Charles Koch was awarded the Ray Miller Award for his work on behalf of the Van Wert Community at the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce’s 91st Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony Thursday evening. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
Charles Koch was awarded the Ray Miller Award for his work on behalf of the Van Wert Community at the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce’s 91st Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony Thursday evening. (Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)

BY ED GEBERT

Times Bulletin Editor

egebert@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - A local attorney and the county's largest employer were recognized, not simply for their professionalism, but also their service to the community as the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce handed out awards to honor local business persons and businesses Thursday night at Willow Bend Country Club.

At the chamber's 91st Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, Charles Koch was named as the winner of the Ray Miller Award in acknowledgement of his work on behalf of the Van Wert community. Among other things, Koch has been a part of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center Board, The Associated Charities, Van Wert Federal Board of Directors, YMCA Board, Van Wert County Foundation Board of Trustees, and the First Presbyterian Church Board of Trustees. He has also been a major force in securing the land options for the Van Wert Super Site, and is one of the main players in the group looking to bring an aquatic center to Van Wert.

After receiving a standing ovation from the assembled crowd, Koch used his acceptance speech to speak about two of the projects he is promoting - the aquatic center and the upcoming concert at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

"Those of you who know me, know I don't do it to stand in front of a podium like this and take the recognition. It's tough to do for me, but I do appreciate it," Koch related. "I was born and raised in this community. I grew up in Convoy, and Van Wert is my home. The county is my home. I'm proud to call it my home. I've always worked to try to improve life here, and I'm going to continue that."

The other two finalists for the Ray Miller Award were Eric McCracken of Lee Kinstle GM Sales and Service, and Eric Hurless of Stahl Stoller Myer Insurance Center.

The other major award salutes a chamber investor for demonstrating leadership in the community through business responsibility, productivity, employee empowerment and service to the community. Eaton Corporation was the winner of this year's Crystal Image Award. The company was honored for hiring 360 new employees and adding 14,000 square feet to its W. Main St. facility over the past two years, and for community projects. Eaton Corporation completed work at the YWCA of Van Wert County to turn run-down tennis courts into a new playground for the organization's Summer Food Program, and gave the YW's Transitional Living Home a makeover. In addition, Eaton's Powering Communities Grants continue to help various agencies around the county each year. Plant Manager Carey Welker accepted the award on behalf of the company.

The other finalists for the Crystal Image Award were Iberdrola Renewables and Citizens National Bank.

Aside from the two major awards of the evening, a series of businesses were recognized for completing an addition or major renovation project in 2012. The honorees were: Family Health Care of Northwest Ohio, Van Wert County YMCA, Sears Hometown Store, Eaton Corporation, Van Wert City Schools, A&A Mechanical, YWCA of Van Wert County, Vantage Career Center, Wallace Plumbing and Underground, and Miller Precision Manufacturing.

A number of companies were honored for milestone anniversaries of the business. Those were: The Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio (5 years). First Bank of Berne (5 years), Van Wert Independent (10 years), Signs In Time (15 years), DeShia (25 years), State of the Heart Hospice (30 years), Steve Bailey State Farm Insurance (30 years), Braun Industries (40 years), Tecumseh Packaging Solutions (45 years), and the United Way of Van Wert County (90 years).

The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Todd Dewett of Wright State University. Thursday's event was sponsored by Cooper Farms. Entertainment by Eric Miglin during the evening was sponsored by Citizens National Bank.