Awards for Excellence

Typically held in June, this event is a highlight of the CDCC year.  CDCC Members and guests join together to name the Small Business of the Year, the Large Employer of the Year, and the Young Professional of the Year, all selected by CDCC members.  In addition, volunteers are recognized, the CDCC Board Chair presents the “State of the Chamber Address,” and members celebrate the graduation of the Leadership Central Delaware class.

 

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Meet Your Nominees 

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For Small Business of the Year:

Business: Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Address: 2311 South DuPont Highway Dover DE 19901

Primary Contact: Chrissy Kyriss, ReStore Director

Telephone: 302-346-0220 X110

Email: www.centraldelawarehabitat.org

Describe the business:

The ReStore recycles overstocked, second, used, discontinued, and salvageable building materials donated by manufacturers, stores, contractors, and individuals.  These donated items are resold to the public and the proceeds go towards funding our affordable home projects.

Mission/Philosophy:

The Habitat ReStore mission is: To generate revenue through the sale of donated items to support Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity’s mission of eliminating poverty housing, to promote neighborhood revitalization through the sale of low-cost building materials and other items, and to facilitate the reuse of materials reducing landfill waste.

Primary good or service provided:

The ReStore sells donated items at 50%-70% off retail price. We sell building materials, home goods, furniture, and other home improvement items. The ReStore is Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity’s main fundraiser. The proceeds fund our future construction products. It allows us to continue to build affordable homeownership in Kent County.

Number of years in business:           13 years

How did your business start?

 Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity was established in 1990, CDHFH’s first ReStore opened on July 1, 2007. We have gradually grown and moved locations to fit our growth in sales and programs. We moved to S. Dupont Hwy about two years ago.

Number of employees: Full-time – 3            Part-time – 8

Describe the growth of your business:

In staffing increases: As the demand for low priced retail items increased, from 2016 to present we went from five ReStore employees to ten employees in 2020.

In 2019 Habitat for Humanity ReStore & Affiliate purchased and moved into their forever home.

In Sales:

2016 $333,733.48

2017 $377,567.96

2018 $404,747.58

2019 $418,873.35

2020 $429,874.43

Describe the challenges facing your business:

We had to close for six weeks in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have had to change multiple policies to coincide with restrictions. Such as limiting volunteerism and holding donations for sanitary purposes.

As our inventory is all donation based, we rely heavily on donated items from individuals and corporations in our community. Due to COVID, we have a decrease in donations. We also have a challenge receiving quality donations that appeal to our customer base.

Reaching more customers in Kent County and making sure our mission of building affordable homes is understood.

Describe solutions developed to address those challenges:

With working with the local government, we have been able to remain open due to implementing a cleaning and sanitize schedule,             quarantining new donations, mandatory masks for employees and customers. We have also instilled a new volunteer schedule that allows for more volunteer shifts and virtual volunteer opportunities to allow for volunteerism in areas of store that need extra hands.

We have developed a working Do and Do Not Accept donation list and a quality check for donations to allow us to make sure that we are able to sell the donated products. We have also started selling paint supplies, bedding, etc. which are items that are used frequently by consumers. We have also partnered with name brand suppliers, where they donate gently used items for us to sell.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing. We have created a Marketing Plan for us to follow to reach more customers in more remote areas and to reach our target audience. We have increased our online presence and developed an online store for customers who wish to shop from the comfort of their home.

Describe a creative, imaginative or innovative process you have developed that has helped your business grow:

We have developed several discount days to bring in more customers looking for a good deal on a great product. On Wednesdays we offer a senior and military discount, on Thursdays we have instilled, Thrifty Thursdays, with various deals of the day on select furniture and when customers spend a certain amount to spin the wheel for a discount. Introducing an online store in 2020 due to COVID-19 has allowed for increase in customer reach. We also treat our customers like family. If you support CDHFH in any means, you become a part of the CDHFH family. We will make sure to remember your name, say hi every time you are in the store, etc.

What are the goals for your business in the next three to five years?

To generate on average of $50,000.00 a month in sales, continue to create and sustain partnerships with local organizations for donated items and/or sponsorships. Continue to train and maintain our excellent customer service skills and have a net income to gross sales ratio of 50%. We hope to instill more programs to help those in need in Kent County.

What distinguishes your business from the others?

We strive to help those in need everyday. It is not only our mission, but it is instilled in every staff member, that what they do every day is making a difference in our community. You can drive to downtown Dover and see the progress that Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity is accomplishing. We are continuing to transform lives and creating a generational impact for many years to come.

What contributions have you made in the community?

Serving on boards/committees: We have a board that helps us strive for affordable housing in the Kent County community. We also have a representative that sits on the Restoring Central Dover committee.

Serving as a volunteer: We partner with Dover PD, NCALL and The Green Beret Project to help individuals and families in Kent County by handing out food during the holidays and doing clean ups in downtown Dover.

Providing in-kind services: We have a Families in Need program that also those in need of furniture items to volunteer in exchange for a furniture item of their choice.

