Local chamber reveals Business & Leadership Award recipients

Sweet Spot Skirts

The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce (GVCC) has revealed the 2016 recipients of its Business & Leadership Awards program.

Announced on Thursday, here are the winners and the categories for which they are honored:

Sweet Spot Skirts – Business of the Year (Small Business)

GVCC recognized Sweet Spot Skirts and owner Stephanie Lynn for her efforts to work with local business partners from banking, payroll and HR, to software development, warehouse tracking and insurance.

“As a former college basketball coach, real estate agent and teacher, Stephanie (Lynn) believes in solid teamwork and works to build a bonded team that plays fair and conquers,” the chamber said in a press release. “Stephanie is unabashedly proud of what [she] and her team have achieved so far, including a large ongoing order from national retailer REI, and an online presence that is booming.”

Waste Connections – Business of the Year (Large Business)

The chamber honored Vancouver-based Waste Connections for “excellent service to their customers, as well as being change-makers in the community.” The organization gives directly to local nonprofits through sponsorship, in-kind hauling and disposal services, as well as community service hours. Their direct contributions total more than $200,000 annually, and in-kind donations total more than $250,000 annually, according to the GVCC.

High End Market Place – Start up to Watch (defined as first five years in business)

Established in 2015, High End Market Place (HEMP) was honored by the chamber for being “the first cannabis business to be part of civic and community organizations; as well as sponsoring and donating time to various community events.” The business also hosts monthly cultural events called Sunday Sessions, where they feature live music, art, book launches and poetry readings. HEMP owner, Morgan Hutchinson, serves on the board of the Uptown Village Association and now employs 19 people. The business is one of only a few stores in the city that has been endorsed as a medical marijuana facility by the Department of Health.

Neil Kimsey, Clark Regional Wastewater District commissioner – Statesman of the Year

Devoting nearly 20 years of service to safeguard public health and the environment, Kimsey has “worked to develop the prosperity of the community by maintaining the highest standards of district planning, rate control and management,” the chamber said. He is also an active participant in the Hazel Dell/Salmon Creek Business Association, the GVCC and Battle Ground Chamber.

Ben Bagherpour, VP of Operations at SEH America Inc. – Community Champion (individual with outstanding community contributions)

In honoring Bagherpour as its Community Champion Award recipient, the organization said, “Bagherpour is a champion of career development of our community’s young people. He promotes workforce development in the advanced manufacturing industry, and over the past five years, Ben has been the driving force in the development of innovative educational activities and projects that have made a real difference in preparing our youth for their next steps beyond high school.” Active in the community, Bagherpour is a member of the Clark County High Tech Council, GVCC, Columbia River Economic Development Council, Workforce Southwest Washington, and the Southwest Washington STEM Network.

John McKibbin – Excellence in Leadership

McKibbin, who lost his life earlier this year when his private plane went down into the Columbia River, is the former CEO of Identity Clark County. He also served as GVCC CEO beginning in the winter of 2003. Under his leadership, the chamber launched its Retro Retail Program, created infrastructure improvements, moved to its current location in downtown Vancouver, reached a record high of 1,492 members, provided public affairs committee (PAC) leadership on local and state-level issues impacting business, and collaborated with other agencies.

The six recipients will be recognized at the GVCC’s Annual Officer Installation Dinner and Awards event at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 15 at the Hilton Vancouver. During the event, which is presented by the Port of Vancouver USA, the chamber will rename the Excellence in Leadership Award in McKibbin’s honor.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.vancouverusa.com.

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