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Chamber presents Awards of Excellence

The top boss, small business, large business, entrepreneur and Chamber Ambassador received Awards of Excellence Thursday during the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Awards of Excellence luncheon. The event was held at the Hampton Inn & Suites.

Awards also went to long-time employees of three Bemidji businesses. They were 30-year employee Fred Hallik and 24-year employee Jim Burdick of Lee & Al's general contractors; North Country Health Services 30-year employees, Sue Aalgaard, Ann Bradley, Jesica Conrad, Patricia Eichstadt, Margaret French, Cynthia Noren and Toni Whitney; and NCHS 35-year employees, Joyce Peterson, Marie Porter and Diane Prince.

Diversified Builders & Design, with fewer than 20 employees, was named Small Business of the Year while Paul Bunyan Telephone was named Large Business of the Year. UPS Store owner Curt Saufferer is Entrepreneur of the Year, Barb Mountain is Chamber Ambassador of the Year and Dean Crotty is Boss of the Year.

Crotty, coincidently tapped as keynote speaker for the event, spoke about his business, North Country Business Products. As president and CEO, he provided a history of North Country Business Products, which opened in 1948 selling typewriters and ribbon in Bemidji and now has 14 centers with 190 employees in 11 states. The business is "associate-owned," with employees taking over more than 50 percent of the stock in 1995 and now owning it 100 percent.

Crotty cited the philosophy and business culture of "servant leadership" that has led the North Country Business Products to success. Active listening, honesty, predictability and consistency, and treating customers, colleagues and vendors with dignity and respect are part of the servant leadership package, Crotty said.

"Bemidji is the hub of our company -- always has been, always will be," he said. "People in the country know where Bemidji, Minn., is."

The Chamber Awards of Excellence was sponsored by Paul Bunyan Telephone, Wells Fargo and Marco.

Other nominees were:

-- Small Business of the Year -- Emily's Country Cottage.

-- Entrepreneur of the Year -- Angela Bremer of Explore Chiropractic and Mark Morphew of True North Security.

-- Boss of the Year -- Dennis Doeden of the Bemidji Pioneer, Trish Ritchie and Jennifer Frisco of TJ Designs, Dave Beam of Green Mill, Steve Lalli of Yellow Pages and Ron Carpenter of Carpenter & Wangberg P.A.