For the 24th year in a row, Luther College hosted the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce (DACC) awards luncheon earlier this week.

Each year, the DACC recognizes an individual for outstanding community service as well as an outstanding Chamber volunteer.

This year's featured speaker at the luncheon was Luther College President Richard Torgerson.

President Torgerson will be retiring at the end of this school year, and this event was his final formal address to the Decorah business community.

In his speech, President Torgerson spoke of his 14 years in Decorah with Luther College, and thanked the Decorah business community for helping to make Decorah a place where students and faculty want to invest themselves.

Following President Togerson's address, the DACC Board of Directors President Doug Van Sloten recognized this year's Outstanding Community Service recipient, Jim McCaffrey. McCaffrey was nominated for his efforts in developing and donating to the monthly community meal.

The DACC also Gary Rustad with the Outstanding Chamber Volunteer Award. Rustad was the driving force behind the Decorah Lighted Holiday Parade for 20 years. He has also served on the DACC Board of Directors.

Outgoing DACC Board of Directors members Joe Grimstad and Jayme Folkedahl were presented with awards for their years of service. Both had served two terms on the DACC Board of Directors, and had served as president of the organization.

"The DACC would like to thank Luther College for their hospitality, efforts with the Decorah business community and continuing the luncheon tradition for 24 years," said Executive Director Nikki Brevig.



WCDI awards

Winneshiek County Development presented a number of awards, including the Impact Award.

The first Impact Award winner was Northeast Iowa Community College, which employs about 370 full-time workers. The Impact Award is presented to businesses or organizations that have had a significant impact on the local economy.

NICC's overall regional impact is estimated at $215 million. In Winneshiek County alone, NICC had 724 credit and 1,431 non-credit students enrolled in fiscal 2012. The worker training program has seen nearly $1.6 million invested in 14 new and expanding businesses since 1985, with 548 jobs created.

"Beyond the numbers, NICC is a vital cog in the county's economy with programming such advanced manufacturing, developing capacity in welding, machining, robotics, transportation and logistics. NICC is participating in a $12.7 million Department of Labor grant program with other Iowa community colleges to train 3,000 workers statewide.

Other instrumental programs at NICC include health care, information technology, agriculture, business training and development and adult literacy.

A second Impact Award recipient is Decorah Fish Hatchery, which was built on 17 acres south of Decorah in 1933 and renovated in 1988-89.

In 2012, the Friends of Decorah Fish Hatchery and staff led the effort to complete a new visitor center.

The center is the only building that's ever been attempted on state property that was 100-percent funded with private donations.

In recent years, the hatchery has experienced a massive influx of visitors driven by the famous online eagle-cam immediately across the road.

The hatchery is a longtime driver of the economy because it produces about 175,000 trout per year for stocking into 15 trout streams throughout Northeast Iowa. This draws untold numbers of fishermen from throughout the Upper Midwest.

The third Impact Award recipient was the Decorah Community Based Outpatient Clinic, under the Iowa City VA Health Care System. The facility opened April 2, 2012.

The clinic is the result of a widespread community effort that began more than nine years ago, with support from the area Veterans Affairs offices and veterans groups.

"Special thanks go to former Winneshiek County Veterans Service office director Deb Munson and area veteran Glen Larson for their part in the project," said Winneshiek County Development Inc. Director Randy Uhl.

The clinic, which is situated in the old Walmart building, provides primary care, mental health care, tele-health, social work services and basic lab and X-ray. There currently is one primary care provider, but a second provider and support staff will be added in the future.

To date, the clinic has seen more than 950 veterans. There are 12 full-time staff at the clinic. All are VA employees.



Pioneer Award

The second type of award presented by WCDI was the Pioneer Award, which is presented to businesses established within the last five years that have made a significant impact upon the community.

The Pioneer Award recipient was Toppling Goliath, a small brewery in Decorah. Since opening in 2009, Toppling has developed a loyal fan base.

Toppling is known both for bringing new beer styles and for bringing back some lost styles of the past. Over the next few years, Toppling plans to become a sustainable regional level brewery.



Sustainability Award

The third type of award presented by WCDI was the Sustainability Award.

The 2013 Sustainability Award recipient was Winneshiek County Recycling.

Last summer, Winneshiek County Recycling (WCR) was named best governmental recycling program in the state of Iowa as presented by the Iowa Recycling Association.

Winners of the award represent premier facilities, programs, projects and individuals exhibiting cutting edge waste-management and recycling practice, according to the Iowa Recycling Association.

WCR is always looking at ways to become more efficient. New lighting with greater output and less energy usage has been added. Automatic shut-off switches and energy efficient drives have been added to some equipment.

"WCR's efficiency pays off for everyone in Winneshiek County - the recycling entity is actually putting money back into the county's general fund," said Uhl.



Tourism Leadership

The Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau presented Northeast Iowa RC&D with the 2013 Tourism Leadership award at the annual Decorah Area Luther Awards Luncheon.

This award is extended to an individual, business or organization that has made a positive impact on Winneshiek County by way of tourism promotion, education, or development.

"Their tagline 'making things happen' is a simple phrase but it sums up what this organization does, and most times - outside of the limelight," said Brenda Balk, Convention and Visitors Bureau director.

In Balk's award presentation, she named several major accomplishments that have impacted Winneshiek County in the last few years.

RC&D worked to establish "Friends of the Decorah Fish Hatchery" as a 501c3 and helped them raise over $400,000 dollars for projects - including their new public restrooms facility.

They provide continual assistance to the regional Northeast Iowa Tourism Association and recently secured funding for professional photography for marketing and promotion; they created a series of I-movies for tourism sites, implemented a new web presence for visitiowa.org and helped develop and fund the printing of an award-winning natural resource and tourism brochure.

RC&D secured funding for Winneshiek County Conservation Board to put up directional signage on the Upper Iowa River. Their organization secured funding for increased promotion of the Winneshiek County Farmers Market, providing free assistance to local food producers with web-site development.

They assisted the Iowa DNR to secure funding to install several handicapped fishing access points along the trail, which resulted in Winneshiek County now having the most handicapped accessible stream in the state.

RC&D helped the city of Decorah and Winneshiek County Conservation Board secure over $5.5 million in grants for the Trout Run Trail.

RC&D Projects Director Paul Berland accepted the tourism award on the organization's behalf.

In a later interview, Berland noted several more exciting projects in the works for Winneshiek County.

"We recently helped the city of Decorah and Winneshiek County Conservation Board secure funding to take a spur of the Trout Run Trail under Highway 52 and begin development of a trail that will connect the Trout Run Trail and the Prairie Farmer Trail. That project will continue to be important this year as we work with Winneshiek County Conservation Board to secure funds for bridges and trail development along the route. RC&D staff will continue to work with the Friends of the Decorah Fish Hatchery to develop and implement an interpretation and education plan for the Hatchery.Our office will be facilitating stakeholder meetings to discuss potential development of a state-designated Upper Iowa River Water Trail.

RC&D has also secured funding to start development of Farmers Market 'Producer Profiles' this year. We will work with local partners to obtain professional photograph and write-ups of Winneshiek County local food producers. The photos and information will be used to develop posters, brochures, news articles and other marketing materials that will help build the profile of the individual producers and the farmers market.

We are finalizing a 'Regional Local Food Plan' for Northeast Iowa that includes a marketing component that could help Winneshiek County and all of Northeast Iowa better brand and market their local food profile," concluded Berland.



United Way

United Way of Winneshiek County presented two awards during Monday's Luncheon.

Kathy Barloon received the Loretta Ian Award and the United Parcel Service received the Doyle and Margery Gordon Award.