Businessman and philanthropist Bob Swoszowski was honored with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's distinguished citizen award Thursday night at the chamber's 114th annual gala.
With about 400 people in attendance, the gala also honored small and family businesses and celebrated a successful year of economic development.
"We are here tonight to celebrate the year with our business friends and guests," Phil Sutton, the outgoing chairman of the chamber, said. "We are proud of the work of our chamber. We successfully accomplished our missions, creating new jobs from large and small businesses, and new and existing businesses. We provided education and leadership opportunities for our members. And we survived and thrived through another pandemic year."
Sutton, vice president of Kubota Manufacturing in Gainesville, ended his term as chairman at Thursday's event. William Bagwell of Homestead Investments took the reins as chairman.
Here are the people and businesses who were honored:
Distinguished Citizen Award: Swoszowski is owner and operator of McDonald’s of Northeast Georgia. He began his career with McDonald’s in 1973 by opening three restaurants in Northeast Georgia. Today, he operates 21 restaurants throughout the region.
Swoszowski and his company support many nonprofits in the region, including Georgia support many nonprofits including Gateway Domestic Violence Center, Boy Scouts of America, Randy & Friends, Georgia Mountain Food Bank.
Swoszowski is dedicated to youth and education, hosting McTeacher's Night and back to school parties and sponsoring high school sports teams.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Swoszowski worked with local urgent care facilities and Northeast Georgia Medical Center and The Longstreet Clinic to provide meals for the medical staff working the front line. He partnered with local food banks and agencies to provide over 4000 coupons for free meals to be distributed to those in need.
Community Service Award: Rhonda Samples, the director of Career Technical and Agricultural Education and CEO of Lanier College and Career Academy with Hall County schools, was awarded the community service award for her efforts in workforce development.
CTAE career pathways give students a head start in technical and professional careers. Hall County’s CTAE Pathway Graduation Rate of 97.64 percent exceeds the state average.
She serves 16 middle and high schools, implementing career and tech education programs as well as Work-Based Learning opportunities. She has also built partnerships with local businesses to provide mentoring, job shadowing, career fairs, mock interviews, internships and employment opportunities for students.
Small Business of the Year: Skyline Contracting was named one winner of the Small Business of the Year Award. The business was founded 10 years ago by Wes Hall and Terry Garrett, with a focus on commercial and residential roofing, siding, gutter, and paint.
Skyline works with many local organizations, such as Good News Clinic, to help with building needs and maintenance. They recently partnered with WDUN on their House Calls project to help local homeowners in need of maintenance and repairs to their homes. Skyline staff sponsors and coaches several youth sports leagues in Gainesville-Hall County.
Southern Baked Pie and owner Amanda Wilbanks was the second recipient of the Small Business of the Year Award. Wilbanks and her team of bakers create gourmet sweet and savory pies for all of life’s special occasions.
Founded in 2012, the company held its first sale at Mule Camp Market. Today, it has four locations around the state and has formed alliances with Williams-Sonoma and Dean and Deluca to sell pies.
Family Business of the Year: Wayne Capital was named Family Business of the Year. A family owned and operated company, Wayne Capital creates and manages real estate investment funds and seeks to maximize investment returns for investors through acquisitions and development.
The company also is active with area nonprofit groups. Alan Wayne has served on the board of INK, the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids – for 14 years. Alex Wayne is vice chairman of the Northeast Georgia Health System board. He is a graduate of Leadership Georgia and served as chairman of Leadership Georgia Board of Trustees. Daren Wayne was appointed to the Technical College System of Georgia board. He’s a graduate of Leadership Georgia and a past chair of the North Georgia Community Foundation.
Mountain Fresh Creamery is the second recipient of the Family Business of the Year Award. Founded by Jennifer and Scott Glover in 2011, the creamery currently bottled whole milk, low fat milk, buttermilk, cream, butter and ice cream.
The Glovers started Glo-Crest Dairy in 2000 on a rented farm. After deciding to bottle their own milk and ice cream, they opened the creamery. They milk around 210 cows, twice a day, every day and are dedicated to providing all-natural products fresh from their farm to local families. They are involved in many state associations and encouraged everyone to experience their “from the cow to the jug” farm tours that begin at Glo-Crest Dairy and end at the creamery with milk and ice cream samples.
W.G. Mealor Award: Businessman Philip Wilheit, Sr., was awarded the W.G. Mealor Award. It is named for the chamber's first chairman and is awarded to the chamber volunteer who has gone beyond the call of duty.
Wilheit has been a major player in economic development in Georgia. He has served on the Greater Hall Chamber board for 50 years. He has served as the chairman of the Gainesville & Hall County Development Authority, a post that he has had for 42 years. He has served on the Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council for 31 years, including two years as chairman. He served on the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Board for 32 years, and was chairman in 2001.