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These local businesses were recognized at the Forsyth Chamber’s annual Impact Awards
Chamber Impact Awards

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a unique year for local businesses, but a recent awards ceremony highlighted some of the county’s most successful businesses. 

In a recent online ceremony, the Forsyth County Chamber hosted the 2020 Impact Awards, which “offers recognition of organizations in Forsyth County that have made a positive impact in the community by being a driving force in Economic Development to help create a superior quality of life for Forsyth County Citizens over the course of this year.”

The first award given in the ceremony went to Holiday Inn Express and Suites for tourism. 

 “We are so proud to have been nominated and received the Impact Award from the Forsyth County Chamber in the tourism category, and we want to thank everyone who has supported us through this and thank our staff, who has done everything they can to help us get to this point,” said General Manager Amanda Anderson.

Shawn Jackson, owner and CEO of Georgia Computer, Inc., accepted the company’s award for the technology category and said while the company had a national footprint, there was still a focus on the local area, with employees taking part in volunteering opportunities’ in the community.  

For the restaurant category, Tam’s Backstage was the winner, and owners Brian and Kelly Tam talked about the challenges of operating a restaurant during COVID-19 and the response they and their employees had received from the community. 

“It’s been real challenging operating a restaurant during the pandemic. We’ve had to pivot a lot,” Brian said.

“I think that the community that we live in was well-aware of the fact that this had such an impact on our staff,” Kelly continued, “and we were fortunate that so many regular customers, who were also business owners in the community, step forward and they would come in and leave extraordinary tips for our staff. It was touching. It made all of the difference in the world for some of those employees.”

Julie Brennan, publisher of My Forsyth magazine, was honored with the diversity and inclusion award. Brennan, who said she was born in Vieques, Puerto Rico, said winning the award was “quite an honor.”

“It reminds me of my roots, which I carry with me proudly, but it also reminds me that we are a community of humans,” she said. “Black, white, Hispanic, Indian, it doesn’t matter, we’re people and we can so much work together to better ourselves, to better our businesses and to better all that we do for each one of us.” 

The Impact Award for manufacturing was given to Siemens, which Yagnesh Kikaganeshwala, head of traction drives for Siemens Mobility, said was due to the work of the company’s employees.

“We have been operation since 1990 with as manufacturing space of 138,000 square feet,” Kikaganeshwala said. “We manufacture converters, motors, gearboxes for tail vehicles across the country, including our own Atlanta Streetcar…  At Siemens Mobility, we are proud to offer not only jobs but long careers. The average tenure of an employee is 30 years, and we are adding new employees during the time of COVID.”

Kikaganeshwala said the Forsyth County location had 92 employees in 2019, 104 this year and were planning for 10-15 more next year.

Georgia Highlands Medical Services received the healthcare award during the ceremony, and Dr. Swapna Madhavan said while GHMS had a $7.3 million economic impact in the area, the impact was even bigger on customers.

“Through this pandemic, the dedication of our staff is commendable,” “We have been able to do COVID testing for more than 100,000 patients, all free of cost to the patients.”

The final award to be presented, the community leader award, went to Cooper and Co. General Contractors, a local firm that has handled many projects in Forsyth County, including Fire Station 11, West Forsyth High school and the upcoming Cumming City Center. 

“Being part of this community is more about giving back, and with our projects that we do, we initiate goals, and those goals are to involve subcontractors and vendors to make those a part of our team and give back to the community,” said owner Steve Cooper. “Our team also has a number of community services we do: we’re a member of the North Georgia Community Foundation, the Forsyth County Community Foundation and we give back to the Boy Scouts in Forsyth County.”