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Businesses, community groups and volunteers who have committed to the town were thanked for their efforts and an optimistic eye was cast to the future at the Berlin Economic Development Awards Dinner.
"It is a privilege for us to have businesses that chose our town, and I think sometimes we miss that. But businesses create opportunities, jobs, help people pay mortgages and rents, support places like Central (Pizza) and Ramen-Ya. So I thank everybody so very much," said Economic Development Director Chris Edge, who hosted the June 5 ceremony at Shuttlemeadow Country Club.
This year’s ceremony included three new accolades: the Innovation Award, which went to Steelwrist; the Entrepreneur Award, given to Dragonfly Design; and the Milestone Awards, which went to a half dozen businesses which are celebrating major anniversaries this year.
Also, the volunteer and non-profit award was split into two categories this year, with Kevin Murphy, owner of Royal Machine, and a volunteer on town boards since the 1980’s, being named Volunteer of the Year.
No Boundaries Youth Theatre, formerly the New Britain Youth Theater, was crowned Non-Profit of the Year.
Edge said the new award additions were made to reflect the contributions made to the town by the diverse organizations which keep it going.
"Every one of them have made large financial investments, but also, emotional, because they're investing into the community and what we're doing here," he said.
This year’s award winners are:
■Business of the Year: Keep Me Home
■Project of the Year: Forrest Machine
■New Business of the Year: Kathy’s Urgent Care
■Family Business Award: AMCO Precision
■Small Business of the Year: Ramen Ya
■Volunteer of the Year: Kevin Murphy
■Regional Economic Assistance Award: Department of Economic and Community Development
■Beautification Award: Kensington Congregational Church
■Innovation Award: Steelwrist
■Community Support Award: Italian Independent Political Club
■Entrepreneur Award: Dragonfly Design
■Nonprofit of the Year: No Boundaries Youth Theater
■Milestone Awards: Fletcher Terry (150 years), Parker Hannifin (100 years), Alden Tool (70 years), Cambridge Specialty (65 years), Amity Printing (60 years), Central Pizza (50 years)
Rich Zovich, of AMCO Precision Tool, said the awards validate the hard work it takes to keep a business going, especially when they’re starting up.
“We feel appreciated. Ninety percent of the time we’re working away, doing our thing, keeping our customers happy. It’s nice to see,” the town recognizing their efforts, Zovich said.
After Mayor Mark Kaczynski presented Forrest Machine with its plaque, Edge said helping the company move to Berlin showed the strong team Berlin has available to help businesses.
"Without a doubt, Forrest Machine is one of my favorite projects I've done because they had an opportunity to go to a couple other communities,” Edge said. “(The) town planner, leadership came up with something that they could work with and was competitive, and I think they basically purchased and developed what I think was the nicest piece of land in town. It's something to be amazingly proud of.”
Kaczynski said growth in Berlin isn’t limited to those who were recognized on this night. He noted that Tom’s Corporation is in the midst of its seventh expansion, Tri-State Materials Testing is in the middle of moving to town and a purchase and sale agreement has been signed with developers to construct five mixed-use buildings adjacent to the train station on Farmington Avenue.
The future also looks bright, the mayor said, with the potential for new development spurred by a new overlay zone to allow mixed-use developments on the Berlin Turnpike, which was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in May.
Kaczynski hopes that the sum of it all proves to reverse any notions that the town is not business-friendly. "I think that's certainly changed, by the look of what has occurred over the past few years and what is to come," he said.