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Forsyth hailed for entrepreneurial heritage
Small firms hold key to recovery, professor says
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Ruben Boling gives the keynote address during the chamber's Small Business Awards Luncheon on Thursday. - photo by Jim Dean

Awards at a glance

The following honors were presented during the Small Business Awards Luncheon:

• Business Mentor — Dereck Brooks, Brandywine Printing; and Marie Dinsmore, Network for Success

• New Business — Elite Plumbing

• Small Business of the Year — The Wright Import Service Center

• Small Business of the Year, one to nine employees — In-Depth Wraps

• Small Business of the Year, 10 to 99 employees — Lenny’s Sub Shop and TriScapes Inc.

• Small Business of the Year, 100-plus employees — Russell Landscapes Inc.

• International Business — RainHarvest Systems

• Entrepreneur — Jay Ryerse, JTech Networks

• Heritage Award — Sawnee EMC

Source: Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce

Remembering the entrepreneurs of Forsyth County’s past is a good way to honor the business successes of today, a speaker told a gathering Thursday.

Ruben Boling, an instructor at North Georgia College & State University’s Mike Cottrell School of Business, addressed an audience of about 200 during the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Awards Luncheon.

The event was held at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.

Boling, who also serves as the director of the Center for the Future of North Georgia, told the audience that he was “born and raised” here.

“I am a Forsyth County native and I know there aren’t many of those around anymore,” he joked.

Growing up in south Forsyth, he recalled how small businesses were the heart of the county.

“We didn’t even have a Kmart or a bowling alley,” he said. “Back then, it was all small businesses … our county was built on a foundation of small businesses.”

Boling praised the early entrepreneurs of the county.

“All the things we think about now when running a business, like balancing a budget and meeting the payroll, they just grew up knowing,” he said.

He noted a few other factors have led to the continued success started by those first small business owners.

Among them, he said, have been the Forsyth County school system and strong infrastructure.

“When I was a student at Big Creek Elementary School, all the second- and third-grade students were in the same room with one teacher,” he said. “Now just look at how far we’ve come.”

Boling also pointed to the extension of Ga. 400 as bringing business opportunities to the area.

“[Ga.] 400 used to end at the Forsyth County line,” he said. “We should be thankful that now it goes so far north and all the way into downtown Atlanta.”

Boling also discussed the importance of entrepreneurship in rebuilding the weakened U.S. economy.

“It’s important for any community to recognize three things that entrepreneurs do,” he said. “They birth the new, create jobs and create wealth.

“They will pull us out of this recession.”

Boling said new firms have historically created some 3 million jobs annually, with each having an average of seven employees.

“But that’s going down every year,” he said. “New firms are hiring fewer employees now. What used to seven is now down to five.”

However, Boling remained optimistic.

“Fifteen eventual $1 billion companies arise in the United States each year,” Boling said. “There might have been one started right here.”

He said all Forsyth small business owners should be celebrated.

“They put in the hard work, take the risks and push the environment to grow,” he said. “They’re committed to this community and that’s what helps us all grow.”

A number of them were honored during the event.

Business Mentor of the Year awards were presented to Dereck Brooks of Brandywine Printing and Marie Dinsmore of Network for Success.

Brandon Townsend of Elite Plumbing took the New Small Business of the Year award, while Sammy and Pam Wright of The Wright Import Service Center received the Small Business Person of the Year award.

Jay Ryerse of JTech Networks received Entrepreneur of the Year, while the International Business of Year was presented to Randy Kauk of RainHarvest Systems.

The Heritage Award, which is voted on by the chamber member and given to a business that has been a part of the community for at least 20 years, went to Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation.