American small businesses are the engines that power our economy. So when you consider that the number of small firms going out of business now exceeds the number of startups for the first time since 1977, it’s no wonder that the economic recovery has been tepid.

Supporting small businesses is crucial to strengthening our economy. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce not only lobbies for policies to help them succeed but works to highlight their contributions.

Through our DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Awards Program, we recognize small companies with exceptional business practices and community involvement. Here are the 2015 finalists:

» Charter School Businesses Management is a New York City-based consultancy that helps charter schools build strong, fiscally solvent organizations. CSBM’s work has positively impacted more than 50,000 students and prevented more than 14 high-performing charter schools from closing their doors.

» Capannari Ice Cream, a family-owned outfit in Mt. Prospect, Ill., produces super-premium small batch ice cream. Since opening its doors in 2001, it has become a community fixture known for customer service and value-driven operations.

» Custom Alarm is a full-service security alarm company in Rochester, Minn., that employs a team of 65. The company is known in the community for providing its customers with peace of mind through its commitment to technology, local expertise and quality service.

» Payette Brewing Co. has become Idaho’s second-largest brewery because its team members are never satisfied with the status quo. It has become a standout among stiff competition thanks to its quality product and “Payette Forward” charitable giving program.

» Triangle Rock Club based in Morrisville, N.C., was founded by former Marines with a passion for adventure, adrenaline and climbing. The entrepreneurs opened their first state-of-the art climbing facility in 2007 and have since expanded to three locations.

» Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park offers cave tours, tram rides and other attractions in Colorado’s once-closed historic Fairy Caves. A dream 16 years in the making, the park attracts more visitors and raises more revenue every year.

» A Nevada husband and wife team founded Noble Studios with a single laptop in 2003 and has grown it from a boutique marketing agency to the top digital firm in the state. Today the company has 50 employees, boasts a client roster of global brands and gives back through community service.

To learn more about their stories and the chamber’s 2015 America’s Small Business Summit, click here.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.