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WINNERS RECOGNIZED at 2018 BUSINESS RECOGNITION BREAKFAST of CORNERSTONE CHAMBER of COMMERCE

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February 15, 2018
St. Joseph, MI-Thursday, February 15, 2018- Local businesses and business professionals were recognized by their colleagues at the combined Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and Cornerstone Alliance 2018 Business Recognition Breakfast Thursday, February 15, 2018. The joint event was held at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center with over 550 people in attendance. The event was sponsored by Chamber member's Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Kruggel Lawton CPA’s, Lake Michigan College, Indiana Michigan Power, Slumberland Furniture, and United Federal Credit Union. 
 
Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce President Chris Heugel said, “It’s an absolute honor to have Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette as this year’s key note speaker and are incredibly humbled that he accepted our invitation. This morning we recognized the achievements of local businesses in our great community and were so proud to help celebrate their accomplishments. Congratulations to this year’s winners on the impact they are making in Michigan’s Great Southwest.”
 
YOUNG BUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR AWARD
This year’s recipient of the Young Business Leader of the Year Award is Lauren Kniebes, co-owner of Lazy Ballerina Winery. 
 
Lauren Kniebes has been involved in the Michigan Wine Industry for more than ten years. She has her Bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University in Sales and Business Marketing. She is the co-Founder/Owner of Lazy Ballerina Winery in St. Joseph which opened as the only women-owned and operated winery in Southwest Michigan in 2015.  
 
In 2017, Lazy Ballerina has opened a second tasting room in the local community of Bridgman. Lauren serves on the Executive Committee for the Cornerstone Chamber Young Professionals, the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail Marketing/Advertising Committee, and the Advisory Committee for the Lake Michigan College Wine & Viticulture Technology Program. She is the founder of a new local women’s networking group, Women Among Women, focused on bringing local women in the community together to empower and inspire one another to set and achieve goals and overcome everyday adversities.
 
SMALL BUSINESS AWARD
The Chamber’s Small Business of the Year Award Recipient is Watermark Brewing Company.
 
Watermark Brewing Company partners, Chris Mason, Justin Schaul, and David Cockell opened in July 2016 in downtown Stevensville. Their business planning and home brewing started several years before their launch when the trio realized they might have the makings of a successful business. 
 
The next step in making this business a reality was finding the right location. Almost six months later, they were breaking ground in downtown Stevensville. And, it was during this time that the three partners decided to move into a house right next to the construction site. They quickly were part of the building process, making sure construction costs didn’t exceed budgets, ordering equipment and keeping on top of the many challenges entrepreneurs face when launching a small business. 
To minimize construction expenses, the three soon-to-be brewery owners went to work on the structure’s interior, not including the walls and roof. 
 
They discovered some challenges with their brewing equipment and soon realized during their inaugural brewing, the system was defective and received no solutions from their supplier. After the launch of Watermark Brewing Company, they realized they were unable to make “hoppy” beers and were perplexed as to why. After extensive research, the partners used an innovative approach and essentially boiled the beer, an unprecedented methodology in brewing, and one that they are using today to brew their many craft beers and ciders. 
 
Since they opened their doors in the summer of 2016, Watermark Brewing has retained 100% of their staff. Watermark Brewing Company attributes their success to hard-work, a conflict-free partnership, the ability to improvise, quickly respond to adversity and a true appreciation for the support of the community.    
 
 
EXCELLENCE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD 
The Chamber’s Excellence in Customer Service Award winner for this year is Combined Insurance Agencies.
 
Insurance can be complicated and confusing but a necessary part of our lives. Bob Beemer, Bruce Owen, and the entire Combined Insurance Agencies team take their responsibility seriously and know the importance of their knowledge in providing the best coverage for their customer’s needs.
 
 The Combined Insurance Agencies agents have a combined total of 104 years of service. Combined Insurance Agencies received four nominations for the Excellence in Customer Service Award this year. They are passionate about insurance and that shows in their relationships and customer service with their clients.
 
 
ECONOMIC IMPACT AWARD 
This years Chamber of Commerce Economic Impact award goes to Lakeland Health.
 
As a non-profit, community-owned organization, Lakeland commits to exemplary stewardship of community resources. They plan carefully for the healthcare needs of our community and look ten to twenty years into the future when assessing what it will need to stay as healthy as possible and enjoy a good quality of life.
 
In the last ten years, with the community’s support, Lakeland Health has brought many needed services to the Michiana area including da Vinci® robotic surgery, the Lookout Point apartment complex, the Merlin and Carolyn Hanson Hospice Center, Pine Ridge: A Nursing and Rehabilitation facility, and the Marie Yeager Cancer Center.
 
In October 2016, Lakeland broke ground on the new Lakeland Medical Center Pavilion expected completion in 2020. The Pavilion is a mission-critical project that will focus on high-tech modernizations and exceptional patient experiences. The facility will help recruit next-generation physicians and surgeons, keep patients close to home and continue to save more lives.
 
In fiscal year 2017, Lakeland Health awarded $254,726 to ten organizations on behalf of the Lakeland Health Community Wellness Endowment, established in 2014 to help sponsor local non-profit organizations that promote community health. To date, the endowment has awarded more than $500,000.
 
2017 AMBASSADOR OF THE YEAR
The Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year is Nancy McDonnall. 
 
Nancy McDonnall, owner of NMAC Marketing and co-owner of Be Our Guest has been a Cornerstone Chamber Ambassador since 2006 when she won Ambassador of the Year for the very first time. Since then she’s continued to serve on the Chamber’s Marketing Committee, The Nominating and Chamber Events Committees and various other ad hoc committees. Nancy attends most Chamber events including Business After Hours, volunteering at the annual Steak Fry, the Fall Trade Fair, and of course the Business Recognition Breakfast. 
 
Nancy encompasses all things Chamber while greeting members at the many events with a friendly smile and advocating for community members and local business. It’s no wonder her peers voted her to be the 2017 Ambassador of the year! Thank you, Nancy, for your contributions to the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce!
 
THE PAT MOODY AWARD
The recipient of the prestigious Pat Moody Award is Krueggel Lawton CPAs.
Kruggel Lawton is a relatively new name in southwest Michigan, but local CPA partners Dave Schaffer and Mike Layher have been serving the community for over 20 years. In 2015, the firm of Schaffer & Layher joined Kruggel Lawton CPA. Kruggel Lawton CPA is committed to the people, families, and business owners of Michigan's Great Southwest through their support of area organizations, schools, and other events. 
 
Kruggel Lawton CPA has been a sponsor of the City of St. Joseph’s 4th of July fireworks show, drawing thousands to see the sky light up over Lake Michigan. The firm has been a significant contributor to the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff and has enlisted their staff to volunteer for one of the busiest summer weekends in the area.  
 
 Integrity and excellence are two of the firm’s core values. When working with their clients, these values are evident when making financial or tax planning decisions. Customer service is a top priority at Kruggel Lawton. The entire team is accessible and always responsive to the needs of their clients. 
 
All of this year’s nominee and award recipient information will be made available at www.cornerstonechamber.com 
 
MEDIA CONTACT
811 Ship Street, Suite 303
St. Joseph, MI 49085
Contact: Patricia Muellen
pmuellen@cornerstonechamber.com
Phone: 269.932-4040
 
About Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce
Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce is a member-driven organization encouraging the growth of business through networking, advocacy, visibility and benefits for all of its members. The Chamber represents over 700 members representing over 36,000 employees.
Contact:
Patricia Muellen, Director, Sales & Member Services
(269) 932-4040