The Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce hosted it’s Annual Meeting and Celebration of Business Friday evening at the London Bridge Resort Convention Center.
The event honors outgoing and incoming Chamber board members, but the highlight of the event is the Chamber’s annual awards for outstanding businesses and Chamber volunteers.
The following awards were presented Friday evening.
The Community Development and Improvement Award was presented to the Western Arizona Humane Society (WAHS) to recognize the development or improvement of real property in Lake Havasu City. WAHS has worked for years to raise funds and establish a new, modern facility for homeless and dislocated animals.
The Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to Lucky Atkinson, of ACE Pest Control. The Ambassador Committee provides its members with a chance to be part of the welcoming arm of the Chamber of Commerce. The Committee is responsible for conducting ground breakings, ribbon cuttings and grand openings for Chamber members. The committee also proudly greet chamber members and guests at networking events and work tirelessly with the Chamber staff to ensure Chamber fundraisers are a success.
Atkinson is a regular at anything chamber and is always there to lend a hand. He also lends his time and muscles at Winterfest and Desert Bash. Atkinson is quick with the jokes, but serious when it comes to the job of promoting the Chamber. A U.S. Military Veteran, he is dependable – often the first to arrive and the last to leave. He’s skilled in photography, often assisting in setting up ribbon cutting photos.
The Chamber Volunteer of the Year is Cassie O’Hara from HavaSmash. A member of the Ambassador Committee, she ventures outside of the required hours and events of the Committee and makes herself available for any and all Chamber programs and functions.
The Chamber is happy to be the recipient of O’Hara’s time and love. Her husband Dustin and her darling son Charlie are at the top of the list as it should be with the rest of her family, her business venture with sister Corey – Havasmash – is probably in second place – but we’re pretty sure the Chamber is in the number three spot for her affections and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Business and Education Leader Award was presented to Marsha Becker. Education matters to business. That does without saying, and the Chamber is proud of the relationships and bond we’ve formed with leaders from the Education community.
Flash back a few years when Lake Havasu City under the direction of PED leader James Gray led our community to the finals of the America’s Best Communities competition. Of the five pillars in the competition packet, most of the Chamber and the Chamber Foundation’s efforts were directed to the Education and Talent Supply pillar and that’s where a new and exciting opportunity was born.
In an effort to combat “demographic starvation” the Chamber worked with the Pillar 2 committee on ways to provide local high school students a way to explore careers where they might have an interest, and also show them there are opportunities in Lake Havasu City after high school graduation.
The Chamber found a partner at Lake Havasu High School in Becker. She is an outstanding member of the LHHS staff where she is responsible for all the forms and paperwork but more importantly as the liaison between the Chamber, the business host and the student. Becker also recruits and convenes the students, coordinates an interview skills workshop and helps the students dress for success. This is often the first “job” these students have had, and she does her
Becker continues to help the students with questions and concerns throughout the interview time frame and puts together a congratulatory party once the internship is completed.
This year’s Outstanding Young Professional Award recipient is Aymie Spitzer from the Partnership for Economic Development. Spitzer moved to Havasu as a small child and grew up here and is an LHHS graduate; she also grew up around art and knew she wanted to develop a career involving art and creativity.
Following college graduation, Spitzer moved on to a couple of really big cities before returning home to Havasu to enjoy our unique and relaxed lifestyle. Once back home, she became aware of a positive cultural and social shift in our community and decided to join the wave of young entrepreneurs looking to extend their wings and make a positive change for their hometown.
Spitzer secured some creative and graphic art jobs, first to design marketing collateral for the Citizens for Havasu Schools movement in 2016. “Citizens” was relying on educational and marketing assistance from the PED and those involved in the Vision 20/20 competition – another area where the competition package included methods for better education and teacher retention.
About the same time, she brokered the first meetups for creatives in the community and the group started growing at a rapid rate. Now known as Creative Comrades, this group connects regularly to share thoughts, ideas, mutual learning opportunities, professional development and also produces First Friday, a collaborative effort for art, music, food and fun in Havasu’s booming downtown district.
The Ethics in Business Awardee is Horizon Community Bank (HCB). The award exemplifies honesty and integrity and shows evidence of corporate or community philanthropy and supports civic and charitable endeavors.
HCB is not the newest business in town; it has grown significantly since opening its Havasu doors more than 16 years ago. By Havasu standards, they are considered a major employer with close to 100 employees and locations throughout the region including a new one that opened last month.
