was also active civically, serving as a president of the Bemidji Chamber. "This award is very fitting of a man who devoted his life to Bemidji and recognizes the very importance of hard work and prudent judgment," Beard said.
His family accepted the award on the late Naylor's behalf.
MedSave Family Pharmacy was honored as Business of the Year.
The pharmacy "has exhibited growth from year to year, demonstrated sound management principles and provides and demonstrates a commitment to employee work force in providing exemplary customer service practices," Beard said.
"It is innovative in its products and service, demonstrates a commitment to the community by hiring local and using local vendors, provides community leadership and is involved in community activities, rewards and encourages employees, providing ongoing education and opportunities for employees and encourages employees' community involvement," he said.
Owner Richard Churnugal has been active civically and focuses on education in his business, holding health and information seminars for customers. The business also provides nutrition and diabetes information with staff.
E Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award -- Charlie Naylor
- Business of the Year -- MedSave Family Pharmacy
- Entrepreneur of the Year -- Trish Ritchie and Jennifer Theisen of TJ Design Studio
- Bemidji Business Gives -- (Third year) Citizens State Bank Midwest, Dunn Bros., First National Bank-Bemidji, North Country Health Services, Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, Paul Bunyan Telephone, Pinnacle Publishing, Security State Bank USA;
(Second year) RiverWood Bank, Knife River Materials, Kraus-Anderson Construction, Living Touch Massage, Marco, MeritCare-Bemidji, MJB Home Center, RP Broadcasting, Wells Fargo Bank-Bemidji;
(First year) Kelsey's Jewelry, Headwaters Veterinary, Bemidji Building Center, Bank Forward, Bemidji Medical Equipment, Target, Renaissance Hearing Centers, North Country Business Products, Bernick's Beverage & Vending.
- New Business of the Year -- Bad Cat Creations
- Wellness in the Workplace -- North Country Business Products
- Ambassador of the Year -- Denise Anderson
- Bemidji in Bloom -- First National Bank-Bemidji.