EAGLE COUNTY — This is the time of year when a deep breath is hard to come by for businesses. That means it’s the perfect time to set aside an evening to celebrate the best of the valley’s business community at the Vail Valley Partnership’s annual Success Awards.
The event used to be a fundraiser for the Partnership, the valley’s chamber and tourism bureau, and once included dinner, a band and the other distractions that come with those events. But the event’s focus has evolved over the past couple of years, with more attention paid to the nominees and winners in an ever-expanding list of award categories. This year’s list goes to 11, with categories including Business of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Best Place to Work and Most Uniquely Vail Valley.
CHOOSING THE WINNERS
Nominations are submitted to the awards committee, made up of business people and previous winners. The committee then whittles down the nominations to a list of finalists, then the winners are chosen. It’s a job committee members take quite seriously.
“It’s quite a process,” said Chris Romer, Vail Valley Partnership President. “They spend a lot of time reading nominations, and they really take their role to heart.”
FOCUSING ON THE BUSINESSES
And, Romer said, no one at the Partnership has a vote in that process. In fact, the Partnership has been trying for a couple of years to make the event more about the people and businesses and less about the organization, Romer said.
“We really want the focus of the event to be 100 percent on the business community — this is their Oscars,” he said.
The evolving focus of the Success Awards allows people to consider how the business community has evolved from the go-go days of the last boom to the lean years of the Great Recession to today’s economy, however you want to define it.
That evolution includes a couple of things, Romer said.
At the top of the list is innovation, something that goes beyond just an app. Technology plays a part, Romer said, but innovation includes marketing, how to do great work with a leaner staff or even something as seemingly simple as the stainless-steel reusable beer “growlers” Bonfire Brewing sells. Weston Snowboards’ use of beetle-killed lumber is another industry innovation that goes from the desktop to the mountaintop.
REPRESENTING THE VALLEY
Along with innovation is the fact that more valley businesses and entrepreneurs than ever before are finding success beyond the valley’s boundaries.
For instance, Coen Wijdicks of the Steadman Phillippon Research Institute — one of the Young Professionals of the Year nominees, is constantly on the road, spreading the word about the work that goes on here in the valley, Romer said.
Active Energies, one of the Small Business of the Year nominees, is currently working on a sustainability project in Turkey.
Add in Weston Snowboards’ sales around the nation and the out-of-the-valley growth of both Bonfire Brewing and Crazy Mountain Brewing, and it adds up to a group of businesses working in the valley and spreading the word about their home base with every board or six-pack sold.
“We didn’t have nearly as much of that five or eight years ago, and it’s exciting to see it now,” Romer said.
“We really want the focus of the event to be 100 percent on the business community — this is their Oscars.”
Vail Valley Partnership president