Innovators hailed at Chamber banquet

Friday night, members of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce gathered at the RiverPark Center to remember the city’s achievements in 2017 and salute outstanding Chamber members who had excelled and led over the last year.

“Owensboro, we have a lot to celebrate,” master of ceremonies Kirk Kirkpatrick told the large audience in RiverPark Center’s Cannon Hall. Kirkpatrick noted Metalsa’s $36.5 million expansion taking place at its Owensboro plant, the opening of Alorica Inc.’s downtown office, with 500 employees, and the addition of Owensboro’s O.Z. Tyler Distillery to the state’s “bourbon trail.”

Friday night was when “we get to celebrate you, our Chamber leadership,” Chamber president and CEO Candance Brake said.

Much of Friday’s ceremony was taken up by businesses of the year awards and individual Chamber awards. The business award winners were nominated by other Chamber members and were selected by an anonymous committee, with the members having no ties to the nominees, Brake said.

The selection committee looks for excellence and community involvement. The committee also places high value on a business’s ability to try new things, Brake said.

“With all of our winners this year, there is a theme of innovation,” Brake said.

Diamond Lake Resort won the business award for businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Brian Smith, co-owner of Diamond Lake, said innovation has been part of the resort’s business plan.

“That’s the biggest challenge, keeping it fresh,” Smith said. “What we do as an ownership is pledge every year we’ll bring something new, to make customers want to come back.” The changes can be small, such as paving roads, or adding a new attraction, such as the “drifting trikes,” which Smith described as motorized “Big Wheels” of sorts, which will be brought to the resort this year.

Smith said he felt all of the other nominees in his category were also deserving of recognition.

“It’s a honor just to be nominated,” he said. “Obviously, without the Chamber of Commerce, no one would know where we are.

“I’m accepting (the award) on behalf of all the other nominees,” Smith said. “We all do our own niche.”

Bart Darrell, president of Kentucky Wesleyan College and chairman of the 2018 Chamber board, said Owensboro is at a “pivotal point” in charting its future, and said, “I think the Chamber has the task of leading the advocacy of this community.

“There’s no doubt this community can compete with anyone, for anything,” Darrell said. “… Let’s be Owensboro and Daviess County, because I promise you, that’s enough.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303,, Twitter: @JamesMayse

Chamber Award Winners:

Emerging business of the year: Bella Ragazza Boutique.

Business of the year with one to 10 employees: Diamond Lake Resort.

Business of the year with 11 to 50 employees: Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory Inc.

Business of the year with over 50 employees: Canteen/Conti Corp.

Nonprofit organization of the year: Habitat for Humanity of Owensboro-Daviess County.

Education and workforce development award: Wendell H. Ford Government Education Center.

Manufacturing business of the year: Sun Windows Inc.

Rick Kamuf agri-business of the year: Cecil Farms Produce.

Chamber member of the year: Owensboro Convention Center

Innovator of the year: Hollison, LLC.

Chamber ambassador of the year: Chris Arnold.

Chamber director of the year: Rick Kamuf.

Leadership Owensboro class member of the year: Shawn Tomes.

Chamber Young Professional of the year: Andrew Howard

William R. Young community leadership award: Rodney Berry.

By James Mayse Messenger-Inquirer