Recognition breakfast to celebrate achievements of outstanding companies, individuals

BENTON HARBOR — Recently, more than 450 guests celebrated the successes of outstanding companies and individuals at the business recognition breakfast, hosted by Cornerstone Alliance, an economic development agency, and the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce.

Keynote speaker, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, highlighted the State’s competitive and pro-business climate.

“We are thrilled to give these Berrien County companies and individuals this well-deserved recognition for the exceptional work they do to make Berrien County a more attractive place to live and work,” said Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland. “The diversity of the recipients shows Berrien County is an inclusive and quality environment where people of all types and companies of all sizes can be successful.”

The Cornerstone Alliance award winners were:

The Mason Jar Café — Microenterprise award

Jayme Cousins and Abel Abarca Martinez opened The Mason Jar Café in the Benton Harbor Arts District in 2014. The restaurant is a testament to their passion for serving local, scratch-made and organic food, Cornerston Alliance officials said.

Each dish is made to order and prepared fresh daily. When the Mason Jar opened, it had one dining area, 10 tables, and five employees. Today there are 21 tables, two dining areas and a staff of 25.

Jayme Cousins accepted the award.       

JR Automation Technologies — Manufacturing large business award

JR Automation was founded in 1980, and has grown to become one of the leading global systems integrators and solutions providers for the industrial automation industry. Today, more than 1,700 employees occupy 15 facilities across North America, Europe, and Asia, with headquarters located in Holland, Michigan.

In 2017, JR Automation broke ground for a 25,000-square foot expansion at its Lincoln Charter Township facility investing $1.9 million and creating 60 new jobs. JR Automation also broke ground in 2017 on an 83,000-square foot expansion in Holland, the company’s largest facility expansion to date. Most recently, JR Automation acquired Doerfer Corporation’s automation systems group (comprised of Advanced Automation, Wright Industries, FSA Systemes D’Assemblage, FSA Romania, PSB Technologies and equity interests in Beijing BYJC-Fabricom Assembly Line Co., Ltd.) This acquisition will increase their North American presence as well as in Europe and Asia, establishing JR Automation as a global leader in industrial automation and robotics systems integration.

JR Automation Chief Executive Officer Bryan Jones accepted the award.

• Indiana Michigan Power – Cook Nuclear Plant — Economic growth award

The Cook Nuclear Plant has been one of the major driving forces in the economy of southwest Michigan ever since plans were announced in 1959 to build “an atomic power plant” in Lake Township. It was the largest construction project ever in the state, more than 3,000 workers for about eight years, costing $1.3 billion.

The plant has operated safely and reliably for decades, providing electricity for 1.5 million average homes and good jobs for more than 1,000 workers. The plant is also Berrien County’s largest taxpayer, providing almost 12 percent of the total county revenues, growing to $36 million annually in 2016.

American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest electric companies, is the corporate parent for the Cook Nuclear Plant. And AEP’s goal of “A Brighter Future Together,” perfectly coincides with the economic impact, and Cook’s commitment to Michigan’s Great Southwest.

Senior Vice-President and Chief Nuclear Officer Joel Gebbie accepted the award.

• Gloria Ender — Merlin Hanson exemplary leader award

Gloria Ender is the owner and chief executive officer of Freedom Finishing, an electro and powder coating business with an international customer base. In 1988, Ender and her husband Erik started Freedom Finishing. Today, Freedom Finishing produces 300,000 parts per day in its 60,000-square foot production facility located in Benton Harbor. Freedom Finishing’s customer base includes General Motors, Ford, Whirlpool Corporation and Herman Miller.

Freedom Finishing employs a staff of 62. It is important to Ender that each staff member is treated fairly and as an individual, she said. She holds her employees accountable and encourages them to offer solutions to be more efficient and offers them career growth opportunities.

Ender, a gourmet cook, lives in Stevensville, Michigan, with her husband and four rescue dogs. She has a daughter, Liz, who is attending Lake Michigan College. 

Norma Tirado-Kellenberger — David R. Whitwam outstanding achievement award

Norma Tirado-Kellenberger is Lakeland Health’s vice president of human resources, information technology, organizational transformation, and chief talent and transformation officer. Since arriving here with her family in 2010, Tirado-Kellenberger wanted to give back to the community, she said.

She is the President of the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors. Tirado-Kellenberger serves on the Cornerstone Alliance Board and chairs the Governance Committee, and sits on Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council, where she chairs the Leadership Accelerator, a leadership program she helped create.

In her tenure at Lakeland, she has worked with Dr. Hamel and her colleagues to create a culture of love and compassion.

Tirado-Kellenberger was born in Puerto Rico and is a graduate of Marquette University with a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature; and an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Healthcare Administration at Central Michigan University. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling and golf


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