December 17, 2019

Shelli Jones, Marketing Coordinator
(360) 746-2433

Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce 2019 Annual Awards

The Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce celebrated another successful year for local Bellingham businesses at its 15th Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, at the Four Points by Sheraton, and presented by First Federal. This year's awards recognized individuals and businesses for their contributions to the county, as nine awards were presented to deserving winners.

"The Annual Awards Dinner provides us with the chance to recognize member businesses and business professionals that excel in our community and lead by example," said Shelli Jones, Marketing Coordinator for the chamber. "It's very fulfilling when Award Dinner attendees tell us how energized and motivated they feel after the ceremony. Between the finalist videos and the acceptance speeches, people leave the event inspired and that's the best result we could ask for."

The 2019 Awards were presented to the following businesses and individuals.

Tourism Business of the Year

Tourism Business of the Year is selected by the Board of Directors of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism to recognize a business that excels at partnerships within the local tourism industry.

Winner: Fairhaven Village Inn

Chamber Ambassador of the Year

This award recognizes a Chamber Ambassador who has gone above and beyond in volunteering for Chamber activities.

Winner: Natalie Ransom, Pozie by Natalie

Maritime Industry of the Year

Maritime Industry of the Year recognizes a lesser known, yet vital segment of the Bellingham economy.

Winner: Bellingham Cold Storage

Young Professional of the Year

The Young Professional of the Year is determined by the Top 7 Under 40, an awards ceremony in partnership with the Bellingham Business Journal, Whatcom Young Professionals and the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce. The nomination process is promoted through the three organizations and evaluated by the committee of community leaders and representatives from the three event partners. The winner of the Top 7 Under 40 is crowned the Young Professional of the Year.

Winner: Gurpreet Dhillon

Gurpreet Dhillon is Director for the Cancer Center, Palliative and Hospice Care at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Hospital.

Small Business of the Year

The criteria for Small Business of the Year is based on company management, community service and contribution exceeding the scope of the company's mission, economic stability, ethics and integrity, growth of the company, new jobs created in the community, and upward mobility for employees. Companies considered will be those who put resources and energy back into Bellingham and Whatcom County.


  • 2020 Solutions
  • Gary's Plumbing & Heating
  • IAj Multimedia

Winner: 2020 Solutions

One of the first dozen cannabis retailers in the state, 2020 Solutions opened July 10, 2014 at 2018 Iron St. in downtown Bellingham. Since then, additional stores have been launched at 5655 Guide Meridian and 4770 Pacific Highway, both on the north side of Bellingham, and at 1615 Basin St. S.W., Ephrata. A broad selection of cannabis flower, edibles, concentrates and accessories are available at 2020 Solutions, which also includes certified medical marijuana consultants on its staff to discuss options with patients.

2020 Solutions now has three Bellingham locations that gross ten million dollars in cannabis sales per year and is in the process of opening a fourth store.

Large Business of the Year:

Large Business of the Year is also based on company management, community service and contribution exceeding the scope of the company's mission, economic stability, ethics and integrity, growth of the company, new jobs created in the community, and upward mobility for employees. Companies considered will be those who put resources and energy back into Bellingham and Whatcom County.


  • Barron Heating & Air Conditioning
  • Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel & Conference Center
  • Woods Coffee

Winner: Woods Coffee

Today, Woods Coffee employs 350 employees working in their 18 stores, corporate office, bakery, roastery, distribution center and delivery drivers.

Their desire is to create a space where ALL people are welcome and feel like part of the family...regardless of ethnic background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.

CEO of the Year

The CEO of the Year award is given to a CEO, President, Chairman or General Manager who demonstrates clear, consistent vision for their company, has proven sound professional judgement and ethics, is highly respected among peer and competitors, and is trusted by investors and the community. The CEO of the Year empowers his/her employees and is a steady employer in our community. He/she is able to balance the needs of consumers, employees and investors and is a positive influence on his/her industry.


  • Danielle Rosellison of Trail Blazin' Productions
  • Ray Deck III of Skookum Kids
  • Ross Black of Simple Box Storage Containers.

Winner: Ray Deck III, Skookum Kids

Ray Deck III is the founder of Skookum Kids, an organization that exists to be a helpful cog in the foster care system. Kids are removed from their homes at various times of the day and night and DCYF (Division of Children Youth & Families) needs to scramble to place those children.

Skoookum Kids takes them in for the first 72 hours where children need extra special attention in the Skookum House program. Approximately 200 children every year spend their first few days in foster care with Skookum, in the care of trained volunteers and 21 employees.

Ray believes that Skookum is a unique approach and other communities will be able to benefit from it. He has identified areas that need Skookum House and he's currently working on opening one in Yakima, Washington.

Non-Profit of the Year

The Non Profit of the Year award is based on the organizational purpose of the non-profit, its contribution to the community, its ethics and integrity, community service, exceeding the scope of its mission, and the upward mobility of its clients. Nominees for this award are recommended by the general public and chamber member businesses, and are evaluated by the Annual Awards Committee.


  • Animals as Natural Therapy
  • Brigadoon Service Dogs
  • Whatcom Family YMCA

Winner: Animals as Natural Therapy

Founded by Sonja Wingard in 1999, Animals as Natural Therapy provides equine experiential learning for youth and veterans with special attention to at-risk youth. Animals as Natural Therapy creates a culture of safety where horses help to soften the resistance that humans use as a coping mechanism. Some of the horses themselves have experienced abuse. However, they are able to share their recovery and forgiveness with the participants at ANT who then find hope.

They provide equine experiential learning for youth and veterans with special attention to at-risk youth.

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors recipients based on their contributions to the community in areas such as civic, business, humanitarian, cultural and educational activities in Whatcom County. This award was formerly known as the Man and Woman of the Year award.

Winner: Jim Jorgenson

Jim Jorgensen spent 30 years teaching at Blaine School District and spent 40 years with his salmon fishing business. He served as a commissioner for the Port of Bellingham and was instrumental in the creation of Blaine Marine Park.

How are award finalists and winners chosen?

Nominations were accepted June 10 through August 1, 2019, at which point the Annual Award Committee evaluated the nominations and determined the three finalists for each award.

Nominations for the awards are submitted by the public and Chamber of Commerce members. Upon submission, the nominations are evaluated by the Annual Awards Committee consisting of active Chamber members who volunteer to serve on the committee.

The committee determines the three finalists for the Small and Large Business of the Year, the Nonprofit Organization of the Year and the CEO of the Year. The committee meets with the finalists and conducts interviews to ensure that all businesses are evaluated on the same criteria. The results of the interviews are used for the committee to debate the merits of each finalist. A blind vote is taken to determine the award winners. The Lifetime Achievement Award is voted on by a group of community leaders.

Videos of each award winner, award winner's acceptance speeches and videos highlighting the finalist can be found at Bellingham Chamber's YouTube page. The award videos were produced by Veritas Media Productions for the past four years. The videos were voiced over by Dave Walker of KAFE radio and Deb Slater.

The 2020 Annual Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday, December 3.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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