December 5, 2018

South Portland recognizes a range of businesses in annual awards

Courtesy / City of South Portland
Courtesy / City of South Portland
Darci Foshay, Mike Foshay, Don Foshay Jr., Don Foshay Sr. and Joe Connors of Don Foshay's Discount Tire & Alignment accept the Business Leader of the Year Award at the South Portland Business Awards last week.
Courtesy / City of South Portland
South Portland K-9 Team Officer Shane Stephenson presents the Santo “Sam” DiPietro the Community Impact Award to Jennifer and Christopher Allen of the South Portland Veterinary Hospital at South Portland's business awards ceremony last week.

One business stays open for plow crews and weathered an unexpected location change this year, while another treats the South Portland Police Department's K-9 unit dogs for free.

One helps pay college tuition for employees and another is looking to build new community.

In the end, South Portland Economic Development Director Bill Mann said, the city's annual business awards are more about community than about business.

All of this year's winners are engaged in the community in ways that may fly under the radar, and that's part of the city's recognition.

"Gratitude is important," Mann said.

It's also about community building.

"This tells everyone what kind of community this is to do business in , and what kind of people are doing business here," he said. "Who wouldn't want to be a neighbor [with the winning businesses]? It's a chance for people to see it and say, 'Wow, this is a really good place."

The ceremony, which was last Thursday, has been around for about half a dozen years, but took on its current form four years ago. This is Mann's first year with the city after holding the same post in Saco, and he gave the nomination process new focus in an effort.

The nomination process, which began in August, became more accessible and easy to use, and there were more nominations, and more nominees, than ever before. Many nominations were from the community — customers or clients of the businesses.

Mann said he and the city's Economic Development Committee are going to discuss opening the 2019 nomination process in January.

"So if someone sees something they like, they can nominate as soon as possible," he said.

Outgoing Mayor Linda C. Cohen was also presented with a Face of South Portland Award in recognition of her longtime service to the city. Bob O'Brien, of Noyes, Allen & Hall Insurance was also recognized at the ceremony.

This year's winners

The Small Business of the Year Award, which goes to a business of 25 or fewer employees that has a major impact on the city, was South Portland House of Pizza, 180 Waterman Drive. The business got an unexpected surprise earlier this year when owner Eric Bruneau found out the Cumberland Farms it shared space on Cottage Road was expanding and it had to move. It had been there 25 years. Bruneau, with help from friend Mark Reuscher, who is an advisor to the economic development committee. "Whenever there's a storm, he stays open for the plow truck drivers," Mann said. At the former location, that went for Cape Elizabeth as well as South Portland. "He remained open even if it meant all night."

The New Business of the Year Award went to James LaPlante of SoPoCo.Works, at 1486 Broadway. LaPlante, who had office tenants in his building and operates an animation business, changed the building over to co-working in order to build a space for the creative community to collaborate as well as provide office space for entrepreneurs, including the state's first dedicated podcast studio. Mann said the focus is something that's needed in the community, "something for similarly minded business adventurers."

The Santo "Sam" DiPietro Community Impact Award, which recognizes going "above and beyond" went to South Portland Veterinary Hospital, 177 Main St., where veterinarians Jennifer and Christopher Allen care for the police department's dog at cost or for free. They were nominated by longtime K-9 officer Shane Stephenson. Mann said the pair has been doing it for 20 years. "They do it quietly, not for recognition," he said. "They never would have expected or sought any recognition for this." Mann added that the pair "are emblematic of the kind of community South Portland is."

The Business Leader of the Year Award went to Don Foshay Jr., of Don Foshay's Discount Tire & Alignment, 360 Main St. Foshay's father began as a wholesale tire distributor, and the business has been operating in the city since 1983. A third generation is also involved. While it has six locations in southern and central Maine, Foshay said at last week's awards ceremony, "No matter where we go and where we live, we'll still just be three guys from South Portland." Mann said the family is an example of the kind of roots the city builds. "That's three generations working together in a business that's a big part of this community."

The Business of the Year Award, for a business that has more than 25 employees, went to Texas Instruments Inc., 5 Foden Road. Its manufacturing plant was established in 1995 and has its roots in several of its predecessor chip businesses in the city. The company, which employs 500 locally, provides internships, as well as pays for college courses, for some Southern Maine Community College students who work there. Mann said the company is focused on retention of Maine workers and manages to be a contributing part of the community, despite challenges of the economy, including tariffs and workforce issues. "Their role in the community is not widely known," he said. "They just kind of fly under the radar."


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