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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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The Prism Award celebrates the best in local business

The best business owners pay you a competitive wage, extend health and vacation benefits and provide a path to advancement. They also engage you in the business, share the big picture, seek your input, act on your ideas, challenge you, share profit and are concerned about your job satisfaction.

The best business owners realize to reach their dreams they need to help you reach your dreams.

Wall Street recently gave Main Street a black eye. Greed trumped the nation’s welfare when banks deemed “too big to fail” caused the housing crash which led to the Big Recession. Cynics bred from this debacle will tar all business owners as greedy and uncaring, however, there are many examples around us, particularly here in the heartland, that prove this is not the case.

This year, for the 20th year, the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce will honor the best area businesses. They will judge nominees on how they foster teamwork, the quality of their goods and services, their community involvement, how they create opportunity and the benefits they provide their employees.

This celebration of the best in business takes place Wednesday, March 6 starting at 6 p.m. at the Sunrise Park and Banquet Center on Rt. 51 in Millbury. Chrys Peterson, WTOL-TV news anchor, will once again emcee.

Twenty years ago, Jan Hackett, an insurance representative from Oregon, proposed a local initiative to recognize the men and women who provide the jobs and benefits that help us achieve our dreams for our families.

In the ensuing 19 years, 126 businesses, organizations and citizens have been honored with the Prism Award for excellence.

While Hackett had a good idea in 1993 she needed a way to bring her dream to reality. At that same time there was a movement in Northwest Ohio to promote regionalism. Community leaders in Oregon and Northwood were leery of this, due to previous annexation efforts by the City of Toledo. However, there are economic development advantages and Dan Hiskey, Northwood’s city administrator at the time, proposed an idea called sub-regionalism, an informal network to build trust and promote economic development among the communities located east of the Maumee River.

Don Monroe, executive director of River East Economic Revitalization Corporation in East Toledo, and I, as manager of The Press, got behind this idea. We saw the business awards as a good way to foster cooperation and an exchange of ideas among the communities east of the Maumee River and we began the groundwork for what would become The Prism Awards.

We formed a 501-3c corporation called The Eastern Maumee Bay Business Awards Committee. We were joined by business and government leaders in Oregon, Northwood, East Toledo, Genoa and Lake Township.

We enlisted the aid of Dr. Sonny Ariss, director of the Small Business and Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Toledo. He set up the criteria and judging protocol.

That first year we had 34 nominees. We commissioned six awards, but the judges couldn’t agree on just six. They insisted on seven, which presented a potentially embarrassing moment at the podium for one winner. However, we were fortunate that one of the winners was Michael’s Gourmet Catering. We contacted Mike Armstrong’s wife and she baked a cake-replica of the Prism Award which we presented to him that night.

While the Prism banquet is a night for recognition and celebration for all that is good with business, it is also a night for inspiration. One woman, Kathy Crabtree, who attended one of the first banquets, said the awards inspired her to start her own business the next year.

Following the 2000 banquet, the small Prism Award Committee turned the awards program over to the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce. The chamber deserves credit for taking the awards to a new level for both the nominees and the attendees.

Winners have included some of the biggest employers in our region: Rudolph-Libbe, Mercy St. Charles Hospital and ProMedica Bay Park Hospital as well as numerous small businesses like Alan Miller Jewelers and Packer Creek Pottery and community organizations like The East Toledo Family Center and the Jerusalem Township Food Pantry.

Business owners get a bad rap at times. Sometimes they deserve it. However, the majority of business owners offer competitive wages and benefits because their team competes against similar teams for market share. The difference between success and failure almost always depends on the quality and motivation of the team—the employees. And, that’s what The Prism Award celebrates—teams that have risen above the ordinary.


For more information or tickets to the Prism Banquet, call Sarah at 419-693-5580 Comment at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. John Szozda is one of the founders of the Prism Awards.

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