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WWNY-TV, AmeriCU take home 2013 business of the year awards

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WWNY-TV7 took home the 2013 business of the year award in the large for-profit category, while the large nonprofit award went to AmeriCU Credit Union on Thursday during the awards luncheon hosted by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce at the Black River Valley Club on Washington Street.

The local broadcast company, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary in Watertown this year, offers local programming on WWNY-TV7 and WNYF-Fox 28 stations. The company was started as a CBS affiliate by the Johnson family of Watertown in 1954. It was sold to United Communications Corp., owned by the Brown family of Kenosha, Wis., in 1981.

“It’s important to us, and we’re excited about it because it’s our 60th year of operation as a broadcast facility,” James C. Corbin, programming director for the two stations, said after accepting the award. “We also feel very fortunate to be owned by a family that’s only the second owner of the station. And both families that owned the station — the Johnsons and now the Brown family — are very dedicated to community service. We inform, we entertain, we provide a good platform for community and public services. And we also assist businesses with growth, and hopefully help the economy of the north country.”

Other 2013 business of the year awards went to Aubertine & Currier Architects (for profit, 50 or fewer) and the Watertown Urban Mission (nonprofit, 50 or fewer). The Spicy Wench, a small business that sells jams and spices, received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The Watertown Farmers Market Vendor of the Year Award, announced for the first time, went to Simmons Farm of Copenhagen.

Launched in 2011 by Christine E. Hoffman, of Watertown, the Spicy Wench sells pepper jellies, fruit jams and spices made with ingredients from local farms. Today, the business sells its products wholesale to 20 retailers in the north country, and has become a fixture at the Watertown farmers market and summer and fall festivals.

The entrepreneur award “represents a lot hard work that doesn’t always get noticed — the long weekends that you’re working, the production time, sales and coordination to get everyone where they need to be to do events,” Mrs. Hoffman said after receiving her award. “It’s a lot of work behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t see. They show up at the event to buy stuff and think that’s all there is, because that’s the only part they see. But it’s a lot of hours behind the scenes, so it’s kind of nice to be noticed for that. And there are a lot of people that helped me get here.”

The business, which launched its website in the spring of 2012, is increasingly attracting customers from outside the region and grabbing the attention of retailers.

“In the next five years, I could see products being all over the state and maybe the Northeast,” Mrs. Hoffman said.

The Watertown Urban Mission was honored after exceeding its $2 million “Mission: Possible” campaign goal this year, funding that will go toward an expansion of its Factory Street building and establish an endowment. A groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction was held Thursday morning, almost a year ahead of schedule.

“The award really goes to our employees and countless volunteers that make everything we do at the mission possible,” Executive Director Erika F. Flint said Thursday, adding that the expansion project ensures the Urban Mission will continue to be a fixture in the community, serving needy individuals and families. “It means that a critical safety net that the mission is will be here for years to come. We are a last line of defense for many individuals. And to know we will not only be here, but be in a safe and dignified way, is really wonderful.”

Nominees that earned honorable mention were Barrett Paving Materials, North American Tapes, Renzi Foodservice, Stewart’s Shops, Page Fitness Athletic Club and the Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions.

The luncheon was sponsored by M&T Bank, Davidson Auto Group, Westelcom, Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes, Thousand Islands Winery, Timeless Frames, NNY Business Magazine and the Watertown Daily Times.

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