 

For Small Business of the Year:

 Business: DE Turf Sports Complex

Address: 4000 Bay Rd, Frederica, DE 19946

Primary Contact: Angie Eliason, Executive Director

Telephone: 760-835-7693

Website: www.deturf.com

Describe the business:          

Mission/Philosophy:

The mission of the Kent County Regional Sports Complex Corporation (also known as the DE Turf) is to serve as an economic engine for central Delaware by providing a first-class sports destination venue that attracts sports tourism to the area.  A premier facility for premier athletes.

Primary good or service provided:             An outdoor sports facility.

Number of years in business:          Four

How did your business start?

In 2009, the Greater Kent Committee (GKC) began conceptual discussions on what would become the vision to create the DE Turf Complex. Two related problems were identified: For several years, hotel occupancy in Kent County averaged 47 percent versus an industry standard of 60 to 65 percent. During that time, the Kent County Tourism Office was not able to respond to numerous requests for proposals to host high school and college tournaments because of the lack of an appropriate facility. The combination of these two issues resulted in a loss of potential economic activity within the county. The small businesses and tourism industry that made up a significant part of the local economy were negatively impacted by a disproportionately low amount of the visitor and spectator revenue normally associated with vibrant local and regional sports programs. As the conversation progressed, the challenge became clear: How do we create an economic engine that would act as a catalyst for small businesses to create jobs across many industries, including the hotel, lodging, restaurant, service, and retail industries, while also increasing the capacity to compete for local and regional sport tournaments? The idea that emerged called for the creation of a sports complex that would stimulate small business start-up opportunities and increased jobs in the tourism industry by drawing multi-day events and tournaments. To that end, DE Turf received its status as a tax exempt 501(c) (3) organization from the IRS on September 19, 2012. In 2013, DE Turf entered into a lease agreement with Kent County for 84 acres of land and the Delaware Infrastructure Fund Committee awarded DE Turf the funds for utilities, water, sewer and roads. In 2016, ground was broken and in 2017, DE Turf began operations that resulted in more 40,000 visitors and 3,700 hotel rooms booked over tournament weekends as 1280 players took to the fields.

Number of employees: Full-time – 7            Part-time – 30

Describe the growth of your business:

In staffing increases: Started out with three employees and has grown to seven full time and approximately 30 part-time, per season

In Sales: We have seen significant growth, even through Covid around 111% year over year

Describe the challenges facing your business:

Currently we are in need of getting the remaining fields at the DE Turf lighted, so we can bring even larger tournaments and events to central Delaware.

Describe solutions developed to address those challenges:We are in the creative stages of addressing the financial challenge of getting the project done.  Possibilities of grants, a capitol campaign and a few other ideas are currently being flushed out.

Describe a creative, imaginative or innovative process you have developed that has helped your business grow:

We have added birthday parties for kids at the facility, added fall boys and girls lacrosse leagues, starting in the summer of 2021 we will have a 7 v 7 football league and continue to source major lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, ultimate frisbee and flag football tournaments.  I am also in conversations to bring the US National/Olympic lacrosse teams to play an exhibition at the Turf in June of 2021!

What are the goals for your business in the next three to five years?

  • Have all 12 fields at the complex lighted
  • Pay off all Covid-19 related loans
  • Build an additional storage building to house equipment needed to maintain the integrity of the fields, which attracts the premier athlete and tournaments
  • Fund a maintenance/repair/waterfall account of $1 million+

What distinguishes your business from the others?

The DE Turf is different from all other businesses, as we were born out of the idea to bring tourism and economic impact to the region.  It is our main goal to have as many out-of-state athletes, families, spectators, coaches and referees at our facility every weekend.  We strive to offer the highest level of customer service and facilities to our local athletes at the same time as keeping the hotels, bars, restaurants and shops full of out-of-state guests.  We also have a major impact on helping keep businesses in central Delaware, afloat.

We also hosted 21 lacrosse and field hockey tournaments in 2020, hosting over 150,000 athletes, coaches, referees and spectators at the DE Turf without one incident or Covid-19 infection.  We are very proud of this effort to help keep central Delaware’s economy moving at such a difficult time.

What contributions have you made in the community?

Serving on boards/committees: Board of Directors for Kent County Tourism

Providing in-kind services: We offer free league registrations and other services whenever asked for benefits, fundraisers, raffles and prizes to the central Delaware community.

 

For Small Business of the Year:

Business: The House of Coffi

Address: 14 E. Loockerman St., Dover, DE 19901

Primary Contact: Kristin Stonesifer

Telephone: 302-270-1230

Website: www.thehouseofcoffi.com

Describe the business: Quaint, yet edgy coffee shop nestled in the historic district of Dover, DE.

Mission/Philosophy: To serve quality drinks and build a community of love, peace, and harmony for all.

Primary good or service provided:             coffees and teas

Number of years in business:          3 years

How did your business start? The House of Coffi started as a small girl’s dream to have “Kristin’s Cakes and Coffee.” I tucked that away for a career in corporate America. In 2018, I decided to make the move – and what better place than my hometown!

