By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Clifford Wert, a Joplin native and longtime businessman, was recognized Thursday night as the Outstanding Citizen of the Year during the annual banquet of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
The president of the local U.S. Bank received a standing ovation from those attending the chamber’s 96th banquet at the Holiday Inn Convention Center.
Wert was recognized for his leadership in economic development as chairman of the Joplin Regional Prosperity Initiative and his support for the arts as co-chairman of Connect 2 Culture.
Wert, who was joined by members of his family when he accepted the award, said: “This is a community I love. It means a great deal to me. It has been a pleasure to serve this community.”
He urged the 650 or so people attending the banquet to “use your passion and use your talent to make a difference in the community — to make it a greater place to live for those who follow in our footsteps. I am humbled, and I am appreciative.”
Susan Adams, with Able Manufacturing and Assembly, introduced Wert. She said: “He has a passion for our community. He works hard, but never seeks the limelight.”
The Citizen of the Year presentation concluded a nearly three-hour program in which teachers and local businesses were recognized for their contributions to the community.
Larry Warren, the new president of the chamber board, said Joplin had 167 ribbon-cuttings last year as new businesses came to the city and familiar ones reopened their doors. Describing the city’s recovery from the 2011 tornado as miraculous, he said 95 percent of Joplin’s jobs are back and that Joplin is poised for one of the most prosperous times in its history.
Four teachers received Golden Apple awards. The program, in its 28th year, is designed to recognize excellence in teaching. Fifty-nine teachers from Joplin’s public and private schools were nominated by students, parents and co-workers.
The recipients were Holly Davis, Duenweg-Duquesne Elementary; Kelly Miller, Emerson Elementary; Sara Reineke, North Middle School; and Clarence Shelton, Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School.
The awards are sponsored by Empire District Electric Co. and Missouri Southern State University.
Every year, manufacturing, transportation or utility companies are recognized as the large and small industries of the year for exhibiting substantial growth and creativity in addressing operating obstacles. The winners must make a commitment to the community as companies and through their employees.
This year’s recipient of the Large Industry of the Year award is Bemis Flexible Packaging. This year’s recipient of the Small Industry of the Year award is Images in Tile.
The awards program for Small Business of the Year recognizes the importance of small businesses to the economy, job growth, new products and services.
In the category for one to 10 employees, SNC Squared was the winner. In the 11 to 50 employee category, Dr. Fly’s Salon was the winner. The Children’s Haven of Southwest Missouri was the winner in the not-for-profit category.
Sharon Beshore, co-chairwoman of Connect 2 Culture and a longtime supporter of Spiva Center for the Arts, received the Arty Award.
Recognized as the Young Professional of the Year for 2013 was Nicole Brown. Amanda Mitchell was recognized as the Young Professional of the Year for 2012. The Young Professional Community Service Award was won by Heather Arnold.