GENEVA — The Seneca County Chamber of Commerce tipped its collective hats Friday to Finger Lakes Textile of Seneca Falls.
The winter hat-making company was awarded the Chamber’s Business of the Year Award for 2018 at its 50th annual dinner meeting at Club 86 in Geneva.
The company’s production workers are adults with developmental disabilities and it is affiliated with Arc of Seneca-Cayuga. Finger Lake Textile is in the former BonaDent Dental facility and makes knit and fleece winter hats for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as for state Department of Corrections employees.
Last year, the company launched a consumer hat brand called Arctic Gear, shipping its hats all over the country and to several foreign counties, using e-commerce and social media sites.
“We are absolutely thrilled with this honor. It’s a great feeling to be considered an important part of the community,” said Arc Executive Director Allan Connely. “We are a non-profit business with a social conscience. All profits go back to investing in people with developmental disabilities.”
Finger Lakes Textile has 70 employees and is growing. Connely said a 5,000-square-foot addition is now under construction, allowing the company to add new digital production and sewing machines and expand warehousing capacity.
In bestowing the award, Chamber President Jeff Shipley said Finger Lakes Textile “is a success story that reflects the true meaning of what it means to be made in America.”
“The talented employees are skilled in a variety of tasks that contribute to the company’s lean manufacturing process,” Shipley said. “They are all cross-trained and able to quickly adapt to each day’s production needs.”
The award is sponsored by Generations Bank, based in Seneca Falls.
Also recognized by the Chamber Friday was Roderick “Rick” Coe of Waterloo. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Lyons National Bank.
Owner of the Coe-Genung Funeral Home since 1983, Coe was only 23 when he bought the long-standing funeral home.
He helped create Stepping Stones, a bereavement support group for children and adults in Seneca and Wayne counties. And he helped create the Seneca County Bereavement Support Group.
Active in the Waterloo Rotary Club, he has won several awards for his community service. He is a board member and fund-raising co-chairman of the Waterloo Library and Historical Society, a member of the Seneca County Substance Abuse Coalition and president and founding member of Pathway Home of the Finger Lakes in Tyre.
“I am surprised and grateful for this honor. Helping my community is a big part of my life,” Coe said.
Melissa Nesbit was selected for the Citizen of the Year Award, sponsored by CFCU Community Credit Union.
The Chamber said the 1994 DeSales High graduate was selected for her many community service efforts. She is executive director of Seneca Housing Inc., an agency that assists low-income families in finding housing. In 2017, she began the Masquerade Ball as a fund-raiser foe Seneca Housing.
Her volunteer efforts include vice president of the Waterloo Rotary Club, co-chair of the St. Francis-St. Clare Parish Summer Festival, member of the Waterloo Celebrate Commemorate Committee and she was a leader in organizing the new Waterloo Farmer’s Market in 2018.
“I was very surprised to get this recognition. I feel many others are more worthy, but I’m honored and pleased to win the award. I am committed to my community. I love Seneca County and the people in it,” she said.
The Chamber also gives out a “Rising Star” Award to a young professional under the age of 40 who has made significant contributions to the community. The award is sponsored by ITT Goulds Pumps.
The award this year went to Erica Spencer, a Hornell native who graduated from Clyde-Savannah High in 2004. She joined the Marines, attended LeMoyne College in Syracuse and began a career in health care in Auburn.
In 2016, she graduated from the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture at the New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls. She worked as an acupuncturist at Ryan Chiropractic and Austin Physical Therapy until 2018, when she opened her own business in downtown Waterloo, Natural Solutions Acupuncture and Botanicals.
“I have a lot of ambition with big plans for the future. With so much suffering in this area, I would like to offer a place of solace for people to go,” Spencer said. “I’m overwhelmed at being recognized like this. I’m very grateful for this honor.”
In his remarks, Shipley noted that the Waterloo and Seneca Falls chambers of commerce decided to merge into the Seneca County Chamber in 1968. He said “a lot has been accomplished in the past 50 years, thanks to our member businesses.”
“You have made a real difference in the county. We are all better for the decision to merge the two Chambers and we will continue to be the leading voice for business in the county,” Shipley said.