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Hats off to those who volunteer time and talent to community

Chamber/GIC/DAD awards given at annual banquet

Colorful hats of different shapes were worn by those who attended the annual Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce/Gothenburg Improvement Company annual banquet Friday night.

With the theme “HATS OFF To Our Members,” volunteers and businesses were honored for contributions to Gothenburg in 2011.

Receiving Pony Express Rider awards were Pam Houchin and Gothenburg Public School personnel that included superintendent Mike Teahon and teachers Wendy Bartels, Claudine Kennicutt, Angie Richeson, Justin Dowdy, Ann Foster, Bailey Koch and Michelle Stienike.

The award is given to individuals or groups who go above or beyond the call of duty or who contribute to the economic stability of the community.

Houchin was honored for her work with Crimestoppers, bone marrow screening, Relay For Life, Endure the Cure and other fund-raisers and drives that help people in need.

“She’s never said no to someone in need,” said Chamber director Anne Anderson, noting that Houchin has health concerns of her own.

Teahon and a team of teachers from the local school district have produced a recruitment video that shows why Gothenburg is a good place to live, work and play.

Digital modules that have been developed can be customized for different audiences that will view them.

Recognized for their commitment to economic development of the city were Nebraska Salt & Grain Co. and Eagle Hills Ranch, Pony Express Chevrolet, All Points Cooperative and Gothenburg Memorial Hospital.

GIC president Mike Bacon described Nebraska Salt and Grain as a home-grown business, owned by Norm and Colleen Geiken, that not only trucks products and raises crops and Angus cattle, but markets popcorn and has expanded into ice control salt sales.

The Geikens recently bought and remodeled a downtown building.

Owned by Gary and Deb Mroczek, Pony Express Chevrolet has invested in new paving and lighting and sells up to $2.5 million in vehicles and service yearly.

All Points Cooperative was honored for its investment in new wet and dry fertilizer storage, totalling nearly $3 million.

Gothenburg Memorial Hospital, which finished a $2.9 million doctor’s clinic in 2011, also generated $3.5 million in outpatient surgery profit, Bacon said.

Income, not taxes, will pay for the clinic and other recent capital expenditures, he said.

Gothenburg State Bank has invested $1.5 million in the community through a renovation project that was completed last year.

Nebraska Salt and Grain and Eagle Hills Ranch also received a partner in progress award from Dawson Area Development.

DAD director Jen Wolf said the company’s renovation of a downtown building made a significant impact in the community.

Wolf noted that the Geikens encourage youth to return to the community, host a golf tourney and exemplify family values.

“You are a good example of living, working and playing in Gothenburg,” she said.

In reviewing 2011, Bacon described Gothenburg as special, especially because of younger people taking responsibility for recruitment and other duties within GIC.

Bacon said the organization is working to recruit a prospect to the old ethanol site with a couple of other prospects also interested in locating to Gothenburg.

He noted that valuation has grown 300% since 1980 when it stood at $39 million.

Today’s valuation is $155 million.

Outgoing Chamber president John Burks said people and businesses keep investing in Gothenburg and that 22,000 visitors toured the Pony Express station last year.

A new Chamber website is up and going, as well as an electronic update that alerts members to breaking news and events within the organization.

Twenty Chamber of Commerce ambassadors were recognized as members of the president’s club after accumulating 200 or more points in 2011 for representing the chamber and helping with various activities in Gothenburg and surrounding communities.

Honorees and their point totals were: Joyce Kolbo, 430; Donna McConnell, 385; Lorie Hoesel, 355; Charolett Janssen, 335; Verlin Janssen, 325; Steve Peterson and Aaron Coleman, 285; Ann Franzen, 275; Kathi Viergutz, 265; Matt Olsen, 260; Tim Strauser, 240; Denise Romatzke, 235; Bret Tiller, 230; Lynn Peterson, Laurie Moody, Raelyn Maxwell, Ruthie Franzen, 225; Brent Block, 220; Shirley Lake, 215 and Michelle Hecox, 200.

At the end of the banquet, the group viewed a 30-minute “Our Town” presentation about Gothenburg that was aired on KOLN-KGIN television.

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