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Business awards honor excellence
Excellence in Business Awards
The Place of Forsyth County Executive Director Joni Smith, right, accepts the nonprofit award as Torri Westmoreland, left, and Andrew Bell, center, look on at the 2018 Excellence in Business Awards on Tuesday. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Businesses and nonprofits in Forsyth County were recently honored for excellence.

On Thursday evening, the annual Excellence in Business Awards was held at the Forsyth County Conference Center at Lanier Tech. Taking home the top prizes were Scientific Games for businesses and The Place of Forsyth County for nonprofits.

“This yearly program offers well-deserved recognition to our businesses and nonprofit organizations for their achievements and contributions to our community by giving the opportunity to showcase their company, share their stories and reward them for their efforts,” said Mark Thompson, chair of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advancement Resource.

Torri Westmoreland, a BAR councilmember, gave some statistics for local business at the event.

“The 2017 numbers are in, and Forsyth County has a lot to be proud of,” she said. “Forsyth County’s unemployment rate is 3.5 percent. Our graduation rate is 92 percent. [A total of] 5,987 businesses call Forsyth County home, and we employee over 108,000 people.”

During the event, Westmoreland gave a description of each of the finalists, which were also highlighted with a video to show what each company or organization does in the community.

Westmoreland applauded Scientific Games, a leader in the gaming and lottery industries, for the company’s commitment to innovation and employees.

“Because Scientific Games turns every innovation into a game, ideas abound, and they were recognized as one of the top three most innovative companies in Georgia,” she said. “Their commitment to employees is unparalleled. They say they treat employees like family — like they grew up together.”

In their video, Jim Kennedy, with Scientific Games, went over how much the county had grown since the company came to town.

“We’re proud to be in Forsyth County. We’ve been here since the early 90s — ‘92 I believe,” he said. “We were one of the first companies to move out here on a little bitty Ga. 400 … We’ve been here since then and we are delighted to be part of the community. We’ve grown up with the community here in Forsyth County, and we intend to continue to grow with Forsyth County.”

For The Place of Forsyth County, a nonprofit aimed at providing emergency basic needs for county families, Westmoreland said among the services offered by the organization were food from a garden, a food pantry, a summer camp, teen internship program and Holiday House, an event allowing parents to shop for donated gifts for the holidays based on points determined by the level of need.

“Since 1975, The Place of Forsyth County has assisted the residents of our county with food, clothing, financial assistance and youth programs with the overall mission to provide basic needs and to be self-sustaining,” Westmoreland said.

Executive Director Joni Smith said in the group’s video she would recommend all businesses get involved with the local community.”

“The best piece of advice that I could give any business large or small would be to not underestimate the value and the power of corporate citizenship,” she said. “Many employees and business owners or managers come together to serve at our organization, and there is such a positive energy and commonality.”

The event also honored high school students with the 2018 Internship Innovation Award. Winners of the award were Lambert High School’s Sarah Harper, Forsyth Central High School’s Matthew Dean, North Forsyth High School’s Sydney Dean, South Forsyth High School’s Matthew Gatto and West Forsyth High School’s Claudia Spence.

Other businesses and nonprofits to be recognized as finalists were Forsyth County Family YMCA, Better Moonwalks of Georgia, Bentley Media, Drive Smart Georgia, Meals by Grace, Country Folks Superstore, Sawnee School of Ballet and Cumming Home Ministries.