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Chamber honors business
Small firm owners, nonprofits lauded

DULUTH - They were touted as representing the backbone of the U.S. economy that pumps in more than $500 million per year into the local economy.

On Friday, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce recognized the county's small businesses and nonprofits at the Pinnacle Small Business Awards luncheon.

Chamber program manager Melissa Britt said the awards are among the chamber's most prestigious.

"The celebration recognized both emerging companies as well as companies that have exhibited a substantial history as an established business," Britt said.

Businesses were judged on growth and profitability, contributions to the community, overcoming adversity and original entrepreneurship.

In the 100-plus employee category, Cynthia Kaye was named small business person of the year for her company Logical Choice Technologies, which focuses on transforming traditional classrooms into engaging 21st century learning environments.

In the 10 to 99 employees category, Dave McMullen and his full-service advertising and strategic marketing agency "redpepper" took home the top prize. McMullen was also awarded the 2009 overall Gwinnett Small Business Person of the Year award.

For companies with fewer than 10 employees, Rocket IT and founder Matt Hyatt won the award.

For the first time ever, nonprofit agencies serving the county were also honored. They were measured on their board of directors strength, staying power, growth in employees/volunteers, budget growth, innovation of service, response to adversity and overall contribution to the community.

The county's top small nonprofit was the Dream House for Medically Fragile Children in Lilburn. The mid-size nonprofit award went to Suwanee's Annandale Village. The Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville was awarded the top prize for large nonprofits. It was said that the Aurora creates 214 jobs annually with an economic impact of more than $6.6 million.

Gwinnett Chamber President and CEO Jim Maran said the small business and nonprofit community was vital to the county's interests.

"Our small businesses employ more than half the county's private work force, create three out of every four jobs and generate a majority of our innovations," Maran said. "Even in this tough economy, Gwinnett continues to have a vibrant small business sector."