May 25, 2023 | By: Mary Balstad

Bemidji Chamber Recognizes Local Businesses at 18th Annual Awards of Excellence

For 18 years, the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce has recognized businesses and people who support the community at their annual Awards of Excellence. Tuesday marked another awards ceremony that saw excellence not only in five different area businesses, but in local individuals as well.

The words “And the winner is…” highlighted the work done by entrepreneurs and area businesses at the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce’s 18th Annual Awards of Excellence. The five categories for awards included New Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Healthy Workplace, Community Impact, and Business of the Year. With these categories, businesses new and established were recognized for how they contribute to the community.

“It’s just a true testament to supporting our local business community and how Bemidji itself has grown,” explained Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Abby Randall when asked about the event. “It’s about forming those relationships, helping each other out, because the more connected we are, the more successful we will all be.”

“It’s not just about a profit-and-loss statement,” said Bemidji Mayor and business owner Jorge Prince in a speech during the awards ceremony. “So much of it is building community.”

While area businesses were recognized for their work in the Bemidji community, individuals had their chance in the spotlight as well. This recognition included this year’s recipient of the Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award, long-time Bemidji businessman Rich Siegert, who in recent years has developed properties along Lake Bemidji’s South Shore such as the Hampton Inn & Suites and the Doubletree hotel.

“It’s nice,” said Siegert. “I really appreciate it. It’s so thankful to be in a community like Bemidji and do things like that.”

As business practices have changed post-COVID, those at the ceremony said rural areas like Bemidji are seeing the positive and negative effects of this new landscape.

“Our businesses are up against some really tough restrictions, some high taxes in our state. Our state’s becoming increasingly harder to do business,” said Randall. “But that’s not going to stop us. We’re going to work together. We’re going to voice the health of our business. And I foresee us coming out stronger.”

“It’ll grow. People aren’t going to go away,” Siegert shared. “They’re going to be doing something…there is a very stable economy here.”

Award winners this year also include:

  • New Business of the Year: Boardwalk Mini Golf & Snack Shack
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Mike Fogelson of Up North Sports
  • Healthy Workplace: Bank Forward – Insure Forward
  • Community Impact: Neighborhood Connections (previously known as Ridgeway Neighborhood Initiative)
  • Business of the Year: Choice Therapy

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