By Greg Ruland
Saturday, January 31, 2015
About 700 of the area’s top business leaders donned capes and masks Friday during the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet to honor the super- heroes among them.
Business superheroes was the theme of the gathering at Two Rivers Convention Center, which hosted a lively and sometimes raucous celebration thanks to the cash bar and amusing shenanigans of emcee Randy Stone, KREX general manager.
Organizers took care to change up the traditional routine, allowing outgoing board chairman Greg Motz and incoming board chairman Jeff Franklin to record their remarks for video broadcast as part of the awards presentations — an efficient and attention-grabbing innovation.
Motz departed to a standing ovation. Franklin pledged that during his tenure, he would learn what kinds of skilled workers local businesses need most and pioneer new ways to get them and keep them here.
Abagale Stone, the teen CEO of Spot Bakery, a mini-cupcake wholesaler, shocked the room during the live auction portion of the program when her donation of one year’s worth of cupcakes was purchased with a high bid of $3,250 from Mike Knowles.
Knowles, founder of Knowles Enterprises, accepted the award for 2015 Business of the Year.
Knowles thanked his trading partners, recognized his key employees and then honored his mother, who was seated in the audience with his wife and two sons.
“After growing up with a single mom and facing life’s challenges; who would have known that after losing our home in Florida 25 years ago, making the decision to move to Colorado, and that three-day Greyhound bus trip, it would have come to this — that I’d be responsible for over 200 paychecks every two weeks and be able to contribute over $7 million a year to our local community.”
Small Business of the Year was The Trophy Case, founded by Ron Mack and his wife, Barbara. The Trophy Case started as a teaching opportunity for special needs children. Second-generation owners Darin and Kristin Mack accepted the award on behalf of their parents.
Citizen of the Year Susan Alvillar of WPX Energy makes community service a priority. A lifelong member of Girl Scouts, Alvillar was the founding chairwoman of the Women of Distinction Awards.
A special Community Visionary award went to Christy Whitney, founder of Hospice of the Grand Valley. The organization employs more than 300 people and has 1,400 volunteers.
The Young Professional of the Year award went to Heather Benjamin, communication manager and public information officer for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
Diane Schwenke, dressed as Wonder Woman, was presented with a special award recognizing her 25 years of service to the chamber. She is chamber president and CEO.