County chamber recognizes top business community
MIDDLEBURY – The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic played a small role in who received year-end honors at the annual Addison County Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony on Thursday last morning. Three local leaders were honored:
- Karen Dugay was named Buster Brush Citizen of the Year for her tireless efforts to support Middlebury town center during the pandemic and her four years of construction related to the rail tunnel and reconstruction.
- Fred Kenney, executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corporation received the Community Achievement Award for his nonprofit work helping dozens of businesses process aid and grant applications.
- Dr. Mark Basol of the Vergennes Veterinary Hospital received the Company of the Year award to recognize the community service provided and the exceptional growth of the company in recent years.
The awards were presented to approximately 50 chamber members following breakfast at the Middlebury Inn. Phil Summers, who took over the role of executive director of the chamber this month, presented the awards.
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR
Dugay’s many accomplishments and activities to energize downtown Middlebury were described by Nancy Malcolm, who, along with Linda Horn and Dugay, led the community action group called Neighbors, Together.
“For the past seven years, Karen has helped lead Neighbors, Together as they worked to help mitigate the negative effects of the downtown rail and bridge project,” said Malcolm. “In her role as Executive Trustee of the Better Middlebury Partnership, she took on the challenge of being the Neighbors, Together Trustee and was a valued ‘leg’ of the three-legged stool overseeing the stakeholder group.
“In this capacity, she administered / managed / organized the grant funds as well as many of the group’s programs and initiatives, including overseeing a regional visitor-focused marketing campaign that reached millions of people, shopping and dining incentives that brought in more than $ 615,000 in direct economic impact. on local businesses, community development events including block parties, outdoor concerts, movies, and the Bundle pop-up event space.
“More than 1,500 volunteers have given thousands of hours to ensure the continued vitality of our community. To say that this couldn’t have happened without Karen would be an understatement. She continually went above and beyond to make it a success.
Malcolm also praised Dugay’s efforts over the past year and a half during the uncertainties of the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, Karen has adapted events (calling audibles, as they say), pitched new ideas, and engaged partners from across the region and state to better meet the needs of our community.” , Malcolm said. “She has supported businesses by organizing trade round tables and putting businesses in touch with direct financial assistance opportunities. In early 2021, Karen brought together local business owners, community members, and economic development professionals to launch ‘Kick Start Middlebury’, a recruiting program aimed at providing new businesses with a monetary incentive to fulfill the requirements. empty downtown storefronts. This program awarded grants to six companies; all of which are now in various stages of launch.
“One of the main goals of the Better Middlebury partnership,” Malcolm continued, “is to create opportunities for people to feel connected to their community. Throughout her nearly nine years with the organization, Karen has proven invaluable in building partnerships and creating those connections. She is deeply invested in the success of her community and continually seeks to inspire others to feel the same way. She understands that the community is larger than our immediate geography and she approaches all challenges with professionalism.
Equally important, Malcolm said, “Karen is always ready to share her time, her ideas and to lend a helping hand… She understands the need for collaboration between organizations and cities in Addison County and the State. . She knows pretty much everyone and people want her involved. It’s common to see her having coffee with Lloyd Komesar, a meeting with Amey Ryan, a conversation with Brian Carpenter, a phone conversation with Gary Halloway or an impromptu TV interview downtown, all to better promote our community. She knows when to ask questions and seek advice. She knows the value of person-to-person contact. His enthusiasm is contagious, his smile lights up a room. We are really lucky to have him in our community.
Malcolm concluded, “She really loves this community.”
BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
In an impressive feat of growth during the pandemic, the Vergennes Veterinary Hospital added five new employees last year and plans to build a 1,100 square foot extension to its existing building and hire another four to five employees in the near future.
Bob Feuerstein, owner of the Kennedy Brothers Building in Vergennes, presented the Company of the Year award to Dr Basol, recalling the history of the firm since its inception in 1940.
