Businesses honored at awards dinner

Norton highlights role power plays

MORRIS – The Morris Country Club was abuzz as 300 business, municipal and organization leaders as well as guests came together to recognize and congratulate local organizations for awards received and a successful year for the Grundy County community.

Every seat was taken at the Grundy Economic Development Council and Grundy County Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual dinner held March 21.

Nancy Norton, GEDC chief executive officer and president and Jeff Hettick ComEd external affairs manager, presented three awards from the GEDC.

“The GEDC is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. That would never have happened without great community support, thank you,” Norton said.

The GEDC offered three awards that evening, a Welcome to Grundy County Award was given to Costco Meat Processing Facility, ComEd Economic Development Department received the Partnership award and REG Biofuels Seneca earned Business of the Year award.

The Costco Meat Processing Facility was an addition to Grundy County less than a year ago, in addition to the wet-frozen and dry food depots that have been in the county for 15 years.

“We were honored they would even consider us, being so new to the community. This shows that they understand our value to the community,” Costco Assistant General Manager Andy Leachman said.

John McCann, ComEd economic and business development manager, accepted the Partnership award. Norton has this to say about ComEd and its partnerships with businesses in Morris and Grundy County.

“Prospects and businesses frequently comment about how Grundy County and regional entities work together and the Partnership Award embodies this spirit,” Norton said.

She went on to say, “One thing that many don’t think about is power. As I begin my 18th year at the GEDC, right from the start the economic development department of ComEd was by my side introducing me to key players, helping me get training, and most important, filling out extensive questionnaires on power. This department may be relatively unknown among many of you, but I assure you, it is on the front line of attracting new businesses to Illinois.”

The Business of the Year award was received by Tim Mann, plant manager REG Biofuels Seneca, which supports 60 full-time employees. This biodiesel facility began in 2007 and in 2017 alone purchased $50 million of feed stock to produce biodiesel.

“This award was fantastic. It was something I never expected. It’s an honor and privilege to be chosen as business of the year,” Mann said.

The Grundy County Chamber of Commerce and Industry handed out four awards, and Christina Van Yperen, chamber executive director, and Matt Fritz, Coal City village administrator and Chamber board secretary, presented.

“It is our pleasure to recognize those who have made a significant contribution to our area and who were nominated by Chamber members,” Van Yperen said.

Business of the Year went to Big Bash Restaurants, which own Big Fish Grille and Pesciolino Osteria in Channahon, Morris Chop Shop, and Big Bash Catering.

“We are ecstatic, this was a nice pat on the back. We have been in the county for 10 years and it’s always nice to be nominated from our peers,” owner John Mathias said. “We live in the area and want to stay local offering the consumer different brands in the same marketplace.”

Entrepreneur of the Year went to Michelle Xydakis of Montage Bar and Spirits. Xydakis worked for Montage for nine years and has been the sole owner since 2015. She had a vision to take a wine bar into a place that catered to a bigger audience with craft beer, spirits and small plates.

“In just three and a half months, Xydakis and her husband, Tony, purchased, remodeled and opened Montage in the former Sklut’s store, preserving a 150-year-old downtown Morris building while expanding a local business,” Van Yperen said.

Grundy Workforce Services was awarded Organization of the Year, which in the last fiscal year helped more than 150 people with their high school equivalence, training in high-demand areas, coordinated internships in Grundy County or helped find better careers.

Sarah Hintz, manager workforce skills and Morris education teacher, said the programs through the organization have been funded by the Grundy Livingston Kankakee Workforce Board.

Fritz presented Mary Rossio, of Joliet Area Community Hospice and Angels of Hope, the Ambassador of the Year award for her ambassador work with the Chamber.

Van Yperen said Chamber ambassadors serve as liaisons between Chamber members and staff. They gather feedback and answer members’ questions during calls and visits they make throughout the year.

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