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Updated: 10/19/2013 08:00:03AM

Whidden-McLean named top business

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This year's speaker Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater displays a trophy Thursday night at the Congressional Cup at the Bartow Civic Center.

2013 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Thornburg talks to the audience Thursday at the Congressional Cup banquet at the Bartow Civic Center.


WWBF Radio owner Tom Thornburg and his wife, Sue, celebrate his induction into the Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100's Champion's Cup Hall of Fame on Thursday.


Larry Madrid of Madrid Engineering talks with Joyce Bentley at Thursday's Champion's Cup banquet in Bartow.


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A dozen Bartow businesses were honored Thursday night by the Bartow Chamber of Commerce’s Committee of 100 at the fourth annual Champion’s Cup Business and Industry Awards dinner at the Bartow Civic Center.

Joining the Bartow business community’s finest was Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater who praised small businesses by saying, “We’re all better by what you have done” to persevere through the last few year’s economic downturn.

Taking home top honors as the year’s Business of the Year was Whidden McLean Funeral Home which also captured the Service Professional Business of the Year. Taking home two loving cups was Madrid Engineering, which earned honors for both the Business to Business honor and the Green Business of the Year. Especially 4 U Catering also captured two of the prized trophies, for both the Emerging and CRA Business of the Year.

“We love this community so much,” said Don McLean when accepting the award. “You have all been so great to us.”

Capping off the ceremonies was the induction of Tom Thornburg of WWBF Radio into the Champion’s Cup Hall of Fame. Thornburg was honored for his long-standing commitment to the city and promotion of local activities which range from Little League tournaments to high school football games.

Thornburg recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of converting Bartow’s only radio station from AM to FM which he said will allow Bartow news to broadcast across the county and not just the city’s immediate environs. Thornburg, who has transferred much of the station’s operations on to his sons, credited his family for much of his success.

“It’s been all of us pulling together,” he said.

Also taking home Champion’s Cups Thursday were Retail Business of the Year-Bartow Ford; Community Service Business of the Year-Spath Jewelers; Not-for-Profit /Community Action Organization of the Year-George W. Harris Jr. Runaway and Youth Crisis Center; Main Street Business of the Year-The Cookie Jar and the CRA Business of the Year-Especially 4 U Catering.

Those businesses, said presenter Kincart Construction Co. president and A-C-T vice president Jeff Kincart, “Have a positive impact on the community’s economy and do so in a way that upholds the highest standards of business practices.”

Before the award in his keynote address, Atwater told the 250 business and community leaders that most of the state’s annual $775 billion in gross domestic products were driven by small businesses and the state’s rebounding economy “will continue to improve as your businesses progress.

“The only way back to long-term endurance will be when the small business owners of Florida are again moving with peace in their hearts,” the former Senate leader and Palm Beach County native said.

He also said Florida’s gross domestic product was the fourth largest in the country, and the 18th largest in the world. He also told the group the state’s borrowing rating was still listed at AAA, while other populous states like California and New York’s ratings had toppled from AAA to A and AA respectively. The reasons, Atwater explained, were that Florida was ranked the second most attractive place for financial investment and fifth for its tax structures.

“And this is all your balance sheet,” he said, “Not Florida’s. It matters. You matter.”

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