BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce honored several individuals and organizations Thursday as part of its annual banquet.
This year, chamber president Robbie Skinner said it was decided to honor an Organization of the Year instead of Industry of the Year. The chamber also changed its Small Business of the Year award to Business of the Year.
Citizen of the Year
The 2016 Citizen of the Year award was given to Buck Edwards, originally from Gilmer County, but who first moved to Buckhannon in 2007 with his wife, Tina Lou.
“Looking for ways to become involved with our community, he plugged in to Create Buckhannon volunteering at Festival Fridays,” Skinner said.
In 2013, he started the community garden in front of the former Central Elementary School in collaboration with the Parish House. He constructed 42 raised beds and introduced hundreds of people to grow their own food.
In 2015, Edwards led volunteers constructing the boat ramp at Hampton.
Edwards also is founder of Inspire West Virginia, a non-profit focused on introducing middle and high school students to entrepreneur and career opportunities that exist in West Virginia.
In 2016, he helped to prepare and paint the side of Ameriprise Financial at the corner of Main and Kanawha Streets for Buckhannon’s newest public art display.
“When the flood disaster struck the central and southern portions of our state, he coordinated donation, clean up, and construction efforts in all of the affected counties,” Skinner said.
“He utilized the former Sears building here in town, turning it into a donation drop off and distribution center. He raised over $100,000 from right here all sent to victims in need.”
Edwards was then hired as the project manager of flood relief for the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and continues to work in the flood ravaged counties.
Finally, late last year, he coordinated with Create Buckhannon to bring live music to Buckhannon’s river front property along the Elizabeth Poundstone Memorial Walk Trail near West Virginia Wesleyan College. This venue enjoyed six concerts and entertained hundreds of people.
Future plans include partnering with the City to realize an ADA fishing pier at the Buckhannon River and a rose garden near the walking trail.
“He tirelessly, selflessly and humbly serves not only our community, but the state of West Virginia,” Skinner said. “He is an example, an inspiration and a powerful force for all of us to follow. Thank you so much, Buck Edwards, for all you’ve done, and all you’ve yet to do.”
Business of the Year
The Sign Guy, owned by Daniel Marsh, was recognized as the 2016 Business of the Year.
A graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School and West Virginia Business College, Marsh always shared the dream to be his own boss.
“In this family business, graphic design is the talent and the passion,” Skinner said.
In 2002, Marsh worked with his mother, Emma Lue, and Premier Bank to realize this dream and purchased the former Nease Body Shop to open The Sign Guy.
“Over the past 15 years, the business has expanded to serve customers statewide, including screen printing, large format digital printers and a fleet of trucks,” Skinner said. “The varieties of sign products include everything from political signs and screen printing jobs for local schools, colleges and restaurants to commercial truck lettering and large business signage.”
Besides Marsh and his mother, The Sign Guy employs four full-time staff: designers Justin Gaither and Tim Miller, screen printer Mark Gould and production staff Doug Johnston and one-part-time employee, Dillon Johnston, in production prep.
Organization of the Year
Create Buckhannon, which began in 2007 and became a non-profit organization in 2016 was honored with the chamber’s new Organization of the Year Award.
“In 2007, a group of dedicated community volunteers met for the first time to discuss plans and dreams for downtown Buckhannon’s future beautification and development,” Skinner said. “Since the first conversation, citizens have gathered weekly around a table to break bread and share in conversation. Although focuses, faces and facilitators have changed, this organization remains an integral part of our city and county nearly 10 years later. At our table, the answer is yes, now what’s the question?”
Some of the accomplishments include:
Worked with the D.O.H. to improve the traffic pattern Downtown by removing stoplights and installing 4-way stop signs
Added way-finding trash receptacles along Main Street
Designed new street signage Downtown and along College Avenue
Worked with the Historical Society, Historic Landmarks Commission, and AmeriCorps Vista Volunteers to place history-telling plaques on Downtown buildings
Saved the Latham House property from sale/demolition on Madison Street
Drafted plans to make the Jawbone Park we know today a reality
Founded our favorite summertime activity: Festival Fridays!
