Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry announces winners of 2023 Community Enhancement Awards
Business leaders from around the city gathered with the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Andrew Goczkowski on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 for its annual Address to Business and Community Enhancement Awards. Hosted by chamber Executive Director Andrea Biwer and chamber board President Rebecca Banks at the beautiful Des Plaines Theatre, the event drew 160 community leaders while shining a light on the many great achievements underway in the community.
Assisted by Sam Stogsdill, chief of staff of Illinois state Sen. Laura Murphy, the Community Enhancement Awards were presented to eight standout Des Plaines organizations who have made a difference in the local area -- adding to the appeal of Des Plaines as a home to businesses looking to make an impact in a community that matters.
Recipients for the 2023 Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Community Enhancement Awards include American Legion Post 36 Des Plaines; B & E Accounting & Tax CPS P.C.; Brew Coffee Lab; Des Plaines Public Library; Des Plaines Ace Hardware; Oakton College; WHEELS; and Maine Township High School District 207-Internship Program. In addition, special recognition went to Café La Cave for its continued contributions to the community over the years.
"For the past 57 years, the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce has recognized businesses that have gone beyond the norm when building and/or improving their business, or volunteering their time for the betterment of the Des Plaines community," stated Banks before the awards were announced.
Eligibility for the awards includes accomplishments in new business development and expansion, business rehabilitation, substantial increases in employee base, new program development, and donations or other forms of giving back to the community.
American Legion Post 36 received the first award of the event for its continued support of veterans in the Des Plaines community. In particular, in 2022 the Legion's "Shop with a Vet" program awarded 17 families with valuable Sam's Club gift cards, and at Thanksgiving they provided full meals including sides and desserts for 125 individuals. They also donate time and space for the chamber's "Veterans Back to Work Boot Camp"- a dramatically successful program focused on helping veterans transition toward a productive civilian future.
American Legion Post 36 is at 1291 Oakwood Ave. The award was accepted on behalf of the organization by Commander Tom Strossner, Steve Adams, Herman Zelk, and Ron White.
B & E Accounting & Tax CPA P.C. was next acknowledged for its unwavering support of local small and nonprofit businesses in the area, including the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and the Center of Concern. Chief among these services has been to help these businesses navigate the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) tax credit program, Cook County's Small Business Grow Grants, and other areas of concern including ERTC Robo Calls. The service company has been a consistent and generous contributor to the chamber's DEN Networking Group, helping local businesses to significantly grow their customer base.
B & E Accounting & Tax CPA P.C. is at 800 E. Northwest Highway, Suite 207. The award was accepted on behalf of the practice by its founder and owner, Richard Sassan, CPA.
Brew Coffee Lab drew recognition for its contributions to revitalizing the Des Plaines downtown business community. Brew Coffee partnered with the city of Des Plaines to move its entire operation from its home on Lee Street to the Des Plaines Train Station -- opening on Memorial Day and making it one of the center pieces to the city's revitalization efforts. The move required substantial financial investment by the coffee shop, including build out of the station and the addition of new specialized equipment and has succeeded in adding value and status to the downtown area.
Brew Coffee Lab is at the Metra Train Station at 1501 Miner St. The award was accepted by owner, Japhlet Aranas Jr.
Des Plaines Public Library received recognition for its multiple contributions to the betterment of the city, for businesses and residents alike. The library staff are active leaders in the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Des Plaines Arts Council and Des Plaines Youth Commission. The library itself is one of only 90 in the nation to be named a 5 Star America's Star Library in the 2022 Library Journal Index of Public Services. In the past 10 years, over one million people have been drawn to enjoy the services, programs, and events hosted by DPPL.
Among DPPL's accomplishments are partnering efforts with many local school districts, Des Plaines Arts Council, Des Plaines Park District, PCs for People -- connecting residents with free or low-cost computers, and Ascension Holy Family for free flu shots. DDPL personnel partnered with state Sen. Murphy, School District 62, and School District 207 to issue library cards to children in unincorporated Des Plaines. They also collected nearly 800 pounds of food and additional finances for the Self Help Closet and Food Pantry. As an early voting location in 2022, the library brought in 5,597 voters. For the seventh year in a row, DPPL will be hosting the chamber's "Fall into a Career -- Career Fair" on Nov. 1 and on March 17, they will partner with the chamber to host a Business Forum to offer a platform for the candidates running for Alderman in Des Plaines.
