CR chamber goes formal with honors

 by Tim Kenyon

LINN COUNTY – More honors, more pizzazz.

The Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards will be presented as part of a masquerade ball March 26 at the recently reopened Theatre Cedar Rapids Iowa Building in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Three finalists vie in three new award categories. For Entrepreneur of the Year, they are Matt Miller of MobileDemand in Hiawatha, Juli Hardin of Jules Bakery in Marion and Al Ruffalo of RuffaloCody.

Small Business of the Year candidates are MVP Video Production, JW Morton and Associates and Schumacher Carpets, all of Cedar Rapids.
Volunteer of the Year finalists are Shannon Hanson, Greg Neumeyer and John Wasson.

The change in season and event theme resulted from member feedback, in which they asked for more formality, said Julie Stow, member services vice president.

“They also wanted to increase how we recognize leadership and contributions in business and in the community,” Ms. Stow said.

The public was allowed to nominate, but nominees had to be members, she said.

The well-composed essay responses showed the strength of businesses and volunteers nominated, said Kari Stillman, the new chamber marketing and communications vice president.

The 10th annual Howard Hall in Business Excellence Award will go to Aegon companies.

Aegon has corporate headquarters in Cedar Rapids, has expanded to two campuses and grown to more than 3,500 employees in the Corridor during the past five years.  

“They exemplify Howard Hall’s passion for Cedar Rapids and using influence to make a better local economy and community,” Ms. Stow said.

Mr. Hall was an industrialist and philanthropist dedicated to the development of our region and frequently worked behind the scenes to attract new businesses and jobs. The area continues to benefit from the Hall family contributions today, including the gift of their home, Brucemore, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the ongoing mission of the Hall Perrine Foundation.

Diamond V Mills was honored in the category of international business in 2007.

The Cedar Rapids community earned the Howard Hall award in 2008 for heroic efforts in wake of the June 2008 flood. A panel picks the Hall award honoree based on a different category each year.

Originally, TCR leaders were consulted for creativity insight for an event location. Discussions led to planning the event at the reconstructed Iowa Building, 102 Third St. SE.

“They wanted a dramatic flair to the event and our talks found it to become a real good fit,” TCR Managing Director Casey Prince said. “We’d talked about wanting to ramp up to large events like this, so we’re happy and excited to be a partner.”

Roughly 300 guests are expected, Ms. Stillman said.

The evening activities will run from 6 to 10 p.m. and include social time for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before the 8 p.m. start of the awards ceremony, which will include theatrical performances by TCR members. Following will be dessert and a performance by the Rod Pierson Big Band with dancing on the stage and in the lobby areas.

For more event details, contact Ms. Stow at (319) 730-1409 or