Business & Development

Chronicle awarded ‘Business of the Year’

Springfield Chamber honors business leaders, pillars of the community at annual banquet

SPRINGFIELD – Springfield honored its own last week at a prestigious event, one that included The Chronicle earning “2022 Business of the Year” and former congressman Peter DeFazio earning “Distinguished Citizen of the Year.” 

The Springfield Chamber’s 73rd annual Awards aims to “Inspire Excellence” by recognizing top performers. This year, members submitted 42 nominations for six award categories: Emerging Leader, Business of the Year, Businessperson of the Year, Greeter of the Year, Pillar of the Community, Distinguished Citizen, and Employer of the Year. 

Back in-person for the first time since before the pandemic, an estimated 270 chamber members and civic leaders came together at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater on Feb. 9 to celebrate the achievements in commerce and civic involvement. 

With an estimated 270 in attendance, guests mingle at the Wildish Theater before the annual Springfield Area Chamber Awards Banquet gets underway. BOB WILLIAMS / THE CHRONICLE

Each nomination was reviewed and scored by an independent panel of chamber leaders and former award winners, like that of the 2020 Emerging Leader, Mark Molina, 2021 Business of the Year owner, Addi Farnsworth, of Addi’s Diner, and Tab Davis of Bicoastal Media, 2020 Business of the Year.

Former congressman Peter DeFazio, who retired in January after representing Oregon’s 4th Congressional District for 36 years, was presented with the Distinguished Citizen Award for “exemplary leadership” and “contributions to the business community and civic enterprises over time,” according to the panel of judges. 

For decades, DeFazio has been hard at work, beginning with his service in the United States Air Force Reserve in 1967, and then continuing to serve Springfield and the nation for over 50 years. He was most recently Oregon’s fourth congressional district Representative and Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 

The Chronicle was presented with the Business of the Year Award for having “made, and continuing to make, a community-wide impact,” according to the panel of judges.

According to its nominator, “In 2020, during the crux of the pandemic, owners Noel and Denise Nash took a calculated risk and opened a satellite office in downtown Springfield. … Once again, Springfield has a local newspaper dedicated to hyper-local news coverage.” Within the past year The Chronicle has hired three full-time professional reporters, now reaches more than 20,000 readers monthly, and has earned over 50 awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

Lithia Toyota of Springfield was recognized as Pillar of the Community for “having significant impacts on employment, innovation, stability, and contributing to the community beyond their core business.” 

According to its nominator, “In a year that continued to feel the economic impact of the pandemic, with supply chain issues and inventory shortages, Lithia Toyota persevered … in doing so has won several regional and national awards for consumer satisfaction. … In Springfield, Lithia continues to support the local workforce, and over two dozen non-profits in accomplishing its own mission of helping children, families, and individuals in Lane County.”

Kenny Weigandt of Willamalane Park and Recreation District accepts the Emerging Leader Award from previous award winner Mark Molina, back right. Weigandt’s family, far left, watches proudly as Weigandt makes a speech. BOB WILLIAMS / THE CHRONICLE

The Employer of the Year Award was given to Oregon Community Credit Union for its “exceptional commitment to employees, and its focus on workplace culture,” according to the panel of judges. 

“Big impacts are often rooted in humble beginnings,” according to its nominator. “What started as a group of employees pulling cash into a shoebox and agreeing on a vision to enrich the lives of others, is now an organization enriching the lives of tens of thousands of families and local communities.” 

Celeste Wong of Celeste Watch Company was named the Businessperson of the Year for her “demonstrated exemplary leadership in her organization, profession, industry, and community along with a personal commitment to Springfield.”

Her nominators say she is an “astute entrepreneur and small business owner …. Serving as an inspiration and mentor for women and engineers nationwide. … Self-taught in watch design, dial art, and watchmaking, Celeste now has a following across the globe.” Wong has been listed as one of “50 Engineers You Should Meet” by National Engineers Week, included in the National Academy of Engineering’s Gallery of Women Engineers, and named as one of the Nifty-Fifty individuals who have made a major impact on the field of engineering by the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

Kenny Weigandt of Willamalane Park and Recreation District was surprised to learn he earned the Emerging Leader Award, for “exemplary leadership in volunteer work, civic engagement, and a commitment to professional and leadership development.” “A heads up would have been nice,”he joked. His young family and partner popped out behind him as he was receiving the award, beaming with pride. 

His nominator said that Weigandt brings “a fresh perspective and strategic vision to all of his work. … He enthusiastically mentors a new generation of community leaders, helping them understand the impact their advocacy and public testimony can have on the community over time.” Through his efforts at Willamalane, thousands of Springfield students received a pass at no cost resulting in over 50,000 visits to destination partners, keeping kids active and local businesses thriving.

Tab Davis of Bicoastal Media was named the 2022 Greeter of the Year. Davis is a business owner, radio account executive, public speaker, and mentor. Davis was named 2022 Greeter of the Year during the annual greeter appreciation breakfast in December.

Avril Watt, chair of the Springfield Chamber Board of Directors, closed the event by welcoming the board’s newest members: Courtney Griesel of Sierra Pacific Industries, Ken Brown of Rexius Forest By-Products, Mary Ann Reilly of Travel Lane County, Pablo Valentine of Hershner Hunter, Stacy Koos of Summit Bank, Tiffany Monroe of Lane Families for Farms and Forests, and Tyler Hedden of PeaceHealth Medical Center at Riverbend.



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