By Nicole Minier
COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County’s growing Chamber of Commerce celebrated the best in business in Whitley County at its annual recognition night last week, hosted at the Eagle’s Nest Event Center.
Fort Wayne Metals was selected as Large Business of the Year, and Running Around Screen Printing was Small Business of the Year.
“With unemployment at low levels, valuing and retaining a company’s workforce is key,” Chamber Director Jennifer Romano said of the new award.
The Parretts own two restaurants in Columbia City, and were honored for paying good wages and going above and beyond to show appreciation to their employees.
“In a time when finding good employees can be a struggle, Gary and Heather Parrett seem to have cracked the code on not only finding good employees, but keeping them,” Romano said. “When you visit their restaurants, you’re greeted by the same friendly, familiar faces. A sense of family is at the core of all they do.”
TROY Center was named “Jewel of the Community,” the Chamber’s recognition for nonprofit organizations. TROY Alternative School offers a unique opportunity for students to achieve their goals—a high school diploma.
“TROY Center is much more than a place to get an education — it’s a place where students and their families receive the support they need to reach their goals — goals that for many of us might seem insurmountable,” Romano said. “It’s hard to focus on academics when you’re homeless, or there are addiction or emotional issues in the family to deal with. TROY provides opportunities students might not have, helping them graduate and become productive members of our workforce and our community.”
Five entities were honored as Chamber Champions: the Humane Society of Whitley County, Columbia City, Reelcraft, Bones Theatre and Teghtmeyer Ace Hardware.
The Chamber itself had many accomplishments in the past year, moving its location to downtown Columbia City and welcoming many new members — at least one per week. The Chamber worked with the city of Columbia City to open a Visitor’s Center, and since opening the new office downtown, has welcomed 875 people from around the world — literally.
“This year has been exhausting and exhilarating, challenging and critical to putting the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center in a position of strength moving forward,” Romano said.
Romano was named Chamber director just over a year ago, and much has been accomplished through her leadership.
“When I stood before you last year, just days into my role as your new executive director, I had a lot of doubts and fears,” Romano said. “Today, a year later, I am emboldened by our success and ready to move this organization forward in the year ahead.”