The recent 2023 Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and Wicomico County Tourism Annual Awards Luncheon was a celebration of the individual, business and organizational achievements of 2023.
An audience of nearly 200 attended the Oct. 26 ceremony, held at the Wicomico Civic Center.
Palmer Gillis, founder of the Salisbury development company Gillis Gilkerson, was honored with the Chamber Hall of Fame Award.
The award acknowledges an individual who has exhibited a demonstrated history of career achievement, a sustained commitment to the advancement of our region through their unselfish leadership, a commitment to making a difference and unparalleled professionalism among their peers in the community.
A Salisbury native and graduate of Salisbury University, Gillis received the award from Maurice Ames, Executive Director of Maryland Capital Enterprises.
In 1983, Gillis drafted a business plan in the back of his Printing Plus office in Downtown Salisbury that would become Gillis Builders. The company was formed in August 1983 and broke ground on its inaugural projects in Ocean City.
Soon after, Tony Gilkerson joined the firm and Gillis Gilkerson was formed.
In more than 40 years and some 2,000 major construction projects, Gillis, his partners and team members transformed a small commercial construction firm into one of the largest, most versatile full-service general contractors on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“This community and its leaders made it possible for Gillis Gilkerson to succeed,” Gillis told the crowd. “Having leaders who all pull in the same direction is what makes a community succeed.”
In welcoming remarks, SACC President and CEO Bill Chambers said: “The annual Awards Luncheon is an opportunity for the Chamber and our members to come together and honor the extraordinary contributions and successes of individuals, companies and organizations all across Delmarva.”
The Tourism Partner of the Year Award was presented to Homer King of the Delmarva Wrestling Club; the Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Eddie Dean and Andrew Emmert; the Business of the Year Award was presented to Burnish Beer Co.; and the Hospitality Award was presented to The Hampton Inn Salisbury.
Volunteer of the Year
Chris Hall of TidalHealth presented the SACC Member Volunteer of the Year Award to Jim Fuss, Business Development Manager with BBSI Salisbury.
Fuss is a respected senior sales executive with over 25 years of sales and management experience. He is a member of the Annual SACC Golf Classic Committee and a committee member of the Annual Ladies and Mixed-Team Golf Challenge.
Ambassador of the Year
The SACC Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Paula Nichols, owner of Motif Expressions Promotional Products, a company specializing in promotional products and embroidery.
Nichols joined the Chamber Ambassador Committee in 2022, is the current Ambassador Vice-Chair, and works with members actively promoting the benefits of Chamber membership. The award was presented by Aaron Guy, Director of Community Partners for Pohanka of Salisbury.
Tony Nicols of BBSI presented the Small Business of the Year Award to Johnson’s Cleaning Services.
Bernard Johnson, CEO and owner of Johnson’s and The Car Cleaning King, has secured major contracts with high-profile clients, including Tyson Foods, Trinity Logistics and the Dorchester County Health Department.
Johnson’s dedication to excellence earned him the 2022 MCE Palmer Gillis Award for Workplace Development Person of the Year and the 2022 Iron Sharpens Entrepreneur and Business Award.
Lora Walinskas of Effectv presented the Medium Business of the Year Award to the Delmarva Shorebirds.
The Shorebirds have been a community staple since their first season in 1996. The Shorebirds take pride in being active community members while providing the entry point of professional baseball for future stars of the Baltimore Orioles.
The Shorebirds front office staff continually look for new ways to engage in supporting youth programs, literacy with their “Hit the Books” and summer library reading program, engaging seniors with their “Silver Sluggers” club, and filling hundreds of donation requests to a variety of organizations.
General Manager Chris Bitters received the award.
The Large Business of the Year Award was presented to Mountaire Farms by Eric Morgan, CEO of Piedmont Airlines, and Jackie Jennings, Vice President of People and Communications.
Mountaire Farms, the fourth-largest chicken company in the United States, has been family-owned since 1914.
With more than 10,000 employees across five states, Mountaire Farms is committed to providing quality chicken at an affordable price locally, across the country, and worldwide.
The company’s well-known Thanksgiving for Thousands program has provided a nutritious and delicious meal to more than 1.5 million people since it started more than 25 years ago.
The award was accepted by Amanda Irwin, Senior Director of Processing Operations.
The SACC Business Professional of the Year award was presented to Bret Davis, owner of Davis Strategic Development, by Christy Weer of the Franklin Perdue School of Business and John Hickman of BEACON at Salisbury University.
Davis is a Salisbury University graduate specializing in commercial and residential rental portfolios and has brokered hundreds of transactions.
He is a partner in Davis Strategic Development, with over 50 buildings under ownership, and manages more than 1 million square feet of space.
Davis started Simple Fiber in 2021 with his brother and partner, Brice Perdue. Simple Fiber supplies Internet service to hundreds of local businesses and residents.
Andrew Duley of Seagull Disposal presented the Environmental Service Award. This year’s award winner is Beach to Bay Heritage Area.
The Beach to Bay Heritage Area is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting, and protecting our cultural heritage, historical linkages and natural resources on the Lower Shore.
Under the auspices of the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, the Beach to Bay Heritage Area has been a state-certified heritage area for 20 years. Board President Kristin Goller and Treasurer Mindie Burgoyne accepted the award.
The Agriculture Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Amick Farms by Kevin Dennis of Perdue Farms.
Steve Holsten, Grain Procurement Manager, Amick Farms, accepted the award.
Founded in 1941 in South Carolina, Amick Farms is dedicated to supplying consumers with quality chicken products at reasonable prices.
Amick Farms is part of the 10th-largest meat manufacturing company in the world with more than 3,500 team members, more than 400 family farm partners, and three integrated poultry production complexes.
John Petito of Delmarva Power presented the Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award to Women Supporting Women.
Women Supporting Women’s mission is to provide awareness, education, and support to those affected by breast cancer. WSW is in its 30th year, serving from beach to bay and from the bottom of Delaware to the top of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
It collaborates with Mercy Medical Center, TidalHealth and Atlantic General Hospital. Last year, from every dollar raised, 72 cents went back into the community to provide free programs and services to those diagnosed with breast cancer.
The award was accepted by Executive Director Cindy Feist, Executive Director.
The New Business of the Year Award was introduced this year and sponsored by the Bill and Patsy Rommel Center for Entrepreneurship at Salisbury University and the Eastern Region of the Maryland Small Business Development Center.
Rick Liebowitz and Mike Jensen presented the award to Joe Bean, owner-operator of the Grocery Outlet.
Grocery Outlet offers a selection of fresh produce, meat, dairy, deli, packaged groceries, frozen, health and beauty care and general merchandise products.
Each store is run by independent owner-operators who live locally, hire locally, and give back to local organizations.
See more coverage in the upcoming Nov. 14 Salisbury Independent’s Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce monthly pages. – Editor.