Number of employees: Part-time – 18

Describe the growth of your business:

In Sales and Staffing: We saw 25% gross sales growth year of year from 2018 to 2019. This gave me the indication we were heading in the right direction. With the increase in gross sales, our staff tripled from 5 to 15. Growth continued in 2019 and through mid-March of 2020.

Describe the challenges facing your business:

After the onset of COVID-19, business was down 85%.  People were ordered to stay at home and many businesses in our area closed.  For a walk-in coffee shop in the center of town, that was an enormous challenge.  It was clear that we needed to be creative and change the way served people.

Describe solutions developed to address those challenges:

We held on and switched gears. We created contact-free COVID-safe delivery. We also initiated a holiday gift basket delivery option, which pushed merchandise sales out to our loyal customer base. Donations began to arrive for front-line workers – at that point, I knew the community had our back. We continued to persevere!

Challenging times continue and I continue to diversify our business model in the way of menu items, services, and locations.

Describe a creative, imaginative, or innovative process you have developed that has helped your business grow:

We have been intentional about partnering with other businesses in the community. We have found ways to offer more to our guests by including menu items from other businesses on our menu.  These partnerships have been beneficial for the partnering businesses as well, giving them exposure.  We firmly believe that we can do more together than we can accomplish on our own. 

In addition, we support the arts in all forms – musicians, painters, ceramics, photography, sewing, jewelry makers. We have held multiple art exhibitions. We invite local artists to display their work in our shop and on our walls.  We take no monetary payment or any commission for selling goods or hosting events for these creative entrepreneurs.  That has drawn people into our shop and given budding artists in our area an opportunity to “try their wings” in a safe space.

What are the goals for your business in the next three to five years?

The main goal for The House of Coffi is to grow our community and perfect our craft via practice, hard work, and quality products.

What distinguishes your business from the others?

The House of Coffi is in the center of everything in downtown Dover.  We are the hub, the spot where the shopping district, the historic district, the banking district, and government buildings all converge – we are literally the place where Dover comes together. We draw a highly diverse clientele – students, business people, artists, politicians, and more – and we enjoy being a place where people come to meet, to share amazing coffee and tea, relax, and share conversations. 

What contributions have you made in the community?

We purchase sustainable coffee. That makes a difference not only here in Dover, but to the farmers around the world who grow the beans and their families. That enables us to make a global impact, to do something that is bigger than ourselves for the good of the planet.

We make donations to local charities, sports, clubs, first responders, and mental health workers.

For the past 22 years, I have served on my family “board of directors” as the mother of four beautiful children! I anticipate that term continuing for a lifetime.

 

For Large Employer of the Year: 

Business: Bayhealth Medical Center

Address: 640 S. State Street, Dover, DE 19901
Primary Contact: Kevin Snyder, Vice President of Marketing & Communications

Telephone: 302-744-7213

Website: www.bayhealth.org

Describe the business:

Mission/Philosophy: To strengthen the health of our community, one life at a time.

Primary good or service provided: Healthcare, including inpatient, outpatient and emergency services, as well as employed physician practices encompassing a variety of specialties.

Number of years in business: Bayhealth has been in operation for 24 years, but its hospitals, Kent General (presently known as Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus) and Milford Memorial (now the new Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus) have been serving the communities of central and southern Delaware for more than 100 years combined.

How did your business start?

Bayhealth was established in 1997 with the merger between Milford Memorial Hospital in Milford and Kent General Hospital in Dover.

Number of employees: Full-time: 3,457       Part-time: 712             Medical Staff: More than 400 physicians

Describe the growth of your business:

In staffing increases: Our staffing numbers are constantly growing as a result of our long-term master strategic plan that was developed 10 years ago. Some recent examples of how we’ve grown and will continue to grow to meet the needs of our community, include:

  • In 2019, the construction was completed, and the state-of-the-art Sussex Campus, designed to deliver a new level of healthcare to Sussex County, opened in Milford. In late 2020, the Nemours Building opened on the Sussex Campus, providing several specialty services. We have also begun expanding the fifth floor of Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus with 23 more patient beds and the third floor to include five more women’s services beds and a surgical suite. This expansion will help meet the growing community needs for years to come.
  • On March 19, 2021, we welcomed 21 new physicians to the first year of our Graduate Medical Education (GME) program. These new physicians will officially join Bayhealth as part of the Family Medicine Residency Program and Internal Medicine Residency Program on July 1, 2021. The GME program will continue to expand and serve our growing communities as it adds more specialty residencies and brings more than 100 physicians to central and southern Delaware in the coming years.  
  • New family medicine, primary care and specialty care practices are also underway throughout Sussex County with the planned addition of a new GME practice in Milford and a new emergency and walk-in facility with primary and specialty services off Route 9. There are additional plans to build new facilities or expand existing ones, including our current Harrington location. Other offices have moved locations to expand services, including the recent move of Occupational Health and Walk-in Care in Milford – now conveniently located on Rt. 113.

