The Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce held its annual Sparkplug Awards banquet inside the Memorial Union Building ballroom on the campus of Michigan Tech Thursday evening. Helping to organize and judge the entries were members of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, Keweenaw Young Professionals, the Portage Health Foundation and the MTEC SmartZone.
Winners were announced in eight categories. Keweenaw Coffee Works was selected as the winner for customer service out of 19 entries. The Calumet shop is located on Fifth Street, across from where the fire ravaged several buildings last May. They provided coffee, juice, and breakfast food to crews that were still on scene after have battled the blaze all night. They have proven adept at standing out in smaller ways every day for their loyal customers.
Skinny Pete’s Bakery won the growth category. Chicken Tramper Ultra Light Gear was selected for best innovation/transformational technology. The winner of Young Professional of the Year was Keweenaw Convention and Visitor Bureau Executive Director Brad Barnett. The Kentucky native has made a home here and become an ambassador for a booming tourism economy in the Copper Country.
Detective Lieutenant Charlie Klein from the Houghton County Sheriff’s Department won Project of the Year. He was the driving force behind adopting Project Lifesaver in the Western Upper Peninsula. The devices wrap around the wrist and help authorities locate those with dementia or autism, among other diseases, who are vulnerable to severe injury or death if they go missing.
Rebecca Crane from Dial Help was named the Community Contributor of the Year. The Youth Contributor is Maria Valet of Houghton High School. She is actively lobbying the MHSAA to allow for adaptive athletes to compete in varsity sports. Valet was diagnosed with a rare condition called transverse myelitis. Inflammation in the spinal cord causes a loss of basic motor functions and paralysis. She has been working to regain the ability to walk for two years with the help of physical rehabilitation.
Lastly, Dan Sarazin was named First Responder of the Year.