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2019 Gresham Business Excellence Awards

State of the Chamber

Hi, I’m James Denmark, the President of the Gresham Chamber Board.  This is where I work. It is -2 degrees.  We are a cold storage facility.

I’m sorry I couldn’t join you today, but I wanted the opportunity to give the State of the Chamber report to you.  I think Lynn wanted me to give my message to you from this room so I wouldn’t talk too long.

But I have some important things to say, so I put on my winter coat to make sure I don’t forget anyone.

First let me tell you that the state of the chamber is Excellent.  We have had over 500 members for 23 straight months.  Thank you all for being part of that success.

We are financially healthy, again thanks to the commitment each of you have made to be part of this organization.  The chamber’s daily focus and priority is on economic prosperity and vitality.  Keeping our eyes on economic prosperity is filtered into every decision we make.

The decisions are much easier with a strong board of directors.  We are blessed with great board members.  I would like to thank Warner Allen, Warren Allen LLP;  Larry Soulé , Adventist Portland;  and Adam Reid, Center for Advanced Learning for their past service on the board.  Each played a critical part in our current success.  Your wisdom will be missed.

On January 1st, four new board members joined the board. Starting their first terms are Mary Beasley, Courtyard Fountains; Leslie Parker, HealthBenefits411; Al Nodarse, Ooma Business, Inc.; and Brian York, Clackamas County Bank - Gresham.  They will not only bring more diversity to our board, their commitment to the area will continue to energize the Chamber.

2019 Was a strong year and 2020 is on its way to be even more exciting.

One 2019 successful example was the Summit.  We brought nationally known speaker, Pete Blank, to Gresham.  He presented Disney University principals to us. Applying those principals makes us better businessmen and women and in turn provides a stronger base for economic prosperity.

We are excited to officially announce our partnership with the City of Gresham, Mt Hood Community College, and Gresham-Barlow, Centennial, Reynolds school districts in a new initiative linking business to schools and students to the workplace.  Our Work-Ready program is focused not just on high school experiences but on k-12 experiences.  This exciting program is in the development stages and has already been well received by all.   More to come.

Since the chamber is all about Economic development, bringing businesses to Gresham, and keeping the work environment healthy for all of us is accomplished by our mission of Advocating, Educating and Collaborating.

In that spirit, the Chamber is leading the charge to expand Christmas season opportunities bringing new and exciting activities and business opportunities to the region. We want our area to be a Christmas destination not only for residents but for out of the area guests.

It feels like Christmas in here.  The temperature definitely feels like winter.

Thank you for attending the Business Excellence Awards.  My guess is you are in a warm cozy room celebrating with each other just a sample of the many amazing  businesses, non-profits and volunteers we have.  Wish I could be there.  Enjoy the event.

The Boeing Company Logo

The Boeing Company's Gresham facility is known corporately as Boeing Portland. The site is what many Boeing employees refer to as one of Boeing's best has kept secrets as many community members don’t even realize it exists. Our local Boeing proudly employs roughly 1,600 employees that help support, design, and machine the flight critical metal components for Boeing Commercial Aircrafts. With the talent, pride, and passion of these employees each Boeing aircraft has a piece of Gresham on it.

Through continuous innovation in aircraft designs, Boeing leads the way in investing in the future of aerospace. Boeing does this by helping with the design of the next future aircraft, ensuring future work for the Gresham site. Equally important, is investing in their employees through industrial skills training, technical training, professional career development, and career fairs. Boeing offers a tech prep and apprentice program allowing students, that are interested in manufacturing, a way to build their understanding of the industry and a career entry point.

Boeing understands the value of investing in the community through volunteering, grants, or sponsorship's. In 2018 & 2019, Boeing provided over $225K of sponsorships in the greater Portland area, benefiting non-profits that focus on humanitarian, diversity & inclusion, environmental, community stewardship, education, and veterans. In 2020, the Gresham site has dedicated a budget of $160K towards non-profit sponsorships.

Boeing is particularly proud of the partnership with East Metro STEAM and Gresham-Barlow Education Foundation. They made a $5,000 donation towards helping make the ''Tomorrow Bus" a reality. Boeing takes pride in creating a work environment rich in innovation and is honored to provide the same opportunity for the students in the Gresham area thru transforming a bus into a mobile STEAM classroom.

