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Zumbro River Brand named Large Business of the Year

Jim Fischer, executive vice president of Zumbro River Brand, shows a plaque proclaiming the company as Large Business of the Year, to his wife, Jennifer Fischer, Thursday at the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Jim Fischer, executive vice president of Zumbro River Brand, shows a plaque proclaiming the company as Large Business of the Year, to his wife, Jennifer Fischer, Thursday at the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Zumbro River Brand received top honors Thursday at the annual Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

The company was named Large Business of the Year as a “poster child for job growth, ” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr.

Named Medium Business of the Year was Freeborn Lumber Co. & Design, and awarded Small Business of the Year was Thompson Electric.

Kehr pointed to the customer service at both Freeborn Lumber and Thompson Electric.

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr shakes the hand of Brandon Kroeger, manager of Freeborn Lumber, named Medium Business of the Year on Thursday. With Kroeger is Tiffany Krieser, daughter of owner John Miller. Kroeger is Miller's nephew. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr shakes the hand of Brandon Kroeger, manager of Freeborn Lumber, named Medium Business of the Year on Thursday. With Kroeger is Tiffany Krieser, daughter of owner John Miller. Kroeger is Miller’s nephew. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

The celebration took place at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club. Kehr said it was the largest number of tables they had at the annual gathering.

The evening’s speaker was Mark Lanterman, a computer forensic scientist for law enforcement, who had the room hanging on his comments about Internet credit card breaches. He demonstrated how easy it is for hackers to gain access to thousands of credits in Albert Lea alone. He said new technologies such as Apple Pay could put a dagger in the credit card industry.

Kehr said Zumbro River Brand, which is an agglomeration, blending and dry foods packaging company, started in Albert Lea in 2006 in the north industrial park in a 20,000-square-foot building. It added on 10,000 square feet when it opened and recently added another 10,000.

Its warehouse and distribution portion are in the 62,500 square feet in the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency spec building in the Jobs Industrial Park on the south end of the city.

Kehr said when Zumbro River Brand first came to Albert Lea through the Jobs Opportunity Building Zones program, it committed to creating 15 jobs. It now has more than 70.

Kehr also highlighted that the company has a tobacco-free campus and is focused on improving the community. The company is owned by Pam Sander of Rochester.

Freeborn Lumber came to Albert Lea after suffering a fire at its former location in Freeborn and has taken part in many significant projects in the community, Kehr said.

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr shakes hands with Karla and Mike Thompson of Thompson Electric on Thursday. The business was named Small Business of the Year. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr shakes hands with Karla and Mike Thompson of Thompson Electric on Thursday. The business was named Small Business of the Year. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

It Is involved with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army and has quietly contributed to the Edgewater Cottage restoration and the Big Island Rendezvous.

“They don’t look for big thank yous, ” he said. “They’re committed personally and as a business to the community.” The company is owned by John Miller of Janesville.

Kehr said Freeborn Lumber stands out for its customer service. It has about 20 full-time employees.

Thompson Electric is a family-owned business with six employees and is presently owned by Mike Thompson of Albert Lea.

The company provides electrical work for both commercial and residential buildings, Kehr said, and is quick to respond to small business needs.

Gene Thompson, who owned the business prior, has been heavily involved in the Cloverleaf Lions Club, the ring toss at the Freeborn County Fair and the flight breakfast.

Other awards given out at the chamber banquet were the following:

• Volunteer of the Year Award to Bill Howe, president of the Fountain Ladle Sportsmen’s Club, who also helped lobby for $7.5 million in state funding to dredge Fountain Lake. Howe helped create the Shell Rock River Watershed Trail.

• Ambassador of the Year to Ryan Cafourek,

vice president of Cafourek & Associates, who is on the chamber’s scholarship committee.

Kim Nelson of The Children's Center poses with Jon Murray of ISC Financial Advisors during the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce banquet Thursday. Nelson was prepared to give Volunteer of the Year award to Ryan Cafourek of Cafourek & Associates, but he couldn't be present. Murray accepted on Cafourek's behalf and gave a facetious acceptance speech. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Kim Nelson of The Children’s Center poses with Jon Murray of ISC Financial Advisors during the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce banquet Thursday. Nelson was prepared to give Ambassador of the Year award to Ryan Cafourek of Cafourek & Associates, but he couldn’t be present. Murray accepted on Cafourek’s behalf and gave a facetious acceptance speech. — Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Kehr said Cafourek also is involved in the chamber’s golf outing and has great attendance at Ambassador and other special events.

• Lifetime Member Award to Keith Fligge, a distinguished alumni award winner with the Education Foundation of Albert Lea and former president of the Albert Lea Port Authority.

Kehr said Fligge was instrumental in keeping ALMCO in Albert Lea.

• Worksite Wellness Awards to Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, The Children’s Center, the city of Albert Lea, Innovance and Alliance Benefit Group.

The featured speaker was Mark Lanterman, chief technology officer of Computer Forensic Services, who spoke about data breaches.