In Sales: We are a not-for-profit healthcare system. In Fiscal Year 2019, Bayhealth recorded 105,181 emergency department visits, 19,844 patients admitted to beds, 2,193 births, and provided $64.8 million in unreimbursed care to patients.

Describe the challenges facing your business: Our greatest recent challenge has been and continues to be the COVID-19 pandemic. Its effects and related challenges are the same as those faced by other healthcare organizations. More specifically, it has:

  • Placed an increased demand for and usage of PPE, particularly in the beginning when there was a time of shortage.
  • Created a need to limit visitation based on CDC guidelines in order to maintain a greater level of safety for our patients, visitors and caregivers.
  • Impacted our approach and ability to provide patients with services related to elective surgeries and preventative medicine.

Other challenges we’ve faced over the past year include educating our community about the importance of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and navigating issues related to vaccine availability.

We’re also paying close attention to our team members and caregivers. We know the pandemic has been hard on them – many have seen COVID-19 at its worst, others haven’t hugged their loved ones in over a year, and some were asked to temporarily take on new roles as we adjusted our service offerings. We’re focused on giving our team the tools, education and resources they need to remain resilient.

Describe solutions developed to address those challenges: Here are some examples of how we overcame the challenges related to the Coronavirus pandemic while also being there for our community in every possible way:

  • At the very beginning of the pandemic, we quickly set up COVID-19 testing sites and created a Coronavirus Management Team (CMT) and related hotline, which offered referral-based drive-thru screenings. We set it up this way to help save community members from the inconvenience of attending a drive-thru and being turned away if they weren’t eligible to be screened.
  • We put immediate safety measures in place for our patients, staff, and community to help prevent the spread of the virus and we scaled our care units to meet surges as necessary.
  • We helped educate our community through our CMT hotline, special eNewsletters, Facebook Live events, and more by sharing information from our physicians and other clinical staff as well as from key leaders of our organization.
  • We collaborated with many people throughout our local community, including donors and other businesses, to make sure we had the PPE and other critical supplies we needed to keep our patients and caregivers safe.
  • We implemented innovative ways to facilitate communication between patients and their families, care partners and caregivers. Through assistive devices with video capability, such as tablets, the patient was (and is) able to connect with their loved ones beyond a simple phone call. This has been very rewarding and provides much needed comfort to all during required visitation restrictions put in place to keep our facilities safe.
  • With the virus disrupting normal operations for many medical facilities, telehealth services became popular. When the threat of COVID-19 prompted doctor’s offices to postpone routine office visits, it became clear Bayhealth’s telehealth platform that was scheduled to launch later in 2020 needed to be set up more quickly to give physicians another option to safely treat patients, and Bayhealth team members across several departments worked together to make that happen.
  • We were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the state and were the first to administer it.
  • We helped staff and support weekend vaccine clinics and created an online “reservation” landing page where Delawareans can sign-up for our clinic and to register with the state for other opportunities.
  • We created vaccine tool kits to share with local businesses to help educate their employees and get those who have been working from home vaccinated so they can resume working on-site.

Describe a creative, imaginative or innovative process you have developed that has helped your business grow:

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we implemented selection criteria to identify patients who would be eligible for same-day orthopaedic surgery/procedures, meaning they wouldn’t have to stay in the hospital overnight. Once the COVID situation started to improve we were able to resume this process, which involves surgeons and their staff letting eligible patients know they would be having a same-day procedure either while speaking with their surgeon about their procedure or at the time they were scheduled for surgery. During a time when safety was a top concern, patients were not only happy to hear they wouldn’t have to stay overnight but none of these patients had to be hospitalized for complications after they had their surgery. To help alleviate any fear and to educate patients about their surgery, we also created a video that is sent to them via email or via text as a link and we also mail other educational materials to them. Increasing the number of same-day orthopaedic surgeries also helped solve any issues related to bed shortages due to the pandemic. 

What are the goals for your business in the next three to five years?

  1. Improve access to care and introduce services to inform and promote convenience to patients.
  2. Improve quality and service while reducing cost of care through enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Affiliate with trusted partners to elevate services to the community.
  4. Advance a culture of high engagement and high performance.

What distinguishes your business from the others?

As a long-time member of our community, protecting the health of our friends, neighbors, families, and all who live and work here is important to us because we live here, too. Here are examples of the unique ways we serve our community:

  • Our GME Program: We’re bringing this unprecedented program to help train and attract physicians from across the country, with the ultimate goal of bringing more physicians to central and southern Delaware to serve our growing communities.
  • Top Hospital Recognitions: We recently received the very prestigious honor of being named a Top Hospital in the United States and are the only one in the state to receive this designation. We were also the only hospital in Delaware to be named a Top Maternity Hospital.

What contributions have you made in the community?

Serving on boards/committees: Bayhealth employees from all levels—executives, managers, clinical staff, etc.—serve on a wide variety of committees and several boards throughout the state and nationally, including ones that are not only focused on healthcare but other areas of community development. A few examples are Delaware Healthcare Association, Ebright, Directors of Nursing, University of Delaware, American Legion Ambulance Station 64, The Hope Clinic, American Heart Association, Easter Seals Finance Committee, DelTech Community College, and the Kent County Tourism Board. Our employees have very diverse backgrounds and are knowledgeable in so many areas that they are compelled to contribute to our community outside of what they are employed to do at Bayhealth.

