The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2024

VW Chamber hands out top awards

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Despite the brisk weather, there was a packed house at Willow Bend Country Club as the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce met for its annual dinner on Thursday evening.

Van Wert business leaders Andy Czajkowski (left) and Eric McCracken were recipients of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce's top awards on Thursday. Czajkowski's company, StateWide Ford Lincoln, won the Crystal Image Award, while McCracken was named recipient of the Ray Miller Award, the Chamber's top individual award. (photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Van Wert business leaders Andy Czajkowski (left) and Eric McCracken were recipients of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce’s top awards on Thursday. Czajkowski’s company, StateWide Ford Lincoln, won the Crystal Image Award, while McCracken was named recipient of the Ray Miller Award, the Chamber’s top individual award. (photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Keynote speaker was Steve Buehrer, administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, while top Chamber awards went to Eric McCracken and StateWide Ford.

Buehrer, a former state senator and state representative who was appointed by Governor John Kasich to his present position, listed some accomplishments of the Ohio BWC during his speech, including lowered premiums for employers and faster claims turnaround for workers injured on the job.

Buehrer also noted that his office has also stepped up investigation of fraud claims during his tenure.

McCracken, owner of Lee Kinstle GM Sales & Service, was surprised and honored to receive the Ray Miller Award, the Chamber’s top individual award given for commitment to the community through volunteer work, participation in community organizations and the Chamber.

“I am very honored and very humbled to be honored by the community,” McCracken said, adding he was shocked to receive the award over fellow nominees Gary Taylor and Eric Hurless. “Being a part of a business in Van Wert, I think you owe it back to your community to support them, if you expect them to support you. The time I put into (community involvement) is time I enjoy.”

In introducing the award, YMCA Executive Director Hugh Kocab called McCracken a “give you the shirt off his back kind of guy.”

McCracken’s community involvement includes spearheading fundraising efforts to build the new First Bank of Berne Little League field at Jubilee Park; creating a “play for free” program as president of Van Wert Youth Baseball and donating a batting cage at Smiley Park; joining with The Salvation Army to conduct the “Toss a Toy” campaign that resulted in the donation of Christmas gifts for 600 needy children in the community; donating jerseys and all-star uniforms for Van Wert Youth Football; and helped create the Fifth Quarter activities for middle school and high school students after Van Wert football games.

Andy Czajkowski, owner of StateWide Ford Lincoln, said he was honored to accept the Crystal Image Award, designed to honor a business or organization that demonstrates leadership in the Van Wert community through its “many-faceted” contributions, including business responsibility, productivity, employee empowerment and service to the community.

Czajkowski, a New Jersey native, was excited to receive the award, and also thanked the associates in his companies, who he said allowed him the time for community involvement. “I am honored and thrilled to be a part of this,” Czajkowski said.

Steve Buehrer, administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, was the keynote speaker for the Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)
Steve Buehrer, administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, was the keynote speaker for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

He also thanked his family and the families of all volunteers, noting that they “make the ultimate sacrifice” in time when volunteers are out in the community.

Czajkowski also cited a list of suggestions included in a book for engineers, which he said were also valuable for all business people.

The local businessman also had a wish for local economic development efforts. “I know all of us here have the same goals and objectives, and that goal is economic development in our city and our county, I know 100 percent that everybody is for that,” Czajkowski said. “I challenge you to think about the laws of character and personality when you’re working with others on behalf of the greater good.”

StateWide, which also celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013, was started in 1993 when Czajkowski purchased the former Bob Dunn Ford dealership in Van Wert. Today, Czajkowski’s companies, which also include Superior Collision; StateWide Emergency Products, which has resulted in the sale of thousands of emergency vehicles; Easy Auto Credit; and Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center, employ nearly 50 full-time employees.

In addition, StateWide’s Drive One 4 UR School promotion has raised $40,000 for area school districts and the American Red Cross.

StateWide has also given generously to Van Wert County Hospital, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, Wassenberg Art Center, youth sports, 4-H, Van Wert Rotary Club, the local Ford FFA scholarship program, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and also purchased the Van Wert Cougar Marching Band instrument truck.

Brian Mercer, in introducing the Crystal Image Award winner, noted of StateWide: “This year’s recipient has not only seen steady growth and expansion, but has made giving back to the community its hallmark.

“They are the flagship of small business success in our county,” Mercer said. “And while their economic impact to our community is essential, their devotion to community service is what truly makes this company stand out.”

Through its Milestone Awards, the Chamber also provided recognition for companies and organizations celebrating anniversaries in 2013. In addition to StateWide, those recognized on Thursday included Natural Design and Graphics (10 years), Van Wert Bedrooms (30 years), Arend, Laukhuf &  Stoller Inc., (45 years), Ley Equipment Company (60 years), Cooper Farms (75 years), First Federal Savings & Loan (120 years), and US Bank (150 years).

Golden Shovel Awards were also handed out on Thursday and recognize Chamber members who complete major facility projects in a calendar year. Those honored last night include A&A Mechanical, Wright State University-Lake Campus/Business Enterprise Center’s local office, Braun Industries, Cool Machines, First Financial Bank, Lee Kinstle GM Sales & Service, Northwest State Community College, Van Wert City Schools (Early Childhood Center), Van Wert Terminal and Wassenberg Art Center (click here for more photos).

Chamber President/CEO Susan Munroe also provided a report on Chamber activities during the past year, noting that the local Chamber was in great shape financially and also talking about some of the organization’s activities during the past year.

POSTED: 01/31/14 at 3:56 am. FILED UNDER: News