McQuiston: Deane C. Davis Award

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(HOST) Amidst all the bad economic news, commentator Timothy McQuiston observes that not only will things get better eventually, but there are some positive things going on right now.

(MCQUISTON) Back in the dark economic days of 1990, I called Chris Barbieri to talk about working together to develop a business-of-the-year award. Chris was president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. From there, we developed the Deane C. Davis Outstanding Business of the Year Award. The original concept of the award was the brainchild of John Boutin, Vermont Business Magazine’s advertising director then and publisher now.

Chris and I wanted to find a way to honor a business as a whole, instead of just a person. We also wanted to identify the essence of a great Vermont business. Chris noted that during the depths of a recession, when it can look as if we might never crawl out, there are still businesses working hard and being successful. Instead of looking at the negative constantly, which is easy to do in bad times, we were seeking to find the positive.

John suggested naming the award after Governor Davis because he embodied so much of what we wanted to evoke: he was a businessman and president of National Life; he founded the Vermont Chamber of Commerce; he was a political leader; he was an environmentalist, who led the fight for Act 250; and he was someone who persevered through a troubled economy in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

For the award criteria, applicants have to show that their business is thriving. This is a business award after all. But this is also Vermont, and a business here is measured not only by its bottom-line success, but also by its impact on the community. So other criteria include its commitment to environmental stewardship, community involvement, and employee relations. No single criterion is weighted more than another. If you don’t do it all well, you simply are not going to win.

Now we’re at another point in our economic history that requires perseverance. In December 1989 the unemployment rate was a paltry 2.6 percent. By April of 1991 it had jumped to 7.7 percent. More than five points in less than a year and a half. No wonder there was doom and gloom.

Today, the unemployment rate is a pretty scary 7.2 percent. But the oppressive nature of the recession a generation ago does not seem present now. For whatever reason, and despite the shocking exploits on Wall Street, neither the man on the street nor the woman in the board room seems nearly as depressed.

And to emphasize that there are still good things happening, we are once again, for the 20th time, preparing to honor a unique Vermont business. The Deane C. Davis Outstanding Vermont Business Award ceremony will take place at the start of the Vermont Business and Industry Expo, Wednesday morning, May 20th. The winner will be announced by Governor Douglas.

The three finalists this year are: BioTek Instruments of Winooski, National Life Group of Montpelier, and Seventh Generation of Burlington. Wish them luck. But, really, luck has nothing to do with it.

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