For several contributors to Petoskey’s business community and the area as a whole, today’s Breakfast for Champions program served as a victory lap of sorts.
The annual community awards breakfast, organized by the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, drew more than 400 people to the Odawa Casino Resort. With Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis serving as the event’s keynote speaker, organizers picked a theme of “Revved for Success” for the program.
This year, local auto dealership owner Dave Kring received the high-profile Chairman’s Award, which the chamber bestows on a person, business or organization that has had a significant impact on the Petoskey area.
Kring became bookkeeper at the local Chevrolet dealership in 1975, and later purchased it from owner Budd Tallberg. Kring moved the dealership to its current site on U.S. 31 North in 2005, renaming it Dave Kring Chevrolet-Cadillac at that point.
“That business is now a significant job provider with around 55 people on its payroll,” Petoskey chamber chairman Gary Lewinski said. “But beyond that economic impact, through Dave’s leadership, his business supports countless causes in the community including the Manna Food Bank, Little Traverse Bay Humane Society, the 4-H livestock auction and the Petoskey Youth Soccer Association, to name a few.
“Dave also gives of his personal time — and quietly some of his personal dollars — to many important causes in the community. Most notably, he holds the prestigious position as a trustee on the board of the Little Traverse Conservancy as well as the board of trustees for North Central Michigan College; this is his second stint on the college board.”
Lewinski also noted Kring’s sponsorship of another high-visibility Breakfast for Champions honor, the annual Athena Award. Although his involvement as a sponsor originally came through a partnership with General Motors, Kring increased his contribution when GM’s corporate sponsorship dried up so the program could continue locally.
Past Athena winners took the stage to help present Kring with the Chairman’s Award.
“We’re very proud to be a part of this,” said Women’s Resource Center executive director Jan Mancinelli, who received the Athena recognition in 1994.
The Rev. Sherry McGuffin, pastor at Petoskey’s Cross of Christ Lutheran Church, received this year’s Athena honor.
Reezie DeVet, the 2010 Athena winner, presented McGuffin with the honor. DeVet noted that the award is given to individuals whose actions, attitudes, values, knowledge and integrity are inspiring and help them serve as a role model of leadership for women and, in fact, for all. Recipients mentor women and assist others to navigate the paths to success.
“With this year’s winner, these accomplishments are done in a quiet way that may at first go unnoticed by others,” DeVet said. “However, the unassuming and humble manner of this year’s winner actually augments the strength of her leadership.”
McGuffin has been involved with the local Zonta women’s service club — including a stint as president. She has served on the boards of several local community organizations and as a volunteer for other service groups and Girl Scout activities. She also established the Paper Pantry at her church, which helps supply toiletries, paper products and other personal hygiene products to families in need.
“Our winner’s reach is beyond our community to the international arena, including (a) Habitat for Humanity housing blitz in South Africa and United Nations Advocacy programs through the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Zonta conferences in Australia and the Netherlands,” DeVet added.
As a pastor, DeVet noted that McGuffin works in a profession that is predominantly male.
“She has faced the naysayers and her strength influences many young women to pursue their dreams and to go beyond their comfort zone, make a difference and accomplish what they did not think was possible,” DeVet said.
Chamber Mission Award
Receiving the Chamber Mission Award today was Harbor Brenn Insurance Agencies. This award honors an individual, business or organization that helps the Petoskey chamber fulfill its stated mission: “To help businesses in the Petoskey area succeed while protecting our community’s quality of life and fostering responsible growth.”
Chamber board vice chairman Cindy Dickson noted that Harbor Brenn is a multi-generation family business that has had chamber membership since 1965. She added that the insurance agency has had staff members serve in leadership positions for boards and associations statewide, and assist the chamber in a variety of capacities. Harbor Brenn also has incorporated social media into its marketing strategies, Dickson noted, and reaches out to other businesses interested in doing the same.
“But despite all of that, the thing that sets this business apart is the energy it brings to the chamber and to the community as a whole,” Dickson said. “Their enthusiastic staff from time to time will host events at their business on behalf of various community causes. They have an infectious energy level that is felt by the chamber, their clients and the community.”
