The Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce recently held their Annual Celebration & Awards as they celebrated their 105th year of working with and promoting area businesses.
Established in 1911, the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce was one of the first chambers in Wisconsin. It was the same year that the Wisconsin and U.S. Chambers of Commerce were established. As such, the Merrill Chamber’s name sits proudly on the cornerstone of the U.S. Chamber building in Washington D.C.
Some of the highlights for 2016 included: 13 new business members with a retention rate of 97%; 14,790 referrals were made to support local businesses; $52.8 million in tourism spending thanks in part to the Chamber’s aggressive advertising; 59,171 tourism requests were filled; eight Business after Hours events; 15 ribbon cuttings; three groundbreaking ceremonies; five school programs; 19 community events; 70+ community events represented each month on calendar of events; marketed in 12 magazines quarterly; marketed in six annual magazines/tourism books; worked with city to bring new Tractor Pull event; kicked-off new workforce development program 20/20 Vision with PRMS and local businesses; taped another Discover Wisconsin segment on the Wisconsin River; teamed up with the Wausau Chamber and their Young Professional programming; awarded Women of Distinction and Lifetime Achievement awards; installed a new 20-foot wreath on the courthouse lawn for Christmas; new electronic sign installed; and updated to a new website, membership software, telephone and internet systems.
Each year the Chamber makes several awards to area businesses that have been nominated and voted on by other chamber businesses. The awards are Large Business of the Year given to a business with more than 75 employees; Mid-size Business of the Year given to a business with 26-75 employees; Small Business of the Year to a business with 11-25 employees; and Hometown Business of the Year with less than 10 employees. And they also honor an outstanding Ambassador of the Year and a Not-for-Profit of the Year.
All winners this year have been heavily involved in community projects and economic development initiatives that make Merrill a great place to call home and to work.
“All of this year’s nominees and winners are exceptional corporate citizens and have a vision for the Merrill of tomorrow,” concluded Debbe Kinsey, chamber CEO. “It simply shows how just one business can have a powerful impact on a community and we are fortunate to have so many truly making differences every day.”
Large business nominees were Lincoln Wood Products, Marshfield Clinic-Merrill Center and The Interflex Group. The 2016 Large Business of the Year winner is Lincoln Wood Products. In 1947 Carl & Jane Biermann started a local company that would produce high quality, craftsmanship wood windows and doors that were made in Merrill. With a strong belief in community, hard work and business ideals, Lincoln Wood has grown from a rehabbed dairy farm to over 500,000 square feet in multiple locations in Merrill. The Biermann’s legacy continues as their hard work has made the community a benefactor of the company’s success.
Mid-sized business nominees were City of Merrill, Kwik Trip and Mitchell Metal Products. The 2016 Mid-sized Business of the Year is Mitchell Metal Products. Another home-grown business that produces window, door and equipment hardware, metal stamping and forming, fabrication and welding. It’s been said that every household has a part on something that has been manufactured at Mitchell Metal Products. They are the king when it comes to metal wreath form manufacturing and gives back to the community and country. Mitchell Metal Products donates all of the wreath forms that are placed at Arlington Cemetery graves every Christmas and they also produced the new 20-foot high wreath that is now used on the courthouse lawn at Christmas.
Small business nominees were Kindhearted Home Care, Lincoln Community Bank and Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes. The 2016 Small Business of the Year was Les & Jim’s. Another home grown Merrill business that is operated by the third generation, they have been a Merrill tradition for more than 47 years. They offer bowling, a great bar and grill menu, updated banquet facility, and new events such as Stand Up Comedy, music and more.
Hometown Business nominees were Courtside Furniture, Dorinda’s Dance Studio, Frokjer & Hersil, One Way Collision, and Tactical Search & Recruitment. The 2016 Hometown Business of the Year is Courtside Furniture. Another home grown, family owned Merrill business that was started in 1987 and is now operated by the second generation. Courtside Furniture offers quality furniture for home and office, mattresses and home accents. They offer free delivery within 50 miles and have a “Customer for Life” promise. They attract customers from all over central and northern Wisconsin and you will also see the owners on the showroom floor.
The Not-for-Profit organization nominees were the Lincoln County Rodeo Association, Merrill City Band, Merrill Firefighters, Merrill Ice Draggers, and St. Vincent de Paul.
The 2016 Not-for-Profit of the Year is the Merrill City Band.
Another home grown Merrill volunteer organization since 1911, the Merrill City Band is one of the oldest municipal bands in Wisconsin.
They were instrumental in providing the band program for Merrill High School. In 2007 they were named as one of the 7 Wonders of Merrill and in 2011 the gazebo at Normal Park was built for them, giving the band a permanent home. With more than 70 active members, it has been an important part of the community for 105 years.
The Ambassadors of the Chamber are a group of front-line volunteers that help with multiple aspects of the organization, from ribbon cuttings to events. The 2016 Ambassador of the Year was awarded to Charise Weiger from Walgreens.
In addition to the awards, Jim Brickner of Brickners Park City, who was last year’s Small Business of the Year recipient gave this year’s Business Perspective message.
He spoke about what it means to be a home grown, family business, a destination business, how the new growth of Merrill is helping to shape our community’s future and the importance of being a business member of the Chamber.