The Thurston Economic Development Council announced its 2014 Business Recognition Award winners during a luncheon Thursday at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia.
Homeless Backpacks was named the top nonprofit organization for its service to needy children in Thurston and Mason counties. Founded in 2006, the all-volunteer organization buys, assembles and delivers about 300 food-filled bags a week to school counselors in the area. The cost is about $10 per child.
“Our program wouldn’t work if it weren’t for every volunteer and every dollar,” said board chairwoman Kelly Wilson, noting the organization’s November fundraiser.
The other finalists in the nonprofit category were the Washington Future Business Leaders of America and the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
In the best new business category, Forrey’s Forza Coffee took home the top honor. Located at 130 Marvin Road in Lacey, the coffee shop has become a model for other Forza franchises in the region.
Tom and Christine Forrey opened their shop in 2013 with a mission of “hosting life’s connections.” The shop serves homemade pies and builds community relationships through events such as open mic nights.
“We’d like to be the community center of Lacey and draw people in,” Christine Forrey told the audience. “It’s about connecting with people, because we don’t connect enough.”
Other finalists in the new business category were The Blend Café and Washington Wellness Center.
Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs and Day Spa was named the best small business.
Madelin White opened her business 40 years ago in Olympia. She credits a loyal customer base, along with a human touch, for helping the business survive.
White is known for teaching a class called “Look Good, Feel Better,” which provides camouflage techniques for covering the effects of cancer treatment.
“When you start a business at 29, you really don’t know what’s going to happen,” said White, noting that for 40 years, the business has given her flexibility to serve the community in a variety of volunteer roles. “My heart is in the community.”
The small business category was open to companies with 49 employees or less. Other finalists were Echo Energy and R.H.D. Enterprises.
Sunset Air, Inc. won the best corporate employer award. Launched in 1976, the Olympia company specializes in energy services related to heating, air conditioning, water heaters, electrical systems, solar panels and windows. With professional engineers on staff, Sunset Air focuses on residential and commercial buildings. The company was recently recognized for its green building work on Cebula Hall at St. Martin’s University.
“We’re proud to be part of this community, proud to give back to this community and proud to offer solutions to our customers,” said Brian Fluetsch, president of Sunset, while accepting the award. “I read something this week that talked about our customers signing our paycheck. If it weren’t for our customers, we wouldn’t be in business.”
Other finalists in the corporate employer category were Capital Medical Center and Lacey Learning Center.
Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org