Grundy Chamber & GEDC Annual Dinner has record turnout

MORRIS – A record crowd again turned out for the Grundy Economic Development Council and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Annual Dinner held Wednesday, March 11 at the Morris Country Club.

More than 290 business and municipal leaders, and guests were in attendance to recognize the organizations’ award winners and celebrate a successful year for the Grundy County business community.

The evening began with a welcome by Grundy County Board Chairman Chris Balkema who thanked everyone for supporting the two organizations.

The awards presentation immediately followed dinner.


Nancy Norton, President and CEO of the Grundy Economic Development Council (GEDC) was joined by Brett Madison, GEDC Chairman and Terminal Services Director at ADM, to begin the award ceremony. Norton thanked the overflowing crowd for their support of the GEDC and Grundy Chamber.

Norton thanked Nikki Wills and Dawn Divis, GEDC staff that worked very hard to put on the event and the staff at Morris Country Club for a wonderful dinner.

Special thanks was given to CPV Three Rivers Energy for sponsoring the dinner. Norton reported that after five years of extensive development work, CPV is planning to break ground on the $1 billion natural gas generating station in Goose Lake Township this year. The project will support more than 500 union constructions jobs during the 2.5 year construction.

Welcome To Grundy County – TownePlace Suites by Marriott

Norton presented the Welcome to Grundy County award to the Minooka hotel, TownePlace Suites by Marriott.

’Opened in July 2018, the hotel provides 87 rooms that target extended stay clients.  The pet-friendly rooms have kitchenettes and special services for travelers that plan to stay longer than just a night or two.  The hotel is operated by Kinseth Hospitality, the same organization that runs its sister hotel, Hampton Inn. Based in Iowa, Kinseth Hospitality operates approximately 90 hotels across the nation. The local TownePlace Suites team did such a great time as the general manager and sales manager that both won awards for their performance. Marriott also recognized the facility as the Opening Hotel of the Year,” Norton told the audience.

Partnership Award – Will County Governmental League

“Working together, resolving issues of mutual concern, and just plain neighborly cooperation, that is what the Will County Governmental League and the Partnership Award are all about.

Founded in 1983, the governmental league addresses legislative, transportation, municipal policy, public works and much more. Despite its name, the group also includes the County of Grundy and numerous Grundy county municipalities. They’ve been instrumental in securing transportation money for large and small infrastructure projects for many of our local communities. Working cooperatively with topics of interest to the region such as I-80, I-55, waterways, commerce and shared communities, the Will County Governmental League is a great partner to have,” Norton said.

Hugh O’Hara, Executive Director of the Will Governmental League, came to the podium to receive this year’s Partnership Award.

Business of the Year – Dibble Trucking and Enterprises

Norton stressed that small businesses are the lifeblood of communities. The Business of the Year award was presented to Dibble Trucking and Enterprises, a company that started small but has grown considerably since its beginnings in 1981.

“Ron Dibble, President and founder, quit college and bought his first truck in 1981, and has never looked back. The company now has 44 tractors, 245 trailers and provides quality employment to approximately 75 people. The propane side of the business started later and has grown to over 2,500 customers in 8 counties. In addition to being the largest private employer in Gardner, Ron and his team also take an active role in the community and support local non-profits,” she said. Norton joked that many people refer to him as Mr. Gardner.

Ron Dibble, President and CEO, accepted the GEDC Business of the Year award on behalf of the company. Also attending the celebration was his wife and three children who are active in the business.

Grundy County Chamber of Commerce Awards

Christina Van Yperen, President & CEO and Jaclyn Aldridge, of Grundy Bank and Chamber Board Chair presented the Chamber awards. Van Yperen thanked everyone for helping to recognize our local businesses and organizations, big and small. She stated 2019 was a successful year for the Chamber with it surpassing fundraising, membership and revenue goals. She thanked Chamber staff – Brenda Kreiger, administrative assistant; Christine Mendez, events director; and Amanda Hiller, membership director for their dedication.

“Tonight we get to celebrate the accomplishments of three of our members who were nominated by fellow Chamber members,” Van Yperen said.

