Coal City businesses celebrated

Rolando’s Furniture & Appliance and Hoffman Transportation were lauded by leaders in Grundy County last week.
A record crowd turned out for the Grundy Economic Development Council and the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce & Industry's Annual Dinner held Wednesday, March 13 at Chapin's East in Minooka.
More than 280 business and municipal leaders, and guests were in attendance to recognize the organizations' award winners and celebrate a successful year for the Grundy County business community.
Hoffman Transportation was presented with the GEDC’s Welcome to Grundy County Award.
The irony was not lost on the crowd that this year's recipient of 'Welcome to Grundy County' has been a life-long Grundy County resident.             Kevin Hoffman, president of Hoffman Transportation, started his business 38 years ago with one truck and now has over 165 tractors and 400 trailers. The company's headquarters is located in Channahon along the I-55 frontage road and provides transload service primarily for the plastics industry.
 The 'Welcome to Grundy County' award recognizes the company's new investment in Coal City.
The 415,000 square-foot facility on Reed Road is served by the Union Pacific Railroad and can hold up to 850 railcars. The facility is anticipated to create 50 jobs and increase from there.      
“Certainly a local success story, Hoffman Transportation is nationally recognized as well. Last year the company earned the National Tank Truck Carriers Outstanding Safety Award,” GEDC president and CEO Nancy Norton said.
Hoffman Transportation, a company with 275 employees, has a turnover rate of just 3 percent in an industry that averages 102 percent nationally.
Jordan Hoffman, vice president, accepted the Welcome to Grundy County award.
Receiving the Grundy County Chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year award were Craig and Cathy Smith of Rolando's Furniture & Appliances in Coal City.
“Rolando's will be celebrating 60 years next year and in those decades the family-owned business has consistently prioritized customer satisfaction, product knowledge and community support,” said Christina Van Yperen, the Chamber’s executive director.
The business got its start in 1960 as a home and auto store offering appliances as well as tools, paint and even children's toys. Throughout the years the store has added and changed some products, even moved locations, but has always stayed loyal to Coal City,” Van Yperen said.
The 14,000 square-foot store carries four appliance brands with more than 100 model options, as well as 16 furniture and bedding lines making Rolando's Furniture & Appliances the first stop for families looking to make their house a home.
Servicing 11 towns in and around Grundy County, Rolando's is a three-generation family business that rivals any commercial brand.
 While running and growing their business, Craig, and mother Cathy, still prioritize giving back to their community.
Last year fellow small-business owner Sarah Beach and the Chamber approached Craig about assisting the Chamber with getting a retailers group in the Coal City and Diamond area. He not only agreed, but spearheaded business recruitment for the new Coalers Business Alliance. He then took a leading role in the group's first event a GAL-entine's Day shopping.
Cathy currently chairs the Coal City United Methodist Church Building Fundraiser Committee and is a member of the church's Sunshine Circle.
Rolando's is a supporter to local nonprofits such as the Unit 1 Education Foundation, the Knights of Columbus and Coal City Music Boosters.
Craig and Cathy accepted  the award from Van Yperen and  Jaclyn Aldridge, of Grundy Bank and Chamber Board chair.
Entrepreneur of the Year award went to John Callahan of U.C. Davis-Callahan Funeral Home in Morris.
“John and his staff are in the line of work most people avoid thinking of, let alone talking about. It's often uncomfortable for people to address grief or plan for funerals. But being there for someone in their time of need is exactly what John loves about his business. John says interacting with families during some of the most difficult times of their life is an indescribable reward,” Van Yperen said.
Callahan was an assistant funeral director at UC Davis for 16 years. He's now in his seventh year of owning it. He has reinvested in the historical downtown Morris building—redecorating, adding a children's room for families and including screens in all rooms so video tributes are easily visible. At the end of 2017 he remodeled the former garage into a selection room and added a celebration room so families would have more space for gathering during visitations.
In October 2018 came his most significant investment —a $250,000 aquacremation system—a green alternative to cremation and only the second in the state.
Callahan has also served as the Grundy County Coroner for 21 years and as president of the Grundy Community Volunteer Hospice Board for the last 15 years. He is a long-time Lions Club member, 4-H volunteer and contributor to numerous local nonprofits.
When asked why he continues to give, he simply stated he loves this community. His family is here and if he can add to it and make it an even better place, why wouldn't he.
Callahan was on hand to accept his award.  
LyondellBasell was named the Chamber’s Business of the Year.
