Business Recognition Luncheon: One for the Books!

21 Nov 2013


As if I haven’t pounded business awards and the Dream Big Grow Here competition into your head enough over the last few months, you get to hear it just once more (until next year, of course). Yesterday marked the fourth annual Business Recognition Luncheon at the Clay County Regional Events Center. We had RECORD attendance (somewhere around 250); go us! And go you for attending, making our event a success, yet again.


Three awards were given out during the ceremony, along with the announcement of the Dream Big Grow Here winner.

There were many nominees in each of the following categories: Small Business Excellence (30 employees or fewer), Large Business Excellence (more than 30 employees) and Entrepreneur of the Year. This made the selection process a competitive & difficult one for our panel of judges.

Small Business Nominees: Okoboji Wines, Great Lakes Countertops & Kitchens, Estherville Golf Course, Schiltz Manufacturing

Large Business Nominees: Rembrandt Foods, Brown Medical Industries, Polaris

Entrepreneur of the Year: Barbara Clayton, Doug & Amy Skinner, Shannon Dunham, Scott Pyle


Nominations were sought by the Corridor and were then given to a judging committee composed of business and community leaders throughout the region. Businesses were nominated for a number of reasons: contribution to local economy, recent expansion, new product or service, customer service, management practices and community involvement. 

So, without further ado, I give you the winners of these three prestigious awards:

Small Business Excellence was awarded to Okoboji Wines of Okoboji. Okoboji Wines has been serving the Iowa Lakes area since 1989. The company is headed by Mark, Shelia and Genie Reed, whose commitment and respect for their customers has intrinsically driven them to pursue their passion. Mark stated that one of the many things he loves about their product is sharing the experience and uniqueness of each and every bottle of wine.

The Reeds and Okoboji Wine staff began with sales of $90,000 in its first year of operations, and have increased that number to over $8.5 million in 2012. The company has never experienced a year of negative sales growth, despite challenges brought on by the recession. A company that began as a labor of love with no employees now employs a staff of 26, who are all an integral part of the company’s success.


The Large Business Excellence award was given to Polaris Industries of Spirit Lake, who was described as being “on a roll” over the past few years. Sales, manufacturing, productivity, employment, customer satisfaction and technology are all experiencing upward trends throughout the company. Among other things, Polaris has taken over two large vacated industrial properties in Milford that total almost 600,000 square feet.

Victory and Indian Motorcycles, Polaris Rangers, Brutus and Global Electric Motorcars are all manufactured right here in the Iowa Lakes Corridor region; incredible. Polaris also supports many causes, organizations and events, but most of all, manufactures fun for our entire area.


This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year award was given to Doug and Amy Skinner of Dakota Pack and Iowa Protein Solutions in Estherville. Dakota Pack is a family-owned and operated producer of pork products, located in one of the biggest hog producing regions in the country. The Skinner’s relationships with growers in the region allow them the ability to manage a full-service slaughter and fabrication facility, along with a stand-alone rendering and trucking company.

Since 2002, the company has grown significantly from its original 13 employees to becoming a major employer in Emmet County. Three guiding principles have helped the company achieve record growth: provide a safe and satisfying workplace, focus on product quality and satisfy customer demand.


Dream Big Grow Here

For the third year now, we participated in the Dream Big Grow Here contest, where participants vie for $5,000 for their respective business. I’m sure you’ve heard lots of buzz surrounding the competition. Participants submit their business dreams online and voters choose who they believe should win the valuable award. The top five vote-getters participated in a pitch-off on November 19 to a panel of judges who chose the winner.

The five finalists were Crown Clinics (2,991 votes), Spencer Convenient Healthcare (2,887 votes), Cool Catz Pottery (798 votes), Soft Skull (655 votes) and Campbell Tree Service (596 votes).

During the luncheon, Brian Dalziel of the Iowa Lakes Corridor announced that Sue Brugman of Crown Clinics was the winner. All of her hard work has finally paid off! She will now go on to compete against the other regional winners in Iowa for an additional $10,000.


Please help us in congratulating each and every one of the nominees and this year’s award winners!

Check out the rest of the blog here!

- Alexa Guessford