Local businesses will receive recognition from the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce next week.
The chamber’s 141st annual Banquet and Hall of Fame Gala is set for Thursday, Oct. 21, at Fremont Golf Club. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m., while the program starts at 7 p.m.
“Typically, our banquet takes place in February, but obviously with COVID going on this year, we were not able to have it then,” Chamber Executive Director Tara Lea said. “So we’re kind of having a fun fall banquet this year.”
The banquet will announce the winners of the Small Business, Large Business, and Workforce Game Changer awards, which each have three businesses nominated.
“We have a little fun with that and show the videos of the three finalists and then announce the winner,” Lea said. “And actually the board of the directors are the only people that know the winners going into the night, so it’s really fun that everyone’s held in suspense.”
This year’s theme will be a “mask-erade,” in which attendees are invited to decorate their masks, which will be optional to wear.
“Obviously we’ll be encouraging folks to wear masks still and have some fun with it, if they don’t mind bedazzling it or just playing along with it,” Lea said.
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Additionally, the chamber will induct Gene Steffensmeier into its Hall of Fame. He was owner of Gene Steffy Auto Group in Fremont and Columbus before his death in November 2020.
“They’re just doing great things, and I know that everyone that’s worked for him always thought he treated them like family and just always took good care of them,” Lea said.
When she took her position with the chamber five years ago, Lea said Steffensmeier was one of the first people she met.
“He was just so influential in my immediate love for Fremont,” she said. “He was a very firm believer in, in order for his business to be successful, the entire community needed to be successful and keep growing and expanding.”
This year’s nominees for the Large Business Award are Home Instead Senior Care, INSPRO Insurance and WholeStone Farms.
Home Instead at 220 E. 22nd St. provides personalized home care for seniors, including hospice, companionship and transportation.
“They’ve had a crazy job trying to still get in homes and work with people,” Lea said. “And their caregivers just went above and beyond, which is phenomenal, and so we’re really proud of the work that they did.”
INSPRO at 100 E. Sixth St. offers both commercial and personal insurance, as well as safety and loss control, claims advocacy and human resources guidance.
“It’s amazing that they started here in Fremont and just continued to grow and really take exceptional care of all of their clients and offer the best possible insurance policies,” Lea said.
With WholeStone Farms at 900 S. Platte Ave., Lea said they were selected due to their ongoing expansion project.
“It’s fun to see new management come in there and just really kind of update everything and the culture to make sure it’s a place that they’re really going to take care of their people,” she said.
The Small Business Award nominees are Fremont Therapy and Wellness, La Hacienda and Three Rivers Public Health Department.
Fremont Therapy and Wellness, a physical therapy clinic at 1445 N. Bell St., also recently expanded its building.
“Jeree [Menning] and her team are just offering some services that nobody else in town was doing,” Lea said. “And she noticed that and saw a need for those things and has really honed in on that.”
With La Hacienda, a Mexican restaurant at 3140 Elk Lane, Lea said its selection was based on the business’ fundraisers for area schools, teams and nonprofits.
“Elizabeth (Salguero) and her team just are always going above and beyond to work with the community and always do a lot of fun things well,” she said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lea said Three Rivers at 2400 N. Lincoln Ave., has been “crucial” for businesses.
“Their team was on the phone in a matter of minutes to answer all of the questions for our businesses,” she said. “So they really ensured that our businesses thrived forever, but especially this past year.”
The banquet’s Workforce Game Changer Award is dedicated for businesses taking care of their employees in unique ways, Lea said.
“Workforce is huge right now and every business is seeing kind of a shortage there, so we really want to recognize those people who are doing a lot to keep their people happy,” she said.
The award’s nominees for this year are Dodge County Realty Group, DPA Auctions and EleMETAL Fabrication and Machine, the latter of which moved into a new facility at 2263 Business Park Drive earlier this year.
“They were a company of about nine and have grown to over 30 in the past couple of years,” Lea said. “So they’re making big advancements there.”
Dodge County Realty Group at 750 N. Clarmar Ave. is a real estate brokerage that provides a 4% commission rate.
“It’s a fun atmosphere, and they’re always working on the education part of things,” Lea said. “They’ve got a marketing person who really is doing a lot for them to make sure that they are the best in the biz.”
In July, DPA Auctions premiered its new building at 900 Bud Boulevard, which features open workspaces, a bar, shuffleboard and other amenities for its employees.
“You just walk in there and you want to work there, so they take good care of people,” Lea said. “They also are very community-engaged as well through nonprofit work and things like that, which is huge in this category as well.”
Tickets for the banquet can be purchased individually for $70 or a table of eight at $600 at fremontne.org or by calling 402-721-2641.
“It’s just going to be a really fun night, and we’re super blessed to have all of these amazing businesses,” Lea said. “It’s always hard to narrow it down to just nine, but we’re excited to celebrate these folks and have a wonderful evening.”