Des Plaines Public Library is at 1501 Ellinwood St. Accepting the award on behalf of the library was Executive Director Jo Bonell and board President Dr. Gregory Sarlo.
Des Plaines Ace Hardware was recognized for its contributions to the city and for helping to draw other businesses to the city. Aided by a Business Assistance Grant, the owners invested more than a half-million-dollars in renovations to bring Ace Hardware to Des Plaines. Now, the well-known brand serves as the anchor of the Lee Street Commons shopping plaza. Since opening its doors in 2020, the hardware store has serviced over 20,000 Des Plaines residents and regularly partners with chamber member businesses for expertise and guidance on DIY projects. They also donate to many local nonprofits, and sponsor events and civic groups in the community.
Des Plaines Ace Hardware is at 1175 Lee St. The award was accepted on behalf of the company by Owners Jackie and Raffaelo Cianfaglione and Director of Operations Melissa Porcaro.
Oakton College was spotlighted for reaching completion of a five-year facilities master plan focused on modernizing its Des Plaines campus with sustainable upgrades that improve the student experience. Its newly introduced workforce education programs are expected to make a dramatic impact in creating a pipeline of workforce-ready talent in the areas of modern manufacturing, automotive, and health care. They are also the first Illinois community college campus to pioneer a cannabis cultivation lab -- embracing what is turning into a booming statewide industry.
Oakton College is at 1600 E. Golf Road. Accepting the award on behalf of the learning institution was President Dr. Joianne Smith and several board members.
WHEELS is a fleet management giant that was recognized for its standing as a significant employer to the Des Plaines workforce. Enabled by a 2018 city-supported Cook County Class 7b Property Tax Incentive, WHEELS has invested over $13 million in modernizing its campus, which has translated into increased employee retention and overall expansion of its Des Plaines workforce. In 2022, the company doubled its employee base and implemented a highly effective post-pandemic "Return to Worksite" plan. Since becoming the nation's first fleet management company in 1939, to its current status as a part of the Athene Holdings family of businesses, WHEELS is one of the largest companies of its kind in North America, adding significant value to the Des Plaines business community.
WHEELS is at 666 Garland Place. The award was accepted on behalf of Wheels by Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Formosa and her team.
Maine Township High School District 207 received the final award of the event, in recognition of its vital Internship Program that prepares high school students to become valuable, contributing members of the Des Plaines workforce. The District 207 Internship Program works with over 700 community business partners and places approximately 175 students per semester in valuable workplace training opportunities that teach specialized skills that cannot be learned in classroom. The goal is to have every student try out multiple different careers prior to graduation to minimize uncertainty about work prospects after graduation.
"Congratulations to the Community Enhancement award winners! Investments in Des Plaines from these businesses are helping us all thrive. From tax incentives to business assistance grants, the city of Des Plaines is so proud to partner with our local businesses to help them succeed," summed up Mayor Goczkowski.
As an advocate for enterprise, the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry is committed to being a bridge between corporate, community, and government interests to create a world-class business climate and community where people love to live and work.
Café La Cave has been a vital part of the Des Plaines community since it first opened its doors in 1969. Rose Sutter purchased the restaurant in 1976, along with her Uncle John. Over the ensuing years they were voted one of the Top 100 Restaurants in the World. They have also been nominated as the Most Romantic Restaurant by Open Table, and have won numerous other awards including those from WeddingWire and Diner's Choice.
The restaurant and banquet hall has been run by Rose's children Randy, Kim, and Gus since her passing in 2003. It was recently announced that the iconic fixture of the Des Plaines community will be closing this year.
"On behalf of the business community and state Sen. Laura Murphy, thank you for all of your family's incredible contributions to Des Plaines," reflected Biwer to Randy and Kim Sutter who attended the event of behalf of their families. "We will miss you so much and are excited that you can begin the next chapter. Just know you will always have family in Des Plaines, and we hope you will keep in touch with all of us."
The Community Enhancement Awards are a reflection of the chamber's commitment to recognizing the businesses and organizations that represent the work of thousands of employees who together make Des Plaines a community of the future.
For additional information on the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry, visit www.DPChamber.com or call (847) 824-4200.