Serving as a volunteer: Our Bayhealth family is involved in many volunteer events and organizations. With over 3,500 employees that give their free time, we interact with the community through Health Fairs, the American Heart Walk, Pedal Away Prostate Cancer, American Lung Society, Go Pink, and Go Red, just to give a few examples. Our staff also participate in many church and youth programs during their own time. Our organization is very involved in our community because we are the community.

Providing in-kind services: Bayhealth not only supports the community with our employees’ time and knowledge, we also provide financial support and donate medical supplies and materials to those in Delaware as well as other countries. Each year, Bayhealth provides an average of $38,000,000 in free services, free surgeries, supplies, and subsidized programs. Most of our focus is in the State of Delaware with free medication and free blood pressure, diabetic, prostate, and breast cancer screenings on a monthly basis, but we also supply medical staff and materials to relief missions in the Philippines and Nicaragua.

For Large Employer of the Year: 

Business: Century Engineering, Inc.

Address: 550 Bay Road, Dover, DE 19901

Primary Contact: Scott Rathfon, P.E., Executive Vice President

Telephone: 302-734-9188

Website: www.centuryeng.com

Describe the business:

Mission/Philosophy: To provide professional services by uniting quality, innovation, and creativity with dedication, responsiveness, and commitment.

In pursuing this we:

  • Collaborate with clients to implement sustainable solutions.
  • Cultivate distinctive, professional staff and services of outstanding value.
  • Contribute, through service and donations, to our community.

Primary good or service provided: Century is a multi-discipline professional service firm providing a full slate of engineering related services to the Mid-Atlantic region. Services include:

Transportation

Civil

Environmental

Water & Wastewater

Survey

Structural

Geotechnical

Mechanical

Electrical

Utility Locating & Coordination

Right-of-Way Services

Construction Management & Inspection

Number of years in business: The first Delaware office was established in Dover in 1987 (34 years).

How did your business start?

The Delaware office was first established to provide planning and design management services to DelDOT for the SR1, US 13 Relief Route project. It all started with a staff of six (6) in a townhouse in downtown Dover.

Number of employees: Full-time – 151        Part-time – 5

Describe the growth of your business:

In staffing increases: Century’s Delaware operation started with six (6) employees in 1987 and has grown to a current high of 156 employees. We started in a 1000 s.f. townhouse in downtown Dover in 1987, then moved to a newly constructed 10,000 s.f. office just north of Dover in 1989. In 2000, we added an office in Newark, Delaware and then in 2019 we closed the north Dover office and moved in to a newly constructed 25,000 s.f. office in Dover.

In Sales: The Delaware operation started with a couple million dollars in backlog and has steadily grown over the years to now over $22M in sales for the Delaware operation.

Describe the challenges facing your business:

The typical challenges (not counting Covid) are recruiting engineering talent and fluctuations in the economy. Recruiting new talent is an industry issue due to the lack of engineering students as compared to the needs and a local issue in attracting talent to the Dover market. The fluctuations in the economy affect us when there is not a sustained funding source for new projects.

Describe solutions developed to address those challenges:

Some of the solutions to the recruiting challenge included opening the office in Newark to attract students from engineering universities in that area. Also, for the Dover market, we invest time in the local schools to promote engineering and try to attract students that intend to stay in central Delaware. We also work with local agencies in efforts to improve the quality of life in central Delaware and sell the good things that are happening in the area.

Describe a creative, imaginative or innovative process you have developed that has helped your business grow:

For this response, I will go back to our Mission Statement and expand on the “dedication, responsiveness and commitment”. Century is dedicated to the local community and we listen to the needs of the community and develop new and emerging markets based on those needs. We value responsiveness and putting the needs of our clients first by striving to provide a timely, quality product. And we are committed to the local area by hiring people from the area and being involved in the local community and organizations.

What are the goals for your business in the next three to five years?

Our goal is to continue to grow in the area and be involved in improving the local community. We will continue to be involved in working with local school mentoring programs, improving the environment of the local area and improving the quality of life for those that live and work in central Delaware.

What distinguishes your business from the others?

One thing we take great pride in is our effort and success to keep some of the best and brightest talent from Delaware in Delaware. We focus on local talent in the area that has the same dedication and commitment to improving the local economy and environment. Another thing that distinguishes our business is the dedication of our employees as can be supported by the low turnover rate of our staff.

What contributions have you made in the community?