Service Excellence Award
The Grain Train Natural Foods Market received this year’s Service Excellence Award, which honors businesses which make quality service a priority. Stafford Smith, chairman of award sponsor Stafford’s Hospitality, presented the recognition.
“This market is a co-op that is owned by its members ... and its employees share in that ownership-passion as well,” Smith said. “If you’re a customer there, you can see that the staff is empowered to serve their guests, and committed to the mission of the organization of empowered individuals, vital communities and a healthy planet.”
Ambassador of the Year
The chamber recognized Jill Harris as this year’s Ambassador of the Year. This award recognizes outstanding service by a member of the chamber’s Ambassadors Committee, which helps with customer-service and member-relations needs.
Although she has a somewhat quiet demeanor, chamber president Carlin Smith noted that Harris has been an active and loyal member of the Ambassadors Committee, and regularly participates in its outreach efforts for businesses.
Entrepreneur of the Year
This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award was presented to Kirsten O’Keefe, owner of downtown Petoskey cafe The Twisted Olive.
“Perhaps the greatest stories of entrepreneurial success are those that met resistance off the bat,” said Entrepreneur Club of Emmet County chairman and award presenter Shaun Osborne. “This year’s recipient added to those stories in 2010. Whether it be a sluggish economy, an industry known for failed start-ups, little to no financing available or 90 percent of the people being naysayers, there was no lack of excuses for this brand new business to fail. Yet, another popular trait of a business owner known as passion kept her moving forward. Her passion for food in previous job experiences was held down too long, the community had a need and opportunity was here.”
Osborne also noted O’Keefe’s generosity in supporting charities and nonprofits, and that the sales at her cafe that have exceeded expectations significantly.
Also among today’s honors were several architectural awards. Kate Scollin, marketing director for award sponsor Preston Feather Building Centers, presented these.
Bear Creek Township received the beautification award, which honors accomplishments in site improvement, landscaping and garden beautification. Bear Creek was recognized for its completion of the Jones Landing Park project along Walloon Lake. The village of Pellston received honorable mention in the beautification category for its recent downtown streetscape efforts.
Petoskey Surgeons won this year’s design award in the new-construction category for its new office building on Petoskey’s west side. Kilwin’s Quality Confections received design recognition in the renovation category for its conversion of a former supermarket to serve as its headquarters and candy production site.
Young and Meathe, designers of facades at downtown Petoskey's Pretty Woman Boutique and owners of the building where it operates, received this year’s Heritage Award. It honors accomplishment with historic restoration, preservation and renovation of existing buildings. Honorable mention in this category was given to financial representative Steve Selden for exterior renovations at his downtown office.
The city of Petoskey received a special architectural award this year to recognize its approach to several recent public improvements, such as the Bear River Valley Recreation Area, the Northmen Court well site and related amenities near Petoskey High School, a new streetscape at the north end of Elizabeth Street, expansion of the city marina and a new public safety station near Bay Harbor.
Speedway president speaks
As Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis noted in his keynote speech at the awards breakfast, the auto racing venue near Brooklyn has a variety of high-profile distinctions.
The speedway serves as a “welcome center” of sorts for the state, he noted, with a majority of the race fans it draws coming from outside Michigan. Curtis added that Michigan International Speedway also is among 12 U.S. tracks which have the opportunity to host two weekend NASCAR sprint car events each year, and also serves as the location for non-racing events ranging from wine festivals to weddings.
Curtis said the speedway’s successes are a reflection of its mission statement: “to create lasting memories for everybody, every time.”
“We sell memories, plain and simple, memories,” he said.
Curtis noted that a clear vision statement is an important item for businesses in general. Rather than just being something to display on a poster or a catchy tagline, Curtis said this statement needs to serve as a driving force for employees in their jobs.
Noting the enthusiasm he saw in Petoskey’s business community during the awards breakfast, Curtis said he’d “like to bottle this and take it back with me.” Along with elements such as adequate financing and proper strategic planning, Curtis noted that passion is also important in making a business successful.