(INDIANAPOLIS) — An agriculture titan, a small-business-owning state representative, the two minds behind a groundbreaking children’s tech toy and a bustling entrepreneurial city were awarded the highest honors tonight at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 27th Annual Awards Dinner.

The winners are:

• Business Leader of the Year: Sonny Beck, of Beck’s Hybrids in Atlanta
• Government Leader of the Year: State Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington)
• Indiana Chamber Foundation’s Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year: pi lab “Edwin the Duck” creators Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon
• Lifeline Data Centers Community of the Year: Fishers

“Each of the award winners is working to enhance not only their industries or regions, but the entire state of Indiana. They are working to make Indiana a better place to work and live,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The lasting achievements made by our honorees will impact our state far beyond 2016.”

Videos honoring the award winners can be viewed at www.indianachamber.com/go2/winners. Full stories about the winners are at www.bizvoicemagazine.com (brief summaries of why they were selected follow below).

The Indiana Chamber’s annual dinner featured Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George F. Will as keynote speaker to the crowd of nearly 1,500 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

The event was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Lifeline Data Centers is the Community of the Year sponsor. Ivy Tech Community College served as the speaker sponsor, while the opening reception sponsor was Uzelac & Associates. The speaker reception sponsor was Hirons & Company Advertising + Public Relations.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation sponsored the Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year honor. Indiana Vision 2025 is the Indiana Chamber’s long-range economic development plan and the award emphasizes entrepreneurship and others facets of the plan’s Dynamic and Creative Culture driver.

The awards dinner followed the Indiana Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Indiana Chamber Volunteers of the Year Stuart Buttrick (Faegre Baker Daniels, Indianapolis); Todd Miller (Myers Spring Company, Logansport); Mark Richards (Ice Miller, Indianapolis); were announced during a luncheon ceremony.

Ron Christian – executive vice president external affairs, and chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Vectren Corporation in Evansville – was formally elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 chair of the board of directors.

Business Leader of the Year: Sonny Beck, Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta, IN
Stroll through the expansive Beck’s Hybrids operation in northern Hamilton County and one will find no shortage of inspirational messages. Speak to CEO Sonny Beck for any period of time and many of those same sayings seamlessly flow into the conversation.

In other words, the “words” are much more than terms or expressions that are placed on paper and forgotten. They are the driving force behind the largest family-owned seed company in the country – one that has
experienced tremendous growth over the past quarter century.

Beck: “I love the fields, the production side, but I’ve grown to love planning a lot. Your ability to analyze the whole problem and bring life experiences in – that can seem to not diminish. We’re growing fast enough that I keep giving jobs off to other people and my son now keeps giving jobs off to other people. But we keep thinking of new ideas we want to do. I’m always thinking about new projects.”

Government Leader of the Year: State Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington)
Old habits die hard. And that’s a good thing – for Hoosier businesses and their employees – when linked to Dan Leonard’s propensity to serve others.

Leonard owns South Side Furniture of Huntington, a business he purchased from his father in 1978. Elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2002, he serves Huntington County, and portions of Wells and Allen counties.

His leadership, determination and common sense approach on unemployment compensation (UI) legislation and other business issues has benefited Indiana companies throughout the state. The savings from UI bills total billions of dollars.

Leonard: “I’m just finishing up 14 years and it’s been a real learning experience. Sometimes you come out on the good end, and sometimes you come out on the bad end. You have to learn how to work with people. That’s a big advantage for me because I’m in retail and I work with people on a regular basis – different people with different views and different thoughts.”

Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year: Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon, pi lab, Carmel
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck … it’s likely a duck – as the idiom conveys.

However, if it syncs with mobile apps, teaches life lessons and takes the Internet of Things to a whole new level, it might be better described as revolutionary in the children’s toy industry.

That was the hope when Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon developed pi lab and its flagship product – Edwin the Duck.

MacBeth: “In Old English, Edwin means ‘faithful friend.’ We wanted a personality, a name and a product that would go through life with you. Edwin shares life from the same angle as you. He’s an aspirational character.”

Inmon: “I had a light bulb moment in Hong Kong. I saw a rubber duck that had a speaker in it that was for sale. It was very poorly done. But it hit me: What if we took something that was nostalgic and put modern day technology in it?”

Community of the Year: Fishers
No matter who you talk to – business leaders, local officials or longtime residents – they all cite adopting the vision in recent years to become a “smart, vibrant, entrepreneurial city” as the turning point for Fishers. They credit Mayor Scott Fadness and the city council.

What’s followed is quite the transformation. Major economic announcements are the new norm, not the exception. Innovation is now synonymous with the fast-growing city.

That speaks to how dominant a player Fishers has become in business attraction and expansion. It boasts an impressive entrepreneurial spirit thanks to Launch Fishers, the largest collaborative co-working space in the state (if not the Midwest). Collaboration and embracing change have been crucial.

Mayor Fadness: “They (residents) recognize for the most part that change is inevitable and if you can articulate to them why that change makes sense, they’re apt to go along with that. That positions us well to move our community forward.”

2016 Annual Dinner corporate sponsors: AT&T; French Lick Resort; Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino; NIPSCO; Ogletree Deakins; OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc.; Tilson; Wellness Council of Indiana; and Zimmer Biomet.
Contributing sponsors: Allison Transmission; City Securities Corporation; Community Health Network; FedEx; Fineline Printing Group; Hunt Construction Group, An AECOM Company; Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick; Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; KERAMIDA Inc.; Keystone Realty Group; Markey’s Rental & Staging; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; The Kroger Co.; Vectren; WFYI Productions; and WGU Indiana.

RECENT INDIANA CHAMBER ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS:

Business Leader of the Year
Mike Packnett, Parkview Health, Fort Wayne – 2015
Mike Kubacki, Lake City Bank, Warsaw – 2014
Steve Ferguson, Cook Group, Inc., Bloomington – 2013
Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget, Indianapolis – 2012
Jean Wojtowicz, Cambridge Capital Management Corp., Indianapolis – 2011
Mike Wells, REI Real Estate Services, Indianapolis – 2010

Government Leader of the Year
State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) – 2015
Congresswoman Susan Brooks – 2014
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar – 2013
Sen. Carlin Yoder and Rep. Jerry Torr – 2012
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long – 2011
Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction – 2010

Community of the Year

Carmel – 2015
Bloomington – 2014
Bedford – 2013
Indianapolis – 2012
Kokomo – 2011
Terre Haute – 2010

Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year

Dustin Sapp, TinderBox, Indianapolis – 2015

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The Indiana Chamber partners with 24,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”

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