Serving on boards/committees: DAFB Honorary Commander Program; Greater Kent Committee; Delaware Tech Advisory Boards; DE Turf Board; Local Sport Organization Boards; Professional Organization Boards

Serving as a volunteer: Local School Mentoring Programs; Go Red/STEM event participation; School Robotics Club; Delaware Bay Clean-up

For Large Employer of the Year: 

Business: POLYTECH School District

Address: 823 Walnut Shade Road, P.O. Box 22, Woodside, DE 19980

Primary Contact: Amelia E. Hodges, Ed.D., Superintendent

Telephone: 302-697-2170

Website: www.polytechschooldistrict.com

Describe the business:

Mission/Philosophy: The POLYTECH School District Strategic Plan guides our high school, adult education, and district office work.  This plan was developed by a diverse group of POLYTECH staff members, students, family members, and business and industry partners. The key components of our strategic plan are listed below.

Vision:  To inspire a diverse community of learners to achieve individual, educational, and career excellence

Mission: To provide a supportive environment that inspires a community of life-long learners through innovative opportunities, dynamic partnerships, and engaging practical experiences

Foundational Priority: A safe and supportive culture for all students, staff and stakeholders

Career & Technical Education (CTE) Priority: Innovative Career & Technical Education supported by dynamic industry partnerships

Academic Priority: Differentiated learning experiences that advance academic achievement and life-long learning

Primary goods or service provided: POLYTECH School District provides educational programs and training for students in grades 9-12 (POLYTECH High School) and for adults (POLYTECH Adult Education) throughout Kent County, Delaware.

POLYTECH High School is a comprehensive technical high school with approximately 1,200 students offering specialty training in twenty different technical programs of study and the full complement of academic coursework to meet Delaware’s graduation requirements.

POLYTECH Adult Education offers skilled trades, transportation & logistics, healthcare and customized training for local employers; ABE/GED® prep, adult basic literacy and workforce training for English Language Learners, James H. Groves Adult High School programming, and a variety of professional and continuing education classes. Training at Polytech Adult Education is focused on high-demand occupational areas identified through input from industry partners, the Department of Labor, Delaware Workforce Development Board (DWDB), and Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information (OOLMI).

Number of years in business: Kent County Vo-Tech was established 56 years ago in September 1965.  It was consolidated in 1971 and became a full time comprehensive high school and adult education provider in 1991, when the name was changed to POLYTECH School District. 

How did your business start?

The school district was established through state legislative action.

Number of employees: Full-time – 179        Part-time233

Describe the growth of your business:

The high school grew over the years as the demand for vocational/high school needs increased.  The school had approximately 800 students in the early 1990’s and gradually grew by constructing additional classrooms to accommodate additional students, and the related need to increase staff.  Over the past decade, the high school has served approximately 1,200 students per year and maintained a consistent staffing ratio under the state’s unit count system.

Adult education programs vary from year-to-year based on local business and workforce demands, federal and state program authorization, and program implementation through collaborative efforts with the Department of Labor and other state agencies.

Describe the challenges facing your business:

COVID-19 has presented some operational challenges over the past year related to instructional delivery and school community activities for both high school and adult education students.

From a longer-term perspective, the greatest challenge our district faces is staying ahead of constantly evolving local industry and workforce needs.

Describe solutions developed to address those challenges:

During the pandemic, our district focused on ensuring a safe environment by adhering to all of the Centers for Disease Control and Delaware Division of Public Health guidelines for schools and the Governor’s emergency declaration requirements.  We acted quickly to obtain PPE, sanitation supplies and remote learning hardware and materials; to adapt our HVAC systems; and to reconfigure our classrooms to ensure at least 6 feet of distancing at all times.  We communicated regularly with our high school and adult education staff members, students and their families to ensure everyone was aware of protocols and provided additional training to our staff so that they could operate in a hybrid in-person and remote learning environment. 

Our high school had already implemented a 1:1 student technology initiative, which made the transition to remote learning less of a lift.  Both our high school and adult education divisions have provided remote and hybrid instruction throughout the 2020-2021 school year, with the majority of adult education programming occurring in-person.

Our district is committed to being responsive to local business, industry, and workforce needs.  To do this we constantly focus on maintaining and strengthening existing employer partnerships and cultivating partnerships.  These partnerships are key to our ability to respond to local business and industry trends and needs and to adjust our programs to meet both current and anticipated needs.

Describe a creative, imaginative or innovative process you have developed that has helped your business grow:

This year the district stood up two new district-wide committees to address needs specifically related to social justice and hybrid learning during the pandemic. 

The Equity and Diversity Committee’s purpose is to identify instances of institutional bias at POLYTECH and recommend actions for positive change related to curriculum and instruction, building relationships, disciplinary practices, and staff and student procedures. 

The Reopening Committee was developed to plan for student, staff member and community safety and wellbeing; high quality instructional delivery; and operational changes/procedures required to provide a safe and effective hybrid instructional environment for all stakeholders.

In addition, over the past two years the Adult Education Division has developed several new programs to meet employer and workforce needs including:

  • English Learners in New Careers (ELiNC) Program, which prepares adult English language learners for employment in growing job fields while also strengthening their proficiency in the English language.
  • Heavy Equipment Maintenance Technician Program, which provides agricultural heavy equipment technicians with a thorough understanding of electrical and fluid power systems and skills for maintaining those systems.
  • Civil Construction Laborer Apprenticeship Program, which is designed to prepare participants to enter into a career in the Civil Construction and Heavy Highway industries.
  • Warehouse and Materials Handling Program, which prepares participants to work in a modern warehouse environment.
  • Customized Training Programs which are developed and offered on-site and in partnership with industry partners.

