Against a thematic backdrop of the U.S. presidential election and its own leadership transition this year, the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry honored the best of Berks County businesses at its 11th annual awards dinner Thursday night at the Santander Arena.
About 800 attended the event, which wove this year’s theme, “Inside Perspectives: Platform for Prosperity,” throughout the evening. Two Wyomissing-based companies, Customers Bank and Good Life Advisor Systems, took home two of the night’s top awards.
In keeping with the presidential politics motif, a Barack Obama impersonator, who earlier worked the crowd during the reception flanked by two stern-faced “bodyguards” in dark sunglasses, began the evening with a tongue-in-cheek speech and concluded with a riff on politics and the spirit of Reading’s business community, sung to the tune of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
Presidential politics were on keynote speaker Ann Compton’s mind. The veteran ABC News reporter who was a White House correspondent during several presidencies talked about what she called the most unusual presidential race that was “light-years beyond anything I’ve ever covered.”
Chamber chairman Robert Firely and several business leaders praised chamber president and CEO Ellen Horan, who is stepping down after 20 years at the helm. Horan, who is moving to Indiana, said it would be difficult to leave the community where she has lived, worked and raised a family, but the region has much to be proud of, especially its quality of life and strong sense of community.
Senior vice president and chief operating officer Karen Marsdale will serve as interim president and CEO.
Firely said the chamber and its member businesses are having a good year. He noted several changes and achievements, including the creation of a new economic development organization that will be a merger of the chamber with the Greater Reading Economic Partnership and the Greater Berks Development Fund.
Customers Bank took home the prize for top business of the year out of 50 nominated. The award recognizes companies that earned more than $1 million in revenue.
Customers Bank has $9 billion in assets and more than 500 employees in 21 sales offices. It was named one of Forbes magazine’s 100 Best Banks in America in 2016.
RER Energy Group, a Reading-based renewable energy company focusing on solar power, was awarded second place, and EJB Paving & Materials Co. of Spring Township took home third place.
The top entrepreneurial excellence award was given to Good Life Advisor Systems, a financial adviser company. The award recognizes businesses that have been in business for at least three years that had revenues of exceeding $250,000 in the last fiscal year and had an average positive revenue over the last three years.