Business

The recipients of 2020's Gazette Business Awards, in a very challenging year

Inflection points, masks and 2020's Gazette Business Awards

This year has been notable for what has happened as well as for how businesses have reacted. Above, a northwest Cedar Ra
This year has been notable for what has happened as well as for how businesses have reacted. Above, a northwest Cedar Rapids street on Aug. 10. (Michael Chevy Castranova/The Gazette)
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If I hadn’t already known, I could tell it’s been an emphatically different kind of year just by looking outside.

For one thing, I’m at home, not at The Gazette offices. WFH week 35? Thirty-six? Fresher coffee, but less-clear demarcations as to when the official work day starts and ends.

The workweek for so many has been in flux — certainly on some occasions up to eight days per calendar week.

And then there’s what I actually can observe by standing out in my front yard. Between neighboring houses, I can see two streets over.

That’s notable because, until Aug. 10, this was a relatively heavily wooded area. Multitudes of our oaks and hackberries, hickories and wild cherries didn’t bend but shattered in that pounding storm.

The massive tree chunks since were dragged to curbsides, then carted away in black trucks, leaving daylight and clear spaces and fewer owls.

Beyond 2020’s ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its growing lists of cases, and the derecho and tariff wars, we saw and felt national and local movements for social justice. And we had some really big elections.

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Businesses small and large, for-profts and not-for-profits, have worked to adapt and adjust — striving to best serve customers, vendors, employees, their community and the bottom line.

Red ink, after all, bodes poorly for jobs and economic vigor.

At The Gazette, too, we adapted as nimbly as we could, and sometimes surprisingly for a 137-year-old news organization. We moved out of our offices in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City to work from home.

Many of us spent a couple weeks working at our Color Web Printers facility south of downtown, once the skies and streets began to clear that Aug. 10. (Great connectivity.)

We have a new Cedar Rapids space waiting for us, on Third Street NE, for when the all-clear signal sounds for a return to office work.

What else happened?

Our annual Iowa Ideas Conference went virtual, with about 1,000 participants in mid-October. The glossy Iowa Ideas magazine came out Oct. 4.

Which brings us to 2020’s Gazette Business Awards, our sixth-annual business-recognition event. Common sense decreed no awards banquet, sadly.

So this year we stuck with our strengths. We spoke with our recipients to talk about lessons learned from these very challenging times.

Gazette reporters Erin Jordan, Michaela Ramm and John Steppe and I interviewed them in turn via video conference, and you can see those recorded discussions free at thegazette.com/businessawards beginning Nov. 12.

In addition, we reworked some of the awards categories to better reflect this hard-driving year.

We’ll be uploading two interviews a day over the following days.

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They talked not only about their achievements, but also how they came to the decisions they did as they reached various inflection points.

Remember, as these organizations have, when you’re handed lemons, you can make lemonade. And as each of these leader knows, you’ll also need to figure out how to supply water, sugar, pitchers, cups to serve the lemonade, a cash drawer and maybe some staff ... .

Thanks to 2020 Gazette Business Awards presenting sponsor TrueNorth Cos. and our supporting sponsor, the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and Siouxland Region.

They, too, will have videos posted at thegazette.com/businessawards, beginning Nov. 12.

Our dedicated judges for this year were Kate Moreland, Iowa City Area Development Group president; Tony Bedard, Frontier Co-op CEO; and Tim Guenther, Clickstop president and CEO; along with Gazette Executive Editor Zack Kucharski, Manager of Brand Initiatives Quinn Pettifer and me.

And here are this year’s Gazette Business Awards recipients, by category:

Customer care

Hy-Vee

For expanding online services and home delivery to COVID-19 customers. It also acquired and rehabbed a number of former Shopko venues.

Hy-Vee Cedar Rapids-Marion market also was honored by the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and Siouxland Region

Community service

His Hands Free Clinic

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For expansion and acquisition of its new facility, Housing Continuum of Care participation.

Economic support

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Czech/New Bohemia Main Street District, Iowa City Area Development Group, Iowa City Downtown District, Think Iowa City and Iowa City Area Business Partnership

For creating a promotional and communication campaign to support the unique economic drivers of their communities.

Expansion

Green State Credit Union

For its expansion and purchase of seven new branches.

Extended service

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Iowa City, Mercy Medical Center and UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s Hospital

For ongoing extended service throughout the pandemic.

Food distribution

Operation BBQ, Feed Iowa First and Willie Ray’s Q Shack

For national, state and local efforts to create and implement a plan to provide food for thousands after the derecho.

Infrastructure

Alliant Energy, MidAmerican Energy and ITC Midwest

For their collaboration in power restoration after the Aug. 10 derecho.

Innovation

Integrated DNA Technologies

For its COVID-19 testing kits.

Trailblazer

Eric Engelmann

For overall business achievement and community involvement, including bringing groups together to develop COVID-19 face shields early during the pandemic.

The Driver

Michael Pentella-State and the Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa

For moving forward with testing methods for COVID-19.

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Comments: (319) 398-8307; michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.