What are the goals for your business in the next three to five years?

One of our goals is to strengthen the collaboration between our Adult Education and High School Divisions in order to provide targeted, life-long, and cost-effective employment preparation and advancement opportunities. 

We are developing and implementing new articulation agreements, which will allow POLYTECH High School and Adult Education graduates to enter into adult education and local college and university programs with advanced standing (credits awarded for successful completion of high school and adult education programs), which reduces the time and cost of career-advancement education.

The High School and Adult Education Divisions are also collaborating to align programming and career advancement opportunities by participating in Delaware’s new Youth Apprenticeship Grant Program. This is a statewide effort, led by the DDOE and DDOL to expand pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities in both existing and new areas of business and industry.

What distinguishes your business from the others?

While our sister public school districts provide services for students in grades Pre-K through 12, as a career and technical school district our efforts are focused on preparing youth in grades 9-12 and adults for the workforce, while also providing a full complement of academic courses and programs.  100% of our high school students participate in a career and technical program of study while also taking all courses required to meet Delaware’s high school graduation requirements.

In addition, we provide a wide range of educational programs for adults including Adult Basic Education (ABE), James H. Groves Adult High School Diploma, specialized industrial and business training, apprenticeship training, workforce development and certificate training, and professional/continuing education courses.

What contributions have you made in the community?

Serving on boards/committees: As the district superintendent, I serve as a member of the Greater Kent Committee and Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative (Kent County); DIAA Executive Board; DASA Chief School Officers Association; DASA Curriculum and Instructional Leads and Secretary of Education’s Liaison Group; BRINC Executive Leadership Committee; and Delaware State Police Kent County Civilian Advisory Board.

Serving as a volunteer:  POLYTECH School District students and staff members participate in a wide range of volunteer activities including, but not limited to Special Olympics events (host and coordinate), Delaware Food Bank events, Blood Drives (host and coordinate), National Honor Society and Project Unity volunteerism projects, MS Bike to the Bay, March of Dimes, March for Babies (host and coordinate), and Weekly staff fundraisers to contribute to charities.

For Young Professional of the Year: 

Name: Ryne Johnson

Title: Account Manager

Business: Advantech

Address: 151 Garrison Oak Drive, Dover DE 19901

Telephone: (302) 674-8405

Website: www.advantechsecurity.net  

Number of Years at your current company/organization: 4 Years

Describe your current role with the company/organization:

As an account manager, I am responsible for visiting with clients to design, prepare and plan implementing security solutions that enhance the life safety of all stakeholders. This includes meeting with clients and prospective clients, evaluating security concerns, designing a system with engineers, and preparing an agreement to review with the client. At Advantech, we pride ourselves in being a value add to our clients and valuing the client relationship/experience more than a quota.

What are your professional goals in the next three to five years?

  • Be in the top of the field as far as industry expertise and systems knowledge
  • Make a positive impact on the safety and well-being of the community

What distinguishes you from other young professionals? (Give an example of your positive leadership or achievements.)

At the early stages of my professional career, I have found separation from other young professionals in some ways. I am very willing to assist on the installation side with the technical team; to meet project deadlines. This not only allows me to build a rapport with the field technicians but develops my systems knowledge. It is important to do the labor-intensive work because you can appreciate the technician’s attention to detail, on the job, and see the business from a different lens. This past summer, we were awarded a job at the DuPont building in Wilmington. The project had a very quick turnaround time – I spent a couple days on-site pulling cable and installing card readers in 100-degree weather with our two technicians so the building could be turned over to the customer.

At 27, I realize that levels of success are relative, while I am comfortable with current results of my efforts, I’m not complacent, nor am I consumed by it. I am willing to seek and absorb advice from people who have succeeded by overcoming adversity. The cheapest lessons to learn are from the mistakes of others.

What contributions have you made in the community?

Currently – I serve as the assistant boy’s lacrosse coach at Caesar Rodney High School in the springtime. This allows me to give back to the community through a game that taught me so much. It is much less about the game and more about using team sport to explain adversity and teach life lessons that can be applied to future endeavors. I was fortunate enough to have role models in my life and I pride myself on being that to the current players.

Additional personal information you would like to share: (Educational background, accomplishments, awards received, etc.)

I was born and raised in Kent County – I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play lacrosse at a Division 1 school in Maryland (Mount St. Mary’s University). While playing I received first team all-league honors and the HEADSTRONG Foundation’s Nick Colleluori achievement award for my team. Most importantly, I was a two-time captain and was able to get my MBA while away at school. Leadership has always been something that I have valued and that is exactly what brought me to Advantech.

