AVON PARK - Two businesses honored Thursday by the Highlands County Economic Development Commission are testaments to the fact that businesses can survive in tough economic times and overcome challenges, the commission's executive director said.
"It is possible to succeed if you're dedicated and you have the right product," said Stephen Weeks, the commission's executive director. "There's no reason to say, 'I can't do something.'"
The commission recognized Sight Unseen Enterprises, Avon Park, as start-up business of the year and Bugs Bee-Ware Exterminating as business of the year.
Weeks noted that Robert Talley, who is blind, faced numerous challenges, along with this domestic partner, Judy McCarter, in starting Sight Unseen Enterprises, which helps facilitate recreational opportunities at lakes and parks.
For example, the business could rent paddle boats, and water bikes for people at Lake Verona.
Talley said that despite his sight challenges, difficulties in getting permits and the economy the business is going strong.
"We've had a lot of ups and downs," McCarter said, adding that she has also faced physical challenges during the time they were getting the business up and running.
Bugs Bee-Ware was chosen as business of the year because of its fine reputation and staying power over a number of years, Weeks said.
Stephenie and Michael McGathey, the owners, were pleased to be recognized, Stephanie McGathey said. She said the business has continued to expand each year, despite the economy.
"Michael and I have been very blessed over the past 17 years to have a successful business," she said. " We currently have 23 employees and will be adding our 17th service vehicle to the fleet next month. We have a dedicated team that strives for excellent customer service and the loyalty & patronage of our customers to be thankful for. Without them, Bugs Bee-Ware Exterminating wouldn't be where it is today. "
The businesses received the award during Highland County Business Development Day.
Also at the meeting, Melissa Medley, vice president of senior marketing officer for eFlorida, described the program's efforts to attract businesses and help other ones grow.
Medley said the challenge is that Florida for many years has depended on tourism, agriculture and construction and hasn't been involved in aggressively recruiting other industries.