A record-breaking attendance by more than 300 members representing businesses in the expanding Venice Area Chamber of Commerce attended the 40th Annual Business of the Year Awards 2019 at the Plantation Golf & Country Club, Friday.

Introducing the event Kathy Lehner, president and CEO said they were celebrating the business growth and success in the community. It was the memberships’ opportunity to recognize their fellow members for their excellence in business success.

For the first time the chamber formally recognized the Employee of the Year, a new category honoring Lehner and sponsored by the largest employer in South County, PGT Innovations. Debbie LaPinska representing PGT said, “As CEO of the chamber she really knows what drives business, it is the good employee.”

Before an excited audience LaPinska announced the winner, Charlie Terry of Aqua Tech Pools of Laurel Road in Nokomis. He received it for demonstrating excellence in the areas of teamwork, commitment, leadership and customer service.

“I have worked with Aqua Tech for 13 and a half years and done the best I could,” said Terry. “My wife is my biggest supporter. Thank you very much for this award.”

For the business of the year awards they had 63 finalists representing 4,800 employees from the growing membership of more than 1,000 members who have more than 35,000 employees.

The category sponsors and winners wereThe Health & Wellness category sponsored by Harbor Chase of Venice, Melinda Haney presented the winner, Sheila Chandrahase D.M.D. representing Radiance Endodontics of 321 Nokomis Ave. S. Suite C.

Jim Kuhlman President & CEO of Premier Community Bank sponsored the Professional & Financial category and the winner was Gulf Shores Realty of Venice at 211 Tamiami Trail S represented by Wayne Welsh, Broker-Owner.

Virginia Haley of Visit Sarasota County sponsored the Hospitality & Tourism category, presenting the award to Applebee’s Grill & Bar, 4329 S. Tamiami Trail represented by Stacy Jones, manager.

Stephen Spangler, CPA of Cavanaugh & Co, sponsored the Service & Retail category, presenting the award to Billy Swanson owner of Tri-County Air Conditioning & Heating Co who recognized Ron Abbott a 30-year employee who had never missed a day at work.

Jon Thaxton of Gulf Coast Community Foundation sponsored the non-profit category. He presented the award to Sheila Miller of the Child Protection Center, Inc. and congratulated all finalists presenting them with a $500 check.

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