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First Venture Awards honor local inventive ideas

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The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce first-ever Venture Awards included a surprise nod to an ‘80s rock band from the keynote speaker.

John Wall, vice president and chief technical officer at Cummins Inc., used the story of Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen to demonstrate how innovation can be used to overcome obstacles.

For added emphasis, Wall peeled off his jacket, tie and shirt to display a vintage Def Leppard T-shirt, to the delight of the crowd of 150 chamber members and guests.

Allen lost his arm in a car crash in 1984, but thanks to modifications to his drum kit, he returned to Def Leppard after a hiatus and continues to perform with the band.

“The message here is that you can innovate to avoid risk,” Wall said. “In fact, the risk at Cummins is if we don’t innovate.”

The event, at Factory 12 Event Loft and sponsored by MainSource Bank, honored the wide range of entrepreneurs in the Columbus region.

The event’s awards ceremony recognized entrepreneurs in three categories, as well as an exemplary small business advocate.

Cybermetrix, a company founded in 1992 by former Cummins employee Christine Mulholland, received the Innovation Award.

The company, which simulates, models, designs and tests state-of-the-art engines and power systems, recently opened a new climate center on Mapleton Street that includes two cold chambers.

HK Auto/Truck Service was recognized with the New and Emerging Business Award. The auto repair company was launched in 2009 by Harold Hutchinson and Toby Kleffman and recently expanded into a new 12,000-square-foot facility.

Entrepreneur of the Year went to Data Cave, a data center focused on protecting the IT infrastructure of its clients. Nominees for the award had to be in business for at least five years.

Retired White River Broadcasting marketer Gordon Lake was presented the Small Business Advocate Award by Mike and Jodi Engelstad, financial planners with Wells Fargo Advisors.

Lake has been the spokesman for the Chamber Action Team and has attended more than 500 ribbon-cutting ceremonies for local businesses. He was recognized for his passion and concern about the success of local business owners.

“It’s great to get recognition for doing something you love,” Lake said.

Chamber President Cindy Frey said the organization hopes to make the awards an annual event.

“What was fun about this awards dinner is that it gave us the opportunity to celebrate the full breadth of business that exists in this community,” Frey said. “It showcased the variety of business that make the community’s economic engine move.”

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