Ocala Star Banner
March 8, 2011
Chamber Honors Its Many Stars
By: Susan Latham Carr
There was a galaxy of stars at the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s 124th annual meeting Thursday night, but some seemed to sparkle just a little brighter than the others as the 2011 Stars Over Ocala Business Awards were presented to local businesses and individuals at the Appleton Museum of Art.
Ken Daley, the 2007 Chamber board chairman who is president and CEO of Bernie Little Distributing LLC, was the emcee of the event dressed in a smock and artist’s beret and toting a pallette and brush to emphasize the evening’s theme, “Creating a Masterpiece for our New Economy.”
Chamber President Jaye Baillie spoke of the Chamber’s long legacy and how its Power of One initiative in 2011 created 500 jobs. “This is the new ribbon cutting, growing from within,” Baillie said.
Doug Cone, president of Cone Distributing Inc., and Brian O’Connor, site director of Lockheed Martin Ocala Operations, spoke about the Chamber’s merger with the Economic Development Corporation. “We are uniquely positioned to be successful,” O’Connor said. And there will be help for small businesses. “We will be a one-stop shop,” he said. “We will have an advocate on staff to help,” Cone said. “The business community of Ocala/Marion County, we are going to take back our economy.”But he also asked for the business community’s engagement because “it will be the right thing to do.”
The 2011 Chamber Chairman Dave Fechtman emphasized the year’s work: the Chamber’s accreditation, the merger with the Economic Development Corporation, the establishment of the Community Foundation, and the opening of the Power Plant incubator for new businesses.
And then came the moment everyone waits for each year. Always the highlight of the evening, the awards, presented by Ocala Magazine, are given to individuals and businesses in recognition of their contributions to the community.
Fechtman presented the Chairman’s Award to Francine Johannesen for her years of commitment to the Chamber and its Board of Directors and Executive Committee, for leading membership development and retention, as well as, for restructuring the Ambassador Program.
HDG Hotels, formerly Hotel Development & Management Group, was named Business of the Year. Since 1981 when the Econo Lodge Motel — now the Howard Johnson Ocala — was purchased, HDG Hotels’ portfolio has grown to seven properties.
Small Business Person of the Year was awarded to Rondo Fernandez, owner of the Mojo Grill and Catering Company. Since opening the Mojo Grill in 2009, the company has continued to expand, with its largest growth occurring in 2011, when the number of employees grew from 15 to nearly 100.
The New Business of the Year award was given to Great American Coffee Roasters LLC. In spite of its ups and downs, this young company celebrated its first anniversary on Nov. 1 and, through the determination of its owners, brought freshly roasted coffee to Ocala.
Two organizations walked away with the Non-Profit Business of the Year award, Munroe Regional Medical Center and Heart of Florida Health Center.
La Cuisine French Restaurant, a business owned by Patrice Perron and Stephane Gattacieca, won the Minority Business of the Year Award.
The Walt Driggers Environmentalist of the Year Award went to the College of Central Florida.
The Business Advocate of the Year was awarded to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners.
Pamela Calero of the College of Central Florida Foundation was named the Emerging Leader of the Year.
The Innovator of the Year award was given to The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.
The Non-Profit Business Council’s Humanitarian of the Year award was given to Fran Marino-Farrell for her work and contributions on behalf of youth and animals.
The Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park was the winner of the Agriculture/Equine Business of the Year award.
The Exporter of the Year award was given to Pro Poly of America.
Two entities were winners of the Megawatt Award, the city of Ocala and Marion County Board of County Commissioners.
Ocala Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year award was given to Whit Palmer in recognition of his many years of civic engagement and community service.
The Chamber also presented a Volunteer of the Year award to Ernie Clautier of Mail Sort Inc. to recognize his extensive work on behalf of the Chamber.