Annual Dinner

Dennis Swigart, Burnstad’s Market manager and recipient of the 2012 award presents the 2013 Business of the Year award to Greg Garvin, Ho-Chunk Gaming Executive Director.

Dennis Swigart, Burnstad’s Market manager and recipient of the 2012 award presents the 2013 Business of the Year award to Greg Garvin, Ho-Chunk Gaming Executive Director.

The Business of the Year Award has been presented since 2001 to an outstanding line-up of area businesses that have had a huge impact in our community and surrounding area.   This year we have the pleasure of honoring Ho-Chunk Gaming – Black River Falls with this award.

Ho-Chunk Gaming (HCG) Black River Falls began here in the late 1980s.  The expansion of the existing building opened in July 1996 and the hotel opened in 1997-1998 with an addition in 1999.  Currently they have 337 employees, including both full-time and part-time, at the Casino, Bingo Hall and Hotel.   HCG has been involved with the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce for many years with a representative serving on the Board of Directors.  Currently, that representative is Tris Harris from Ho-Chunk Gaming Public Relations.

HCG Black River Falls strives to be a positive role in the community and surrounding areas.  Each year they receive hundreds of requests for donations of funds or items from organizations, agencies, companies, clubs and associations and try to award all that they can.  Recently, they held two benefit concerts with a portion of the ticket sales going to the American Red Cross and the VFW Unmet Needs Program.  They support area Run/Walks, Marathons, Relay’s and Triathlons that are held for a number of organizations, and a Helping Hands campaign at their Casino to raise money and awareness for the American Diabetes Association (ADA).  They are currently involved with WKBT-TV with “My Diabetes Diary” where people can submit their story about living with diabetes.  The top story winner will receive $1000 from WKBT and HCG will donate $1000 to the ADA in the winner’s name.

Lyall White, owner of Smiley Bear Design, recipient of the 2012 Customer Service Award presents the 2013 award to Ron Smith, President of Jackson County Tavern League.

Lyall White, owner of Smiley Bear Design, recipient of the 2012 Customer Service Award presents the 2013 award to Ron Smith, President of Jackson County Tavern League.

HCG supports military organizations and associations and also supports many different needs of Veterans and Servicemen and women and their families including the Badger Honor Flights and the Freedom Honor Flights to Washington D.C.  In addition, HCG has been a recipient of Wisconsin’s distinguished “Above and Beyond” Award for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

HCG strives in many different ways to bring people to this area including supplying events that are held outside of this area with rewards for visiting HCG, knowing that this also brings customers to local businesses.  They have had great success with their outdoor concerts with over 1600 people in attendance and these bring revenues to many businesses in the area, including the hotels that have reported being sold out for those weekends!  HCG also partners with Burger King to host Car Shows throughout the summer with a few of the shows in our area, and they put on a spectacular Anniversary Fireworks show in June that draws a large crowd.  All of these events bring people to this area and supplement the economy.

Other ways HCG has impacted this area include the following:

  • Their Jackson County Run/Walk Team for the American Cancer Society is always one of the top fundraising teams with the last being the top after raising $3,187!  This doesn’t include the donation from the Casino itself.  Funds raised for this run/walk come from fundraising efforts in bake sales and lunch sales.
  • Their employees do a number of different “Drives” for the Food Pantries, Humane Societies, Ronald McDonald House, Bolton Refuge, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
  • They have held Diabetes Fairs, Health Fairs and Blood Drives in the Bingo Hall that are open to the public at no cost and they also supply the food and drinks.
  • Their Food & Beverage Department has a catering service that can be used for events in the Bingo Hall or in the Hotel Conference Rooms.  The Hotel has three conference rooms that are rented out at a very nominal cost.  The rooms can be opened up and used as a larger conference room, accommodating 75 people comfortably.  Many people rent the rooms for meetings but also for birthday parties, family reunions, baby showers, etc.
  • They also coordinate Bus Tours that can bring from 20 to 45 people to this area.
  • They help at the Chamber’s Karner Blue Race by donating funds for the t-shirts and they pay for booths during the downtown events.
  • They are always willing to donate Free Hotel Stays/Goodie Bag items to various businesses and organizations for fundraisers, meetings or special events.  Some recipients have been the Chamber of Commerce, the Boys and Girls Club, the Wazee Sports Shop and Black River Memorial Hospital’s Partners. HCG’s charitable monetary donations to local and area organizations are extraordinary.  Attached is the list with the local recipients highlighted.

Ho-Chunk Gaming is truly deserving of the Chamber’s Business of the Year Award not only for their monetary donations that have helped so many, but also for the role they have played in marketing this area and bringing people here.

Customer Service Award

The 2013 Customer Service Award went to the Jackson County Tavern League. Voted in by their peers, it was a pleasure to award Jackson County Tavern League the award. Within the nomination form, the words, “service, fund-raising, charity, and donations” stood out and described an organization that truly cares about our area and its people.

The Jackson County Tavern League has a historic record of community promotion, donating to the well-being of the citizens of Jackson County and supporting the rights of tavern owners through state legislation.  The Jackson County Tavern League has been in existence for over 50 years and not only are the members tavern owners, they also own many other businesses such as motels, taxi services, insurance companies, real estate and appraisal firms, heating & cooling companies, gaming facilities, food purveyors, satellite providers, golf courses, grocery and retail stores and last but not least, restaurants.

The Jackson County Tavern league holds multiple annual benefits, collecting funds and distributing those funds to community organizations and citizens in need.  In the past two years alone, the Jackson County Tavern League, along with its members have donated over $175,000 to community organizations such as Lions Club, Youth Fishing Programs, Boy Scouts, the Jackson County Boys and Girls Club, Black River Falls School District Educational Enrichment Fund, FFA, American Red Cross, Project Christmas, Coats for Kids and many other charities and benefits.

Members of the Jackson County Tavern League also provide an invaluable service to their patrons through the SafeRide Program.  Wisconsin has the only independently funded SafeRide Program in the nation.  No tax dollars are utilized to fund this program.  When utilized, this program ensures the safety of patrons as well as others on the highway.

The Jackson County Tavern League exemplifies what customer service is all about.  The Chamber is honored to present the Customer Service Award for 2013 to Jackson County Tavern League.