Red letters on a white background — “Jumpin Jack’s Drive-In” — was all there was to see the day after Tropical Storm Irene flooded the Mohawk Valley, the popular riverside eatery’s sign poking up out of the murky waters.
The true test of an entrepreneur, according to Chamber of Schenectady County President Chuck Steiner, is recognizing that change is constant, innovation is a must and failure is not an option.
“Mark Lansing has been a successful entrepreneur and businessman because he meets change head-on and innovates to compete,” Steiner said.
The owner of Jumpin’ Jack’s had a lot of change to meet in the aftermath of the late summer flooding in 2011. Lansing and crew got straight to work repairing and restoring the restaurant in time for a spring opening.
That perseverance is one of the reasons the chamber recognized Lansing as Entrepreneur of the Year at its 24th annual Business Awards, held Tuesday night at the Glen Sanders Mansion.
“When the floodwaters of 2011 were roof-high and threatening his very existence, Jumpin’ Jack’s came back without losing a beat, welcoming its traditional lines of customers on opening day in 2012 waiting for those burgers, hot dogs and fries,” recalled Steiner.
Another example of community investment, said Steiner, is the new Schenectady County Community College dorms built by Troy developer United Group of Companies. The College Suites at Washington Square was a project 10 years in the making. The four-story, 112,000-square-foot facility opened this fall, offering 264 beds to SCCC students.
UGOC’s involvement in bringing about the first-ever SCCC student housing is why it received the Renaissance Award, an honor bestowed on a business that contributes to the county’s revitalization by renovating or constructing an outstanding building.
The developer helped fulfill three major objectives, said Steiner. In addition to providing private sector investment and state-of-the-art student housing, it moved the city further along in its goals for a revitalized lower State Street.
“Schenectady County has been and now offers great development opportunities,” said Steiner. “The chamber’s honorees offer a snapshot of the types of businesses and individuals we have in Schenectady County. They have not only been successful, but have contributed greatly to the quality of life and vitality of our community.”
Other award winners were:
• More Perecca’s received the Rising Star Award as a business in operation for two years or less that has demonstrated commitment to the community and exhibits “potential for long-term success.” The café is located at 31 N. Jay St., next to parent business Perecca’s Bakery, and serves meals “reminiscent of any Italian grandma’s kitchen.”
• Applied Robotics received the Tech Valley Innovation Award, which recognizes a business demonstrating “extraordinary technical advancement.” The robotics company moved from Troy to its current facility in Glenville more than two decades ago and since then has expanded its products and systems for the automotive, electronic and pharmaceutical markets.
• Benchemark Printing received the Enterprise of the Year Award, given to a business with 100 employees or fewer that has distinguished itself through achievements in growth and management. The commercial printing company bought two acres next door earlier this year to expand its Schenectady facility and add jobs in the future.
• Mark Little, senior vice president and chief technology officer at GE Global Research, was honored as Business Executive of the Year. He was named to his current position in 2005 and is responsible for overseeing 2,500 scientific and engineering researchers at the Niskayuna headquarters and overseas facilities in China, Germany and India.
• The Capital District Transportation Authority received the Corporation of the Year Award, which goes to a company with more than 100 employees that has experienced growth and other achievements. CDTA announced earlier this week that it expects to surpass 15 million passengers, setting a new ridership record this year.
• MVP Health Care’s David Oliker was also honored Tuesday night. He will retire as the company’s president and CEO early next year.