The chemical plant, celebrating 50 years, employs over 500 workers and contractors at its Morris complex. It generates about $260 million in the local economy annually.
In 2018, LyondellBasell broke ground on a $55 million  new administration center,  including an 89,000 square foot operations center featuring a control room, maintenance shops, offices and a testing laboratory, Van Yperen said.
LyondellBasell employees volunteer in Global Care Day every year and last year it gave more than $45,000 to area non-profits such as We Care of Grundy County and the Morris Hospital Foundation. Members of their leadership team sit on local boards such as the GEDC, United Way of Grundy County, the Joliet Junior College Board, and the Chamber.
LyondellBasell helps to educate young adults and keep them living and working  in Grundy County through its local school STEM program,  and supporting JJC's Operations, Engineering, and Technician program. LyondellBasell's Morris Complex has been named to Fortune Magazine's World's Most Admired Companies two years in a row.
The LyondellBasell administration team was in attendance to accepted the award.
Grundy Area PADS was presented the Chamber’s Organization of the Year Award.
Grundy Area PADS was formed 15 years ago, but last year it started to put itself out of business, according to Van Yperen.
Homelessness in Grundy County is not yet eliminated and PADS isn't going anywhere, but last year the program averaged providing shelter for 10-15 a night, with 23 individuals on the high end. This year, the average was three to five with eight individuals on the highest night. The difference was the PADS board's mission to stop putting a band aide on the homeless problem and find a solution.
Board chairman Phil Wardlow took the lead to obtain a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to develop a Rapid Rehousing program and hired a coordinator. Denise Gaska was brought in last July and to date 18 local homeless individuals have been rehoused, Van Yperen said.
The program goes beyond just finding an individual a place to live, it addressed the reason for the homelessness such as needing help to find a job or assisting with mental health issues. It allows PADs to assist with rent until they are capable of handling it on their own.
Gaska explained sometimes it's as simple as pointing them in the right direction of organizations that are hiring, providing the necessary equipment to get a job, or re-establishing lost pieces of identity. As a result, people in the shelters are staying for shorter amounts of time.  
Although adding the paid position with PADS has equated to large advances in fighting homelessness in Grundy County, it is the 250-300 monthly volunteers who Wardlow credits with PADS’ success. Wardlow accepted the award.
The evening began with a welcome by Grundy County Board Chairman Chris Balkema who thanked everyone for supporting the two organizations, and he gave special thanks to LyondellBasell and CPV Three Rivers Energy for sponsoring the dinner.
The awards presentation immediately followed dinner beginning with the awards handed out by the GEDC.
In addition to the Welcome to Grundy County Award, the GEDC presented a Partnership Award and Business of the Year Award.
Norton was excited to present the Business of the Year award to a local company with a big impact. She noted many times the big national and international companies get too much hype while local, family owned businesses make the economy go-around.   
This is why the GEDC selected to present the award to Tri-State Asphalt.
Celebrating 35 years in business, the company is a leader in the asphalt emulsion industry.
“They've made great investments and expansions at their facility on Ashley Road in Morris and also purchased and redeveloped other industrial sites in the region. But most impressive is Todd Weist, president and CEO of Tri-State, commitment to his employees,” Norton said.
Weist said 10 years ago Tri-State Asphalt had four employees and now has grown to over 85 employees.  
Weist accepted the award from Norton and Shawn McGlynn, GEDC chairman and capital projecs manager at LyondellBasell.
Serving on the GEDC Board, Chamber Board, Grundy Soil Water and Conservation Board and many more boards earned Spaceco Engineering the Partnership award.
The firm was recognized by the GEDC for going the extra mile to encourage economic development in Grundy County.
The company was especially thanked for its frequent assistance making regional maps, adjusting project layout and revising cost estimates.     
Accepting the award was Jason Wiesbrock, vice president of Spaceco, who was commended for his service to the GEDC board and executive committee for the past seven years including a term as chairman.  
The Chamber also presented its Ambassador of the Year Award to Brandi Backulich.
Chamber ambassadors serve as liaisons between Chamber members and staff. They gather feedback and answer members' questions during calls and visits they make throughout the year.  
“She became an ambassador to become a bigger and better part of the community. She wanted to be able to interact with people from different local businesses and with others who wanted to give back. And she has done just that, becoming one of our most active ambassadors. Brandi is always willing to volunteer and is the first to greet new Chamber members and be a welcoming face at events. Brandi is currently the Ambassador Club Secretary. She advocates on behalf of current members and goes above and beyond to support our Chamber,” said Aldridge who presented Backulich with the award.