Business of the Year – The Gardens at Park Pointe

“Tonight we recognize The Gardens at Park Pointe in Morris as our 2019 Business of the Year. The state of the art assisted living and memory care facility opened three years ago this April and currently is the home for 48 residents and employs 75 people. When the Gardens was constructed, it was a $13 million investment onto the Park Pointe Healthcare & Rehab center, an investment that continues to grow. In one of the nominations received, the Gardens was described as ‘filling a need here in Morris – and since the residents of the Gardens are not able to get to the community, they bring the community to the residents.’ They do this by working with our local schools and organizations such as the 4H, Furry Friends and We Care of Grundy County,” Van Yperen told the crowd.

Van Yperen spoke of The Gardens Grandfriends program where they bring in students from kindergarten through 5th grade from Morris Elementary School every week to spend time with the residents doing STEM projects. “It creates bonds for the seniors and children that they would otherwise not have in their lives,” she continued.

The Gardens of Park Pointe also is helping to mold the future work force. Through the internship program at JJC’s Grundy Workforce Services, the Gardens has taken on several dozen students to help train them for their CNA license. Last year alone they took on 8 interns and have hired on numerous interns as permanent employees.

Nikole Decker of The Gardens came to the stage to accept the Business of the Year Award.

Entrepreneur of the Year –Matt Seidel, Country Financial

“This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year is not only a well-known face in the business community, but also within our local sports. Tonight we recognize Matt Seidel with Country Financial. Even before working for Country himself, he was raised with the company. His mom worked for them, as well as numerous family and friends. Matt joined Country Financial 14 years ago and has been an independent contractor for the last 10 years. In that decade he’s grown his business, hiring on 3 additional staff; he’s been inducted into the Million Dollar Round Table for insurance twice; had a family and dedicated time to his community,” Van Yperen said.

Seidel coaches high school football and wrestling, as well as the little Redskins wrestling, volunteers for the YMCA, is an active Kiwanis Club member and Elder at the First Presbyterian Church. In the nominations received, they stated Seidel’s personal goal in his office “is to impact one client positively every day.” But many who know Seidel say his kindness stretches beyond his business.

“When I spoke with Matt and told him his successful business had earned him this award, he stated he wasn’t sure everyone would describe what he has as success. But that he was happy with being able to work hard, be a father and a community member. Matt, I think most of us agree that this makes you one of the most successful,” Van Yperen concluded.

Seidel came to the stage to accept his award.

Organization of the Year – Joliet Area Community Hospice

“Joliet Area Community Hospice has been serving families and individuals during the most difficult times of their lives for the last 38 years. The organization serves 8 counties, with Grundy County being its second largest served. In 2019 it served almost 2,200 people in Grundy County and another 522 in the hospice home,” Van Yperen said.

Last year the organization did $233,000 in charity care, plus an additional $100,000 in bereavement services offered to the community at no cost. Also last year they began efforts to increase their hospice home services and broke ground in October on an expansion to bring the home from 16 beds to 20. This addition is expected to open next March and will enhance patient care as well as the families experience with Joliet Hospice.

Two years ago they began increasing their awareness efforts in Grundy County holding a Derby Day scavenger hunt in Morris in 2018 and this past December a Snowflakes & Icicles Character Breakfast teaming up with the Coal City Theatre Department’s Frozen cast. The event welcomed 200 people to a fun breakfast with their families all while raising awareness about the pediatric hospice care they offer right here in our communities.

CEO Mary Sheehan accepted the Organization of the Year Award.

Ambassador of the Year – Denise Pankey (presented by Aldridge)

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 and I am proud to announce that our Ambassador of the Year is Denise Pankey with Shaw Media. Denise became a Chamber Ambassador about three years ago, but she was an advocate for our business community way before becoming an ambassador. There are few events in Morris or the neighboring communities that Denise does not volunteer for or support. In addition to her role with the Chamber, she is a board member for the Morris Downtown Development Partnership, the Morris Retail Association and offers a helping hand for numerous organizations. Denise is always a welcoming face for new Chamber members. She advocates on behalf of current members and goes above and beyond to support our Chamber. Pankey accepted her award.

Jaclyn Aldridge of Grundy Bank and Chamber Board Chair closed the event by reminding everyone this event was a celebration of the strides made in recruiting, retaining and promoting businesses in and around Grundy County. She thanked the businesses that have grown, entrepreneurs who have taken risks and organizations that serve this county for what they do to make Grundy County a great place to visit, live, work and do business.