Hoping for a thaw in the pandemic that will allow businesses to enjoy a prosperous summer, the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce has announced it will be holding its annual awards dinner in person with a theme of “Spring Forward.”
“We’ve come out of a fairly dark winter, a tough time in the last year for business. Just because of the coronavirus we've had some struggles in how we move forward not just economically, but in terms of our communities,” said chamber Executive Director Ray Andrewsen. “ … So now we're in spring and we’re starting to come out of the pandemic thanks to the vaccinations.”
The event, at the Farms Country Club in Wallingford on June 10, will recognize six local businesses for their contributions to the North Haven and Wallingford communities over the past year.
The chamber’s Shining Star award will be presented to three companies based on their size. The Burns and McDonnell construction firm was named the large company winner, the North Haven branch of American Eagle Credit Union received the medium company award and Art Television and Appliance is the small company recipient.
The Community Impact Award will go to Lary Lazaroff of Arnold’s Jewelers; the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford will receive the Non-Profit of the Year award; and the Record-Journal will be presented the Diversity and Inclusion Award.
“I think what the awardees feel is a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for their tremendous impact and contribution to the local business community and to the local community itself … This is a fun thing that we do, we really enjoy recognizing the local businesses that contribute so much to this region,” Andrewsen said.
Ann-Marie Katzer, American Eagle’s vice president of retail sales and service, said small businesses create the vitality of their communities. Many of the local companies the credit union works with have been struggling through the pandemic, so American Eagle has been helping them navigate various local, state and federal programs.
“We had to pivot, we had to be creative and find ways to safely stay engaged and stay relevant to members that needed our help still,” Katzer said. “We’re excited to be in the spring of 2021 and excited that folks are getting vaccinated and things are starting to open up a little more … and by the same token I think we've learned some valuable lessons and some new ways of servicing members.”
Record-Journal Publisher Liz White Notarangelo said the Diversity and Inclusion Award reflects the launch of the newspaper’s Latino Communities Reporting Lab in March. Though she’s proud of the work being done by the lab, White said the award belongs to the entire community, which helped form the initiative through a five-month listening tour to ensure the project meets the community’s needs.
The lab has already hired its first reporter and is hiring for a second reporting position.
The Record-Journal also created a Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which is planning special sections throughout the year. The first 28-page section, released in February, focused on Black History Month and the contributions of local African Americans. A special section planned for next month will focus on the LGBTQ+ community.
“The work that the committee’s done has been impactful in creating new initiatives,” White said.
The “Spring Forward” theme of the dinner reflects that businesses are feeling more optimistic, Andrewsen said.
“We’re seeing a return to optimism, a sense of recovery, a re-engagement and people wanting to be helping each other in a more direct way … we’ve obviously seen the coronavirus numbers are improving in Connecticut and we have terrific vaccination rates,” he said.