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Businesses and individuals celebrated for community involvement at Chamber awards event

The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce celebrated entrepreneurship and community during its annual Awards of Excellence event on Thursday, May 27. Pete Aube, the retired manager of the PotlatchDeltic sawmill was given the lifetime achievement award while Paul Bunyan Communications took home Business of the Year.

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Pete Aube holds up his Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award after accepting it at the Bemidji Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards of Excellence luncheon on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the Hampton Inn and Suites. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- After an entirely digital ceremony in 2020, the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce was able to once again celebrate entrepreneurs and community involvement face-to-face.

On Thursday, at the Hampton Inn and Suites, the Chamber gave six awards to community members, including its annual Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award. The person honored for his life's work at the event was Pete Aube, the retired plant manager at the PotlatchDeltic sawmill.

After getting his education at the University of Minnesota, Aube began a 40-year career in forestry products. According to a video presentation about Aube, his work was integral to building the sawmill located just eight miles southeast of Bemidji off of U.S. Highway 2.

In addition to establishing the sawmill, the largest in Minnesota, Aube served on regional, state and national forestry committees. He also served on boards related to Greater Bemidji Economic Development, the Chamber, the United Way of Bemidji Area and more.

In his post-presentation speech, Aube praised the Bemidji area as the best in Minnesota.

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"Bemidji is truly a special place," Aube said. "I've lived around the state in other communities and there's nothing like this. There is no place else I'd choose to live."

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Jim Bensen, left, presents the Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award to Pete Aube at the Bemidji Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards of Excellence luncheon on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the Hampton Inn and Suites. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Aube also expressed his excitement for the years to come.

"I can't wait to see what the future holds," Aube said. "In touting this award, I will value it for the rest of my life and I'll use it to further motivate me to work with all of you to build an increasingly prosperous and caring Bemidji."

Other award categories included Entrepreneur of the Year, New Business of the Year, Wellness in the Workplace, Community Impact and Business of the Year.

For Entrepreneur of the Year, Tracie Lusby and Jaimee Labernik of the Bluebelle Event Venue won. The other nominees included:

  • Kevin Johnson of myBemidji
  • Aaron Schmitz and Aaron Guthrie of Northwoods Bait and Tackle
  • Martin Swanson of Yost Network Solutions

Dunkin' earned the New Business of the Year award, with other nominees including:

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  • Advanced MN
  • Eagle Vista Ranch and Wellness Center
  • Green Friendly Wood Pellets
  • Ridge Top Outdoors
  • Yost Network Solutions

In the Wellness in the Workplace category, Lueken's Village Foods earned the award. Other nominees were:

  • Choice Therapy
  • Eagle Vista Ranch and Wellness Center
  • Evergreen Youth and Family Services

Paul Bunyan Communications won the Business of the Year award for 2021. Other nominees were:

  • Evolve Creative
  • Hill's Plumbing and Heating
  • First National Bank of Bemidji
  • RP Broadcasting
  • Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge
  • Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota
  • Sara Labraaten's State Farm agency

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Paul Bunyan Communications was named Business of the Year at the Bemidji Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards of Excellence luncheon on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at the Hampton Inn and Suites. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

In the Community Impact category, Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota won the award, with the other nominees including:

  • The Bemidji Downtown Alliance
  • The Bemidji Community Theater
  • The Bemidji Symphony Orchestra
  • Evergreen Youth and Family Services
  • United Way of Bemidji Area
  • Visit Bemidji

In addition to the Community Impact honor, the health provider also headlined Thursday's event with Sanford of Northern Minnesota President Susan Jarvis giving the keynote speech.
"This past year challenged our community like no other," said Jarvis, who praised how the region stepped up during the pandemic. "There was an outpouring of community support, coming together to support not only health care providers but each other. It was just unprecedented."

Related Topics: BEMIDJI NEWSLETTER
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