SEBRING — Readers of the Highlands News-Sun let their voices be heard as they chose the best and brightest businesses of 2018 for the Best of Highlands Awards. The celebratory banquet was held on Saturday at the Island View Restaurant & Pub, and the awards were announced to a packed audience of almost 300 attendees.

Vice President and Group Publisher for D-R Media and Highlands News-Sun Publisher Tim Smolarick, emcee for the event, informed the crowd at the banquet of Stanley Wells’ accomplishments before bestowing him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. “With humble beginnings in downtown Avon Park and after passing through the hands of several generations, Wells Motor Company has become a landmark on U.S. 27 and a symbol of growth and stability,” Smolarick said.

“Stanley Wells began working for his father at the age of 12 pumping gas on weekends and during the summer,” Smolarick said. “By the age of 16, he was working in the shop. After graduation from high school, he attended Nashville Auto Diesel College and then returned to the dealership to work as a mechanic. It didn’t take him long to move to a desk job inside the office, and the rest is history.

“The business moved to a new state-of-the-art complex on U.S. 27 between Avon Park and Sebring in 1998,” he said. “In 2010, Stanley made the family-owned business the exclusive Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Jeep dealership in all of Highlands County. Expansions were done in 2014 and again in 2016.

“He has been a long-time supporter of the schools and their music programs. He has enjoyed sharing his personal love of cars with Highlands County with his Classic/Custom Car Show for the 22nd consecutive year.”

Smolarick said, “We, the newspaper, chose Wells [for the Lifetime Achievement Award] for his consistent contributions to the county through his personal and business endeavors and his shining generosity. His generosity shines no better than how his business has succeeded.”

Wells believes that the secret to his success is living a modest lifestyle so that he can reinvest in his business. He believes that it is vitally important to save during the good times and reinvest that money into the lifeblood of the business.

In addition to the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, Smolarick announced approximately 200 other awards. However, he mentioned that the Business of the Year was one of the premier awards of the evening. “AdventHealth was chosen as business of the year for their never-ending work with the community and their commitment to always getting better,” Smolarick said. “They work well with other businesses for events and fundraising, and they have the ability to affect a positive influence on the medical community.”

Although AdventHealth won a total of 13 awards, the capstone of the evening for the organization was winning the Business of the Year award, said Randy Surber, CEO of AdventHealth Sebring, AdventHealth Lake Placid and AdventHealth Wauchula.

“With almost 1,700 employees, 85 percent of them live in Highlands County,” Surber said. “We are a community-centric organization. We want to make it a great place to live and receive healthcare.

“We take every opportunity we can to partner with Highlands-News Sun to communicate our message with the public,” Surber said.

AdventHealth enjoys forming relationships with other businesses in the community, especially South Florida State College, Surber said. “We partner with the state college to work with developing students through clinical studies.

“We are also finding ways to better serve our mom and pop businesses,” Surber said. With expanded hours, CareNow allows working individuals the flexibility to get medical care around their work schedules.”

“We are quite impressed with how enthusiastically this event was received,” Smolarick said. “We awarded almost 200 businesses with awards that were voted on by our readers. We look forward to next year being even bigger and better.”

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