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June 3, 2005

Chamber names its nominees
Visalia chamber to announce winners June 17

Source: Visalia Times Delta
By Percy Ednalino, Staff writer

With a little luck, Jennifer Whiteley, general manager of the Visalia Oaks baseball team, could see her team win on and off the field June 17.

On that evening, the Oaks travel to Lancaster for the start of a weekend series against the JetHawks. At the same time, the Oaks and nine other local businesses will compete to be named the Small and Large Businesses of the Year for 2004-05 at the Visalia Chamber of Commerce's annual awards banquet.

The Oaks are among the finalists in the small business category. Other nominees are Central Valley Business Forms, KTIP-AM radio, Star S Publishing and Valley Food Service.

The five nominees in the large business category are: Groppetti Automotive, Peninsula Messenger Service, Save Mart Supermarkets, Visalia Ceramic Tile and Alcoa's Kawneer & Reynolds Food Packaging.

Small business nominees

  • Visalia Oaks: The team employs a full-time staff of five people year-round but hires plenty of college and high school students during the season.

    Whiteley said she's proud the Oaks were again named one of the finalists.

    "I think it's pretty amazing," she said. "The Oaks have been here since 1946, and as far as I know we've never been recognized in this type of capacity before."

  • KTIP-AM 1450: The radio station has been around for at least 50 years and is the south Valley's premier news-talk radio station.

    Kent Hopper, KTIP's operations director and morning on-air personality, said he was excited to learn last week that it was the only radio station among the small business finalists.

    "But in a way, I'm not so surprised because we do a lot of community involvement," he said. "We service a lot of nonprofit groups, and we've been working hard, at least for the five years I've been here, to try and make KTIP a Visalia station, as well as a Tulare station and a Porterville station."

  • Valley Food Service: A full-service distributor of frozen and canned foods, deli products, and other items, the company has been based in the Visalia Industrial Park since 1989. It supplies restaurants and food-service groups throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

  • Star S Publishing: It produces telephone directories for Visalia, Hanford, Lemoore and Tulare. Sales manager Martin Gocke said the company has been in business for more than 22 years.

    "That keeps us busy all year long, helping those communities," he said.

    Gocke said Star S was nominated in the small business category at least four years ago but was ineligible to win because Mark Stephens, the company's president, also was on the chamber's board of directors.

  • Central Valley Business Forms: This company was a finalist in the small business category two years ago, owner Gary Amon said. It produces custom checks, decals, invoices and other business documents. Central Valley Business Forms has offices in Visalia, Fresno, Bakersfield and Los Angeles.

    Large business nominees

  • Peninsula Messenger Service: This is the fourth consecutive year Peninsula has been nominated in the large business category.

    The company is owned by Charlotte and Dan Olinger, and their business partner, Bob Pollock. Charlotte Olinger said being nominated for a fourth consecutive year is an honor, particularly because the majority of Peninsula's customers are other businesses.

    "My husband and I, and our partner, are longtime Visalians," she said. "We've been here forever, so the community is really important to us."

    The same-day courier service started in Visalia 10 years ago and has offices in Bakersfield and Fresno. The company employs 76 full- and part-time workers.

  • Save Mart Supermarkets: Save Mart was nominated in 2002 and 2003. The company has more than 100 stores throughout Central and Northern California.

  • Kawneer & Reynolds Food Packaging: A division of Alcoa, it creates disposable plastic food storage containers for business and home use. The company also produces architectural aluminum products for commercial construction.

  • Groppetti Automotive: The auto group was nominated in 2004 for the large business category. The dealership group consists of 11 vehicle franchises and has been around for more than a decade. Owner Don Groppetti said he believes the company was nominated because of its community involvement.

    "It's always an honor to be recognized by your peers," he said. "It's a humbling experience once again."

  • Visalia Ceramic Tile: In business since 1985, the ceramic tile subcontractor is a true family business with four siblings as owners, and children and other family members involved.

    This is their second nomination and the first time to make the finalists.

    "We'll see if we can go a step farther this time," said Sam Bruce, who acts as the company's financial and accounting officer.

    The company just expanded into a new 40,000-square-foot showroom at 917 N. American St. but plans to maintain its original outlet at 4747 S. Mooney Blvd.

    Tom Beene, Visalia Community Bank's president and chairman of the nomination committee, said it's not uncommon for businesses to be chosen as finalists in consecutive years. He also said it's never easy selecting a winner for each award.

    Beene said some business owners tell him they're happy to be nominated, but the exposure is what they really enjoy.

    "We have some who say, 'You know, I really don't want to win. I just want to be a finalist every year because I get great publicity out of it,' " he said.

    Man and Woman of the Year

    In addition to announcing the chamber's Small and Large Businesses of the Year, the awards ceremony will reveal the names of its Man and Woman of the Year.

    Elizabeth LaMar, the chamber's communications director, said the nomination committee for those awards has kept the finalists' names a secret - even to her.

    "They've already chosen the winners, but I have no clue. I guess they don't tell me that so I don't accidentally leak it," LaMar said with a laugh.

    The reporter can be reached at pednalin@visalia.


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