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Elwood Staffing tops Chamber awards

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Elwood Staffing, a Columbus-based family firm that has become one of the largest in the nation, earned the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s Company of the Year award Tuesday.

Launched as a consulting firm in 1980 by David L. Elwood, chairman of the board, the company expanded in 1985 to provide pre-employment testing. By 1987, the first of Elwood’s three sons joined the business full-time.

Now, Mark S. Elwood is chief executive officer, John A. Elwood is company president, and Michael D. Elwood is president of Elwood Professional. All but Michael Elwood were able to attend and accept the award.

In 1994, the company began providing staffing services and soon was recognized among the 100 fastest-growing businesses in the state by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

After acquiring a Salt Lake-city based competitor in 2013, Elwood Staffing became one of the 20 largest staffing companies in the United States. The company has more than 230 locations in 33 states and Canada and has grown to nearly 1,000 employees. Elwood Staffing is projected to reach $1 billion in sales in 2015.

The company recently was named to Inavero’s 2014 Best of Staffing Client and Best of Staffing Talent lists, based on customer satisfaction studies.

“To think about going from a father-and-son business to a national, $800 million business, and they haven’t been around that long, their growth is incredible,” John Burnett, CEO of the Community Education Coalition, said in prepared remarks read during the event.

“On top of that, their continuing commitment to call Columbus home for their corporate headquarters is something that’s very special.”

Presenter Rick Johnson of Johnson Ventures noted that the company’s impact on Columbus is much greater than its presence here. Elwood executives have committed their time, energy and resources to supporting community projects and organizations ranging from Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County to Columbus Parks Foundation to IUPUC.

David L. Elwood thanked the chamber for the honor, saying the success the company has enjoyed also is because of “the tremendously talented group of people” who work for the staffing company.

Four other awards were presented.

Edna Folger (top teacher) Award: Kathy Strickland, Southside Elementary School

Southside Elementary School teacher Kathy Strickland received the Edna Folger Award, which recognizes an outstanding teacher. The award is named for Folger, a math teacher for 46 years who started her career in a one-room school. Presenter Dale Pilger, Faurecia vice president of sales and programs, said the award is designed to raise awareness of the influence teachers have on their students.

Strickland began her teaching career in 1980 at Lincoln School and has been at Southside since 1984, working with hearing-impaired and deaf students. She was recognized for her advocacy efforts on behalf of her students and her well-known reputation for making sure her students rise to meet any challenge put before them.

As a teacher, Strickland works with parents to help them understand how to help their students reach their goals, Pilger said.

Community Service Award: Don and Dody Harvey

The chamber’s Community Service Award recognizes service and leadership that benefits Columbus residents and inspires others to pursue public service.

The husband-and-wife team of Don and Dody Harvey were recognized individually, and as a couple. Dody Harvey was described as one of the foremost experts on the city’s architecture. “She is a woman who has spent the last 39 years diligently studying the city’s architecture so that she might pass along that knowledge as a guide in the Columbus Area Visitors Center’s architectural tour program, said presenter Lynn Lucas, visitors center executive director.

Dody Harvey, with her knowledge and eagerness to educate others, makes a positive impact on Columbus visitors that could result in a decision by a visitor to take a job or start a business here, Lucas said.

Her husband, Don, has been a “resource and cheerleader” for aspiring entrepreneurs in the Columbus chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, Lucas said.

“What he really embodies is a desire to help others,” Ray Mack, who has worked with the chapter since 2009, said in prepared remarks. “He views it as a responsibility to help others in as many ways as he can.”

As a couple, the Harveys participate in Sunrise Rotary, Agency on Aging, Mill Race Center, the Treasure Hunters antiques club, Bartholomew County Historical Society and Columbus Service League.

Community Project of the Year: Mill Race Marathon — Cummins Inc.

An idea at Engine Business at Cummins Inc. to bring a major event centered around healthy lifestyles resulted in a communitywide collaboration — the Mill Race Marathon and an entire weekend of activities in September 2013. Cummins employees were honored for how the project brought more than 4,100 participants to the marathon and an estimated 6,500 visitors from at least 35 states and eight countries to Columbus. Major sponsors in addition to Cummins included MainSource Bank and Columbus Regional Hospital, whose president and CEO, Jim Bickel, presented the award.

Bickel noted that hundreds of local students, service club members and city officials and employees eagerly offered manpower and facilities to make the event a success, along with many individual volunteers. The event included a weekend of community activities and attractions plus a health expo at The

Commons. The sponsors’ pledges helped expand the city’s People Trails and assisted Reach Healthy Communities to increase its access to local, affordable food.

“There have been few projects in Columbus history when the community has really rallied,” Tracy Souza, president and CEO of the Heritage Fund, said in prepared remarks.

“The Commons, People Trail and Mill Race could be up there on the list. But the last time I saw the community working on something so intensely was recuperation from the flood. The best side of everybody came out — all the great things that happen when you’re working for a great cause.”

Accepting the award were marathon committee organizers from Cummins Laura Chasse, Dave Venable and Karen Zook.

Maverick Challenge Award: First place to Taylor Balser, Braden Trimpe and Nick Streit for Wayfare

The Maverick Challenge High School Business Plan encourages students to come up with an idea and create a business plan to make it a reality. The winners receive $4,000. The winner, Wayfare, by Taylor Balser, Braden Trimpe and Nick Streit, planned a community-based biking experience in which anyone can rent a bike and return it to any kiosk within Columbus.

Runner-up was Ernesto Garcia with Food on the Go. His idea is to provide busy individuals with their favorite restaurant foods wherever they are.

Receiving the William Glanton Irwin Award for Innovation was Portable Pockets, by Jake Armuth, Krishan Narsinghani and Monica Gamez. Their idea was to provide consumers with a fashion-forward utility pocket that is transferable and reusable.

Irwin co-founded Cummins Engine Company in 1919.

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