Some 330 gathered for the first Ernst & Young West Michigan Entrepreneur Of The Year award ceremony at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
A separate West Michigan EOY program was added to the annual international awards program this year for the first time. An East Michigan Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremony was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn the same evening.
Speaking on behalf of the eight-member judging panel, Rich Cook, CEO of X-Rite Inc., said judges were pleased that West Michigan was able to have its own EOY regional competition and awards ceremony this year.
He said West Michigan’s panel of independent judges used the same criteria for selection as is used for all EOY awards programs worldwide.
“We looked for well-run businesses with growing revenues and profitability,” he said. “Innovation, whether in terms of product development, creative distribution, management techniques or service to customers definitely elevated a finalist in the ranks.
“We felt it an awesome responsibility to have to pick just one award recipient in each category out of so many well-qualified finalists.
He referred to all finalists and their staffs as “winners” and thanked them for making the selection process “so difficult” for judges.
West Michigan’s 2002 Entrepreneur Of The Year award winners are:
- Financial/Business Services Entrepreneur of the Year: Carol Burgess, vice president, and Carol Smith, vice president, Great Lakes Scrip Center Inc. of Wyoming. Great Lakes Scrip is a fundraising company that brings merchants and nonprofits together. It’s the second largest and fastest growing center of its kind in the country.
“Eight years ago we started in our basement,” Burgess recalled. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our families, to all of our employees and the tons of women out there who have worked for us. Without them we wouldn’t have a company.”
- Manufacturing/Distribution Entrepreneur of the Year: John C. Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam Corp. Kentwood-based Autocam is a global manufacturer of precision-machined components for the automotive industry.
Upon accepting the award, Kennedy thanked the company’s 2,500 associates around the world, saying, “Certainly, the success of this business is much more attributable to them than it is me.”
- Professional/Consumer Services Entrepreneur of the Year: Lyle L. Labardee, president and CEO of Crisis Care Network of Byron Center. Crisis Care Network provides on-site trauma counseling across the nation. Labardee developed a network of more than 4,000 counseling professionals and managed them in and out of New York City after Sept. 11.
Restoring hope in the lives of those affected by crisis is what Crisis Care Network is about, Labardee said. “Through the support of our Grand Rapids community, we were able to touch over 2,000 people in New York City affected by 9/11,” he said. “I think it’s a real credit to West Michigan that we were there and able to answer that call.”
- Real Estate Construction Entrepreneur of the Year: Dan Driesenga, president of Driesenga & Associates Inc. of Holland. Driesenga & Associates is a full-service turnkey civil engineering firm providing services from the design through construction.
“This is really an award for my employees and I’m simply up here accepting this award on their behalf,” Driesenga said. “Thanks to all of you out there who have been quiet supporters of ours. Thanks for believing in us as a little known startup and giving us a chance to show you what we can do.”
- Technology Entrepreneur of the Year: Jerry K. Engle, president of Computer Products & Resources Inc. Grand Rapids-based CPR is the only full-service information technology provider in the Midwest.
Engle used a quote to express his feeling about receiving the award: “‘A thousand mile journey begins with a first step.’ I’ve enjoyed this journey and we’re going to keep on going. I’d like to thank my team who started with me, especially my family and my extended family.”
- Social Responsibility Entrepreneur of the Year: Fred P. Keller, chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering of Grand Rapids. Cascade Engineering is a plastics injection-molding manufacturer that makes parts for the automotive and office furniture industries, as well as containers for waste-hauling companies. The company has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for acquiring renewable energy sources and by the White House for its Welfare-to-Career initiatives.
“The many folks who put up with me in the organization that I have been known to call ‘my laboratory’ are to be commended,” Keller said. “Being able to have an organization where people are willing to try something different and do something, not just for the financial bottom line but for the good of the community, is truly a blessing.”
- Lifetime Achievement Entrepreneur of the Year: Richard G Haworth, chairman of Haworth Inc. of Holland. Haworth is the world’s second largest designer, engineer and manufacturer of office furniture offering a comprehensive range of products and services for office environments with 40 manufacturing sites worldwide, 23 global subsidiaries and 14,000 employees.
Haworth’s 14,000 associates worldwide “do outstanding things every day,” Haworth said “We have a leadership team that is truly world class and we’re constantly searching for ways to change the organization and make it better. We also feel a tremendous responsibility to every community that we’re involved in to be involved in that community and make it a better place to live.”
The seven West Michigan award recipients are now eligible to compete for several national award categories, including the 2002 National Entrepreneur Of The Year award.
National winners will be announced at a black-tie event in Palm Springs, Calif., on Nov. 23. Comedian and talk show personality Jay Leno will host the event. More than 1,500 are expected to attend.
Local sponsors of the West Michigan EOY awards are National City Bank, Marsh Inc., Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC, Grand Valley State University’s Seidman School of Business, Grand Rapids Business Journal and WOOD 1300 AM.
National sponsors are USA Today, CNN, The Nasdaq Stock Market and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Established by Ernst & Young in 1986, the EOY program is held in 44 regions nationwide and 20 countries worldwide.