Local community leaders and industries alike were recognized Thursday night during the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet at the Citizens Center in Lincolnton.
The event kicked off at 7 p.m. with a meal catered by Mitchem’s Kitchen. First up on the night’s list of awards to be handed out was “Industry of the Year,” presented by Lincoln Economic Development Association Vice Chair Bo King to Mohican Mills.
In his introduction, King emphasized the company’s 60 years of operation in the county, as well as its recent national recognition for continuing to stamp its products with “made in America.”
“Longevity in this industry has been hard to come by,” he added.
When economic times were better, Mohican employed 950 employees. That number is now at 336, King said.
A company considered for this award must meet certain criteria, including having a positive impact, being involved in the community, being a leader in its industry and maintaining a high standard of conduct.
Jerry Deese, corporate vice president and chief financial officer, accepted the award, thanking both the community for its support and his employees.
“This is for them,” he said.
As the Times-News previously reported, Mohican Mills was recognized with a 2012 Milestone Achievement Award by LEDA earlier this year for its 60 years in business. Deese said at the time that he has received a lot of support from the city and the county over the years, and he thanked officials from both in his remarks.
Cathy Davis, president of the Lincolnton Business and Professional Women’s Club and school board-member-elect, presented the night’s next award, “Woman of the Year,” to Cheryl Burgess.
Davis described Burgess as an exceptional organizer and taskmaster who “does everything with great enthusiasm.” She also listed the various organizations Burgess, who’s a survivor of breast cancer, has been involved with, including Relay for Life and the Lincoln County Home Builders Association. She also served as a volunteer coordinator when “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” came to town last year.
While accepting her award, Burgess said, “I’m not often speechless, but I think I’m speechless tonight.”
“I don’t do the things I do to be recognized — I do them because I love Lincoln County,” she added.
The “Man of the Year,” presented by Bill Kaplan, president of the Rotary Club of Lincolnton, went to Wayne Lowe, retired from The Timken Company. Lowe has been involved with his church, many local boards, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary, the Chamber and United Way, among others. He has also worked at the local Employment Security Commission.
He served in Vietnam, after which he received two war medals.
Lowe’s kids, Kaplan said, have learned from him to have strong work ethics, to help others and to give back.
Lowe received his honor with few words, summing it up by saying that Lincoln County had been “awful good to me.”
Last of the night’s major awards was “Small-Business Person of the Year,” presented by Michelle Johnson, chair of the Small Business Council, to Ralph Rudisill, owner of Zippers Restaurant.
“It takes determination to run a small business,” she said.
She also noted the restaurant’s many contributions to the community, helping with Christian Ministries of Lincoln County, Doctors Without Borders and A Child’s Place.
Rudisill, when accepting the accolade, said, “This is really a surprise.” He additionally thanked the community and the Chamber for their support, adding that the goal of his restaurant is to make everyone feel at home.
There were times when he wasn’t sure the business was going to make it, he said. However, from its original five or six employees, Zippers’ worker count has increased to 32 or 33.
Following the awards portion of the evening, the Chamber’s outgoing Board of Directors members were recognized, while new directors and officers were announced.
Buddy Collins, 2012 chair of the board, made his final remarks prior to installing the new chair, Melisa Harrison.
He said he had done what he told Chamber President Ken Kindley he would do as chair, namely to step back and let the Chamber do what it does. He also noted that the Chamber has added 100 new members this year, bringing the total to 694, just short of its largest-ever membership total of 704.
Collins likewise challenged those in attendance to continue to be involved.
The night’s guest speaker, comedian and motivational speaker Kelly Swanson of High Point, wrapped up the event with a mix of humor and inspiration, performing her one-woman show, “Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale?”