Excellence in Business Honored at 2016 Lakeshore Chamber Gala

Excellence in Business Honored at 2016 Lakeshore Chamber Gala

Food, dancing, and a celebration of a year of hard work in East Chicago and Hammond all went into Saturday night’s Lakeshore Chamber Gala. Focusing on the positive impact businesses have had on the community, awards such as Business Persons of the Year and Economic Development were given out to the most deserving professionals of the area.

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“It is really our pleasure to give recognition to all of the companies that invest and stay invested in the two cities. We are definitely most grateful for them” said Monica Garcia, Board Member of Lake County Economic Alliance and Special Events Chair of the Lakeshore Chamber.

Both cities were represented during the evening with teachers, policemen, and firefighters of the year including Captain Kevin Duda of the East Chicago Fire Department. Duda described his recognition as “unexpected and overwhelming,” explaining that he never considered such an award when going into his field of work.

M.G. “Red” Fulte, who was awarded a Business Person of the Year, has been around long enough to truly see a city thrive with the development of new businesses. In 1958, Fulte started working at Calumet Electric Supply Corporation. In 1964, he became a part owner, now currently acting as sole owner. With his recognition tonight," Fulte said, "It was a complete surprise. There are a lot of people that are a lot more deserving than I am. I get called humble for saying that but I think if more people would be humble, this would be a much better world to live in.”

The second Business Person of the Year was awarded to Donald Keller, CEO of Tri-State Industries, Inc. Keller, who describes his company as “twentieth century blacksmiths,” has recently introduced robotic welding with the help of his son. With his award, Keller said, “I’m humbled. 35 years in the business and it’s nice to be here with four of my children tonight to get that recognition you appreciate when you’ve been spending your whole life doing something.”

“The Chamber of Commerce has managed to introduce me to all the people that run Hammond,” Keller continued. “The LCEA also does a phenomenal job in trying to connect all the people you really need to be able to talk to.”

Moving from Illinois, Hoist Liftruck Mfg. LLC is nearly ready to open in a 550,000 foot facility in East Chicago. Producing large capacity forklifts, the company is predicting a $24 million local spend within a 20 mile radius of restaurants and suppliers. The 97-year-old family-owned company hopes to bring hundreds of jobs to the area ranging from marketing to accounting to truck driving. With the recent move, Owner Marty Flaska became a member of the Lakeshore Chamber, also and was also awarded an Economic Development Award.

“I realized it would be really important for us as a company to have the right message. It’s not just about incentive. Indiana has an opportunity right now,” said Flaska.

“There is a lot of work that goes into what a lot of the businesses have done over the past year, specifically in 2015,” said Phil Taillon, Executive Director of Planning and Development for Hammond. “After it’s all said and done, it’s very important to acknowledge all the hard work and investment that was put into the business. Without this event, you don’t get an opportunity in an official capacity to thank them for what they have done for the City of Hammond.”

First Lady of Hammond Marissa McDermott said, “I’m honored to be here to honor these businesses that have decided to either move to Hammond or expand in Hammond.”

Economic Development Specialist Consultant for East Chicago Milton Reed said, “One of the things that makes LCEA so great is that these deals are so complicated and it’s always good to have a center that knows the entire vision. They have economic expertise and they can be a liaison to the state. You can also feel like the city is being represented by someone on our side.”