One needn’t read a Bureau of Labor Statistics report to know this past year and a half has wreaked havoc on several industries. But the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce still managed to highlight several successes at their annual meeting, celebrating local businesses, nonprofits and community leaders.
The Oro Valley Chamber’s annual meeting and awards ceremony took place on Thursday, Aug. 19, at the El Conquistador resort.
“Some of the Chamber’s best work during this past decade occurred during the pandemic,” said Oro Valley Chamber President Dave Perry, who admitted the selection committee had a hard time narrowing down certain winners, so some categories had more than one recipient.
“Through this ongoing struggle, let’s not surrender the relationships and shared purposes that can improve our businesses, our communities and our lives. We can help one another improve what we do. In so doing together, we strengthen the fabric of an interdependent business and community cloth. We are smarter collectively than we are individually.”
To begin, the Chamber gave their annual Legacy Award to Dr. Thomas Grogan, a professor emeritus at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine and founder of Ventana Medical Systems (now Roche Tissue Diagnostics). The biotech and healthcare company has more than 1,400 full-time employees in Oro Valley, and recently broke ground on an expansion in nearby Marana.
“I don’t consider myself the father of Ventana, now Roche Tissue, I consider myself the grandfather,” Grogan said on a video call. “A lot of my perspective now is that I’m proud of the kids and proud of what they’re doing. It’s very important to the future of business that everything I had to give, they embody. From the very beginning, we had a culture of high purpose. We were doing something important, so I hired people with a high tolerance to difficulty. But the other thing I think is really important to culture is a sense of cohesion. It’s not just you, but other smart people around you who are just as committed.”
The Oro Valley Chamber’s business awards, the Pinnacle Awards, were given to small, midsize and large businesses that go above and beyond for the local community.
There were two winners for the Small Business of the Year category: Desert Star Addiction Recovery, which provides outpatient treatment for a variety of addiction and mental health issues; and The Post Workspaces, which offers private, shared and virtual office spaces for local professionals.
Hamstra Heating & Cooling won the Pinnacle award for Midsize Business of the Year. Hamstra, which opened in 1983, is a family-owned HVAC company that operates throughout the Tucson area.
El Conquistador, a Hilton-owned resort where the awards ceremony took place, won the Large Business of the Year award.
The Nonprofit of the Year award went to Grace Hearing, a nonprofit connected to Oro Valley Audiology that provides healthcare to low-income adults and under-served children. Grace Hearing is not a free clinic, but operates on a reduced-fee sliding scale. They rely on grants, donations, corporate sponsorship and volunteers.
“We started Grace Hearing in 2016 because we know hearing is so important to connection, and this past year and a half has really shown us how much more our hearing has meant, trying to communicate through masks,” said Dr. Judy Huch, who works for both Grace Hearing and Oro Valley Audiology. “I am so thankful. Even though I might not be for everybody, in fact I have a shirt that says that, I do everything through the scope of love and kindness.”
Finally, the Community Leader of the Year awards went to two community members: Kay Williams from the Oro Valley Chamber, and Innovation Academy principal Michael McConnell.
“I would like to thank the Chamber and Amphitheater Public Schools,” McConnell said. “Twenty-seven years ago, it was about my seventh or eighth day as a kindergarten teacher and I said to myself ‘Dear God, don’t let me mess these kids up.’ And I decided then, every day I would do what I feel is best for kids. And 27 years later, I’m still doing it. Over this past year, the kids have stepped up in ways we hoped they’d never have to, but so have the teachers who figured things out on the fly. Our families and communities all stepped up.”