“Dr. Mark Basol came to practice in 1987 – an Iowa flatlander who came to Vermont for his skiing – joining Dr. Joe Klopfenstein as a partner,” Feuerstein recalled. specialist veterinarians was growing, the company was split into two entities in 2005, Dr Basol changing over to the VAH name and operating the small animal practice as it is today. Dr Greg Carlton joined VAH in 2013 and has since become a partner in practice. In addition to Drs. Basol and Carlton, three full-time associate veterinarians – Drs. Rebecca Sevy, Carrie Olsen and Roberta Hemmer – are also employed.
“A steady increase in the number of pet owners has resulted in increased employment opportunities for professional, administrative and technical staff. The firm has grown from a staff of eight in 1994 to today 18, of which five were added this year. With an annual payroll of over $ 1 million, VAH contributes to the local economy through employee patronage and the purchasing power of all businesses in the region…. And has long supported the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, the Vergennes Partnership, the Bixby Memorial Free Library and the Vergennes Opera.
COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
For many businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, federal and state aid was a big factor in helping those businesses stay afloat throughout the pandemic when much of the economy was shut down. Kenney and the nonprofit Addison County Economic Development Corporation were there to provide essential services to many people.
Addison County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Adam Lougee presented the House Community Achievement Award to Fred Kenney, which is presented to a non-profit organization “for his outstanding leadership in the community. community”.
Lougee described some of the highlights Kenney and his team provided, including:
- In addition to ACEDC members, borrowers and the regular list of companies they contact, ACEDC has added a list of over 260 very small and small businesses that have received regular grant updates. and state and federal loans, state mandates and councils, availability of personal protective equipment and local resources.
- ACEDC acted as an intermediary, passing information on to companies and partners in Addison County, and regularly raised regional concerns to the state legislative delegation, the federal congressional delegation and administrators of program.
- They have provided direct assistance to at least 30 companies, providing project development, project management, financial advice and grant writing assistance.
- 15 grant applications were written to state and federal programs, with 12 successful grants bringing in $ 374,000 to the region.
- “Application accepted from USDA / Rural Development providing $ 500,000 to Addison County to recapitalize ACEDC’s revolving loan fund.
- Development of several fruitful regional partnerships.
- Worked with the county regional planning commission on a comprehensive economic development strategy process in four regions, and
- Researched and wrote grants for Maple Broadband, the communications union district that plans to expand the availability of broadband Internet.
Lougee also noted that Kenney is chairman of the Middlebury Economic Health Committee and has done “extensive corporate advocacy at the congressional, Vermont legislature and municipal levels, including testimony on several committees.”
What was extraordinary, Lougee added, was that Kenney worked alone for much of the year, enduring the labor shortages many face, and just hired new employees.
Saying that “ACEDC is Fred Kenney,” Lougee recalled that “he brings over 30 years of experience in business and public administration at the state and federal levels, including 20 years in economic development. After running an inn, restaurant, pub, and working in real estate and construction in the Sugarbush area, Fred served on the staff of Senator Patrick Leahy for 13 years, including Senator Leahy’s personal office in Washington. , DC, and as Deputy Clerk on Staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Fred then brought his family back to Vermont and provided voter services at Sen, Leahy’s Burlington office, and provided business, economic development, housing and transportation outreach services from the office. of the senator in Montpellier. In 2001, Fred was appointed Executive Director of the Vermont Economic Progress Council, providing strategic planning for statewide economic development and administering the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program, the Tax Increment Financing Program and other programs for the Vermont Agency of Commerce.
“Fred has been Executive Director of ACEDC since November 2017, served on the Bolton School Board, including several years as President, and is currently President of With Love from Vermont, a Vermont nonprofit that has since 2012, partnered with Feed My Starving Children to package and send over 1.3 million meals to hungry children around the world and collect tons of non-perishable food for local food shelves.
In comments applicable to all of the event’s winners, Kenney thanked the chamber for the award.
“We have all done what we can to help individuals, community and businesses” get through the past year and survive, if not thrive, he said. “But the real heroes are those in our community who came together to help each other and the business owners and entrepreneurs who persevered. ACEDC is proud to have participated in these efforts.