ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual dinner on Thursday in the parking lot of the James Russell Wiggins Down East Family YMCA on State Street.
The parking lot, which was transformed by Wallace Events into a tented space complete with lights, screens, stage and cocktails, was fitting: the Y was awarded the chamber’s Top Drawer Award.
The award is given each year “to a member who has made a substantial contribution to the growth, development and improvement of the chamber region,” according to the chamber’s website.
Peter Farragher, the Y’s executive director, was presented with the award and a chest of drawers hand-built by Mike Becker of E.L. Shea.
“I’ve never seen a parking lot look so nice,” said Farragher, who recognized the staff and board of the organization, and thanked the chamber for the recognition.
“We are honored to receive this award and to join a list of very impressive businesses and organizations,” Farragher said.
Natalie Knox, co-owner of Knox & Osborne Advertising and STAR 97 radio station, was presented with the chamber’s Citizen of the Year Award.
“Ellsworth is a magical place,” said Knox, who was nominated by members as an individual who “embodies community spirit through volunteerism, involvement and advocacy”.
“The best part of all of this is that I’ve been given the opportunity to help and be part of this community,” said Knox, who has helped with fundraising campaigns for numerous local organizations and volunteers at the Small Animal Clinic with stray cats.
In her address to the crowd, Gretchen Wilson, the chamber’s executive director, did not shy away from the issues facing businesses in the area.
“As you all are aware, we have almost zero unemployment,” Wilson said.
“If you want a job, there is one. In fact, there are several.”
Wilson went on.
“I wish I could give you an easy fix, but the problems are complex.”
Wilson advised businesses to offer incentives to retain employees and to reach out to other businesses.
“Salary is not the only driving force of why an employee stays,” said Wilson, adding that flex time, meals, housing and employee discounts were offers that could help businesses retain workers.
“Be the employer of choice,” said Wilson, who also urged organizations to reach out to one another.
“Go do business with another business — you’ll be surprised what you can learn.”
In addition to the Y and Knox, other award recipients at the May 17 event included:
- Sarah Catanese, Sparks Award (Leadership Hancock County’s annual leadership award).
- Pugnuts Ice Cream Shop, New Business of the Year.
- University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Revitalization Award.
- Beth Wright Cancer Resource Center, Customer Service Award.