HCB is community-oriented in an industry filled with corporate-style competitors and the team that works there are some of the best community promoters we know. CEO Jerry Ernst encourages the team to reach out and get involved and they do. Members of the team are involved in all Chamber functions, they are members of Rotary and Kiwanis and other service organizations, and they help with school functions, and major community events like Winterfest and the Balloon Festival.
Even though HCB is the for-profit variety of business, its heart lies in giving and strengthening the local economy. It was one of the originals that stepped up to the plate to bring ASU to Havasu – and continues to support our local university with gifts large and small. It also supports the efforts of the PED and the Chamber. HCB is locally owned and operated and is always looking out across the horizon for the best products and services it can find to support its banking customers.
The Chamber Business of the Year Award was presented to Go Lake Havasu Tourism Bureau. There are so many businesses that could easily win this award but this year we are honoring one that according to the Chamber staff, makes their days easier, more efficient, and brings regular smiles to their faces. With the assistance this business provides, the Chamber staff has better opportunities to serve all members.
Go Lake Havasu is one that helps the Chamber brainstorm events – and shows up at our events to help with everything from extra promotion, to fence building, to pouring beer, to breaking down the event site and cleaning up. Go Lake Havasu provides advice when we have technical issues and shares our marketing materials with thousands of visitors to Lake Havasu City. They also help the Chamber with administrative issues by assisting us with front desk duties.
The Chamber thinks there is a direct correlation between the rise in tourism related sales taxes over the past two years and the team at the organization who’ve been together for that same amount of time. More tourism business means more business for all.
The Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Jim Salscheider. The criteria are for an individual that has made an outstanding contribution to the community in service and/or leadership. And, the Citizen of the Year serves as the grand marshal of the London Bridge Days Parade, an amazing honor. The selection committee received many, many nominations for amazing local residents for this honor, but agreed unanimously tonight’s recipient was the right person for this year’s award. It’s going to be tough to describe them without giving it away early.
Salscheider first served at the helm of the Lake Havasu Marine Association beginning in 2007. A newer resident to Havasu, he had already become immersed in the community and its people through his work with the Main Street Association. The new job was one where there was passion to support and grow the one thing in our community from which we all draw life – the Colorado River and Lake Havasu.
Within a short time period the organization was running strong and championing issues such as hours-long lines at the launch ramps, better marketing and promotion for the hundreds of local businesses attached to marine industry and developing a relationship with local, regional, state and national governmental entities as well as forging an ongoing friendship and partnership with the Chemehuevi Tribe.
Shortly after he was fully engaged in all things that matter to the lake, and that’s when the dreaded quagga mussels showed up. Salscheider led the charge to develop an educational campaign about this invasive species and to challenge unfair practices that quarantined watercraft at the California ports of entry.
Another major victory where Salscheider led the charge was with the United States government when US Fish and Wildlife quietly dropped no wake buoys into some of the best skiing water on Lake Havasu the week of Memorial Day a few years back. Salscheider did not take this sitting down, and eventually his cry for help reached the ears of Congressman Paul Gosar, Senator John McCain, Senator Jeff Flake and other federal officials throughout the tri-state area.
Salscheider has worked very hard over the past many years to protect our freedom to boat and enjoy all the recreational opportunities we sometimes take for granted. For his efforts he has received multiple awards on behalf of the Lake Havasu Marine Association, like the distinguished Hollister Award from the Western States Boating Administration Association in 2013 and the Award of Excellence from Arizona Fish and Game in 2017; but we believe it’s because of him that so much positive change has occurred in regard to our beautiful lake.
Besides the Citizen of the Year Award, Salscheider also received a Congressional Certificate of Honor from Congressman Paul Gosar.
The Havasu Booster Award was presented to The Lake Havasu Museum of History Volunteers and Staff in Memory of Butch Wood.
The criteria for the award is that of a community volunteer, organization or business that has boosted business, morale and community development during the past 12 months. The recipient truly meets the criteria and has been boosting the rest of us up for years.
The award is being presented to a large number of staff and volunteers who have contributed to the organization’s ability to have such a significant role in Lake Havasu City’s draw to residents and visitors. The organization is due to having a full roster of volunteers that are there to keep a detailed description of events, activities, real property and the World’s Largest Antique on the front burner for all those seeking the history of our amazing city.
One other award is set to be presented later.