By BRADEN LAMMERS
Southern Indiana was the focus for small business Thursday as three locals were honored for their contributions to the state and Midwest.
As part of Small Business week, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes those local businesses that have made a difference in their community. For the first time in the group’s history, two multistate winners and another local company were honored.
“You guys really know what you’re doing down here for small business,” said Gail Gesell, Indiana district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration.
She added that the awards, which have been handed out since 1963, are designed to honor the contributions of, and advocates for, small business.
Those who received awards at a luncheon Thursday were: Schimpff’s Confectionery, honored as the 2013 SBA Indiana and Region Five family-owned business of the year; Le Anne Kruer Scott, senior vice president of Your Community Bank in Jeffersonville, who received the 2013 SBA Indiana and Region Five financial services champion award; and Kimberly Martin-Dawkins, vice president of PNC Bank in New Albany, who was recognized as the 2013 SBA Indiana Women in Business Champion.
Also honored was Jack Thompson, president of Building Associates Inc., as the prime contractor of the year for Indiana and Region Five.
New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan pointed to the importance small businesses have had in his city.
“Small, unique businesses have driven the economic revitalization of downtown New Albany,” he said.
And for Southern Indiana residents, presenters didn’t have to offer a name for one business that has long been a fixture in the community, but instead broke out a pack of candy red-hots.
Gesell, when introducing Schimpff’s owners Jill and Warren Schimpff, provided some recent statistics about the confectionery that has been in the same location along Spring Street since 1891. Among those: from 2011 to 2012, revenue increased 21 percent for the company. In addition, web and mail orders for the business only comprised 5 to 7 percent of its revenue, she said.
“People really want to go to visit the confectionery,” Gesell said. “They don’t really want to order it online, it’s not the same.”
The confectionery has become a tourist destination and the model of a small family-owned business through four generations.
“It was a piece of personal and family history we wanted to keep going,” Warren Schimpff said of why he and Jill decided to buy the family business. “It was a piece of community history ... and I wanted to see if I could have an effect on our
The local community, at least, believes they have, giving the couple a standing ovation when they received their award.
Jill Schimpff said the couple was thrilled to receive the honor.
“It’s nice to do something worthwhile that you have fun doing,” she added.
Warren Schimpff said they get comments all the time thanking them for being there and for being a stable part of Jeffersonville.
“We’ve kept downtown going, I really believe that,” he said. “I think we’ve had an effect. This has been the best personal accomplishment I can see in my life. We kept Schimpff’s going and have had some effect on the community through the continuity that we have to the past, and people need that.”
The Schimpffs said they would both like to see more small businesses of all kinds in the area.
Jill Schimpff said there is a distinct difference when a community is anchored with locally owned small businesses.
“It’s human contact,” she said. “You got to know them; they were people that you called by name and respected,” she said, recounting the small business owners in her community growing up. “You don’t get that from a chain.”
Jeffersonville Mike Moore cited his background as a small business owner and the sacrifices it takes to be successful. He thanked the recipients of the awards handed out Thursday, but asked something of the small business owners as well.
“I understand the sacrifices that you all are making and I ask that you please pass that knowledge on to the next generation,” he said.
Two other award winners were honored for doing just that — being champions of small businesses.
Martin-Dawkins was honored for strengthening the role of women-owned businesses in New Albany. She has served on the Board of Directors at One Southern Indiana since 2008, participates on several committees including the Women in Business committee and has, three times, served as the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Conference.
She led an event that brought women business owners from five states to meet with corporate purchasing decision-makers and brought a spotlight to women, minority and veteran-owned business.
“We have a shared commitment to a diverse business community in Southern Indiana,” she said when accepting her award.
Kruer Scott’s award recognizes the quality and amount of time spent outside of regular business duties to assist small businesses with obtaining capital, Gesell said.
“This person advocates for changes in the financial services industry and in legislation or regulations that might impact small firms, as well as helping with creation of business capital for small business,” she said.
Kruer Scott was cited as having spent 300 hours in community service toward her outreach effort to help local businesses answer financing concerns.
Among Kruer Scott’s volunteer efforts cited were committee memberships on the Horseshoe Foundation, which has provided $750,000 in revolving loan funds to Floyd County small businesses, and on the Urban Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan fund that has helped Southern Indiana entrepreneurs have money to start and grow their businesses.