The Pima County Board of Supervisors presented several independently operated local businesses with Small Business of the Year Awards.
The businesses, presented with framed awards at the supervisors meeting, had previously been named as winners of the annual Pima County Small Business Commission awards but were unable to receive the awards in-person while COVID-19 protocols were in place and meetings held remotely.
“I love to see small businesses in this community operating with a sense of mission and public service,” said Heath Vescovi-Chiordi, Pima County economic development director. “It’s difficult to run a business and maintain a civic spirit during the best of times, that these companies did so during the most difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic is truly amazing.”
The Pima County Small Business Commission presents the awards each year to small businesses who stand out in the community. Applicants are assessed on criteria such as company culture, positive impact on Pima County and community involvement.
For Bernadette Nez, general manager of Why Not Travel Store, the award serves as an acknowledgement for the workers at the family-run business.
“They are hard-working people and deserve recognition as much as anyone,” Nez said.
The convenience store in rural Why, serves the local community as well as travelers to and from Mexico, mostly to Rocky Point. As the final stop for many travelers before the border crossing, Why Not Travel fills a niche for people who need to purchase provisions and Mexican insurance.
The store also provides firearms storage. Because Mexico does not allow travelers to bring their firearms into the country, many rent short-term storage units at the store during their stay in Mexico.
Nez said employees and regular customers were excited for the store and eager to see the framed award hung on the wall.
Melinda Englert with awardee Make Way for Books, told supervisors the nonprofit organization made significant changes to how it worked during the pandemic.
The early literacy organization provides services to children and families to promote love of reading. During the pandemic, Make Way for Books embraced more digital outreach and service delivery work as opposed to in-person work.
Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bronson congratulated all the awardees for their civic mindedness and resilience during the pandemic.
“You have done just such a spectacular job,” Bronson said, adding that all the companies awarded showed great creativity and perseverance while navigating pandemic-related difficulties.
“That they survived the pandemic says a lot about who they are and why we need them in our community,” Bronson said.
The presentation of the 2021 awards coincides with the opening of nominees for the 2022 Small Business Awards. The Commission is accepting nominations now. Nominations will be accepted until Friday, Oct. 28 at 5 p.m.
Winners will be announced and presented the awards at a Board of Supervisors meeting at a date to be determined soon.
Nominees should meet the following criteria:
- Nominees for the Urban Small Business award must be located within Tucson city limits.
- Nominees for the Rural Small Business award may be located within any municipality outside Tucson city limits or unincorporated Pima County.
- Nominees for the Nonprofit award may be located anywhere in Pima County. To be considered for the award, the nonprofit organization must provide assistance to small businesses through any of the following activities: employment training, workforce development, job placement, or counseling and referrals.
- Businesses and nonprofits must have been in operation for at least two (2) years.
- Business owner or manager must live in Pima County.
- Businesses must have fewer than 100 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees.
The 2021 winners include:
- Make Way for Books, a non-profit located in Tucson focused on children’s literacy and reading-related support programs that has served more than 30,000 children and families throughout Pima County. Commissioners commended the business’s priority of providing literacy programming for underserved and economically disadvantaged children.
- Marcus Engineering, LLC, an innovative contract developer of medical devices, aerospace products and mining technology located in Tucson. The Commission praised the company’s perseverance during the pandemic and recognized the innovative talent recruitment, retention, and support programs for the firm’s employees.
- Why Not Travel Store, LLC, a family-owned retail store located in the community of Why in rural Pima County. The Commission noted the store’s dedication to COVID-19 mitigation and the substantial community engagement that included support for the local volunteer fire department and an animal rescue organization across the border in Mexico.
The 2020 winners were:
- Coffee Times (business)
- Homewatch CareGivers of Southern Arizona (nonprofit)
- Treasures 4 Teachers of Tucson (nonprofit)
The Small Business is accepting nominations for the 2022 Small Business of Year Awards. Information and a nomination form are available here.