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South Coast Business & Technology Awards Marks 20 Years of Honoring Excellence

Companies and individuals are recognized for their service and innovation at the annual event benefiting the Scholarship Foundation

From left, Company of the Year representatives Ron Blitzer and Rob Richman of Be Green Packaging, Executive of the Year Craig Zimmerman of The Towbes Group, Pioneer Award honoree Dr. Herbert Kroemer, Entrepreneur of the Year Victor Schaff of S&S Seeds and Rich Phillips of CMC Rescue Inc., Excellence in Service honoree, at Thursday night’s South Coast Business & Technology Awards.
From left, Company of the Year representatives Ron Blitzer and Rob Richman of Be Green Packaging, Executive of the Year Craig Zimmerman of The Towbes Group, Pioneer Award honoree Dr. Herbert Kroemer, Entrepreneur of the Year Victor Schaff of S&S Seeds and Rich Phillips of CMC Rescue Inc., Excellence in Service honoree, at Thursday night’s South Coast Business & Technology Awards.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @NoozhawkNews |

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the South Coast Business & Technology Awards, every living past honoree was invited to attend and many accepted the distinguished opportunity to join more than 700 business leaders Thursday night at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort.

The highly anticipated event is the largest networking opportunity on the South Coast, gathering business leaders to honor and recognize companies and individuals with a commitment to the vibrancy of the local economy.

Outstanding local students attending Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara and Westmont College were also recognized for achievements with awards provided by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

The Scholarship Foundation is a vehicle for generosity by supporting students who are motivated to achieve a higher-education degree, and the organization is the beneficiary of the annual SCB&T Awards event.

A volunteer steering committee led by co-chairs Jeff DeVine of American Riviera Bank and Danna McGrew from Bartlett, Pringle and Wolf helped select five distinguished honorees for 2014.

The Excellence in Service was presented to CMC Rescue Inc., an industry leader producing more than 800 highly specialized emergency equipment products for rescue professionals from the company’s headquarters in Goleta.

“The guiding principles for our company are do the right thing, be a good place to work and taking care of the customers,” said Rich Phillips, CMC Rescue's president and CEO.

Victor Schaff of S&S Seeds received the Entrepreneur of the Year award, and under his direction the native seed supplier has grown into the largest statewide. S&S Seeds offers commercial quantities of more than 1,000 species of native plants, including innovations in low water, drought-tolerant California native plant seed.

Schaff spoke to Noozhawk about the challenges young entrepreneurs face today and the faith needed to succeed.

“I think being an entrepreneur, if you will, and caring for and being successful in carrying out some mission or whatever it is, an idea or a thought, was much easier when I started 50 years ago, I am sorry to say,” Schaff said. “But you still can do it. There’s no question — you need to be perseverant, hang in there and don’t get discouraged.”

Be Green Packaging was the recipient of the Company of the Year honor with Cradle to Cradle certified, compostable and tree-free packaging designed, manufactured and distributed for the food and consumer packaging industries. The company is the only consumer packaging company with Cradle to Cradle™ certification adhering to strict environmental and sustainability requirements for Be Green facilities and products.

2013 Entrepreneur of the Year, Barbara Rosenblum of Strategic Healthcare Programs, 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year honoree, with Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara board president and Montecito Bank & Trust president/CEO Janet Garufis. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Ron Blitzer, Be Green Packaging CEO and president, shared the good-natured feeling that comes from receiving this community honor.

“It’s a nice honor. We’re overnight successes. We’ve been doing this for 35 years," he said. "We’re serial entrepreneurs, and to receive an honor as company of the year from the community and where we live and do business is quite inspiring for us and our staff and our organization.”

The Executive of the Year award was presented to Craig Zimmerman, who as president at The Towbes Group for the past 13 years has directed and managed more than 1,800 residential units and more than 1.8 million square feet of commercial office, retail and industrial projects.

Zimmerman spoke to Noozhawk about the impact that his mentors have had on him and the importance of learning at all stages of a person’s career. 

“The Towbes Group is a brand. And it’s a brand about what Michael Towbes stands for — and it’s integrity, loyalty, teamwork and diligence," he said. “And Mike’s the type of person who listens to everyone. He’s a lifelong learner. He’s always reading. He’s always looking for new ways. And someone at his point in his career, he’s open to listening to others and thinking of new ideas — that’s someone that we can all learn at any stage in our career.”

Retired UCSB electrical and computer engineering professor Dr. Herbert Kroemer was the recipient of the Pioneer Award, and is also a past winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000, where he shared the honor for discoveries related to heterostructure-based transistors used in the development of mobile phone and other wireless communications technologies.

Dr. Kroemer discussed the key to discovery for young people.

“Probably the most important thing is keep their curiosity alive,” Kroemer said. “And do not necessarily accept all the answers that they are carrying for questions. They may be right they may be wrong. But keep questioning things always and remain curious.”

The Excellence in Service award goes to a company providing strong customer and community service, while the Entrepreneur of the Year honor is presented to an individual with a successful career of entrepreneurial endeavors. The Company of the Year is a market leader that demonstrates profitability and strong growth. Additionally, the Executive of the Year is for a senior executive who has increased company profitability with strengthened market presence and a vigorous passion for the local community. Finally, an individual with a long history of outstanding leadership or innovations in business or technology here in the South Coast receives the Pioneer Award.

Since 1962, the Scholarship Foundation has provided more than 36,700 scholarships totaling $87.6 million for county students through financial aid, advising and scholarships providing financial aid advising services to more than 35,000 students and parents each year.

These impressive feats have earned the foundation a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the nation’s leading independent evaluator of nonprofits.

Support from the Scholarship Foundation reached 2,755 Santa Barbara County students in 2014, with scholarship awards totaling a record $8.6 million in student aid.

The SCB&T Awards are made possible through community support from businesses and individuals, and the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara does not charge an administrative fee, with 100 percent of contributions to support scholarships going directly to deserving students.

Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

From left, George Leis of Union Bank, Lynda Tanner of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, Christine Garvey, and Randy Weiss of Union Bank. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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