For Young Professional of the Year: 

Name: Jesse Sapp

Title:   Marketing Analyst

Business:        Chesapeake Utilities

Address:         500 Energy Lane, Dover, DE 19901

Telephone:     800-427-0015

Website:         www.chpkgas.com

Email:             jsapp@chpk.com

Number of Years at your current company/organization: 3+ Years

Describe your current role with the company/organization:

  • Support large infrastructure and capital projects through market research and collateral creation.
  • Prepare and distribute monthly internal newsletter.
  • Collaborative with Sales to create effective and informative collateral.
  • Create and edit databases with customer information to assist with mailing efforts.
  • Manage and monitor the company’s internal website and social media accounts.
  • Lead and implement social media initiatives within the company.
  • Manage digital media storage and optimization for the company.
  • Support community outreach events and interact with the public at vendor booths.
  • Create, distribute, and manage customer surveys.
  • Gather information and provide reports on various fields within the natural gas industry.

What are your professional goals in the next three to five years? 

  • Become a Marketing Manager at Chesapeake Utilities
  • Increase my professional network by joining a future class of Leadership Central Delaware
  • Continue to champion for positive change and growth in the workplace.
  • Increase my industry knowledge by completing the Southern Gas Association’s Certificate Program and the Energy Solutions Center’s Training Programs
  • Join additional Employee Resource Groups within Chesapeake Utilities
  • Increase my professional capacity by joining a local Toastmasters chapter to grow my public speaking and communication skills.

What distinguishes you from other young professionals? (Give an example of your positive leadership or achievements.)    

  • Led the initiative for Chesapeake Utilities to create a social media presence.
  • Competed nationally through the Business Professionals of America for both Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
  • Am a Certified Tourism Ambassador through Delaware’s Quaint Villages
  • Interned at Chesapeake Utilities for 4 years while attending college at the University of Delaware.
  • Started an entrepreneurial venture in college to sell custom bottle openers.

What contributions have you made in the community? 

Serving on boards/committees:  Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce Marketing Committee; Southern Gas Association’s Growth and Retention Committee; Energy Solutions Center’s Commercial Buildings Consortium; Chesapeake Utilities’ (SPARC) Mentoring Employee Resource Group

Serving as a volunteer:  Volunteer regularly with the Food Bank of Delaware in Milford as well as support during many meal distribution events; Volunteered in building garden boxes and the playground at the Boys and Girls Club in Dover; Volunteered numerous years as a photographer and helper for the Fort Mead Spouses’ Club Children’s Hospital Holiday Party

Additional personal information you would like to share: (Educational background, accomplishments, awards received, etc.)

  • Graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship & Technology Innovation as well as an associate degree in Arts & Science.
  • Recently achieved a long-time personal goal of entering the 500 kg club in weightlifting, which involves lifting a cumulative total of more than 1,102 lbs for a single squat, bench press, and deadlift.

For Young Professional of the Year: 

Name: Cassie Porter

Title:   Supervisor

Business:        Faw Casson & Co., LLP

Address:         160 Greentree Dr, Ste 203, Dover, DE 19904

Telephone:     302-674-4305

Website:         www.fawcasson.com

Email:             clp@fawcasson.com

Number of Years at your current company/organization: 5 (almost 6!)

Describe your current role with the company/organization:

I am a Supervisor with the Entrepreneurial Services team at Faw Casson.  Our team is dedicated to smaller businesses that are focused on growth and helping them get back to what they got into business to do! I love spending time helping clients get back on track and really understand where their money is going.  I help them with things like record organization, understanding their business numbers, and consulting on business decisions.    

What are your professional goals in the next three to five years?

In the next three to five years my professional goals are to continue growing my network of referral sources and to continue learning and helping educate the community when it comes to taxes.

What distinguishes you from other young professionals? (Give an example of your positive leadership or achievements.)

I am a graduate of the CDCC Leadership Central Delaware (Class of 2015, best class ever!).  Completing the LCD program truly opened my eyes to what we have in Kent County.  I’ve been able to apply what I learned in LCD to help myself grow as a leader within Faw Casson.  I love working with my clients and helping them gain a better understanding of their businesses all while helping them be able focus on what they love to do.

What contributions have you made in the community? 

Serving on boards/committees:  I served as the Treasurer of Kent County Tourism for several years.

Serving as a volunteer:  I am a Certified Tourism Ambassador for Kent County Tourism.  In the past I have volunteered with the Food Bank of Delaware on various occasions.  As part of the team at Faw Casson, I constantly get the opportunity to give back to the community we serve through various events that I enjoy being a part of.  In the past we’ve volunteered with Dover Days, Red Day with Keller Williams, worked to improve State Parks, providing meals for the local men’s shelters and various collections within the office just to name a few!

Additional personal information you would like to share: (Educational background, accomplishments, awards received, etc.)

I graduated from Goldey-Beacom College with my MBA and have recently been promoted to Supervisor.  As far other accolades, I am a past Chapter Advisor for Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity and I’m a dog mom to the cutest beagle ever! 

To Vote through Survey Monkey, Click Here! 

The winners will be announced at the Awards for Excellence Dinner on June 24, 2021 at Pizzadili Winery.

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