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Tompkins Chamber announces award recipients at upcoming virtual annual meeting

ITHACA, N.Y. — The Tompkins Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of the four business and community recognition awards that will be presented at the chamber’s annual meeting & celebration.

The event is set for the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca and hosted virtually on Sept. 10. The awards include Distinguished Business of the Year; Entrepreneur of the Year; Not-for-Profit of the Year; and Key Person of the Year.

Distinguished Business of the Year


HOLT Architects is the Distinguished Business of the Year. The firm, which also has an office in Syracuse, has been in business for 57 years and “hit many milestones in 2019,” the Tompkins Chamber said.

The firm grew its staff 20 percent and surpassed 250 local projects that it worked on. HOLT in 2019 also supported 45 nonprofit organizations with charitable contributions, donations of services, and volunteerism.

HOLT’s “perennial push of the design envelope and abundant expertise” has brought 78 design awards, a net-zero building, and 12 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified projects to Ithaca, helping to “pave the way for the high caliber of buildings” designed in Tompkins County, the Tompkins Chamber said.

Entrepreneur of the Year

The organization is also honoring Elizabeth Classen Ambrose of Bridges Cornell Heights with the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Ambrose, founder of Bridges Cornell Heights, has 31 years of experience caring for seniors.

Throughout 2019, Bridges expanded its brand, offering a “more diverse” portfolio of senior living options, including the opening of the Craftsman in Cornell Heights.

In the past 24 months Ambrose has “cemented” partnerships with many other local developers and is a “key partner” for both the Library Place and City Harbor developments.

Ambrose has also purchased properties around Tompkins County to accommodate the expanding market for senior living.

Not-for-Profit of the Year

The Tompkins Chamber will also recognize the Child Development Council (CDC) with the Not-for-Profit of the Year Award.

For more than 50 years, Child Development Council has been serving families in Tompkins and Cortland Counties with services to support their access to childcare.

More recently, the CDC — led by Sue Dale Hall for more than 28 years — has sought to explore new models, attract more funding, and engage more employers to address childcare as a barrier to workforce participation.

The Child Development Council has also been collaborating with other organizations and counties throughout the Southern Tier to create problem-solving strategies to address the child-care shortage, along with creating a supportive environment for development of group family child-care operations in Tompkins County.

The organization has also supported efforts of specific providers and centers to expand and been “integral to the success” of recent grant applications to increase child-care slots in Tompkins County, “which will help address this critical workforce recruitment and  retention issue.”


Key Person of the Year

The Tompkins Chamber will also honor Gary Stewart as Key Person of the Year following his long tenure on the organization’s board of directors.

The chamber is recognizing his service and “tireless support” of the chamber and the convention & visitors bureau, along with his work as a “champion” of town-gown relations in the Ithaca community.

Stewart has a “long history of actively serving every organization he is involved in, working tirelessly to enhance community collaborations and partnerships, and facilitating important investments by Cornell University into Ithaca and Tompkins County,” the Tompkins Chamber said.



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