The South Suburban Small Business Association hosted its 11th annual Summit Awards on the morning of Feb. 13 at Idlewild Country Club in Flossmoor. The event, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, honored business leaders and organizations that demonstrate outstanding performance and excellence and who have made an impactful contribution to the economic and cultural growth of the Chicago Southland.
The 2012 Training Excellence Award was presented to both Al-Amin Brothers Transportation & Warehousing LLC and Gareda. Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery earned the 2012 Small Business Award. Governors State University Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park picked up the 2012 Creative Arts Award, and Jordan Culpepper received the 2012 Young Entrepreneur Award.
Also presented was the 2012 Economic Development Leader Award, which acknowledges “management ability, contribution to the community and region by working toward continued growth and viability of the region, and efforts made to build good, strong relationships with business.” John Watson, director of economic development for the village of South Holland and a longtime resident, is the 2012 recipient of the award.
Watson has served in the capacity of director since January 2009. His charge is to fulfill the village’s commitment to attract new businesses and address the needs of current corporate partners. South Holland is a business friendly community with strong values. The town provides convenient access to major transportation arteries, including Interstates 80, 94 and 294, making it a viable choice for a business to call home.
During his tenure with the village, Watson has worked diligently to move forward the village’s economic development priorities. This recognition as an economic development leader underscores his high level of achievement and contribution to the community and region. Under Watson’s leadership and collaborative efforts, in 2012, South Holland attracted 66 new businesses, resulting in new jobs and filling previously vacant space. Some of the new recruits are Universal Metal Hose, Skyline Furniture, McKernin Exhibits and Martin Produce.
Also in 2012, South Holland sealed plans for the repurposing of several vacant properties, including the former Dick James Ford at U.S. 6 and Woodlawn East which is the site for the development of a retail center, restaurant and Extreme Clean Car Wash. The Chicago Bread Co. broke ground at the site of U.S. 6 and Wausau Avenue in South Holland’s Town Center district, with plans to celebrate a grand opening in late spring of a new 4250-square-foot Panera Bread featuring a drive-through and outdoor seating. This development also includes an additional 7700 square feet of specialty shops.
Watson came to lead South Holland’s economic development engine with a 25-year professional career working in sales management for several Fortune 500 companies. He represents the village on the board of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp., and he serves on the executive committee of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council.
Watson’s volunteer experience has a local and national reach. He is a founding member of the National Sales Network, and currently serves the organization as national vice president of operations. He is past president of the Chicago area Morehouse Alumni Association and the South Holland Jets Football and Cheerleading Organization, and continues to serve as a board member for both organizations. Watson is also a member of the South Holland Lions Club.
As Watson continues to aggressively tell South Holland’s story, attract new business and build strong relationships with current business partners, his message for the continued growth and vitality of the community is clear: “Take another look!” at the village of South Holland.