EOY Winners Whats Right With The World

June 16, 2003
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Ernst & Young provides a valuable service around the world in the firm’s annual salute to excellence, represented by the Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Held June 12 in Grand Rapids for the West Michigan and Northwest Indiana region, 31 individuals representing 28 companies survived extensive scrutiny to become finalists, and then the “Master” winners in seven categories, as reported in this issue.

Grand Rapids Business Journal has been a longtime co-sponsor of the recognition event as well as the studied, extensive nomination and judging process leading up to those awards. We find in this event the epitome of the GRBJ mission statement in reporting on and for this region’s business community.

The past year has been wrought with national reporting on the worst of the business world from greed and the demise of dot-coms to the wrenching layoff decisions in an economy affected by events outside the scope, imagination or influence of most individuals. From the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to the war on Iraq in 2003, some would say there has been no worse time to own your own business.

Grand Rapids Business Journal Small Business Matters columnist Paul Hense this week writes of his testimony to the state legislature in regard to Gov. Jennifer Ganholm’s attempt to “close tax loopholes,” which would have amounted to tax increases aimed directly at small businesses. Hense likens the move to a small business owner, “faced with a shrinking market that cannot afford your company’s product (which then decides to) raise prices.” Hense notes small business owners must deal with sales tax, use tax, withholding tax, personal property tax and “incomprehensible Michigan Single Business Tax.”

His testimony addressed only a small number of challenges faced by business, often compounded by federal policies on imports and exports and the now notorious Federal Prison Industries pirating of business contracts to keep prison inmates employed while the nation’s employees are laid off.

Each of the finalists recognized last week and those among us every day demonstrates uncommon courage and fortitude to found companies based on a vision and ability to create something better for the communities they serve. They often sweat more than one mortgage on their homes or have waited years to draw a salary. They serve clients not just in West Michigan and Indiana but also in countries around the world. They serve the defense industry, aerospace, builders, technology ventures and the food industry. They were “victims” of layoffs, and one Master Entrepreneur, Richard Davis, Second Chance Body Armor, created his business after being shot in a robbery attempt. His invention is credited with saving more than 900 lives. Another finalist, Blue Bridge Ventures founder Jack Buchanan, commented, “Normalcy is a route to nowhere.”

Grand Rapids Business Journal salutes the finalists and the “Master” Award winners. Their stories provide a picture of what’s right in the vast majority of the business world.

West Michigan winners are now eligible for the National Entrepreneur Of The Year awards designed to honor outstanding entrepreneurs who have demonstrated excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

We wish them well in pursuit of hard-earned recognition, and we are immensely proud of their representation of this region.           

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