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Ironwood chamber honors Burton EMS as Business of the Year


January 21, 2022

Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe

Amy Nosal receives the Ironwood Chamber of Commerce's 2021 Volunteer of the Year award from chamber director Michael Meyer at the chamber office Wednesday afternoon. At right is videographer Jake Ring who recorded the event. This and three other annual awards were handed out Wednesday with no audience due to social distancing concerns. All four presentations were recorded and will be available online to watch this week, said Meyer.


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Ironwood - The Ironwood Chamber of Commerce honored Burton Electronics Manufacturing System as the 2021 Business of the Year on Wednesday as chamber officials handed out four annual awards in a virtual ceremony.

For the second year in a row, the chamber chose to hand out the awards for business, organization and volunteer of the year, as well as the Gus Swanson Educational Award, in a serious of individually recorded presentations that were to be posted online later this week.

Ironwood chamber director Michael Meyer handed out the awards at the chamber office as a camera recorded with no audience, in recognition of social distancing concerns due to the pandemic.

The chamber named the Emberlight Festival as the Organization of the Year and Amy Nosal as the Volunteer of the Year. The 906 Adventure Team's Ironwood Chapter was honored with the Gus Swanson Educational Award.

Meyer said the chamber's board of directors found it hard to choose a single business of the year. While the past year was hard on businesses due to the pandemic and some local businesses struggled to stay afloat, others found new and innovative ways to proceed.

"Many of Ironwood's enterprises rapidly developed new ways of operating, learned new skills," said Meyer. "(They) were not only able to survive the pandemic, but to discover new ways of doing business, ways that have positioned them for present and future growth. Our business of the year was just such an enterprise."

Burton Industries rebranded itself to Burton EMS in 2021 as part of a "decisive year of change" for the company, said Meyer. "They re-invented their brand to more closely communicate to their client base what it is they do and how they are investing in ways to do it better."

Besides a new name, there was a new logo and website, as well as the purchase of and moving into a second manufacturing facility on Ayer Street near the Miners Memorial Heritage Park.

While some businesses adopted a just-hang-on attitude for 2021, according to Meyer, "Burton EMS innovated in products and service, expanded in productive capacity, and remained in Ironwood - enhancing its place as one of our premier manufacturing enterprises."

Meyer quoted from Burton EMS's website: "As a 43-year-old, second-generation owned small business, our culture and values are centered around jobs and families. Our commitment to community, the environment and people drive everything we do."

Accepting the award for Burton EMS were Mark Leman, vice president and CFO; Gary Burnett Jr., vice president of operations; Rosemary Simon-Kazik, director of human resources; and Carrie Witzel-Crook, director of business development.

The Emberlight Festival, which celebrated its inaugural season this past summer, was the brainchild of Cindy Franck and Miles Mykkanen who sat on a bench in downtown Ironwood in 2019 and thought, "wouldn't it be great to have a small arts festival here - one that could bring artists from other parts of the United States to here, Ironwood," Meyer said in his presentation. They hoped to celebrate "musicians, filmmakers, painters, poets - the full range of human artistic expression."

Conversations and plans advanced in 2020 and working with Theatre North as an institutional base, the Emberlight Festival of the Arts was born, according to Meyer. The first season included "an amazing array of performances and exhibitions," bringing artists from across the country, but also celebrating local artists. A wide range of area venues were used - from local theaters and stages, to area parks and trails.

Through a youth mentorship program - the Emberlight Ambassadors - the festival offered local young people the chance to get involved and work with the artists, said Meyer. "In doing so, the Emberlight Festival continued the Ironwood tradition of fostering community artistic talent and awareness."

Accepting the award were Franck, Mykkanen, Lori Booth, Jeanne Graham, Karen Mallum and Judy Holst.

Amy Nosal's day job is community development educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension Iron County office in Hurley, but the chamber's 2021 Volunteer of the Year Award has "plunged in whole-heartedly to participate in a wide range of volunteer support activities," said Meyer.

Nosal grew up in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and enjoyed many family trips to the Upper Peninsula and knew this is where she wanted to live, said Meyer. After earning a bachelor's degree in wildlife management at the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in environmental education from UW-Stevens Point, she started an AmeriCorps volunteer internship with the UW-Extension Iron County office. She's been with the office nine years now.

Meyer listed a number of volunteer concerns Nosal has been involved with, including 4-H, the North Country Trail, Northwind Co-op, Range Master Gardeners, Pride U.P., the Iron County Farmers Market and the Ironwood Downtown Development Authority.

"There is hardly an aspect of Ironwood area volunteer community development that she has not participated in and helped nurture," said Meyer. "She is always on the lookout to connect with others and bring them into our local volunteer networks. It is in this ability to not only do the work as a volunteer, but to connect with others and encourage them to volunteer as well, that Amy has effectively advanced the value of volunteering - showing how and why it is the cornerstone of a healthy community."

The Gus Swanson Educational Award is presented each year to those who best exemplify the late Luther L. Wright High School teacher's lifelong commitment to youth and community education, said Meyer.

The Ironwood Chapter is one of six 906 Adventure Team chapters across the U.P. As founded in the 2014 in Marquette by Todd Poquette, the Adventure Team is more than just teaching kids about bikes and cycling, said Meyer. "It's aimed at an outdoor holistic concept, creating a learning experience for youth of all ages to develop skills and positive habits, prioritize personal effort, embrace and learn from failures, and focus on the forward journey of life."

Participants are grouped by age, grade and skill level, with the overall goal of developing physical and mental fitness and positive social skills," said Meyer.

He said the Ironwood Chapter has grown over the years to include more than 50 youth and 15 adult coaches in 2021, with a goal to expand the cycling program in 2022 to 75 youth. The chapter's adventures have been run on the trails of the Miners Memorial Heritage Park, Copper Peak and WinMan Trails.

Adventure leader Vanea Gauthier, occupational health manager for Aspirus Business Health, accepted the award. Adventure leader Tom Bergman, Ironwood's community development director, was also recognized but was unable to attend.

Meyer thanked videographer Jake Ring for recording the presentations. He also thanked the honorees for coming out on a snowy day and being part of the presentations, as well as the chamber members for their support through the year.


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