Chamber & GEDC celebrate with record breaking numbers

MORRIS – The Grundy Economic Development Council and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry held their largest Annual Dinner yet with more than 450 guests at Jennifer’s Garden to celebrate the organizations’ business awards.

This year’s location change to Jennifer’s Garden in Morris allowed the GEDC and Chamber to welcome more attendees to the premier business event. The larger venue resulted in there being 170 more guests than last year’s event.

“The growth of this event is a credit to the strength of our business community and the support Grundy County shows for its local businesses. We are thrilled to have been able to celebrate our award winners with such a large crowd,” Christna Van Yperen, Chamber President & CEO said.

“It’s been a great year across the board for our business community and that was evident through tonight’s attendance and the overall feeling of excitement in the room,” Nancy Norton, GEDC President & CEO said.

Grundy County Board Chairman Chris Balkema started off the evening with welcoming remarks.

This year’s dinner was sponsored by platinum sponsors Busey Bank, P&G, CPV Three Rivers Energy Old National Bank, CN, gold sponsors Comcast and the City of Morris, and bronze sponsors Pesciolino Osteria, Surf Internet, Mid-American Carpenter’s Regional Council and Sunshine Garden Center.


Partnership Award

Norton was joined by GEDC Board Chairman Mike Wright to begin the award ceremony.

The Partnership Award was given to the team who developed and executed the Grundy Moves Transportation Plan.

“The Grundy Moves Transportation Plan will be completed at the end of this month and is the first comprehensive transportation plan for our entire county that looks at traffic, safety, road conditions, intersections, capacity and so much more,” Norton said.

“This important plan came together thanks to the leadership and cooperation of many. . . The team consisted of Eric Gibson at Grundy County and the communities of Channahon, Coal City, Diamond, Dwight, Mazon, Minooka and Morris. Seven communities and the county worked nearly two years to make this project happen from funding to final report. Thank you for your spirit of cooperation and vision,” she continued.

Representatives from all of the communities came to the stage to accept the award.

Welcome to Grundy County – Acosta Fence

The Welcome to Grundy County Award recognized Acosta Fence in Morris.

“It’s not easy to move your business to a new community, so we are always appreciative of the investment and jobs created in Grundy County,” Norton said. “Tonight we are recognizing Acosta Fence with the Welcome to Grundy County award. Rosalio Acosta, the president, has been in the fencing business thirty years and started his own company 13 years ago.”

Acosta specializes in industrial and commercial fencing, and also does residential fences. They have a full-service line of products including electronic gates, keypads, heavy fencing and more.

Owner Rosalio Acosta accepted the award.

GEDC Business of the Year – Ayers Electric

Norton was excited to present the Business of the Year award to a local business that has been providing electricity in Grundy County for more than 100 years.

Originally started by Chick Ayers, Bill Shannon bought the company and his sons Steve and Don later took over the business in the mid-1990s. For about 8 years now, the third generation of the Shannon Family took over – Wes Shannon.  Ayers specializes in commercial and light industrial projects, but still does some residential work as well.

“Ayers Electric gives of their time and talent to community projects like the downtown decorative lights, skate park, and many of our favorites, like the infrastructure for the Christmas snowflakes in Chapin Park.  Another specialty of Ayers, although I’m not sure it’s his favorite, is working on the 125 plus year old buildings in downtown Morris.  It’s always a mystery what they might find in these old buildings, but Ayers is up for the challenge,” Norton said.

Wes Shannon took the stage to accept the award.


Van Yperen and Megan Borchers of LyondellBasell and Chamber Board Chair presented the Chamber awards. Van Yperen thanked everyone for helping to recognize our local businesses and organizations, big and small.

Chamber Business of the Year – Midwest Signworks

Midwest Signworks was recognized as the Chamber’s 2023 Business of the Year. Owners Ray and Rose Grossi began the business 1985 first out of their home before opening at its current location in 1990. Holding steady with a staff of 3-5 through the years, Midwest Signworks does hundreds, if not thousands of signs a year from metal signs to hand-painted murals.

“We see the impact of Ray and Rose everywhere – not only through the work of their business, but through their dedication to the community. The traditional Grundy County Corn Fest buttons are designed and donated by Midwest; they are now a driving force behind Morris’ Annual Liberty Arts Festival, Ray was an intricate part of creating the City of Morris’s new brand, and Ray and Rose are some of the founding members of The Exhibit Fine Arts Center & Gallery in Morris. The arts center is celebrating 8 years and is a place for artists of all varieties and ages to showcase and express their talent,” Van Yperen said.

“When talking to them about their success, they stated ‘The biggest thing is we’re just so blessed. A lot of people don’t get to do what they love for a living,’” Van Yperen shared with the crowd.

Ray and Rose Grossi took the stage to accept the Business of the Year Award.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award – Sarah Beach of Sunshine Garden Center

This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year is Sarah Beach of Sunshine Garden Center in Diamond. Started by her father 47 years ago, Sarah’s family’s business still stands and thrives today because of her leadership and innovation. Sunshine and Sarah survived the loss of her dad, 1 recession, 2 tornadoes, 2 major road projects and COVID. Any one of these events would drive some to close their doors, and rightfully so. But not Sarah. The setbacks drove her.

“Sarah lives and breathes small business not just for herself and her family’s legacy, but for every small business owner. When I asked her why she pushed through the hard times– she said ‘If your dream is bigger than you are, you have to keep going. Embrace failure, don’t avoid it. Falling forward will help you figure out what works and what doesn’t, while still getting you to your goals,’” Van Yperen said.

Sarah Beach accepted her Entrepreneur Award.

Organization of the Year Award – Illinois Valley Industry

Chamber Board Chair Borchers presented the Organization of the Year Award.

“This year’s Organization of the Year is one that began over 5 decades ago and continues to provide, thrive and innovate today – Illinois Valley Industries,” Borchers said.

I V I has about 77 clients across all of its programs from its day services program to its residential program. In 1968 the program started in the basement of First Baptist Church by a group of parents with adult children with disabilities who wanted more for their children. Today it has 5 buildings to accommodate its day work programs and independent residential living for its clients. As the program developed, the main component became vocational skills. This focus continues today as IVI prides itself on being a part of the business community and helping to improve it.

“Executive Director Stephanie Kessler emphasizes that people with disabilities want everything you want and want to do everything you do. They want to be part of a community, have a safe place to live, have friends, go to church, the gym, the movies, shop in local stores and meet new people. IVI helps them to accomplish all of this and more,” Borchers said.

Executive Director Stephanie Kessler accepted the award on behalf of IVI.

Ambassador of the Year – Kaylea Mann, Old National Bank

Chamber Ambassadors serve as liaisons between Chamber members and staff. They gather feedback and answer members’ questions during calls and visits they make throughout the year. The Ambassador of the Year award is presented annually to an individual who has most effectively fulfilled their responsibilities as a Chamber Ambassador. This year’s Ambassador of the Year is Kaylea Mann of Old National Bank.

Borchers closed out the dinner thanking the businesses that have grown, entrepreneurs who have taken risks and organizations that serve this county.