Madison Chamber Awards

Pimlott honored for his
service to the community

Red Pepper Deli earns the
Business Citizenship Award

By Don Ward

(February 2013) – Bob Pimlott has touched many lives in Madison and Jefferson County, Ind., over the years, primarily through his volunteer work in child protection services. He has been active in his church, the Jefferson County United Way, the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library Board and the Casa Amiga board and has helped guide the Jefferson County Youth Shelter, now Pathways, through its early years, and more. And he has been instrumental in organizing the new Clearinghouse project, which, when open, will centralize many nonprofit agencies in Madison that help families in need.
“I don’t know how we would have gotten this far without Bob working behind the scenes on the Clearinghouse,” said the group’s director, Molly Dodge, who was among the first to congratulate Pimlott with a hug.

Katie Wood and Bob Pimlott

Photo by Don Ward

Katie Wood
presents the Madison Chamber’s Community
Service Award to Bob
Pimlott on Jan. 30.

Pimlott was honored Jan. 23 by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce by winning its 2013 Jeff Garrett Community Service Award. It is the chamber’s highest honor given each year. Pimlott joins an impressive list of people who have won the award. He was truly surprised upon hearing his name announced at the 89th annual chamber dinner, held at Hanover College’s Brown Campus Center.
“I now know that when Ben Canida invites you to something, you’d better come prepared,” Pimlott quipped upon receiving the award. Visibly touched, he recounted how volunteerism had been such a big part of his life that he had to learn how to balance family, work and volunteering. He realized this lesson one night when his then-young son, Doug, asked his wife, Elana, at dinner one night if daddy was staying for dinner or leaving.
“I’d like to thank my family for all the nights when I wasn’t home for dinner,” said the Wilkesboro, Pa., native.
Last year’s winner, Bob Greene, presented the award to Pimlott and read several inspiring letters of recommendation for Pimlott’s selection, including one from his pastor.
The chamber also presented its annual Business Citizenship Award, which went to John and Lori Heitz, owners of Red Pepper Deli & Catering. The couple opened the business more than 12 years ago and just last year opened a second restaurant across the street, Red Pepperoni. Both restaurants are located on Madison’s Main Street at Cragmont Street.
John Heitz made brief remarks, thanking “my biggest customer,” his father, Bernard Heitz, who died just the previous week at age 87. John Heitz credited his father for mentoring him in running a business, saying, “He taught me most of what I know about running a business. I can still hear him now telling me the two most important things: working hard and taking care of your customers.”
In addition to the two awards, the crowd of 265 people heard an update from newly hired Executive Director Trevor Crafton. Outgoing chamber board president Dwayne Cole of MainSource Bank gave brief remarks and introduced incoming board president Marta Belt, who works as Ivy Tech’s Regional Director of Academic Advising. She presented her outlook for 2013.
In the wake of last year’s shakeup of the county’s economic development agency, Economic Development Partners, by newly elected Madison Mayor Damon Welch, the chamber spent much of the year reeling. For years, the city, county and the Town of Hanover had annually contracted with the nonprofit agency to oversee economic development activity countywide.

Dwayne Cole, John Heitz and Lori Heitz

Photo by Don Ward

Dwayne Cole (far right) presents
the Madison Chamber’s Business
Citizenship Award to John and Lori
Heitz, owners of Red Pepper Deli &
Catering and Red Pepperoni.

The chamber, meanwhile, the previous year had conducted a survey of its members and hired an outside consultant to study a possible merger with EDP, and its Eco15 educational component, to consolidate resources. That merger eventually took place as a result of the study, placing EDP Executive Director Corey Murphy over the chamber as well. The merged organization then created and announced a new joint logo and developed a joint Internet website.
Amid the year of analysis by the mayor’s appointed Blue Ribbon Panel to study and make recommendations for change, Murphy resigned and has since left town to head the New Castle-Henry County (Ind.) Economic Development Corp. The chamber was leaderless and lost 45 members, the most in one year in its history. Belt, in her address, attributed the membership drop to a poor economy and the uncertainty in the community regarding EDP. Membership fell from a high of 400 in 2006 and 2007 to a low last year below 300. Eight-year administrative assistant Lynda Knoebel retired in October, leaving only Katie Wood, a recent hire, to staff the office.
The chamber board decided to act and did so by hiring a new executive director in 33-year-old Crafton in fall 2012. Crafton, who works solely for the chamber and not EDP, was charged with rebuilding chamber membership and immediately began visiting existing and former members. Since his hiring in mid-November, Crafton told the crowd he had personally visited 146 businesses and was successful in signing up 20 new members. The chamber has since not only increased its membership to 347 but also sold 265 tickets to the Annual Dinner, about a dozen more than last year, according to Wood.

Marta Belt

Marta Belt

Crafton announced that the chamber last year organized 36 networking events and increased from 19 to 40 the number of booths at its fall fundraiser, Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew. Crafton added that the chamber last year sold nearly $100,000 in Good Cents Gift Certificates, which help promote spending at local businesses. The chamber this year plans to revive the defunct spring golf scramble and continue its Business Awards Dinner. It also plans to participate in a second annual Regional Business Expo with neighboring chambers of commerce in Switzerland and Scott Counties, and Carroll County, Ky. The inaugural Expo was held last summer at Vevay’s Belterra Casino Resort. The chamber also recently partnered with the Indiana Small Business Development Center in New Albany to provide business coaching and workshops.
Belt, meanwhile, in her address admitted that the because of the ongoing review of the future of EDP that the chamber had not accomplished much last year. “All of the progress and momentum that was building with the new alliance came to a halt with the release of the Blue Ribbon Panel report,” she said. “While not overly critical of the chamber, the report was critical of our alliance partner EDP. Our strategic plan we had been developing the previous two years had stopped.”
Belt said that after several weeks of uncertainty, the chamber board decided to move forward with its mission, regardless of the outcome of the city’s decisions on economic development. Equally, both the Jefferson County Commission and the Town of Hanover in recent weeks signed new contracts with EDP for the coming year, while the mayor and Madison City Council continue to debate how to move forward on economic development.
Belt said the immediate impact to the chamber will be added cost in adding staff, since the chamber had planned to share those costs with EDP. Belt voiced her frustration, saying she was not alone, and urged community leaders “to work together, put aside differences for the economic future of our community.”

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