Grand View Lodge is the Business Excellence Award winner

BREEZY POINT - Representing an entrepreneurial spirit and business achievements, Grand View Lodge is the winner of the third annual Business Excellence Award.

The choice from three finalists was named during the Brainerd Lakes Chamber's annual dinner hosted at Breezy Point Resort.

Brent Gunsbury, Business Excellence Award chairman, said before the award was created there wasn't a way to recognize outstanding business, which can inspire other organizations to take significant risks to achieve the American dream. Award winners have exemplified taking risk, overcoming challenges and marketplace innovation, Gunsbury said.

Mark Ronnei, Grand View general manager, accepted the award to a standing ovation.

"This is a great honor," Ronnei said, noting business success is all about relationships. "I have a phenomenal team."

Grand View's owners, the Cote family, bought the resort for $85,000 in 1937. Grand View had already survived the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. The resort was built in 1916 from Norway pines.

"Grand View represents everything people love about Minnesota," said Bart Taylor, chamber board of directors vice chairman.

It will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. Ronnei said the Cote family puts a premium on relationships and community involvement as it creates memories for guests. The chamber noted the Grand View hosted Governor's Fishing Opener this spring broke nearly every record for the event. Memories, Ronnei said earlier are the only thing the resort really sells.

"I guarantee this is a great memory for me," Ronnei said after receiving the award.

The award finalists were the Sound Connection in Baxter and MaxBotix, south of Brainerd.

Growth, innovation, ethics and community impact were among criteria used in picking the finalists and the winner.

Crosswoods Golf was the winner of the Business Excellence Award in 2013 and Widseth Smith Nolting won in 2012.

Along with the award, which was the final announcement of the night, the chamber revealed a new mission statement, logo and vision for the future.

The 127-year-old chamber is building upon momentum of previous leaders, including former president and CEO Lisa Paxton. Matt Kilian knew he wanted to be part of it after attending last year's annual dinner and put in his resume to take over for Paxton the next day.

People need quality jobs and they need a thriving community in order to survive, Kilian said.

"We work in the business sphere to strengthen communities and that's our new mission statement," Kilian said.

The chamber's mission is to strengthen businesses that strengthen communities and the key word is strength, Kilian said. Another key point, he said, was brought home by a trip over the area in a small plane where the lakes area communities are joined together in woods and water.

It's not really about the chamber, Kilian said, it's really about this region and leading the mission and if those things are happening the region will prosper. Using a map to list six communities in the area - Baxter, Brainerd, Crosslake, Nisswa, Cuyuna lakes and Pequot Lakes - Kilian then broadened the map to include the entire nation.

"You don't see six map pins - you see one," Kilian said, adding the lakes experience is a place where people want to go to reconnect with family and that's when people think Minnesota and when they think of the state they think of the Brainerd lakes area.

"When we have that - we win," Kilian said. "That's the one region concept I want to put forward tonight."

The new logo was revealed as the outline of the head of a blue ox for the Brainerd chamber and individual logos of the bobber for Pequot Lakes and crossed paddles for Crosslake. Kilian said the the symbols stand for strength and partnership, part of the blueprint for business success. Blueprint for Business was the theme of the night and after the blue ox logo was revealed to build upon the iconic friend of Paul Bunyan and a strong as an ox theme, Kilian said now everyone could understand why they were asked to dress in blue colors.

"That's the foundation we are building upon," Kilian said of the restated mission. "There is more to come."

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at