And the winners are …

Bill Hickey, President of Smyth Companies Inc., accepts the 2013 Business of the Year trophy during the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet and awards program Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Bill Hickey, President of Smyth Companies Inc., accepts the 2013 Business of the Year trophy during the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet and awards program Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Smyth wins business of the year, Holton wins for project; expanding Sassy Strawberry named top new business

By Adam Harringa

Bill Hickey listened Tuesday night as Austin Area Chamber of Commerce leaders read the accomplishments of his and 13 other local businesses. Hickey, President of Smyth Companies Inc., was thinking of a speech in his head in case Smyth won business of the year, but then thought he wouldn’t need it.

He was wrong.

The Chamber honored Smyth as Business of the Year at the annual awards banquet at the Holiday Inn Convention Center. It caught Hickey by surprise.

“I was listening about the other companies, and thought it was good to be nominated,” he said.

Smyth, established in 1877 in St. Paul, has been in Austin since 1971 and in its current location, 1207 27th Ave. NW, for about seven years. The commercial printing company initially supplied labels to Minnesota companies like Hormel Foods Corp. and what is now Green Giant, according to its website, smythco.com. It now has five locations and prints myriad labels and promotional materials for companies in the food and beverage, personal care, health and beauty, household care, and beer, wine and spirits industries.

Hickey said the company plans to grow its presence in Austin. Smyth has 60 employees in Austin, and it’s those workers that make the company special, Hickey said. The Printing Industries of America also recognized Smyth in 2013 as one of the best workplaces in the country. It was one of only seven companies of its size to win.

Reed Kuper, his wife, Ashley, and Daneka Thomas of Sassy Strawberry accept the award for New Business of the Year.

Reed Kuper, his wife, Ashley, and Daneka Thomas of Sassy Strawberry accept the award for New Business of the Year.

Frozen yogurt, freezing cold

The brutally cold winter apparently hasn’t kept locals from enjoying a new frozen yogurt shop. Sassy Strawberry, which opened in November 2013, was named New Business of the Year. The self-serve business has done well enough in its first few months of operation that its owners, Ashley and Reed Kuper, have already opened two more locations — in Burlington and Waterloo, Iowa.

“Business has been real good despite the coldest winter in years,” Reed said. “We’ve had a great response from the community, and we look forward to warmer weather.”

The Sassy Strawberry, at 803 18th Ave. NW, serves 18 flavors — including sherbet and sugar-free yogurt — and 80 toppings, from fruit and nuts to cereal and candy.

Austin Public School’s Superintendent David Krenz, left, and I.J. Holton intermediate School Principal Jean McDermott accept the award for Project of the Year during the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Winter Banquet and Awards Program Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Austin Public School’s Superintendent David Krenz, left, and I.J. Holton intermediate School Principal Jean McDermott accept the award for Project of the Year during the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Winter Banquet and Awards Program Tuesday night. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Picking up STEAM

While not a business, Austin Public Schools got the nod as the Chamber’s Project of the Year, as it opened its new school, I.J. Holton Intermediate School, last fall.

“The reason we are what we’ve become is community input and support,” I.J. Holton Principal Jean McDermott said.

McDermott credited the business community’s input as part of the reason I.J. Holton is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, or STEAM school.

Language arts and social studies are still a core component of the school, but teachers place an emphasis on engineering units to get students asking more questions and finding out how to research for answers, rather than memorize a set of rules or a list of facts.

“We listened to the business community, and they are looking for a different type of employee coming out of our schools,” McDermott said.

The Chamber also recognized the following:

—Ken Howe, of Howe Advertising & Embroidery in Austin, as Volunteer of the Year.

—Gail Dennison, of The Hormel Institute, as past president of the Chamber Board, and Mel Gilbertson, of Hormel Foods, as the 2014 Board president.

—Cooperative Response Center as Mower Refreshed Business of the Year with more than 100 employees, and Pacelli Catholic Schools won the award for businesses or entities with less than 100 employees.

—Randy Arhart, Hormel Foods, as the Chamber Ambassador of the Year.

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