Great River Engineering Inc. owners walked across the stage to the sound of applause to claim the 2018 W. Curtis Strube Small Business Award on May 2.
Given annually by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the award recognizes the impact of small businesses in the economy.
“You work hard every day in a small business. It’s not easy,” said Mel Eakins, principal of the civil engineering firm, when accepting the award during the chamber’s annual luncheon at Oasis Hotel & Convention Center. “It’s nice to every once in a while see you’re making a difference and that others see that.”
Presented since 1992, the Small Business Award is named for W. Curtis Strube, the late director of Drury University’s Breech School of Business. Strube founded the Springfield chamber’s Small Business Council.
Honorees are selected based on written applications reviewed by an independent panel of judges comprising previous recipients, local businesspeople and Small Business Council members.
“Someone nominated us, we’re not sure who,” Eakins said of the process. “We’ve been interviewed both publicly and privately from the chamber.”
Companies eligible to receive the award must be chamber members and have less than 50 employees. Businesses in this range comprise 85 percent of chamber members, chamber President Matt Morrow said at the event.
“Each year we gather to celebrate small businesses,” he said. “It’s no coincidence this small business event falls on the first week of May, which is Small Business Week in Springfield.”
The owner of last year’s winner, Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate LLC, presented the award to Eakins and company founder Spencer Jones.
“The award helped us connect with our community and neighbors,” Askinosie said of receiving the 2017 award.
In Jones’ acceptance speech, he indicated a company goal is to impact the community.
“We try to make a difference in the community and it’s nice to be recognized by you,” he said. “We are servants to the community.”
Runner-up finalists, in alphabetical order, are:
• Atlas Security Service Inc., a full-service alarm security company;
• Complete Automotive, a vehicle maintenance and repair company;
• OzAir Charter Service, the aircraft company owned by Burgess Aircraft Management LLC; and
• Revel Advertising, an advertising and branding agency.
Great River history
Jones and Eakins co-own Great River Engineering with Jason Sivils. Founded in Nixa by Jones in 1997, the civil engineering and surveying company’s first client was Polk County, where he designed the Robert’s Ford Bridge over Pomme de Terre River.
“Polk County’s decision to select Great River for this project was based upon their close relationship with Spencer [Jones] and his reputation for providing excellent client-centered service,” the application reads. “This type of relationship with our clients has been the secret to our success.”
In 1999, the office relocated to Springfield, and the firm currently employs 35 between three offices in Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis. Thirty of those employees are in Springfield, Eakins said. The company also works on projects throughout Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Great River specializes in bridges, roads, parks and trails, wastewater, drinking water, stormwater infrastructure and site development.
According to the application, Great River Engineering has been part of more than 3,000 projects, mostly in southwest Missouri, for a total of more than $500 million in infrastructure. It is currently working for Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris as he relocates and restores the historic Ozark Mill.
“These projects have a long-term impact on the quality of life of our community,” the application reads. “The impacts of this work affects people where they live, learn, work and play.”
Other projects include the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge, Riverside Bride in Ozark, Chestnut Expressway intersection improvements and water system upgrades at Silver Dollar City.
Great River has implemented innovations such as drone surveying and fiberglass reinforcements for bridges. According to the application, the company also is involved in community outreach, including career-day presentations, offering job shadowing for students, sponsoring youth sports teams and volunteering with the Salvation Army.
Great River Engineering ranked third last year on Springfield Business Journal’s list of the area’s largest engineering firms, with 11 local registered engineers.
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