GOSHEN -- In the age of multi-billion-dollar corporations and industry empires, it's easy to overlook the little guy -- the small family business that grew from a one-person entrepreneurship to a successful operation.
But the Goshen College Family Business Program wants to change that. At the Family Business of the Year awards banquet Wednesday at Goshen College, the program honored local family businesses for their contributions to the community.
"We believe in three things," said Shirley Showalter, president of Goshen College. "We believe in families. We believe in business. And we believe in the family business program."
The program puts the spotlight on those businesses that are key to a local economy. "Family businesses are so important," said guest speaker Paul Gordon, chairman of Gordon Food Service, a 107-year-old family business.
"Look back -- most companies started as family businesses or entrepreneurships with just one person. We have to encourage that. This is great stuff -- keep it going and keep it growing," he said of the college's program.
This year saw a tie in the smaller firm (up to 50 employees) and the medium firm (51 to 250 employees) divisions.
Burnstine's Distributing Corp., Elkhart, and Sorg Jewelers, Goshen, were presented with awards for smaller firm Family Business of the Year.
Burnstine's began in 1904 as The Elkhart Junk Co. and has become a leading distributor of products for the recreational vehicle, modular housing and specialty vehicle markets. Harry Burnstine, grandson of founders Harry and Sarah Burnstine, is company president. His daughters, Christy and Sarah, are in charge of daily operations.
Sorg Jewelers was founded in 1900 by Sigmund Sorg. His grandson, John Sorg, and great-grandson, Darin Sorg, provide leadership in the stores in Goshen and Elkhart.
According to John Sorg, programs such as the Goshen College Family Business Program are key. Darin agreed, saying, "They are hugely important. I think the community sometimes takes for granted what they have right in front of them. We have an awesome community here that really encourages family businesses, and people should support that -- as many already do," he said.
The Troyer Group Inc., Mishawaka, was one winner in the medium firm category. LeRoy Troyer formed his own design firm in 1971, and the company is now one of Indiana's leading professional design firms. Two of LeRoy's sons, Terry and Ronald, are playing leading roles in the development and growth of the firm.
Dec-O-Art of Elkhart was the other winner in the category. Business leadership is in the hands of four Dosmann brothers, whose father founded the company in 1971. Dec-O-Art produces marking labels and graphic overlays.
"I think family businesses have to have long-term vision because the owners are stewards of the business. Publicly held companies are always looking at the short term and we have to look at the long term," said Carl Dosmann, one of the brothers.
Carl's brother, Fred Dosmann, added that family businesses have the benefits of strong values. "We have to keep the family united together and promoting other families," he said.
The winner of the third category of larger firms (more than 251 employees) was Maple Leaf Farms Inc., Milford. Donald Wentzel began a small duck operation in 1958, and now Wentzel's grandsons, Scott and John Tucker, are in leadership roles of the company, which is considered a leader in the duck industry.
Each of the winners received a plaque and a vase made by Dick Lehman, a Goshen potter. Each of the finalists was presented with a certificate.