Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce recognizes business award winners

Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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NILES — The Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce recognized local leaders who have helped the city and its businesses to flourish during its annual Chamber Pulse Luncheon Tuesday at The Morris Estate.

Presented by Honor Credit Union, the annual luncheon is considered to be the biggest networking event in the Niles region. 

“These are the businesses of the community that are making things happen, and the chamber brings them all together so that we can collaborate and work together,” said HCU CEO Scott McFarland. “Being here at Chamber Pulse today, referring somebody to a business account and keeping it local is key for all of our success. What happens in these communities happens because of all us and our investments.”

The luncheon was headlined by former U.S. Representative Fred Upton. A member of Congress for 36 years – from 1987 to 2023 – Upton represented Southwest Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District, home to key industries that range from agriculture to auto parts manufacturing to high-tech biomedical innovation centers. Prior to his election to Congress, Fred worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget.

From 2010 to 2016, Upton was selected by his House colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Under Fred’s leadership, the Committee passed 354 legislative measures through the House and saw 202 of those signed into law by the President. Fred also served as the top Republican leader of the Subcommittee on Energy, which has jurisdiction over national energy policy.

Upton was asked a variety of questions ranging from their time as a politician to his hopes for the future.

“We’re on a mission to try and encourage particularly our young to get involved,” he said. “You’ve seen all this bunk that’s happened in DC, it’s true. That’s why we need good people. We need good people to step up.”

The following people were awarded:

2024 Community Leader Award – This award was presented to Underground Laugh Lounge and accepted by owners Karl and Sheila Koebel. The award is designed to commemorate an individual, business or organization that has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their service to the greater Niles community. Chamber officials said The Underground Laugh Lounge was selected for breathing life back into the historic 1904 Andrew Carnegie library to serve the Michiana community by bringing an entertainment destination to the region.

2024 Economic Impact Award – This award was presented to Alro Steel and accepted by General Manager Mike Welihan. This award is presented to a business or organization demonstrating strategic vision –combined with a substantial investment in the community – leading to economic growth for the greater good of the region.  The company was selected due to its considerable investments in its Niles facilities and continues to be a predominant employer for the region as it celebrates 25 years in Niles.

2024 Distinguished Leader Award – This award was presented to Corewell Health President Dr. Loren Hamel. The award recognizes an individual who has made significant, tangible leadership contributions to the greater Niles business environment and community.

Dr. Hamel, a Berrien Springs native, joined the Lakeland Health medical staff in 1983, devoting more than four decades to improving health and well-being in the community where he was born and raised. He practiced medicine for 23 years at University Medical Specialties and held various executive roles before becoming chief executive officer of Lakeland Health in 2009. Dr. Hamel assumed the role of Corewell Health’s president in Southwest Michigan in 2018 following the integration of Lakeland Health and Spectrum Health.

During his tenure, Dr. Hamel helped lead the integration of Corewell Health Watervliet Hospital, Southwestern Medical Clinic and Hospice at Home. He oversaw several facility investments including Pine Ridge Rehabilitation Center, Merlin and Carolyn Hanson Hospice Center and Corewell Health Lakeland Hospitals Marie Yeager Cancer Center. Under his leadership, the 260,000-square-foot renovation and expansion at Corewell Health Lakeland Hospitals – St. Joseph Hospital was successfully completed in 2022.