In what has become an annual tradition, the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce held its Small Business Awards Breakfast last week at Michael's Function Hall to honor local businesses deemed successful during the Great Recession.
"Believe it or not, there is reason for optimism," said Jim Jajuga, president and CEO of the Chamber in his opening remarks. "The economy is getting better."
The biggest winner of the morning ceremony was Team Haverhill, led by Chairwoman Alice Mann and Vice Chairman Eric Karlstad. The community outreach and volunteer organization was named Business of the Year by its peers for 2010.
"(This is) an individual group dedicated to making Haverhill a better place to live, work and play," Jajuga said as he introduced Karlstad. "I'm all excited about this ... mostly because I've never seen Eric Karlstad in a suit!"
Karlstad said that the award showcases how Team Haverhill operates as a business, calling it efficient and decisive.
"It's everything coming together, to get to being part of a renaissance," he said. "Emphasizing the positives going on in the community."
Team Haverhill, which over the course of 2010 partnered with the Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Whittier Vo-Tech, Haverhill High School, Girls, Inc., the Discovery Club and more, brought to downtown the area's first River Ruckus, a daylong celebration of the city's arts and culture.
"What a wonderful, smashing success," Jajuga said about the Ruckus.
Team Haverhill, at the culmination of a three year study, also brought single-stream recycling to Haverhill, ending years of confusion and waste in an effort to not only be more environmentally friendly, but to also save trash and recycling pick up costs.
"Nobody realizes how much effort went into that," Jajuga said." "They are wonderful people, and we're proud to be partnered with them."
To be considered for an award, monthly or yearly, each nominated organization had to be a member of the chamber, demonstrate growth during a down economy, be a leader in their respective field and show character and impact the community positively.
The winners received a citation from Mayor James Fiorentini, U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, state Sen. Steven Baddour and state Rep. Brian Dempsey.
Bob Nelson, the district director of the Small Business Administration's Massachusetts District Office, spoke about the need for small businesses legislation and how that will fuel economic growth.
"Small businesses drive competitiveness, innovation and new jobs," he said, adding that the SBA has delivered over $350 million to 2,000 small businesses across the country and how the loan limit has been increased from $2 million to $5 million. "Together, with our loan partners, we're delivering."
Nelson spoke about the nation's improving economic health, and cited the Commonwealth's 8.2 percent unemployment rate, far lower than the national average of 9 percent.
"Progress continues to be made," he said, citing a January CNN report about increasing consumer confidence levels. "It's encouraging for small businesses. Confidence and spending go hand in hand. I'm an eternal optimist. I joke sometimes, even my blood type is B positive."
Nelson admitted, though, that the work is far from over.
"Everyone agrees that we have a long way to go," he said. "We'll continue to work in overdrive."
Monthly award winners
January: Boston Green Realty
March: Cheryl K. Perkins & Associates
April: Rogers Spring Hill Garden & Farm Center
May: Hill View Montessori Charter Public School
June: Prime Property Team/Keller Williams Realty
July/August: Team Haverhill
September: Little Sprouts Child Enrichment Centers, Inc.
October: Emmaus, Inc.
November: NorthEast Computer Services, LLC
December: Angel Flight Northeast
Annual award winners
Education: Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School
Family-Owned Business; Rogers Spring Hill Garden & Farm Center
Health: Merrimack Valley Hospital
Manufacturing: Cedar's Mediterranean Foods
Pioneer of the Year: Kenoza Vending Company, Inc.
Restaurant: The Tap
Retail/Wholesale: Angles & Art of Haverhill and Positive Images Gallery 61
Rookie of the Year: Archie's Place
Service Nonprofit: Haverhill Police Department
Service for Profit: Sullivan Bille Group
Technology: NorthEast Computer Services, LLC
Women in Business: Cheryl K. Perkins & Associates
Business of the Year: Team Haverhill
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