Puyallup-Sumner Chamber honors best in business and community

Awards: Columbia Bank president says employees are valuable assets

of the HeraldJanuary 22, 2014 

The Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce held its annual Rising Star Awards Breakfast last week and honored a slew of business owners, entrepreneurs and volunteers across 13 categories.

Hundreds gathered at the Pioneer Park Pavilion Jan. 14 to honor the best of Puyallup and Sumner.

“We appreciate all for coming, and we appreciate all who were nominated,” said Shelly Schlumpf, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

Among the award categories was the Best Company to Work for, Entrepreneur of the Year, Business Innovations and the John Porter Memorial.

Columbia Bank was named Best Company to Work for. Melanie Dressel, the president and CEO of Columbia Bank, was the keynote speaker and encouraged others about the state of the regional economy.

“We’re very happy to operate in the Pacific Northwest,” Dressel said. “It’s a very diversified economy. Forbes magazine lists the Pacific Northwest in the top five with the most vibrant economic futures.”

Dressel negated speculation that banks are not doing any commercial lending. In fact, she said, it’s quite the opposite.

“In the first three quarters of 2013, we did $600 million in brand new loans,” she said. “That would indicate we are lending.”

Columbia Bank is the seventh largest bank in Washington and Oregon in terms of deposits. The bank acquired West Coast Bank last April, adding $2 billion in assets and 52 new branches. It brought the total of banks companywide to 142.

Dressel said Columbia Bank values its 1,700 employees. She said individuals are selected to work there because they embody a good work ethic and unique characteristics.

“We’re not a warm-body company,” Dressel said. “We do the right thing for employees. Our employees are the most valuable asset we have.”

Jarrett Tomal, principal owner of Parliament Distillery at Sumner’s industrial park, received the entrepreneur of the year award. Tomal, a longtime Sumner resident, launched Parliament Distillery in 2012.

The former cement finisher launched it partly out of necessity after the construction industry crashed and work dried up. He said he knew specializing in whiskey and moonshine would provide a more stable income.

“I was looking to open a business that was a little more stable,” Tomal said. “Alcohol never drops to the floor. People are always drinking. When times are good, you want a drink; when times are bad, you need a drink.”

Tomal said his business has taken off. His micro-distillery, which distributes less than 60,000 gallons per year, is now in four markets: Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Missouri.

“Idaho is coming soon in the next few weeks,” Tomal said.

His signature product is Ghost Owl Pacific Northwest whiskey and a line of flavored moonshine called Rack House. His top-seller is a 100 proof Rack House product flavored like apple pie with a graham cracker crust. He said it’s doing particularly well in Oregon.

“We can’t seem to keep them on the shelves,” Tomal said.

Tomal plans to hire for two positions soon: an operations manager and a distillery assistant.

“We’re creating enough revenue to put people to work,” he said.

Meanwhile, the distillery’s growth potential is good. Tomal said he’s eying markets in Nevada, California, Texas and Utah.

The Washington State Fair took home the Business Innovations award. The fair received the recognition based on its rebranding efforts last year.

“It was the courage that it took on the part of the (fair) board of directors to change the name of a significant local business,” said Kent Hojem, CEO of the Washington State Fair. “It was more than just a name change; it was an opportunity to look at our business, to reinvent, to be a better organization.”

Hojem said the organization learned a lot from its audience throughout the process.

“I have been happy to be a part of it,” Hojem said. “All of the rebranding work told us you can never let that lie. What a gift and a great reminder that it’s important to remember your mission and continue to reinvent yourself.”

Throughout this year, Hojem said the fair will continue its rebranding work. For example, the Spring Fair will now be known as the Washington State Fair Spring Fair.

The chamber’s signature award — the John Porter Memorial — was given to Dave Radcliffe, CEO of the Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse in Sumner. Radcliffe also received the award in 2011.

The award is named after the late John Porter, a past chamber member who helped the chamber reach new membership heights. It recognizes exceptional leadership of a cause, program or project that makes a significant impact on the community.

Radcliffe has been active with the military community for years. He opens the Cannery for welcome-home dinners for military members, sponsored by the AUSA. Radcliffe and the Cannery also host numerous other community events throughout the year.

Radcliffe said he’s happy to receive the award but gives much of the credit to his employees and the continued collaboration with the City of Sumner.

“I’m the hood ornament that is the one out front,” he said. “The people at the Cannery are the engine that makes it all happen.”

Award winners

 • Volunteer of the Year: Capt. Scott Engle, Puyallup Police Department

 • Volunteer Business of the Year: McLendon Hardware

 • Ambassador of the Year: Michele Suepke, LegalShield; Rob Lewis, Columbia Bank

 • Small Business of the Year (1-10 employees): Epic Donuts; Mount Rainier Coffee Company

 • Medium Business of the Year (11-50): Eterna Vein and Medical Aesthetics

 • Large Business of the Year (51-plus): BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse

 • Young Professionals, Individual: Ashley Blair, Best Western Premier Plaza Hotel and Conference Center

 • Young Professionals, Organization: Dillanos Coffee Roasters

 • Nonprofit of the Year: Helping Hand House

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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