BEMIDJI -- Andy Wells is not just a local business owner, but a person who’s helped others turn their lives around.
On Thursday, Wells was honored for both pursuits with the Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award.
The presentation to Wells, CEO and president of Wells Technology, was made during the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce’s Awards of Excellence event. When receiving the award, Wells shared his experiences both with running the company and establishing a job training program in Wells Academy that gives people a second chance.
“When you’re interviewing people, you look for the best, the brightest, the trained and experienced. There was a time when I wasn’t finding too much of that, and I was finding a lot of employment-challenged young people,” Wells said. “And I’d tell them ‘Sorry,’ because maybe they either had a felony or an addiction problem.”
In 2004, though, Wells said he was inspired to make a change.
“One day, that happened and I saw him walking back to his car after shaking my hand and telling me he had been looking for work for six months. I noticed in his car he had his wife and two kids, and I wondered how I would feel, if I was trying to recover from a problem, and no one would give me a second chance,” Wells said. “Sometimes, your heart gives you a stronger message than the logic part of your brain. So, I went back to him and said ‘Come in Monday, I’d like to interview you again.’”
Soon after, Wells said he created Wells Academy, a program that trains employees in manufacturing and life skills.
Wells also shared information about his business Thursday, a manufacturing company that creates precision machine products. Wells started the company in 1985 and continues to operate in Eckles Township, just northwest of the Bemidji city limits.
Wells was among five other winners at Thursday’s event, with awards going out to other entrepreneurs, too:
- Security Bank USA -- Wellness in the Workplace Award.
- Lake Bemidji Bed & Breakfast -- New Business of the Year Award.
- The Business of the Year Award was a tie, with Concordia Language Villages and United Way of Bemidji Area both earning honors.
- Hannah Anderson of Compass Rose -- Entrepreneur of the Year.
The event also featured former District 4A Rep. Frank Moe, who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2005-2008, as its keynote speaker. During his presentation, Moe discussed his book “Sled Dogs to Saint Paul,” which follows his eight-day dog sled trip from Grand Marais to St. Paul to deliver petitions regarding sulfide mining in northern Minnesota.