Chamber passes out annual awards Tuesday
The Berne Chamber of Commerce distributed its annual awards at a banquet held at Swiss Village on Tuesday evening.
Among those receiving special recognition were Key-Fasteners as Business of the Year, Matt Lehman as Citizen of the Year, and James and Melissa Beitler, recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other recognition was given to Members of the Month, anniversaries and Premier Members.
Longevity in anniversaries included Affolder Implement, with 85 years of service, Adams Health Network and Palmer House with 90 years each and Sprunger Shoes topping out the list with 105 years of service to the Berne community.
In making the Business of the Year presentation to John Johnston of KeyFasteners, Mark Settlemyre referred to the company, which was built in 1989, as the quiet company in the industrial park.
“They are there every day, very dependable, not flashy, but a great asset to our community,” said Settlemyre.
Settlemyre noted that the company, which invested $7 million as a shareholder investment then, is worth $44 in shareholder investment today. When the company was founded, there were 10-15 employees, said Settlemyre. Today there are 100 employees.
“They are consistent in growth; they are fortunate to be able to say that since John has been CEO here, they have not had one layoff,” said Settlemyre. “They are a very stellar place to work. They have had a big impact on wages to our community.”
Settlemyre observed that minus the school and some small businesses, the annual income paid by employees in the local community is $40 million. The annual payout to employees of Key Fasteners is $4.2 million.
Johnston expressed his deep appreciation to the Chamber for their recognition of his company.
“Key Fasteners Corporation is a manufacturer of specialty fasteners for the automotive industry,” commented Johnston. “We manufacture parts such as bolts, nuts, brake cylinder pins and rivots.
“The wheel nuts of every single Honda of North America are manufactured in our plant in Berne,” said Johnston.
Johnston identified four factors involved in the company’s success, including the employees who work for them; supportive, long term shareholders; success in doing business with the companies they are involved with; and all of the support received from Adams County, and the city of Berne in particular.
“We produce over 1.5 million pieces a day. We produce over 30 million pieces in a month,” Johnston said.
In introducing Lehman, Jeanne Akins said that the Indiana State Representative is being recognized for his tireless efforts in attending meetings and holding conferences to explain to constituents how Obamacare relates to them through the State of Indiana.
Lehman told those present on Tuesday that he was missing Governor Mike Pence’s State of the State address in order to be with his hometown people to receive the honored award.
“One thing I’ve learned is that it’s one thing to be recognized for your accomplishments and another thing to be recognized by your peers,” said Lehman.
In addition to being a state representative, Lehman is currently serving as Speaker Pro Tem in the house.
“The first time I sat up there with the gavel in my hand, I remember thinking, ‘I’m just this kid from Berne, Indiana,’” said Lehman. “This does mean a lot more to me, to be with the people of my hometown.”
Lehman chuckled when he said that one of the representatives chided him humorously about the award.
“Matt Lehman, Citizen of the Year in his hometown of Berne, population 16,” mused Lehman.
“There’s something about a small town, the people of this community are all neighbors,” continued Lehman. “The people here have realized that it’s the town they want to invest their lives in.”
Lehman lauded the support of the love of his life, his wife, Joye.
“She’s a wonderful woman and a wonderful wife,” said Lehman.
Following an introduction by Mayor Bill McKean and his wife, Linda, in accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, Melissa Beitler said, “it is with great humility I accept this award.
“I grew up in a home that valued service. My dad was a true servant,” said Beitler. “I remember after we first arrived that I told Phyllis Baumgartner that I just didn’t feel at home in Berne. She said, ‘Melissa, you need to reach out to others. You need to bloom where you are planted.’”
Beitler recalled how when she was 22-years-old, she was asked to direct a pageant for First Mennonite Church. But Beitler said she has deeply been touched by the perpetual love of her husband, Jim, for the community.
“We are grateful to the people of Berne for their support and friendship,” Beitler said. “There are so many ways that we treasure.”
Jim Beitler said that there were three ways he felt his appreciation for the award.
“I am beholden to Berne; I believe in Berne and I belong to Berne,” said Beitler.
“I am beholden to so many Berne people, but my mom, Evelyn, who is here tonight and my dad, Jim Sr., are at the top of that list,” said Beitler.
Beitler credited Rev. C.A. Schmidt for teaching catechism and his teachers for the foundational truth that his life is based on.
“I have a great debt to my wife, Melissa. Every step of our journey has been shared,” said Beitler.
“I believe in the values that Berne teaches,” Beitler continued. “I believe that Berne can and will when others will not. I believe in the shared partnerships. When other small towns dry up and quit, Berne buckles down and thrives.”
Beitler said that in raising money for the Swiss Clock Tower, he and those working on the funding discovered that there was a large group of people out there who had come from Berne who still had a deep sense of commitment to the town.
“We found out that there are many persons from Berne who still feel deeply about this town,” said Beitler. “Though I’ve left town (Chicago area) for family reasons, Berne will always be the place I call home.”
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