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May 5, 2011
Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Thursday, May 5, 2011

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Chris Mohr, president and CEO of Ameristaff, was honored Wednesday by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce as its Small Business Person of the Year.

He received the award during the annual Business Appreciation Luncheon, held at the Bassett Country Club and sponsored by the chamber and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

Marsha Frith, chairman of the chamber's board of directors, called Mohr "a true business leader and advocate of this community."

Mohr started the Martinsville-based staffing company, which Frith said has been "going strong for over 20 years." It now has branch offices in Danville, Rocky Mount, South Boston and Eden, N.C.

Its corporate office has remained in Martinsville, though, because "he has always believed that Martinsville-Henry County is a great place to work and raise a family," Frith said.

Furthermore, "his relentless spirit and resolve," as well as his support of many local organizations and his willingness to serve as a public voice on issues affecting the local business community, "make him a very worthy recipient of this award," she said.

The awards luncheon, which has been held for nine consecutive years, is designed to honor those in business who have done extraordinary things, according to chamber and EDC officials.

James McClain II of Southwestern Virginia Gas Co. received the chamber's Young Professional of the Year Award, given to a local business person not older than 35 years of age.

McClain is vice president of the family-owned company and president of one of its subsidiaries, having progressively moved through the company's ranks and taken on more responsibility, Frith said.

He is a graduate of Carlisle School and Vanderbilt University, and he now is involved with many organizations, she said, adding he "truly encompasses all of the traits of a ... strong leader of this community."

Bassett Office Supply received the chamber's Small Business of the Year Award for Service.

The firm, which has been in business for about 40 years, lost a large amount of its business due to downsizing among local textile and furniture companies but still does well, likely due to its emphasis on providing superior service to customers, Frith said. She added that the firm has seen an 8 percent hike in sales, as well as hired more staff, recently.

Cunningham Tire received the chamber's Small Business of the Year Award for Retail. Frith said the firm, which has been in business for about 26 years, increased its sales by 15 percent in the past year, expanded to Danville and Eden and hired more employees.

The company has proven it has "staying power in this difficult economy," she said.

To be eligible for the service and retail small business awards, a business must have a total of no more than 25 employees.

Firms with 100 workers or fewer are eligible for the Small Business of the Year Award for Manufacturing/Distribution. That award was given to Solid Stone Fabrics, which has been in the Martinsville area for about eight years.

Solid Stone has had trouble with offshore competition yet has developed a niche in the specialty fabrics trade and distributes its products throughout the United States, Frith said. The firm recently has hired additional staff, bought new equipment and seen an increase in profits, she said.

The EDC presented its Keystone Award to Faneuil. The award is presented annually to the company that created the most jobs during the past year.

Faneuil's customer service center for Dominion Virginia Power opened in Martinsville last spring. The firm has hired 92 people and expects to have more than 100 on the payroll by the end of this month, according to EDC Vice President Leigh Cockram.

In just a year, she said, Faneuil has proven it is committed to the area and has "become a great corporate partner."

Wade Nester, enterprise zone coordinator for Henry County, received the EDC's Ambassador of the Year Award. The honor goes to a person who has gone beyond the call of duty in helping local economic development officials consult with companies interested in locating in the community.

Companies that set up operations in enterprise zones - which include all local industrial parks - are eligible for state and local financial incentives.

Nester "walks each (prospective) company ... through the enterprise zone process, providing advice, answering questions and ensuring paperwork is filled out on time and correctly," Cockram said.

He also has "made himself available at any time" to meet with prospective companies and ones already here that are interested in expanding, she said.

Town Gun Shop/Police Supply was presented the EDC's Small, Minority and Entrepreneurial Award.

Lisa Fultz, director of the EDC's small, minority and entrepreneurial division, noted that "we've seen many small businesses come and go as our economy has continued to be slow to recover" from recent setbacks.

However, the store, which has been in business since 1983, has hired more staff as well as increased its profits through cost-cutting measures such as reducing water use and switching to energy-saving light bulbs, Fultz said.

The store now has more than $8 million in annual sales, she said.

The EDC presented its Tourism Achievement Award to the Virginia Museum of Natural History and its executive director, Joe Keiper.

EDC Tourism Director Jennifer Doss said the state-funded museum is vital to area tourism, having lured visitors from 49 states and 17 nations. Visits have increased 11 percent in the past year, she said.

Scientists at the museum are involved in global scientific research and have discovered more than 500 new species during the past 25 years, she noted.

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