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Chamber dinner teams up with success of local businesses

The Chamber of Commerce’s Celebration of Excellence dinner gave local businesses a chance to team up with each other for a wonderful night of dinner, drinks, awards and more.

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Tom and Ellen Haglin, owners of LINDAR/Avantech/TRI-VEN, accept the Business Excellence Award during the ninth annual Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce Celebration of Excellence award dinner Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake in East Gull Lake.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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EAST GULL LAKE — Group cheers, pompoms and sports apparel filled Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake Thursday, Nov. 17.

Representatives from the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce and its member businesses dressed up to show their team spirit with jerseys, letterman jackets and sweater vests as they all gathered together for the chamber’s ninth annual Celebration of Excellence award dinner. With “Team-Up” as this year's theme, the room was decorated with pompoms, varsity letters and other vintage school themed decorations. Throughout the night, college band songs were played and there was a special appearance from the Brainerd Warrior Cheer Team.

The night served as an awards ceremony for local businesses that stand out in the community, as chamber representatives and other community leaders doled out the Business Excellence Award, Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year and the Business Legacy Award. This year’s recipients were LINDAR Corp., Avantech and TRI-VEN; Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Resort and Bob Spizzo, longtime owner of Breezy Point Resort.

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“Our selection process begins in the spring of each year with a call for nominations,” said Frank Soukup, the vice chair of the chamber’s board of directors. “Nominations must address how businesses meet high standards of excellence in four major categories: leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service.”

In addition to the three major awards, four outgoing board members were recognized for their service. Ellen Haglin, Pete Mohs, Matt Seymour and John Thelen Jr. were all thanked for their time on the board and ongoing service. Thelen Jr. was not able to attend.

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There was also a moment of silence for Irma Cragun who died earlier this year. Cragun was the former co-owner of Cragun’s Resort with her husband Dutch Cragun. She was 87 years old when she died Jan. 10 in her home.

Business Excellence Award

The Business Excellence Award recognizes an organization exceeding the highest standards of leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service, according to the chamber. This year, LINDAR, Avantech and TRI-VEN were honored with the award.

LINDAR was founded in 1993 by Tom and Ellen Haglin, combining the last three letters of Tom’s last name and the first three letters of Ellen’s maiden name. The two wanted to take the opportunity when they were still young and employable so if things didn’t work out, everything would be fine, Ellen Haglin said.

“Never did we ever dream or imagine, but through hard work and perseverance and surrounding ourselves with extremely talented people, that we'd be able to create a company or companies that can offer stable careers and opportunities to so many of our community members,” Tom Haglin said.

LINDAR grew to about 175 employees and became an award-winning industry leader in plastics thermoforming. The Haglins purchased Lakeland Mold in 2012 and rebranded it as Avantech. They also acquired TRI-VEN in 2018.

“We are privileged to be a part of such a vibrant community with so many fantastic companies,” Ellen Haglin said. “As a chamber board member, I see firsthand the importance that our local businesses contribute to our community, making it as strong as it is. And we're so honored to be in the midst of so many wonderful companies in this community.”

Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year

Celebrating businesses with 20 or fewer employees, this year’s Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year award went to Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Resort.

The family-run resort opened in August 1969 with nine cabins. It has since grown to a 51-unit destination. Throughout the 53 years of operations, 30 Kavanaughs have worked for the resort, including every one of the grandchildren, said John Kavanaugh, the president of the resort.

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People stand on stage while accepting an award
Members of the Kavanaugh family accept the Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year award at the ninth annual Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce Celebration of Excellence award dinner Nov. 17, 2022, at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake in East Gull Lake.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“We always joke that we’re the smallest of Minnesota’s big resorts, but the biggest of the smaller resorts,” said John Kavanaugh, in a video presentation. He was out of state during the banquet and was unable to attend.

The family was present at the ceremony and everyone was introduced during the acceptance speech.

“All of our children, including our two older brothers who haven't been in the business, their children all worked in the business at one time or another,” Tom Kavanaugh said. “Maddie is the first of the great-grandchildren of our parents to come into the business.”

Even though a lot has changed since their parents owned the business, Tom Kavanaugh said they are sure their parents would be proud of what they have done.

Business Legacy Award

The chamber’s highest honor is the Business Legacy Award, recognizing a lifetime of inspiring leadership.

“Honorees have ignited a local legacy of community and economic strength for generations to come,” chamber board member Jill Andersen said Thursday. “Our winners have achieved exceptional business success, driven innovation, navigated change and overcome adversity.”

This year this honor went to Bob Spizzo, owner of Breezy Point Resort.

Bob Spizzo gestures as presenters laugh
Bob Spizzo, right, comes up on stage to accept the Business Legacy Award during the ninth annual Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce Celebration of Excellence award dinner Nov. 17, 2022, at Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake in East Gull Lake.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Spizzo said he and his brother learned early that nothing was given to them. They grew up poor and he worked many different jobs growing up. He thought he was going to be a pharmacist until he read about buying energy like uranium in a magazine. He traveled around from Ottawa to Mexico before finally hearing about Breezy Point.

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Spizzo and an associate decided to try to make Breezy Point prosperous year-round in 1977. He also came up with the idea of constructing an ice arena to help the resort by providing an income during the winter. “We brought the concept that I learned while working in Mexico of timeshares and it’s unheard of at that time,” Spizzo said.

Thanks to things like golf, timeshares, conventions and events, Spizzo said he succeeded in making Breezy Point a destination in all seasons. Spizzo expressed his gratitude to the chamber selection committee for this honor.

SARA GUYMON may be reached at 218-855-5851 or at sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/SaraGuymon.

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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