Chamber to Honor Local Business Leaders at Best in Business Awards Event
The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce will honor Tracey Greene, John C Vermillion, WillowTree, and Eugene & Lorraine Williams with its 2023 business awards.
“Our annual awards celebrate the spirit of community service that has been central to this Chamber for 110 years,” said Chamber President & CEO Natalie Masri. “We’re thrilled to bring the community together in honor of these outstanding local leaders and their positive impact.”
The Chamber’s highest annual award, Business Leader of the Year, will go to Tracey Greene, Executive Director of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council (CBIC) and Founding Executive Director of the Charlottesville Angel Network (CAN).
“It is Tracey’s instincts about collaboration, community, connection, and promotion that have set the tone for how CBIC operates and how so many in this community have found critical connections and information for their business and personal lives,” said CBIC Board Member Craig Honick in a statement. “She is the quintessential ecosystem builder.”
John Vermillion will be recognized as the Christopher Lee Small Business Person of the Year. He is the President of Charlottesville Sanitary Supply Corporation, a family-owned janitorial and swimming pool supply business serving the area for more than 40 years.
WillowTree will receive the Upstanding Award in recognition of its responsible business practices – including sustainability, volunteerism, charitable giving, DEI initiatives and STEM outreach.
In honor of their decades of business and civic leadership, Eugene and Lorraine Williams will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. This special recognition celebrates the Williamses’ lasting impact on the region.
Award recipients were selected by a panel of Chamber business leaders. The selection committee was deeply impressed by the volume and quality of this year’s nominations, which yielded 29 well-qualified finalists for the committee’s consideration.
The awards will be presented at the Chamber’s Best in Business Awards, a celebratory event presented by Albemarle County Economic Development at Kimpton The Forum Hotel on November 30, 2023.
Greene is widely recognized as a key connector in the Central Virginia business ecosystem. She has helped spur the region’s growth as a notable investment hub for early-stage ventures. Under her leadership, CBIC has become a central resource for technology and innovation-based businesses in the region at each stage of growth.
CBIC events like Charlottesville Entrepreneurs and Espresso (CE2) serve to educate and connect local entrepreneurs. Greene recently partnered with Venture Central and others to organize Angel Academy CVA, a one-day session to educate aspiring investors in the fundamentals of angel investing.
As a supplier to cleaning and swimming pool service companies, Vermillion helps minority- and woman-owned small businesses get started by providing customer leads and business advice. During the COVID crisis, he made it his goal to help customers economically create a clean, safe environment and avoid misinformation. Vermillion has served in many local organizations, including 12 years as president of the Stony Point Volunteer Fire Company.
A digital product consultancy founded and headquartered in Charlottesville, WillowTree has provided pro-bono and low-bono work for apps like Empathable, an immersive DEI training program, and the local Meals on Wheels app.
WillowTree has hosted coding workshops and STEM field trips for Charlottesville-area youth and donated both funds and services to C4K. The company is working toward energy savings and carbon footprint reduction at its facilities throughout the U.S. and Brazil. In 2023, WillowTree implemented anti-bias training for all managers and launched a DEI Learning Pathway for employees.
Eugene and Lorraine Williams
Eugene and Lorraine Williams have served at the forefront of the civil rights movement in Charlottesville for nearly 60 years. In the 1950s and 60s, they organized sit-ins, helped the Charlottesville branch of the NAACP grow exponentially, and spearheaded a lawsuit to integrate City schools.
In the 1980s, the couple formed Dogwood Housing to purchase dilapidated homes, renovate them, and offer the units as affordable housing. They invested their own life savings, secured unprecedented investments from the City of Charlottesville and other partners, and worked closely with the properties and their tenants for decades. Woodard Properties purchased the homes in 2007, contributing substantial repairs and maintenance. In 2023, Woodard sold the portfolio at a deep discount to Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) in order to maintain permanent affordability.