(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
"And the winner is...Kiech-Shauver-Miller Gin Company of Monette, recipient of the 2007 Agri-Business of the Year Award.
The winners were announced at an awards ceremony held at the Convocation Center at Arkansas State University hosted by the Northeast Arkansas Business Today (NEABT). The ceremony was held on Tuesday evening, Jan. 29, recognizing businesses from across nine counties in several categories.
Kiech-Shauver-Miller Gin Company received top honors in the Agri-Business category. Other categories included Non-Profit Business Person of the Year; Non-Profit Business of the year; 2007 Women in Business Honorees; 2007 Outstanding Young Executives Honorees; Small Business of the Year; Mid-Size Business of the Year; Large Business of the Year; Business Person of the Year.
Kiech-Shauver-Miller was nominated in 2006 and was named in the top five finalists.
"We do not know who nominated us in 2006 or 2007," MaLeisa Finch, manager, said. "When we were called last year, I had no idea what it was about. I was impressed with the ceremony and was thrilled to be nominated and honored to be named in the top five. The ceremony was like being at the Academy Awards ceremony and the top five were announced with the winner's name in a sealed envelope."
All of the nominees are reviewed by a committee who narrows each category down to five. Profiles of each of the finalists are prepared, published in the NEABT, and another committee reviews the five finalists and makes the selection for the Business of the Year Award.
Finch has been with the business since 1976 assuming the position of manager in 2005, following in her father's footsteps, the late Raymond Miller, who managed the gin for almost 50 years. The gin has been in business since 1959.
"When we lost Dad, they gave me a title but we all manage this place," Finch said. "We have 15 employees and they run it. Someone has to have a title but they all work hard. They know what has to be done and they do it. These employees deserve every award they can get. They are the best. They never complain. When we get a rush order and have to work weekends, all they say is, tell us what we need to do to get it done. They are part of my family. It is to their honor and Dad's honor what the gin is today."
Finch said the award also is a tribute to her father who gave his life to the business, customers, and employees.
"As I walked throughout the gin yard one day looking at the whole picture I thought, this is a man's (Raymond Miller) dream," Finch said. "He put his whole heart in it. Dad was aggressive in keeping up and caring for the gin. It was his idea to build the bale warehouse and we can store up to 46,000 bales. He had the insight to put up the first cotton seed warehouse which led to a second one."
"The gin has expanded and survived through the years by putting our customers first," Finch said. "A farmer invests so much and the way we gin the cotton is very important. It is like finishing the year for the farmers. They put their faith in us and we want to give them the best possible service. This was a challenging, wet year. Our employees were out there trying to dig out the cotton and they never complained."
Keich-Shauver-Miller is a corporation. Mr. Miller became a stock holder in the 1980s but did not want his name added to the business.
"The first meeting after Dad passed away, the stockholders voted to add Miller to the name of the company," Finch said. "One of them said without Miller, there would not be a Keich-Shauver. It was a nice tribute."
The gin recently completed its 2007 ginning season, ginning 44,000 bales of cotton. Finch said the number of bales was down from last year's record of over 49,000 bales.
"Several large farmers in the area switched from producing cotton this season to grain, because of higher grain prices," Finch said.
"The gin gathered 15,000 tons of cottonseed to be sold, which is an excellent result based on bales ginned this year."
The gin operates 24/7 from the second week in September until the last week in December.
"As I said before, the employees never complain," Finch said.
Finch's mother, Dolores Miller, a retired school teacher, helps during the busy ginning season. Dave Pierce has worked during the fall season for the past 30 years, also.
"They works hard and we are glad to have them," Finch said. "Our business is like a big family. All of our employees treat the gin like it is their own. It is a wonderful environment."
Employees include Wendell Gadberry, who has been with the gin since 1975; Antonio Garcia, who has been with the gin since 1992; James Greer, Dewayne Couch and James Greer, who have been here at least 12 year, and Heather Nance, Rafael Martinez, Mark Parrish, Dagoberto Ayala, Ray Garza, David McCormick, Kimberly Horton, David Myers, Alan Henson, Nick Ruiz, Jr. and Julio Garcia.
"They (the employees) deserve the credit for not only this award but any success we achieve," Finch said.