Boeing’s dedication to environmental stewardship within community is embedded into their values. Boeing have been the recipient of the Platinum Award from the City of Gresham for 18 consecutive years of 100% compliance with our wastewater discharge permit. They have committed investment capital into diverting spent blast media to beneficial reuse ultimately removing it from being placed into landfills. Recently in December 2019, Boeing Portland engineers partnered with the Energy Trust of Oregon to design and install numerous energy savings measures in a state-of-the art upgrade. Rather than go into the science of this technology, know that Boeing has been on the forefront of saving energy at the Gresham site.  So much so that the Energy Trust of Oregon will be rewarding their efforts.

Boeing considers it an honor to connect with people around the world with every part they manufacture, while building lasting memories for those they touch in the process.  Many of their employees live in the Gresham area, shop in Gresham, are raising their children in Gresham, sending kids to Gresham area schools and want the Gresham community to continue to be a vital and prosperous area.  The Boeing company is excited to be part of Gresham’s bright future.

Large number of employees, large financial donor, large focus on environment, large commitment to the local community and Large Business winner…please join us in acknowledging The Boeing Company for their Business Excellence.


When Lila Leathers was a young child, she did not dream of growing up and owning gas stations.  But that is exactly what she did and she loves it.  The fuel industry is like many others… man’s world.  Or it was until Lila entered.  Lila, owner of Leathers Fuel not only is successful locally, currently owning and operating 28 stations and the fuel tankers to provide product, but she took national leadership by storm.  She has been VP of National Oil Jobbers in DC, Past President of Oregon Petroleum Marketers and Pacific Oil Conference to name a few.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Born is Texas, her parents were migrant workers.  They worked the fields.  Harvesting brought her family to the Gresham area.  Growing up she attended Orient, Sandy, Boring, Kelso and Cottrell schools.  She married young and soon became a single mom.  Determined to support herself, she worked at Clackamas County Bank where she took advantage of banking school.  That is where she found all she needed to be a successful businesswoman.  Business plans, budgeting, trusting in the right people, working hard all recipes for sustainable income for her and her family.

She learned to run a business the old fashioned ay…by doing it all. Daily she would pump gas, wait on customers, check oil, clean bathrooms, balance daily sales and later drive tanker trucks full of gas.   She gained confidence that this was the right fit and business for her.  She was determined to make it grow and it has. It has grown so much that both of her children, Brent and Kathryn, work in the company and will be successful partners in the future success of the company.

Refined, dignified, and stylish are all adjectives used to describe Lila so are pilot, ranch owner, and expert marksman.  Her friends and many local non-profits know of her quiet generosity which comes from a sincere desire to help the community.  She has been in our community over 50 years and not a day has gone by that she hasn’t thanked someone for something they have done for her.  It is we who should be thanking her. Leathers is an active supporter of everything from fundraising campaigns to local adult and youth sport programs.

The person that nominated Leathers fuel had this to say about Lila, “ Lila is an amazing pioneer and force to be reckoned with in the petroleum distribution business.  She was initially a partner in her business until she purchased it and began running it alone without any hesitation.  She didn’t allow any sort of adversity bring her down as there were many times when life could have knocked her on her rear.  She put her big girls pants on and powered through even harder.  She is a strong willed, kind hearted, hardworking woman that still likes to get her hands dirty.  She raised her children with the same work ethic.   She has served on many committees in high executive roles during a time when women weren’t necessarily the right pick. Lila is such an inspiring and humble person, who continually shows amazing initiative and drive.  She cares tremendously for her employees. They are more like a family.  She has a knack for running her business and finding clear and sharp ideas towards a win win situation.  She has the hugest heart and a huge smile that she shares generously.  Its so enjoyable to listen to her speak on her journey and share her knowledge.  There is no other strong leader in her business that can hold a candle to this amazing woman.”

Please join us in recognizing our Family Business recipient, Leathers Fuels.



We are pleased that our medium business winner is also a minority certified business.  The owner is  Hispanic and  the co owner and GM of the company is a woman.  In our eyes it qualifies as a minority business twice.

