Iowa Lakes Corridor recognizes business standouts at annual luncheon

Iowa Lakes Corridor recognizes business standouts at annual luncheon

The Iowa Lakes Corridor held its annual Business Recognition Luncheon and Awards event Wednesday to honor area industry leaders and standouts from the past year.

Recipients were nominated by their business peers and accepted their awards in front of a large crowd at the Clay County Fair and Events Center.

“Thank you, guys, for sharing your creativity, your talents, your tenacity here in the Iowa Lakes Corridor,” Corridor President and CEO Kiley Miller said on stage after the winners had been announced. “And thank you for your friendship. It’s wonderful – I’ve been here four years – to start to see my friends come up on stage.”

The 2018 winners are:

  • Chairman’s Award: Lyle Hevern, Estherville and Emmet County Economic Development Director
  • Young Professional of the Year: Brandon Rohrig, Lakes Regional Healthcare
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Jill Harms, Blink Marketing
  • Small Business of the Year: Steffes Companies
  • Large Business of the Year: Rembrandt Foods

Read more about each award recipient below.


Chairman’s Award: Lyle Hevern

This year’s awards ceremony started off with outgoing Corridor Board of Directors Chair Kent Stensland presenting the Chairman’s Award to Lyle Hevern, Estherville and Emmet County Economic Development Director, for his work.

Stensland detailed how Hevern has been Estherville’s most vocal cheerleader and has

Lyle Hevern
Lyle Hevern, photo provided

spearheaded numerous recent projects, including a spec building program, the Studio 12 coworking space and entrepreneurship center and the latest business planning to open in Estherville, PDU Cables.

“Through 26 years as a mayor and now three years as an economic development director for Estherville, and for Emmet County, also, Lyle Hevern has made his community, county and local businesses stronger through energetic dedication and presence,” Stensland said.

Hevern thanked the Corridor for the award.

“That’s a great honor and I’m pleased to have been a part of all of that stuff you talked about,” he said. “And all of the stuff that’s going to be happening fairly soon in Estherville. We’re very excited about all the activities that we’re going to all be hearing about hopefully here in the next few weeks.”


Young Professional of the Year: Brandon Rohrig, Lakes Regional Healthcare

Brandon Rohrig
Brandon Rohrig, photo provided

Brandon Rohrig, the 2018 Young Professional of the Year, was credited for being instrumental in launching a lakes area young professionals group.

He’s the director of population and public health at Lakes Regional Healthcare.

After accepting his award from last year’s winner, Kevin Brown of Advanced Network Professionals, Rohrig spoke about being intentional in creating a sense of community in the region.

“We need to be purposeful, inclusive and collaborative to push for an area where people want to live, work and play,” Rohrig said. “I am and will continue to be honored and humbled by this award and I am incredibly thankful for a wife that supports me, an employer that empowers me and a community that is willing to entertain my initiatives.”


Entrepreneur of the Year: Jill Harms, Blink Marketing

Jill Harms
Jill Harms, Blink Marketing, photo provided

The 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year knows all about risk-taking.

Jill Harms, founder of Blink Marketing in Milford, left her corporate job 10 years ago to work and serve in her home community.

“I would like to say thank you on behalf of me and my team, because obviously it is a team effort in everything that we do,” Harms said after accepting the award.

Harms thanked her husband, her staff and the Corridor for helping along the way.

“I would say the Corridor was a huge asset and benefit to me,” she said. “They gave me lots of good helpful tips, they gave me employees. I mean, the OEI (Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute) program, I’ve had two employees from the OEI program. Brian (Dalziel) is always a phone call away. I appreciate that help.”


Small Business of the Year: Steffes Companies

Marc Steffes
Marc Steffes, Steffes Companies, photo provided

Steffes Companies was named Small Business of the Year thanks to its high-profile, high-impact projects over the last year.

The general contractor and construction management out of Milford recently has worked on the Boys Town Summer Camp renovation, the renovation of the former Boji Bay facility into the new GrapeTree Medical Staffing headquarters and the Restore the Park Project at Historic Arnolds Park.

“Just these projects alone in the last year provided $28 million in added value to the Corridor area, so their impact is huge,” said Brad Beck, founder of last year’s award winner, Beck Engineering. “In addition to this, the company is also working on The Inn, a new hotel near Arnolds Park.”

In his remarks, founder Marc Steffes detailed how he left a corporate job in Phoenix seven yeas ago to move back to the area.

He said he’s grateful for how many opportunities he’s been given.

“Like my father used to say, this town has always taken care of him,” Steffes said. “I feel the same way. This town and the whole entire Corridor has always taken care of me. So thank you.”


Large Business of the Year: Rembrandt Foods

Phil Kassel and Tom Johnson, Rembrandt Foods
Phil Kassel and Tom Johnson, Rembrandt Foods, photo provided

Rembrandt Foods has not only a major local impact, but also a global impact.

The company has become one of the leading egg ingredient producers in the United States. It employs hundreds between its Spirit Lake headquarters and production facility in Buena Vista County.

“Rembrandt Foods is very proud to have a connection with the Iowa Lakes Corridor, so we thank you on behalf of our shareholders and our employees for this award,” said Rembrandt CFO Tom Johnson, who accepted the award alongside the company’s VP of Human Resources, Phil Kassel.

Johnson and Kassel described how Rembrandt is interested in giving back tot he community through Rembrandt Cares and is invested in becoming an employer of choice.

Kassel shared how the company has made its employees one of its highest priorities.

“Our mission, or our purpose, actually, as an organization is to provide opportunity and security for all our coworkers,” Kassel said. “And I watched that lived out during a really, really difficult time. It makes me really proud to stand up here as a recipient of this and very humbled to receive such an award. It just shows us that in two-and-a-half years the fruit of our efforts are paying off.”


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