Flathead Valley business owners, community leaders and government officials gather for the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s 118th Annual “Grand Event” at Flathead Valley Community College’s new Wachholz College Center on November 9. The event presented awards to local businesses and community members and included the launch of the Kalispell Chamber’s Venture Boldly podcast and the Flathead Valley Economic Dashboard.
The Chamber presented the 51st Annual Flathead Legacy Award – the Chamber’s oldest and most prestigious award – to Dr. Jane Karas, President of Flathead Valley Community College. As leader of the FVCC, Karas oversaw the expansion of campus buildings, dormitories, and the Wachholz Center and Performing Arts Building. In addition to standing at the helm of the college, Karas presides over hospital boards and is involved in many community activities. In a press release, Chambers said, “Flathead is a better, stronger and future-ready community because of Dr. Jane Karas.”
The Businessperson of the Year award went to Doug Shanks of Western Building Center. In his 47 years with WBC, Shanks helped the company expand from one to 12 locations, which now has more than 400 employees. In addition to expanding the business, Shanks has created high-paying jobs in Flathead Valley, worked with high school students in training and mentoring programs, and created scholarships for employees’ children. Shanks has also served on various boards throughout the Valley, including Habitat for Humanity, North Valley Hospital, Student Build, Sapa-Johnsrude Baseball Field, and the FVCC.
Kalispell Public School superintendent Micah Hill was awarded the new Educator of the Year award, which Chambers said is intended to “honor academic programming or professionals who are innovative, forward-thinking, creative and influential.” Chambers described Hill as a courageous leader who has kept Kalispell’s schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic, equipping students with technology for virtual instruction and protecting 750 jobs in the school district, while many businesses were closing and laying off workers. Chambers said, Hill is “appreciated by her peers and her community and has always put our families and children first.”
Two of the Chamber’s Business of the Year awards went to Mann Mortgage for large businesses and Bias Brewing for small to medium businesses. Established in 1989 in Kalispell, Mann Mortgage provides home loans to households in 44 offices in 21 states. A family-owned business in Flathead Valley with 140 employees, Mann Mortgage has gained accolades for both the services it provides to families and the work environment they cultivate. The company supports civic life in and around Kalispell, donating time and money to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Imagine Libraries, Montana Children’s at Logan Health, Kalispell Parks and Recreation and Columbia Falls Community Market.
Bias Brewing, opened in 2018 by Gabe Maryman and Adam and Amanda Robertson, has become a favorite gathering place and craft brewery in downtown Kalispell. Chambers commended Bias Brewing for a successful remodel and relocation to the former Kalispell Brewing Company space, and recognized Gabe for his roles on the Kalispell Downtown Association and Kalispell Business Improvement District Board, and his leadership of Kalispell Chamber’s Child Care Initiative. to head for.
Year of the Year Non-Profit Senior Living Facility Awarded to Emmanuel Lutheran Communities, providing “purposeful living” to Flathead Valley seniors. In addition to providing senior care, Jason Cronk and his team at Emmanuel Lutheran engage with a variety of community organizations such as Leadership Flathead, the Montana Health Care and Hospital Association, and Glacier Symphony and Chorale. To help address the childcare shortage that has plagued the Valley in recent years, the organization recently opened a childcare center for its employees.
Rising Star of the Year, an honor given to a passionate community leader under the age of 30, went to Adam Cebula of J2 Business Products. Chambers praised Cebula’s “team spirit,” “sales prowess” and “innovative ideas.” Cebulla supports local programs, serves on the board of the Kalispell Education Foundation and was an ambassador of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.
The Community Spirit of the Year award, given to a community member who volunteers their time and serves as a local role model, went to Tony Brockman of Vault Media. Regarding Brockman, Chambers said, “It is impossible to cover all the participatory, service and community engagement activities that Tony Brockman has been involved in as a young and growing young professional throughout Kalispell, Evergreen and Flathead.” Brockman has spent her time volunteering with the Flathead County Economic Development Authority Board, the Gateway Community Center, the Evergreen Rural Fire District, and other organizations. Brockman will leave for Helena in 2023 to serve in the state legislature.
Chambers also introduced its new Venture Boldly podcast, which will feature information about initiatives, events, people, news and businesses in Kalispell and Flathead Valley. Podcasts can be listened to on Google, Apple, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music and other streaming services. More information about VentureBOLDLY can be found at kalispellchamber.com/podcast.