Bess Wills and her team at Gresham Ford have built a culture of community support and caring. This mindset has made a substantial impact on our local business community in lots of ways. But all positive impacts take time and a focus purpose.   Gresham Ford embraces it’s tag line “Dealer with a Heart”.  But when the company was purchased, its tag line might have been “dealer with a problem”.

When current ownership purchased Gresham Ford in 2003 - the dealership had some of the worst customer service scores in the nation and was not particularly engaged in our community- fast forward to 2009 the Gresham Ford won Ford Motor Company's prestige's "President's Award" reserved for less than the TOP 10% of the Ford Dealers nationwide. In addition, the Dealership has been honored by the Oregon Banker's Association with a Community Applause Award-Large Business. In 2018, Gresham Ford was featured by Ford Motor Company in  Automotive News for its work raising funds and collecting food  for our local food pantry Snow Cap. And in 2019 it was recognized for being a "Best Place to Work" by the Oregonian.   Clearly, Dealer with a problem no longer existed.  And Dealer with a Heart is the tagline they live by.

The annual Fill A Bag Food Drive for Snowcap has continued to grow in financial donations and business partners over the years thanks to the active involvement of the Gresham Ford team. Henry Ford once said "A business that makes nothing but money, is a poor business".  Gresham Ford lives by Henry Fords words.

Gresham Ford has sponsored the Chamber’s Try Local First for many years.  Champions of the shop local concept is not just an idea, it is a priority to Gresham Ford.  They should be recognized for the elbow grease they put into living the spirit of Shopping Local. They review their vendor list regularly, ensuring that as many vendors as possible are within our local community. Shopping local and supporting other local businesses is truly a passion of Bess and her team. At the holiday dinner table with Bess, conversation topics to stay away from might include politics, religion and buying on line.

Would you go to a Ford dealership for a hot dog cart or a snow cone machine?  Well that is one of the many resources Gresham Ford generously shares. They share what they have and do their best to help support their neighbors.

Many school groups have financially benefited from the Drive for your school program.  Like Sam Barlow Baseball, Centennial Football, Gresham Gopher Spirit Club, Portland Christian Schools, Springwater Trail High School, Lewis & Clark Montessori Charter School, Corbett High School, Dexter McCarty Middle School, Rockwood Preparatory Academy.

And who can’t help but smile thinking about the Charity Breakfast AM’s Bess puts her heart and soul into producing.  From Grinch to Polar Express engineer.

Rarely a day goes by that support and assistance from the dealership, Bess, or one of her many generous team members isn’t taking place. Supporting and pitching in to help another area business succeed or a local non profit care for more of our fellow neighbors is 2nd nature. From replacing a flagpole on a baseball field o feeding the hungry, the dealer with a heart is full of action.

Please join us in recognizing the medium business award winner, Gresham Ford.

There are many kinds of Volunteers, some excel at spending countless hours, giving of their time to worthy causes. Others use the talents they have in a given field, on behalf of charity. Then you have those that are generous with their checkbooks and provide funds for noble causes. However, it is rare that one person embodies the ability to give of their time, their talent and their treasure. This is Sue Piazza, an exceptional volunteer, an organizer, and a donor.

A great example was the unique way she spent the year prior to her 50th birthday. We know it as Fabulous 50. Or fab 50.   Her goal was to raise and donate $50,000 to 5 local charities for her 50th birthday. She wrote and sold a cookbook, planned and executed a Fall Festival, countless other fund raisers, the high point of which was a community dinner and auction. All her efforts exceeded her $50,000 goal.  Instead $78,000 as raised and shared equally with 6 local children charities:

When asked why she did this, she said  “ I just wanted to do something different than the usual birthday surprise party, which is never a surprise.  I also wanted to have fun and help kids in the community.”

Gresham Rotary recognized her as Rotarian of the year and has benefited from her service. This past Rotary Christmas Luncheon, Sue organized and solicited donations to raise money for scholarships as well as added extra fun to the Holiday Event. Her Christmas Cookie Parties have raised funds for numerous causes and Legacy Mt. Hood Medical Foundation has also benefited from her help with their Annual Auction.

