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Four honored as 2017 Manatee small businesses of the year

Bradenton Herald - 8/12/2017

Aug. 11--MANATEE -- Judges started with 173 nominations, whittled the list to 31 finalists and on Friday announced four 2017 Manatee Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award recipients.

The winners were Arts & Eats Restaurant and Gallery in the under $250,000 revenue category, Williams Wealth Management Group in the $250,000 to $1 million category, Blalock Walters, P.A., in the more than $1 million revenue category, and Pace Center for Girls in the non-profit category.

Elizabeth Trent of BB&T Bank, one of the judges for the small business awards, read the list of finalists.

"You're here today because you do the right thing," Trent said.

Amy Wick Mavis, executive director of Pace Center for Girls, which seeks to reduce recidivism and improve school success, employment and self-sufficiency among girls, noted that Jacksonville opened the first Pace center in 1985, and the second one opened in Manatee County in 1989. Now Pace has centers in 20 Florida counties.

"This is the first county to say we, too, want to do something for girls," Wick Mavis said. "It is really quite extraordinary what you all have done in this community. This community holds Pace Center for Girls in their hearts. Whatever you want for your daughter, or the girl you feel most important, that is what you want for our Pace girls. And they know that and feel that."

Wick Mavis announced that Pace Center for Girls would be expanding its facility at 3508 26th St. W. in the not-too-distant future.

Jonathan Fleece, managing partner of Blalock Walters, P.A., 802 11th St. W., a company noted for its ethics and leadership on numerous boards and charitable organizations, led most of his staff onto the dais after his company was announced as a small business of the year.

"To be in such amazing company with businesses and people who dedicate every day to making the community better is truly humbling." Fleece said. "Small business is big business and is the backbone of our community, our state and our great nation."

Fleece, well known for his love of quotes, borrowed one from a Facebook friend who posted that being a candle is not easy. In order to give light, one must burn.

"All of us here today and for nearly 100 years have a burning passion to make a difference in the lives of our clients, our business, our community and our friends," Fleece said.

Fleece paid tribute to former Chamber President Bob Bartz, who died in February at age 65. Bartz built the Manatee Chamber of Commerce into a powerhouse of 2,100 members, helping it win honors as Florida Chamber of Commerce of the Year four times and national Chamber of Commerce in 2007.

Fleece expressed confidence that Jacki Dezelski, the new president, would continue to lead the chamber in an outstanding way.

Small business winner Donna Slawsky and Jim Copening of Arts & Eats Restaurant and Gallery, located in the heart of Village of the Arts at 1114 12th St. W., were unable to attend.

In their absence, Donna Akers accepted the award and thanked the Chamber of Commerce.

"We really, really appreciate this award. The small business community of Manatee County has really helped us out," Akers said.

Trent said Slawsky and Copening have created a vibrant business model.

"They pride themselves on treating their employees right from health care to home-cooked meals. Their business gives back to their community by providing support to many local charitable causes," Trent said.

Beth Deyo and Mike Murphy accepted the small business of the year award for Williams Wealth Management, 3639 Cortez Road. Derek Williams, principal of the firm, has sought growth through the addition of staff, stressing fiduciary level services and emphasizing the company's business retirement plan solution, FiduciaryShield LLC.

Among the organizations that Williams Wealth Management supports are the Hernando de Soto Society, the Conquistador Historical Foundation, the Denis V. Cooper Foundation, the USF Bulls Club, PACE Center for Girls, the Saint Stephens lacrosse team and the Manatee Wildcats.

"This is a huge honor," Deyo said. "We have been long-time chamber members. We really pride ourselves on helping our clients. We greatly appreciate all the support the chamber has given us."

In addition to the awards presented by the Chamber of Commerce, Pattie Light of the Pandora Store at University Town Center presented special awards to each of the four winners.

Friday's small business awards were presented during a luncheon at Fete Catering & Ballroomat Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.

The judges for the 38th Annual Manatee Small Business of the Year were Trent, John Horne of Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Jon Stuart of SCORE and Karen Stewart of Manatee County government.

James A. Jones Jr.: 941-745-7053, @jajones1


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