Beaufort News

Chamber honors 2 small businesses at inaugural luncheon

Beach Properties of Hilton Head and Collins Group Realty shared the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce's 2011 Small Business of the Year award announced Wednesday.

The businesses were among eight finalists recognized during the chamber's inaugural Small Business Week. It's the first time the award has been shared.

"We were looking at how companies survived and even prospered during the Great Recession," said Tom Ridgway, chairman of the chamber's Small and Minority Business Council, which selected the winners.

"The various companies here addressed (the recession) in different ways -- ways that were really courageous."

Chip Collins, president of Hilton Head-based Collins Group Realty, said the economy is more favorable now than in years past for small businesses.

"It's more fluid. It's more robust," he said. "It's still challenging, but the business is there to be had if you're focused, hardworking and going the extra mile."

The realty group, in its 10th year, has offices on Hilton Head and in Bluffton. In 2008, it received the President's Cup from the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors for its dedication to community service.

"I think there's tons and tons of other small businesses on the island that are deserving of this, too," said Linda Moloney, vice president of Beach Properties of Hilton Head, while holding her crystal award.

Moloney said the small size of her business was an asset during the recession.

"We started to see the dip come, and we made adjustments, and when you're small, you can make those adjustments a lot faster than when you're a big corporation," she said. "Even in those down times, we were able to not let anybody go, and even grew each year, which is really a phenomenal thing to say."

Beach Properties has been operated by Linda and her husband, Ray, since 1995.

In past years, the award has been announced during the chamber's annual ball. This year, the chamber incorporated it into its first week-long event supporting the local small-business community.

Darlene Miller, owner and CEO of Minnesota-based Permac Industries and a past winner of the U.S. Chamber's Small Business of the Year Award, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday's award luncheon at the Country Club of Hilton Head.

The week continues today with a sold-out social-media workshop and Business After Hours event.

"This is certainly a week where we pause to celebrate and honor small businesses, but we can't let it be just a one-week celebration," said chamber president Bill Miles.

"What small business means for our local economy and our national economy is great for America."

The other finalists for the award were Beach City Health and Fitness; Equity Payment; Kevin Sevier State Farm Agency; Minor, Haight and Arundell, P.C.; O'Sullivan Janitorial Equipment and Supply; and Rainbow International by High Tide.

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