Chamber Awards Dinner

A 100-year-old family owned winery, a published author and successful entrepreneur, and an educational leader were among those honored at the Jan. 16 Clovis Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting and Salute to Business Dinner at the Classic Catering Banquet Hall in Old Town Clovis.  The annual dinner serves to induct the incoming 2014 Chamber board of directors, and also honors local business owners who have made a significant impact on the community.  Outgoing Chairman Ken May, while reflecting on the achievements of 2013, said, “I am proud to have been a part of the great accomplishments this year, from an increase in membership to our new logo and website and continuing success in our premier events.”

May passed the gavel to incoming Chairman Shelly D’Arcy, who said she is looking forward to continuing the momentum from 2013.  “We are planning to further expand our membership base by providing networking and educational value to help our members grow their businesses,” said D’Arcy.  “Co-sponsoring the Leadercast event in May and graduating our first Young Entrepreneurs Academy class in June and starting a new class in October will continue the expansion of the Clovis Chamber brand.”

Although this year’s honorees came from varied lines of work, they all shared the same vision: to elevate and promote the City of Clovis.  Milla Vineyards, a family-owned 100 year old winery, was honored as the Chamber’s Small Business of the Year.  Founded by patriarch Caesar Milla, the tradition of “old-fashioned Italian style family wine-making” is continued by Debbie and Joey Milla.  In addition to developing their award winning wines, the Millas have also been very active with the Clovis Chamber and the community.

Kathy Sisk was honored as the Professional Business Woman of the Year.  Sisk is the founder and president of Kathy Sisk Enterprises.  She began her call center business in 1980, and also owns several other businesses, including Butler Web & Design, which works with the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy.  She is also a published author and speaker, and is considered an expert in the call center industry.

Honored with the Einar Cook Leadership Award was Dr. Steve Ward, legistlative analyst for the Clovis Unified School District.  Dr. Ward has been involved with CUSD for 37 years and is currently leading a statewide coalition of successful school districts working to establish economic parity in educational funding from the state.  With the recent re-alignment of funds established by the governor, Clovis Unified will receive millions less in revenues than other, smaller districts.

The Einar Cook Award was named after Clovis businessman and farmer Einar Cook, whose accomplishments included starting many businesses and inventing and patenting a version of a heart pump when he was well into his 70’s.

Also honored at the event was State Senator Tom Berryhill, who was recognized as the Small Business Legislator of the year.  Ambassador of the Year was awarded to Heather Robison of Junk Drawer Gypsy for her participation in Chamber events and recruitment and retention of Chamber members.  Karena Dillon of Baker Dillon Group was once again honored as Director of the Year for her tireless work in coordinating the Chamber’s Hooked on Books Program that will provide a personal book to every grade school student in Clovis.  Another of the evening’s highlights was the introduction of four students from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy who spent time speaking with community leaders about their projects and the program.

The annual dinner was a huge success, said Mark Blackney, Chamber president and CEO.  “The energy and excitement in the room was palpable.  The three most important sectors that make a community strong – business, education and government – were all present to celebrate the success of their collaborative efforts that have made Clovis the most vibrant city in the Valley, ” Blackney said.  “Honorees represented long-time business owners and leaders, while the students from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy represented the upcoming generation.”