Their Stories, Their Achievements and Why It Matters
by Maya Gurarie
Boulder’s robust economy didn’t happen by accident. It was forged by inspired community and business leaders from diverse industries, nonprofits and public institutions. That’s why the Boulder Chamber holds its annual Celebration of Leadership event to honor those leaders who have made a difference.
At the Chamber’s most recent Celebration–held on March 2 at the newly renovated Dairy Arts Center–it once again presented awards to deserving honorees. Their awards and their stories are truly inspirational.
Virginia Patterson Business Person of the Year Award
Gerry Agnes, president and CEO of Elevations Credit Union, won the Virginia Patterson Business Person of the Year award for showing determination and commitment to building a strong local economy. Under Gerry’s leadership, Elevations Credit Union has achieved unprecedented success as a business and community supporter. Elevations Credit Union has contributed $250,000 to student scholarships, hosted a booth at Bike to Work Day and supported Community Food Share, among other achievements. Gerry’s and Elevations’ commitment to excellence and service culminated in being presented with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2014, a truly distinctive honor as the first credit union in the nation to be so honored.
“The Boulder community is one of the most welcoming communities I’ve ever lived in. The Chamber is an amazing organization and helps keep everyone together,” Agnes said.
Community Leadership Award
The Boulder Chamber partnered with Will Toor and Ken Hotard to help found Better Boulder–an organization dedicated to building collaborative approaches to addressing local issues such as housing, development and social responsibility. Coming from diverse backgrounds–Toor as a long-time environmental advocate and former mayor and Hotard as senior vice president of the Boulder Area REALTOR Association–they each have a long history of community service. Together, they are creating a new community of interests advocating for responsible infill and redevelopment.
“It’s a whole lot more fun to work together than to fight, and when the community works together, it really works,” Hotard said.
“There are a bunch of issues that bring us together—climate change, infill and redevelopment, and sustainable development. We realized we’re on the same side, and thus was born Better Boulder,” stated Toor.
Chamber Champion Award
The Boulder Chamber depends on its dedicated volunteers to support it members and to help drive the Chamber’s agenda for individual business success and economic vitality. Dianna Rands, founder of Chill Digital Marketing, won the Chamber Champion award for helping strengthen the Chamber and the surrounding business community through years of service. As a Chamber Ambassador for 5 years, chair of the Chamber’s Business Women’s Leadership Group, and co-chair of the Chamber’s acclaimed Women Who Light the Community event, Rands has been an indispensable leader for our community.
“Leadership means supporting others so they can succeed, having compassion and understanding for everyone, and jumping in with fearlessness or the appearance of fearlessness to help others. Those of us who take on leadership roles do so not for praise—it is a selfless act, ” Rands said.
Franny Reich Local Business Hero Award
Liz Hanson, Economic Vitality Coordinator for the City of Boulder, and George Karakehian, owner of Art Source International and a former Boulder City Council member, both won the Franny Reich Local Business Hero award. Franny Reich is justly celebrated as one of the principals creating the foundation for Boulder’s “economic miracle,” and both Hanson and Karakehian richly exemplify his tradition.
Liz Hanson has helped shape the role of Economic Vitality Coordinator for the City of Boulder as a leading partner sustaining that vitality. She has helped individual businesses navigate the process for starting and growing here, and she has been deeply involved in projects that have significantly impacted Boulder such as the St. Julian Hotel and Spa, and the development of 29th Street.
“I really have the joy of working with businesses and leaders who are innovative. It’s the people and relationships in Boulder that make the business thrive. I look forward to doing great things in this community with all of you,” Hanson said.
For over four decades, George Karakehian, in addition to building his own successful business, has served the community in numerous ways. He’s been on the City Council, has been involved with a number of nonprofits (including the Chamber), and has worked with Downtown Boulder, to name a few examples.
“Forty-seven years ago my wife Kristin said, ‘If you love me, you’ll move to Boulder.’ That was quite a move on my part because I went to CSU. Thank you for all of your support. I’m truly living the dream,” Karakehian said.
A Vibrant Celebration Punctuated by Exciting Artistic Performances
Fittingly, these awards were framed by an exciting event that featured outstanding performances by members of Boulder’s renowned arts community. Violinist Zachary Carrettin played a solo of “Time Falling Bodies” to welcome the crowd of approximately three hundred people. Members of the audience also watched a dance performance by 3rd Law Dance entitled, “Chairs.” A video about the awards by Triple Threat Digital helped set the festive tone.
Truly a night to to remember, for the awardees and for the community.