Sue was one of the founders of the Gresham Barlow Education Foundation.  She has Chaired the Gresham Barlow Education Foundation. She’s found ways to help local businesses find clever ways to raise funds for the Education Foundation. A shopping party at Accent on Attitude, a painting party at Gresham Ford, a Cocoa Crawl in Historic Downtown Gresham. All organized, planned, marketed and executed with Sue leading the charge.

A little over a year ago Sue was surfing the web looking for an opportunity to help make Gresham even better. She stumbled upon 100 Women Who Care in Northern Virginia. They had a simple yet impactful strategy to fundraise in any community.

Sue utilized her time and talents as a leader in our community to gather and motivate other community minded women and launched 100+ Women Who Care East County. Spreading the word and marketing the concept came easy to Sue.

Women commit to give $100 per quarter to the charity of popular vote. The program has grown in membership and money.  55 women attended the first meeting and gave $5500 to YMCA Camp Collins in a little less than 60-minutes. To date over $68,000 has been raised by these women for a variety of local charities.

Clever, fun and successful. That describes Sues efforts to give back to the community.

$78,000 with Fab 50,

$68,000 with 100 women,

2.4 million Gresham Education Foundation

did her bank account provide all of those funds? No, but her energy, vision, and community spirit are largely responsible for the success.

Please join us in recognizing our Volunteer of the year, Sue Piazza.

migration brewing logo

2020 marks the 10 year anniversary if Migration Brewing, in a highly competitive field in Oregon: micro-brewing.  In 2018 they more than doubled their production capacity by opening a 20,000 sq. foot facility off 181st and Wilkes in Gresham.  Their goal was always to make good beer and they have succeeded with flying colors, winning multiple awards and now exploring international markets that promise to put our local community on the map.  But their mission is even bigger than beer.  Migrations Brewing has prioritized supporting the communities where they do business.  And THAT is where Colin Rath, ownership partner of Migration, shines and the reason for his rising star award today.

Colin is like many rising stars.  He is humble. So instead of asking him about himself, we went to his friends and family to confirm this nomination.


Colin, father of two boys, Britton (3) and Maddox (who turned 6 last week) always prioritizes his responsibility to his boys.  He gets the boys to school and day care in the morning and  rarely misses one of their events. And even with crazy brew pub hours, is home for bedtime.  Colin loves playing soccer whether a pick up game with his friends or on one of the local soccer leagues.

What makes Colin happy is knowing things are being taken care of whether in business, with friends, or at home. It not only makes Colin happy but he gets to use his talents and energy.  You don’t need to tell Colin something needs to be done, he just sees it and does it.

When asked what makes Colin a rising star, Tara, his wife quickly said, “He sets a goal, visualizes it, and just does whatever it takes to get it done.  Community development is his star focus.”

And that is one of the reasons the Gresham facility is becoming a popular site for community groups.  Colin saw a need for community space, a safe space for the public to use, and he got it done.  The Gresham facility was purposefully designed not only to manage the production needs of a growing beer business, but also to offer Gresham locals a place to gather no matter the size of the group.  He loves it when the space is being used for a fundraiser or community forum.  Whether a school group, environmental interests, business staff meeting, non profit meet and greet, whoever the group is, Colin is there to make sure the groups are successful.  While he might be considered a social butterfly by his friends, he is a quiet man who doesn’t need to be the center of attention.

Colin has a soft spot for a particular nonprofit.  He is passionate about the Children’s Cancer Society. He has been an active participant and supporter of their annual Christmas Pajama Part.  We tried to find a photo to use today to see our rising star in pajamas, but no luck.

Our Rising Star has his priorities in healthy order.  From the portrait of his mom who passed away in 2011 and is tattooed on his arm to his ability to walk into his home and immediately become a dad and husband, Colin is a role model for all of us.  Those that know Colin and had the privilege to know his mother as well, will tell you that many of her character traits are Colin's.  Like her, he is smart and compassionate, allowing and supporting opportunities for the greater good of all in the community.

His nomination as rising star is well deserved.  If we could, we would raise a stein full of beer and toast Colin for all he has done in our community so far and is going to do in the future.  Please join us in recognizing our Rising Star, Colin Rath.