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Chamber announces winners of business awards

Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Lynn and Paul Hunt of Hunt Utilities Group and Jack Pine Brewery are set to be recognized at this year's Celebration of Excellence Annual Dinner hosted by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

The seventh annual event Nov. 15 will also include the announcement of the winner of the 2018 Destination Downtown Business Challenge. The dinner, themed "A Classic Hollywood Star Premiere," will be 5-8:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Sports Centre at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake, 11000 Cragun's Drive, Brainerd. Individual dinner tickets are $60 per person for non-reserved seating. Table sponsorships are available.

Receiving the Business Excellence Award will be Cuyuna Regional Medical Center. The hospital will be recognized for leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service, the chamber reported in a news release. CRMC is a community-built facility serving approximately 30,000 people in the Brainerd lakes area.

"Their experienced physicians and staff bring a progressive, 'can-do' approach to rural health care, delivering a wide range high-quality services through one convenient continuum of care," the release stated.

CRMC got its start in the 1950s when the old Miner's Hospital closed and 17 Cuyuna Range cities and townships joined together to build a new district hospital. Today, over 900 CRMC doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and support staff continue the hospital's mission.

The Brainerd Dispatch is the sponsor of the Business Excellence Award.

Headlining the Celebration of Excellence will be the presentation of the Business Legacy Award by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and RiverWood Bank to Paul and Lynn Hunt.

"They are an amazing couple who have achieved exceptional business success in their lifetime," the release stated. "We seek to recognize inspiring leadership that transcends business and leaves a legacy of community and economic vitality for generations to come. For three decades this dynamic duo has shared a passion for innovation; continuously seeking ways to do and make things better."

Lynn and Paul Hunt were nominated for their outstanding achievement in business development combined with an extraordinary commitment to community and philanthropy. Accomplished entrepreneurs, they built a nationally recognized business, Hunt Technologies Inc. Starting in their basement with just two employees and growing to over 180 employees, they then accomplished a successfully staged exit. With new ventures, they have continued to make an investment of time, talent and resources with their employees, the region and many individuals who have received personal, educational and economic support, according to the release.

New in 2018 the chamber and Cub Foods in Brainerd and Baxter will present the first-ever Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award to Jack Pine Brewery, which is a small business truly personifying the spirit of entrepreneurship, pride and success, the release stated. The Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award honors a chamber business employing up to 25 team members with the following attributes: leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service.

Their small startup began in 2012 by making 100 gallons at a time on College Drive in Baxter. In the coming years, the brewery saw continued growth and eventually outgrew its original location. In the fall of 2016, they broke ground on a new location, which opened the spring of 2017. The upgraded taproom and production space increased capacity on both fronts and included the addition of an in-house canning line. Their first year of production yielded 234 barrels of beer (one barrel is 31 gallons). Their continued growth has expanded their market share range from Walker to Hutchinson and production to 2,000 barrels this year, the release stated."

"When I saw that the chamber was adding a Small Business of the Year Award to its annual recognition program, I knew I had to throw my hat into the running," said Patrick Sundberg, owner. "I'm proud of how Jack Pine has grown the past five-and-a-half years in both size and community involvement. This award provides validation of all the hard work that everyone at Jack Pine puts in day in and day out. I'm truly honored to have been selected as the first winner of the Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award."

For all of the awards, a nomination/application process was announced in June. After the deadline passed in mid-July, a 10-member volunteer selection committee independently scored and discussed each applicant before choosing the recipients.

Past recipients of the Business Excellence Award include Widseth Smith Nolting (2012), Crosswoods Golf (2013), Grand View Lodge (2014), Ultra Paws LLC (2015), Just for Kix (2016) and CTC (2017). Past recipients of the Business Legacy Award are Stewart C. Mills Jr. (2016) and Arnold S. Johnson (2017). The past recipient of the Destination Downtown Business Challenge is The Purple Fern Bath Co. (2017).