Constructed “Little Free Libraries” and collaborated with many community organizations to furnish those libraries in prominent locations all over town
Constructed a boat ramp on the Buckhannon River at Hampton
Brought Sunday evening music from a pontoon boat along the river bank at our city’s Elizabeth Poundstone Memorial River Walk Trail
“Create Buckhannon is unlike any other community organization whether you’re here or anywhere,” he said. “It is truly unique. Under the leadership of CJ Rylands, the citizens of this community are encouraged to come together to share ideas, plans and projects to the table. Our charge is to “Tell our story, be authentic and represent value.”
“The average attendance at weekly lunch meetings is 45. The energy and dedication of the members of Create Buckhannon has never decreased or flatlined, but instead, has remained strong and continues to grow.”
Business Man of the Year
Robert “Rob” Hinton, the executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority, received the 2016 Business Man of the Year Award.
Originally from Northeast Ohio, Hinton played football for the Glenville Pioneers en route to earning his bachelor’s degree. He later returned to the Mountain State again and pursued a Master’s in Business Administration from West Virginia Wesleyan College before accepting a position as a small business coach through the Small Business Development Center.
“In this position, he assisted emerging entrepreneurs and existing small businesses in 10 counties providing services for: start-up and expansion, business planning, access to capital, loan packaging, management, grant acquisition and marketing development,” Skinner said.
In 2014, Hinton moved into his current role at the Upshur County Development Authority.
“He certainly hit the ground running in this position as he secured a $2.3 million USEDA POWER Grant (largest received in West Virginia) for a knowledge and innovation center, a $4 million combined project that will result in the construction of a 28,000 square foot building on Main Street,” Skinner said.
“This building will be filled with knowledge and technology based businesses bringing approximately 70 jobs along with expanded fiber gigabit broadband service to the city.”
Hinton and his board-member team have also been working on a $3.5 million grant to increase broadband serving over 9,00 businesses and residents in several counties and is in the final stages of the process.
“If awarded, this project will be the largest broadband grant ever distributed by USDA,” Skinner said.
Hinton also serves as an adjunct faculty member at West Virginia Wesleyan College’s School of Business and teaches a course on creating, starting and running a small business.
Hinton and his wife Jackie are raising two daughters with a third due this summer.
“In all that he has accomplished, if you ask him, his greatest treasure and joy is his family,” Skinner said.
Business Woman of the Year
Amanda Hayes is the recipient of the 2016 Business Woman of the Year award. On any given day, you’ll find her attending one of a dozen or more community organizations, including Create Buckhannon, Relay for Life, UCARE, Chamber of Commerce, Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club, Downtown Decoration and events committees and Generation Upshur to name a few.
“She selflessly volunteers her time, has a full-time job and is the primary caregiver for her dog, Delilah,” Skinner said.
In 2016, Hayes worked with others on the Bicentennial Celebration committee to plan Buckhannon’s 200th anniversary. She is a member of the Buckhannon Fourth of July Celebration committee which is planning its third celebration on June 30 this year and helped plan for festive holiday decorations.
During the summer, she also volunteers several Saturdays so that the Chamber and Visitors Center can be open.
Hayes hails from Martinsville, Va. and earned a Bachelor of Arts in media art and design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. She has been employed by The Record Delta since 2004 where she is the senior staff writer.
Her writing and photography skills have garnered numerous awards through the West Virginia Press Association but she is most proud that the paper itself has been awarded General Excellence in Division IV for 10 years running.
“It’s safe to say that her dedication to professional journalism is why The Record Delta is one of the most award-winning newspapers in West Virginia,” Skinner said.
Hayes is a member of Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, previously volunteered with the youth and continues to work with children’s church.