Chamber names awards nominees, Future Five recipients.

September 12, 2021

Chamber names awards nominees, Future Five recipients.

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — The Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce announced its annual awards nominees along with the 2021 Future Five recipients. 

Each year, the chamber recognizes some of the individuals and organizations who make a difference in Mason County, both in business and in the greater community. Nominations were sought this summer for the annual honors, which will be recognized in a virtual presentation on September 30 in lieu of an in-person gathering.

Award categories are Mason County Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year and Community Service. Finalists will be honored prior to the announcement of the winners during a live simulcast on September 30. The 2019 and 2021 Classes of Future Five will also be recognized during the online presentation.

Business of the Year

The Business of the Year Award (20 or more employees) recognizes a Mason County business, in good standing with the chamber, which has demonstrated success and innovation over the years and especially in 2020. The Business of the Year award will be judged on the business’ ability to demonstrate excellence in business practices through sales, quality of service, customer service, leadership and/or community involvement. 

Finalists for the Business of the Year are: Consumers Energy, Hardman Construction, Ludington Bay Brewing Co., and Safe Harbor Credit Union.

Small Business of the Year

The Small Business of the Year Award (fewer than 20 employees) recognizes a business, in good standing with the Chamber, which has demonstrated success and innovation over the years and especially in 2020. The business provides a quality product or service and conducts business with professionalism and integrity.

Keeper’s Fish Shack, NorthStar Fitness, Riemer Dermatology and Star Safety Shield are the Small Business of the Year finalists.

Community Service

The purpose of the Community Service Award is to recognize an individual or group for accomplishments in offering service to the Ludington and Scottville communities on a volunteer basis. 

Community service honorees include: Tom Ezdebski, Will Flewelling, Sawyer Hendrickson and Kathy Surd. 

Future Five.

Five leaders in the Ludington and Scottville community have been named the 2021 Future Five.

Juliana Anderson, Micah Butler, Derek Kowatch, Caleb Visscher and Jeremy Vronko were chosen by the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to receive this designation, based on professional growth and excellence in their respective fields.

To have been considered for the award, nominees must have been under the age of 40 by December 31, 2020.

“This past year, we have witnessed these individuals accomplish amazing things in our community that are influencing change and growth,” said Brandy Miller, Chamber of Commerce president/CEO. “This group serves as an excellent example of how hard work and collaboration can help propel Mason County forward. We are impressed by the professionalism and integrity our Future Five demonstrate both on the job and within the larger community.”

Juliana Anderson serves as the original equipment manufacturer sales manager for Metalworks, Inc. She is known for her service to the community, particularly on the Community Foundation for Mason County Board and KickStart to Career. Anderson served on the Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council during her high school years and said she is excited to continue her work with philanthropy in Mason County through her roles. She also volunteers at her children’s school in Ludington.

“I feel my most important role as an emerging leader in our community is to help bridge the gap between young professionals and current community leaders by showing the impact young people can have in our community,” Anderson said. “By encouraging others to find their place in community involvement, we can guarantee Mason County will continue to thrive in the future. Creating awareness of the various groups that participate in creating change will hopefully drive other young professionals toward networking to find their niche. As I become more diversified in the resources we have available, I hope to be a source for those looking to meet the needs of those in our community.”

Micah Butler moved to Ludington in 2019 to join the staff at Lake FX Media in video production. One of his most recent projects was producing, co-shooting and co-editing a documentary about photographers Todd and Brad Reed.  He has also produced an active shooter training video for school bus drivers in the West Shore Educational Service District that is now being used across the state and country.

“I believe my most important role is being a storyteller — telling the stories of Ludington for the world to see,” Butler said. “There are so many amazing stories that we encounter in our lives, but it takes courage and determination to make it happen. I want to be a part of that progress. I want to be a part of building a community through storytelling. Collectively, we can shape the future by the stories that we tell.”

Butler also hopes to also be a mentor and teacher for the next generation of storytellers in filmmaking.

Derek Kowatch was nominated as “one to watch” for his active service as a crew leader on the Ludington Fire Department and ownership of his small business, Urban Vinyl. He donates design and product to community events, serves as a deacon at his church, and coordinates the community’s beach bonfires.

“This town has created its own culture based on tradition and heritage,” Kowatch said, “staying up to date and innovative, all while keeping core values and always keeping true to its roots; finding ways to hold on to its history and intertwining it with modern culture and amenities that drive people to this town. My wife and I wanted to be a part of keeping that culture alive and strong for the next generations growing up in Ludington. We wanted to have the opportunity to help continue to build that culture that makes this town so amazing.

“I believe that the most important role that I can take on to make the largest impact for our community is to be a continuous advocate for Ludington — helping small businesses grow through education on advertising and marketing options; supporting community development ideas, growth options and outside-of-the-box ideas to help Ludington grow into the next generation.”

Caleb Visscher is the owner of Visscher Construction and West Michigan Solar Systems at the age of 23. He presently employs 17 people in Mason County and is raising four children with his wife, Sarah.

“I love being in a small town setting that still has great professional opportunities, and it’s a great place to raise a family,” Visscher said. “My vision for the future would be to build a business that offers great services and great value, while providing awesome career opportunities for our team. This nomination is an honor to receive and shows that hard work can pay off.

“I feel my most important role is to be an example to others around me. I want to run my businesses in a moral, efficient and benevolent way that inspires others to do the same. I am very passionate about being able to provide renewable energy options to people in our county and the surrounding areas. I believe this is a good way that I am able to help better our community and our environment at the same time. 

“We are also leading the way in working on being the first company that we know of to have our entire working truck fleet to electric vehicles, which will be powered by our solar systems, allowing us to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint. Our target is to be totally electric by 2025.”

Jeremy Vronko is the chief operating officer at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital. He was nominated for his role in jumping head first into supporting the local hospital’s response to COVID-19. One of his first major efforts was spearheading vaccination clinics. He is also working on the hospital’s new cancer center, as well as the Connecting Mason County broadband effort.

Vronko is very civic-minded, and he can be found planting the petunia parade, cleaning up highways, and leading the charge to support local schools. In the past, Jeremy has also volunteered his time for the College for Kids program, supporting future careers in technology.  

“The vision I have for my future is to work on projects that make living and working in Mason County better,” Vronko said. “Growing up, I was always a part of sports teams, and that has fostered in me this tremendous sense of teams, community and how we can accomplish great objectives by working together. 

“I enjoy working on projects that require public and private partnerships, and I think when we collaborate this way, better results are realized. I think that volunteering time and talents creates a positive space for others to join or at least take notice. At Spectrum Health, we call this ‘the shadow of a leader.’ I want my shadow to be one of action, engagement and trust.”

The 2019 Future Five will also be honored during the September 30 virtual awards. They are Melissa Alvarado, Mitch Foster, Katie Miller, Ben Nickelson and Annie O’Connor. 

The awards ceremony will be live streamed on the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

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