Every year members wait in anticipation of the announcement of who will be the “main attraction” at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) Signature Event — a gala evening of fine food and drinks, socializing among the leaders of the business community and national-caliber entertainment.

HCCC hosted two main attractions at the 2014 Signature Event in September: Paul Begala, a commentator for CNN, author and professor; and Tucker Carlson, a veteran journalist and political commentator. It was a lively and spirited political debate, engaging the 500 event attendees with the speakers’ humor and insight.

The event also presents an opportunity to recognize members of the business community with the annual Awards for Chamber Excellence. These awards are presented to congratulate outstanding leaders for their achievements and to share their stories as examples of innovation, commitment and community service.

“The Chamber represents the business community, but it’s the people that make up the community and make Howard County such a fantastic place to live, work and play,” said Miles Coffman, of M&T Bank, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors. “There’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes to create a successful business, and we are so lucky that these individuals are passionate about Howard County.”

The 2014 Recipients of Awards for Chamber Excellence (ACE) were as follows.

Business Person of the Year: Duane Carey, IMPACT Marketing and Public Relations

Duane Carey builds his business by focusing on one important rule: “If it is good for the client, it’s good for us.” Carey said that focus on the client drives every decision made by the eight-person team at IMPACT as they provide marketing strategy, social media, web site, branding, advertising and public relations services. “Our clients consider us their outsourced chief marketing officers,” he said.

A member since 1990, one of Carey’s passions is championing business owners. He served on the Chamber board of directors for eight years, including as chair in 2012–2013. He was a founding member of the Young Professionals Network (YPN) of Howard County and part of the team of Chamber leaders that launched the GovConnects program.

Carey is also deeply dedicated to Shari’s Promise, an organization that fights child sexual abuse, and is on the board of directors for the Howard Hospital Foundation.

Small Business of the Year: Nancy Adams Personnel

Nancy Adams Personnel of Columbia prides itself on the longevity of the employees it places, but it is hard to beat the tenure of the company’s president, Barb Van Winkle. Starting as an interviewer with the Baltimore-based Nancy Adams Personnel directly out of college in 1976, Van Winkle opened the company’s Columbia office as a manager in 1978 and became the owner of an independent placement agency retaining that name in 1982.

The company focuses on building long-term, positive relationships with clients, with permanent hires staying at a company more than five years on average.

Van Winkle has served on the board of the Family Life Center and has been on the board of the Howard Community College Educational Foundation since 1998, including as chair for two terms. She is also chair of the Grants Review Committee for the Community Foundation of Howard County. Nancy Adams Personnel has been a Chamber member since 1995.

Large Business of the Year: Harkins Builders

Harkins Builders provides the highest quality preconstruction and construction management services for commercial, mixed-use and multi-family buildings, as well as health care locations, student housing, senior living and military projects. Started in 1965 in Silver Spring, many of its early projects were for the Rouse Company, including Bryant Woods, the first multi-family housing in Columbia.

In 2000 the company moved into its new headquarters in Marriottsville. President and CEO Dick Lombardo stresses that the company is proud of its ability to “make preliminary estimates become reality and to maximize quality for the least cost.”

A 100% employee-owned company, Harkins has been a Chamber member since 1991 and participates in a wide variety of community services activities, such as Rebuilding Together Howard County and Habitat for Humanity.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Jeannette Kendall, Success In Style

For the past 12 years, Jeannette Kendall has led Success In Style with a commitment to its core mission of “providing suits, changing lives” by providing appropriate business wardrobes to low-income and disadvantaged men and women. Clients receive a one-on-one consultation from a trained fashion consultant and receive a small wardrobe of business suits and accessories.

Clothing not used to assist clients in need is sold to the general public to support the nonprofit organization’s mission. This allows the organization to be self-sufficient and reach a broader audience.

A member since 2005, the Chamber of Commerce networking events have enabled Success In Style to spread the word and make important connections with sponsors, volunteers and board members.

Government Contractor of the Year: Leidos

Headquartered in Reston, Va., with 23,000 employees worldwide and with local offices in Columbia, Leidos is an applied technology company that leverages the power of data analytics, systems integration and cybersecurity to address challenges in national security, health and engineering.

In 2013, Leidos committed to supporting the Chamber’s GovConnects division, which works to connect the local government contracting community to growth opportunities, educational resources, partnerships and government customers. Leidos has provided high-level speakers for the GovConnects programs, and the regional leadership continues to recognize the value of connecting with small and medium business in cyber, big data, health information technology and cloud computing through the GovConnects initiative.

In addition to the ACE awards presented at the Signature Event, individuals who have gone above and beyond in their volunteer service to the Chamber and to the broader business community are recognized with a series of awards given at the Annual Meeting in May. In 2014, the Chamber honored the following individuals.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year: Roxann Gardner, CCS Presentation Systems

While Roxann Gardner supports the Chamber’s efforts by welcoming and helping new members make connections at events, assisting existing members through outreach calls, and other Ambassador functions, she does it with an enthusiasm, welcoming attitude and savvy business sense that epitomize HCCC’s Ambassador group.

During the critical first year of the Chamber’s startup of its newest initiative — GovConnects — she took on the challenge of promoting the earliest events of GovConnects to her various professional contacts in the government contracting community to build attendance and community awareness.

Young Professional of the Year: Brad Myers, SunTrust Bank

Brad Myers has served on the YPN board since 2011 and is its incoming chair. He also served on the Executive Committee of YPN and acted as the Events Committee chair.

In addition, he is very active throughout Howard County community within other organizations. He commits his time and energy to recruiting new members and spreading the word about the benefits of being a member of the Young Professionals Network and the Chamber.

Chairman’s Award for Volunteer Service: George Santos, Colliers International

As a member of the GovConnects advisory board, George Santos has been responsible for recruiting new members of the Chamber and several new Advisory Council members for GovConnects. He works diligently and enthusiastically to promote the Chamber and GovConnects in the government contracting community and chairs a committee responsible for identifying and recruiting Advisory Council members and new members for GovConnects.