Each year the Chamber honors local efforts and accomplishments in the areas of education, industry, organization, business and small business.
Recognized as the Organization of the Year Saturday night was Kenady-Hanks American Legion Post 59. The post was noted for the 2012 establishment and management of the Disabled Veterans Wildlife Facility north of Dexter in rural Bloomfield. The 125-acre tract was donated to the local Legion by Tom Love and Alan Hedrick to be managed by the Legion. It provides area disabled veterans with hunting excursions or just an afternoon or overnight stay during which vets are afforded an opportunity to appreciate the outdoors in a setting that is handicap accessible. Also cited were the continuing efforts of Post 59's Honor Guard, which to date has officiated at funeral services for 514 area veterans.
Accepting the award for American Legion Post 59 and crediting Love for his contributions to the service organization, was Post Commander Darryl LaPierre.
The 2012 Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Smith Properties, credited with having 24 of Dexter's businesses as current tenants. Among those are Aaron's, Discount Cigarettes and Liquor, Dollar General, El Tapitio, Family Video, Faurecia, Jibben Medical, Morina's Italian Restaurant, MHF Insurance, the License Bureau, Smith-Payne Realty, Smith Auction Company, and many more.
"At least 13 businesses are new to the city in large part due to this company's efforts," said incoming Chamber President Scott Nelson, in making the presentation to Smith Properties owner, Sherm Smith.
The business was also credited with having been a landlord or sold land to entities that include Arvin Meritor, Autry Morlan Tractors, Davita Dialysis, Overturf's, Procter and Gamble, Rhodes, Save-a-lot, and others.
"The impact of developing real estate for the business community of Dexter means more jobs and an increase in the tax base," Nelson said. "This is just one facet of the man behind the business --Sherm Smith."
Smith accepted the award with his wife, Connie and their family.
Retiring Chamber President presented the Business of the Year Award for 2012 to Brown Construction Company. The company, which was founded by Willard Brown in 1963, continues under the direction of his son, Steve Brown, who was present to accept the honor.
The first project for Brown Construction in the early 1960s was the construction of the First United Methodist Church in Dexter. Since that early start, Brown Construction has headed up projects that include Dexter Memorial Hospital, Fram Filter, Arvin Automotive, T.S. Hill Middle School, Southwest Elementary School, several additions to Dexter High School, Central Elementary School, the Bearcat Event Center, Doctor's Park, and Westport Addition, along with many other projects.
"No one in this room can comprehend what Steve Brown does for Stoddard County," retiring Chamber President Kenny Pope told Saturday night's crowd.
The recipient of the Industry of the Year Award Saturday night was Gateway Shoes, which operates out of a vintage building on N. Poplar Street. The current managing partner of Gateway, who took over the business in 2001, is Larry Opinsky, who was present to accept the honor.
"Gateway Shoes takes great pride in the family atmosphere they harvest," said Chamber Executive Director Janet Coleman. "with the skilled crafts people who manufacture the products here in Dexter."
The company, Coleman said, competes with China manufacturers every day, and regularly beats them when it comes to quality, pricing, and delivery."
About 30 people are employed at the local shop. Although the number is a reduction from several years ago, Gateway today is the premier company for tuxedo shoes, producing a greater volume than anywhere in the world.
"We're doing everything we can to keep Dexter proud and strong as manufacturers and to bring production back to this country," Opinsky stated in accepting the award.
Chamber Director Jackie McKuin next announced the Chamber of Commerce 2012 Educator of the Year, Jana Flannigan. Flannigan, McKuin said, is a "dedicated, caring educator who works diligently to provide the best educational opportunities for her students. She continually searches for and implements methods and strategies to better meet their needs."
Flannigan was hailed as an "excellent communicator" who collaborates well with her fellow teachers and administration figures.
"First and foremost," McKuin told the audience, "she is an advocate for children."
Jana Flannigan is a Special Services instructor at Southwest Elementary School.
Visibly stunned by the announcement, Flannigan accepted the award alongside her husband, Charlie, who attended the banquet as head of the local Edward Jones office.
At the conclusion of Saturday's event, a check for $2,216 was presented to the Organization of the Year, American Legion Post 59. The money represents profit from the evening's centerpiece auction.
See photos on page 12 of today's paper.