Valpo Chamber honors businesses for improvements
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 13, 2012 3:18PM
Exterior of the new Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center at Valparaiso University. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:52AM
VALPARAISO — From big projects like the new Porter Regional Hospital to smaller ones like the renovation of a Taco Bell on Morthland Drive, the city of Valparaiso and the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce recognized 20 local businesses for making the community a better place.
The honors came Thursday during the 45th annual Greater Valparaiso Community Improvement Awards, held in the Harre Union ballroom at Valparaiso University.
“These community awards are some of the most important awards the Chamber can give,” said Jonathan Nalli, chief executive officer of Porter Health System. The new hospital was one of the sponsors, as well as a recipient, of the awards.
The awards, many made possible by façade grants offered through the city, speak to the character of the businesses and the quality of life offered by the community, a benefit to all, Nalli said.
The first award was bestowed in 1967, said Len Ellis, senior ranking past chairman of the chamber and founder of Radio One Communications Inc.
People were starting to invest in their businesses again after the struggle of World War II, and the chamber decided to single those folks out, Ellis said.
“We were poor. We bought one trophy and it was a moving trophy,” he said. “We lost it after the fourth year,” Ellis continued, adding the chamber offered a $100 award for its return and is still willing to pay up.
The awards are based on the exterior appearance of a business, and criteria include enhancing the attractiveness of Valparaiso; being compatible with the area and environment; enhancing the quality of life and promoting pride in the community; and making a commitment to the city’s future.
Winners also included Central Park Plaza downtown, which was completed in August 2011. Mayor Jon Costas, accepting the award with parks and recreation department director John Siebert, said city officials thought the park was a good idea when they started planning it three years ago.
“As we got more into it, we realized it was a great idea,” Costas said, adding the park became a gathering place that will be expanded in coming years.
Other winners include Bargain Barn; Caribbean Pools; the Donald V. Fites Engineering Innovation Center on the VU campus; Excel Driving Instruction; Farm Credit Mid America; Fifth Third Bank; Horizon Bank; Kennedy Mazda; La Cabana Restaurant; North Coast Distributing; Osan and Patton/Valley Kitchen and Bar; Paul Sur Buick GMC; Plaza Place; Shoe Carnival; Team Chevrolet; Valparaiso Family YMCA Pavilion; and the VU Arts and Sciences building.
The recipient of the Heritage Award was 259 Indiana Ave.