McLean County contains hundreds of businesses and community leaders who help better the communities that surround them. On Saturday, January 27 over 600 of them came together at the DoubleTree by Hilton for a sold out 2018 McLean County Chamber of Commerce Gala. The event helped to both recognize and celebrate their success and distinguish a select few with a presentation of the 2017 Business Excellence Awards.
These awards went to: Larry H. Dietz, recipient of the Legacy of Excellence award; Mid Central Community Action (MCCA), recipient of the Nonprofit Excellence Award; Connect Transit, recipient of the Green Excellence Award; Red Raccoon Games, recipient of the Micro Business Excellence Award; Abbey Placements, recipient of the Small Business Excellence Award and Heartland Community College was awarded the Large Business Excellence Award.
About the Award Winners:
Dr. Larry H. Dietz is serving in his fourth year as Illinois State University's President after serving previously for three years as Vice President for Student Affairs. Under his leadership, Illinois State University has maintained it’s ranking as the second largest employer in McLean County, pumping more than a half-billion dollars into the local economy annually and 10,000 spin off jobs in addition to the University's 3,500 employees. Dietz has helped set three consecutive quarter-century enrollment records and, unlike some public universities in Illinois, has not laid off or furloughed any employees, cut programs, or closed campus buildings.
During his recent time spent at Illinois State, Dietz has led two successes that support local business: the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning as well as a first-of-its-kind Cybersecurity Major, a program that received a $3 million gift from State Farm. Despite a two-year state budget impasse, Dietz led physical improvements to campus such as the $33 million revitalization project for the Bone Student Center. This unique facility gets the most community use of any building on campus, welcoming 5,000 visitors each day and hosting more than 4,000 meetings and events each year.
Outside of his role at Illinois State, Dietz is a board member of the BN Advantage and, along with his spouse Marlene, have chaired many community service events including Red Cross, March of Dimes, Boys & Girls Club, B-N Symphony, Walk with Me, and many others. President Dietz offers outstanding community support and speaks frequently at meetings of many community groups. His relationship to the government and business community in McLean County is arguably the best of any Illinois State President in recent memory.
Mid Central Community Action (MCCA) strives to help community members reach their full potential by providing more than 5,000 families annually with wrap-around services that educate, equip, and empower people to achieve healthy relationships, finances, homes, and neighborhoods.
In addition to traditional Community Action services for energy assistance, home weatherization, and financial education/assistance, MCCA is McLean County’s comprehensive domestic violence victim services provider. MCCA is also a HUD-approved housing counseling agency and a chartered member of NeighborWorks America (NWA). NWA-related services include: homeownership promotion and preservation, single-family home rehabilitation, community building and engagement, and green practices. MCCA additionally provides transitional housing and permanent supportive housing. Year by year, MCCA has increased its impact through sound, sustainable business practices and proactive leadership.
Connect Transit provides safe, reliable transportation and access to opportunity to strengthen and enrich individual lives, our community, the economy, and the environment.
Connect was previously awarded the American Public Transportation Association Outstanding Public Transit award in 2015 which recognized the top public transit agencies in North America and continues to strive for great service within Bloomington-Normal. The solar infrastructure will be installed on the Connect Transit maintenance facility to provide power to charge all of the new electric buses and reduce current energy demand. The effort to install the large solar array will allow Connect to depend primarily on solar power, reducing the need for an outside power source. It also will provide a clean alternative mode of transportation for Bloomington-Normal residents and reduce the amount of diesel fuel consumed to provide these services. The solar power will provide around 75% of current energy demand in the summer and has a 200 ton carbon offset equivalent to 4,500 trees. With the purchase of three electric buses Connect will eliminate the consumption of 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel over twelve years. Connect will also eliminate 380 tons of greenhouse gases, 186 lbs. carbon monoxide (CO), 381 lbs. nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 18 lbs. volatile organic compounds (VOC) annually in operating three electric buses. Connect recently put four Connect Mobility buses into service that run on clean burning propane, providing a cleaner alternative to diesel and gasoline. Connect was also recently awarded a very competitive low or no emission federal grant for $1.45 million to purchase electric buses and solar infrastructure.
Solar lights are also being used inside new shelters around Bloomington-Normal in hopes of providing a safe environment for riders. The goal is to continue to install 10-12 new shelters at various locations each year to help keep their riders safe and out of the elements when waiting for their buses to arrive.
Red Raccoon Games, nestled in historic downtown Bloomington, is one of Illinois’ largest board game stores. At any given time, over 1500 games are in stock, ranging from board games, card games, miniatures games, children’s games, and role-playing games. They have everything for gaming that you could want that is not electronic! Red Raccoon Games also has space for 90 people to play games at any given time, and the store has become a destination location for gamers all over Illinois.
More than a game store, Red Raccoon Games is a valued community partner. Owner Jamie Mathy and staff hold game clubs in our local grade and junior high schools, and is one of the few stores that give educators a discount on purchases and allows schools or libraries to buy games at cost. They are also working with a local group of educators on their project to promote “Gameful Learning” at state and national education conferences. Red Raccoon has worked with the Bloomington Public Library, donating 4000+ dice to the summer reading program, and also supports many school carnivals.
In addition to being a business owner, Jamie is an active community volunteer. He is past president of Sunrise Rotary, Downtown Bloomington Associate and is the Ward 1 Alderman on Bloomington’s City Council. One of Jamie’s other community passions is the Community Health Care Clinic, which provides care to the uninsured and underinsured in Bloomington/Normal. Jamie is not only a board member for that organization, but he has hosted several fundraisers at Red Raccoon Games giving proceeds to the Community Health Care Clinic.
Abbey Placements has been facilitating the hiring of temporary and permanent workers into open workforce positions since it opened in 1982 in Downtown Bloomington, specializing in areas of manufacturing and customer service. Owned by Ken Poirier since 1978, one of their highest priorities has been to develop and maintain long term relationships with the businesses they serve, whether it’s one or two employee openings to be staffed or fifty.
Marc Poirier, son of Ken and General Manager of Abbey Placements, is very involved in the community and has an extreme passion for serving through his variety of involvements including the Bloomington Normal Sunrise Rotary Club, Ambassador of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, leadership team at the Bloomington Church of Christ, and Committee Chair of HOPE Worldwide Advisory Council to name a few.
Abbey Placements celebrated over 35 years in business this year; an accomplishment they have achieved for serving their accounts for the long term, with some being exclusive to Abbey Placements for over 20 years. The Poirier’s believe that their strength comes from building relationships, sharing ideas, and the privilege of being able to do business “their way” to fulfill their clients needs.
Heartland Community College is an open-enrollment comprehensive community college. With three locations, Heartland has a Fall 2017 enrollment of just under 5,200 credit students and approximately 12,000 non-credit students. With more than 50 programs of study and almost 40 student clubs and organizations, Heartland provides a supportive, values based environment to help students get the most out of their college experience.
Additionally, Heartland is the community resource for local High School Equivalency (HSE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. Heartland is home to the International Institute of Teaching and Learning, which has provided training to more than 225 faculty from China since its formation in 2012.