Merrill Area Chamber announces Businesses of the Year at Annual Banquet
TINA L. SCOTT
One of the highlights of the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC) Banquet held on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, was the recognition of community Businesses of the Year, selected and voted on, in each respective category, by their peers.
“Each year our business community can nominate their fellow businesses to receive ‘Business of the Year,’” said Clyde Nelson, Executive Director of the MACC. “From there the nominees are voted on again, by the businesses of Merrill. It was a very close ballot, but the businesses that pulled ahead were well deserving and do great things for our community.”
The nominees are … And the award goes to …
• The nominees for 2022 Large Business of the Year were: Agra Industries, Aspirus Health, Bell Tower Residence, FreMarq Innovations Inc., Northcentral Technical College, Park City Credit Union, S.C. Swiderski, and Sierra Pacific Windows.
And the award for 2022 Large Business of the Year goes to: FreMarq Innovations Inc. (Todd and Renea Frederick).
• The nominees for 2022 Mid-size Business of the Year were: Breaman Merrill Ford, Dave’s County Market, Merrill Tool and Waterjet, Mitchell Metal Products, Reindl Printing, and Tractor Supply Company.
And the award for 2022 Mid-size Business of the Year goes to: Breaman Merrill Ford (David Breaman, Joseph Breaman Jr., and Ed Wayda).
• The nominees for 2022 Small Business of the Year were: AmericInn, Anytime Fitness, Crossbridge Community Bank, Culver’s, Health In Motion, Kindhearted Home Care LLC, Los Mezcales, Merrill Area Housing Authority, Richard Mamer CPA, and Urban Construction Company.
And the award for 2022 Small Business of the Year goes to: Culver’s of Merrill (Joe and Lori Wakefield).
• The nominees for 2022 Hometown Business of the Year were: Bein’ Crafty, Chip’s Hamburgers, Edward Jones – Kevin Cohrs, Geiss Meat Service, Merrill Foto News, Pine Ridge Convenience Stores, Polka-Dotted Pie, Riverside Athletic Club, Sunrise Broadcasting LLC, and The Chiropractic Wellness Center.
And the award for 2022 Hometown Business of the Year goes to: Polka-Dotted Pie (Jen Schlaefer and Wendy Woller).
• The nominees for 2022 Non-profit Business of the Year were: Gleason Community Club, Lincoln County Rodeo Association, Merrill Area Community Home (MAC Home), Merrill Ice Draggers, Merrill Noon Optimist Club, Parkside Pre-school, Pine River Volunteer Fire Department, and St. John Lutheran School and Church.
And the award for 2022 Non-profit Business of the Year goes to: Lincoln County Rodeo Association (President Bryan Bloch).
Congratulations to all the nominees and this year’s winners!
New Legacy Award recognizes Church Mutual as a “rock” of the Merrill community
This year the Chamber also introduced a special new award: the Legacy Award.
The recipient of the 2022 Legacy Award was Church Mutual Insurance Company (CEO Rich Poirier).
“Church Mutual has played a huge role in our community, contributing to many different aspects to better our community,” Nelson said. “They have been around for 125 years and plan to be around for many years to come. When the opportunity to award them a Legacy Award came into light, we knew that Church Mutual was a clear choice for the initial Legacy Award.”
Made of slate, the plaque signifies that Church Mutual has been a rock for the Merrill community for 125 years, Nelson said. Appropriately, the award is engraved slate and was created by the FAB Lab at Merrill High School.
“This is an incredible honor,” Church Mutual President and CEO Rich Poirier said. “Our legacy, rooted right here in Merrill, is something we believe is important and integral to our success. Church Mutual has an unwavering and strong commitment to Merrill.”
Founded in Merrill in 1897, Church Mutual is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2022. The company has grown to become the largest insurer of religious institutions in the U.S., as well as a premier insurer of non-profits, schools, camps, and senior living facilities. Starting as Wisconsin Church Mutual Fire Insurance Association, with a single employee in an office above a drug store in downtown Merrill, Church Mutual has grown to employ approximately 1,100 people–some 700 locally and 400 others located throughout the U.S.–with company assets (as of the end of 2021) at $2.4 billion.
Chamber Ambassador of the Year
Chamber Ambassadors are volunteers from member organizations throughout the community who help with Chamber activities, advocate for the Merrill Chamber, come to ribbon cuttings to celebrate milestones with area businesses and organizations, and in other ways help the Chamber and the community.
This year, Dawn Smith, who is employed with the Merrill Area Park and Recreation Department, was selected as the Chamber Ambassador of the Year.
Record attendance made for fun
“We had a lot of fun at our Annual Celebration … at Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes!” the Chamber announced via social media after the event. “We had great food, great conversation, great speakers, great entertainment, by Laffin Magic, and our yearly Chamber Awards.”
“Attendance was the highest we have ever seen,” Nelson said. “We are doing great things at the Chamber, and I think the community is realizing that. We continue to discuss ways we can better our membership and give back to our community.”
The Chamber also thanked their sponsors, noting they “couldn’t have done this without them!” This year’s Chamber Banquet Gold Sponsors were: AmericInn Lodge & Suites-Merrill, Aspirus Health, Breaman Merrill Ford, Church Mutual Insurance Company, Courtside Furniture, FreMarq Innovations, IncredibleBank, Nicolet Bank, Northern Wire LLC, Park City Credit Union, Polka-Dotted Pie, Sawmill Brewing Company, Westside Market, and Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo. Silver Sponsors were: Bell Tower Residence, Brickners Park City, Culver’s, Merrill Ice Drags, and Sierra Pacific Windows. Bronze Sponsors were: Associated Bank, North Central Health Care, and Dimond Bros.
Board member changes
Board members whose terms will expire at the end of 2022 were thanked and recognized, and two new members were welcomed to the Board of Directors, at the Banquet as well. Dennis Krueger of Lincoln Wood Products and Zach Kubicek of Sawmill Brewing Company will conclude their terms at the end of December. “Mr. Kubichek and Mr. Krueger have been integral members of our Board of Directors, and we are grateful for their years of service and knowledge they have brought to our team and community,” Nelson said.
“We have found great replacements for them on our Board, and we are excited to see where the next year brings us,” he added.
Tony Kusserow of Courtside Furniture and Jessica Gipp of Ziebell Door Company were selected to replace Krueger and Kubicek beginning in January 2023.