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The Plano Chamber of Commerce is proud to recognize Plano's best and brightest at its annual Best of Plano awards dinner from 6-10 p.m. Thursday at the Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park Hotel.

This event celebrates the achievements of local businesses and community leaders with the presentation of awards. Special recognition will also be given to firefighter, police officer and teacher of the year.

The theme for the 2014 Best of Plano awards is “There’s No Place Like Plano.” The Plano Chamber will honor the following award recipients with an evening of Emerald City glamour and “Wizard of Oz”-style fun. For information on each award, visit planochamber.org.


Shelley Strickland, director of strategic accounts for Catalyst Marketing Inc.

ATHENA Award

Plano Star Courier: How does it feel to win this award?

Shelley Strickland: I am extremely honored and humbled. So many of the former Athena Award recipients have been my role models and mentors, so to be recognized among them is overwhelming.  Receiving this award is even more special because my mom, Andre' Davidson, was the recipient last year and she will be presenting it to me at the Best of Plano event.

PSC: What's your favorite thing about Plano?

SS: That there are so many individuals and organizations that genuinely care about the community and contribute so much of their time and resources to make Plano the great city it is.

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

SS: To keep faith and family as my first priorities, be successful in my business and continue to live up to the rotary motto of "service above self".

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community?

SS: I have seen firsthand the impact individuals can make in the community. I've watched my parents contribute in so many ways over the years. I want to be that example for others and my children.

PSC: What's something people might not know about you or your business?

SS: A fun fact is that Catalyst, which is a creative merchandise agency, produced 80 million buttons for the 2012 J.C. Penney holiday campaign. These were handed out in every J.C. Penney store across the USA and Puerto Rico.


Preston Lancaster, 33 Restaurant Group/Taverna Rossa founder/CEO

Rookie of the Year

PSC: How does it feel to win the Rookie of the Year award? 

Preston Lancaster: It’s truly an honor. To even be mentioned amongst the other winners and previous winners of the award is really amazing. We are so thankful for the support from the Plano Chamber and the Plano area residents. It really sets the bar for us to continue to strive to be an exemplary business in this great city.

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano?

PL: The people. The people make this city one of the best, if not the best, areas in the US. We are so grateful to have established so many relationships with customers that we now call friends.   

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

PL: We want to continue growing 33 Restaurant Group concepts in Plano and the surrounding areas. There are so many great things going on right now and slated in the near future for Plano. We want to be a part of this and continue to bring the folks of Plano exciting and innovative hospitality concepts.

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community?

PL: Not only does it feel good to give back to the communities that support us, it’s the right thing to do. It’s also good business. Our communities see that we’re here not to just make money, but to also help support, promote and better the communities we do business in. This in turn benefits everyone.

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business?

PL: I am an avid golfer, without much time to golf. I played golf on scholarship at the University of San Diego, where I met my wife and convinced her to come back with me to the Plano area. [Our family] loves it here, but we do miss the beach and cool weather.


Michael Dardick, CEO of Granite Properties

Business Executive of the Year

PSC: How does it feel to win this award?

Michael Dardick: I am really proud for our team. Oftentimes, awards are given to me as CEO of Granite, but they are really recognizing the great work of the company and I am just the representative.

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano?

MD: It is that Plano is the complete package – very family-oriented, great housing and retail amenities, great schools and parks, great business environment, great government, etc.  Oh yeah, and Granite Park.

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

MD: Granite’s purpose is very aligned with my personal views about how I want to impact the future – inspiring people to flourish through the places we create. 

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community?

MD: First of all, my parents set a great example for me in this area as I was growing up. It really was as simple as caring about other people and just doing it because you should – nothing more grandiose than that. Secondly, when you are lucky enough to love what you do and respect and admire the people you do it with, it just feels right to share that positivity with others.

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business?

MD: Well, since it was just announced publicly, it is that Granite Properties was recognized for the third straight year on Fortune Magazine’s list of the Best Places to Work in the country for small and medium-sized businesses, and this year our team was No. 1 in the country.


Dan Donahue and Mark Liberio,Tetra Media Group

Small Business Persons of the Year

PSC: How does it feel to win this award? 

Tetra Media Group: Aside from being one of the highpoints of our career, winning this award reinforces the feeling that we are a welcome and respected part of the Plano community. It’s a tremendous honor to join such an elite group of business leaders who have previously received this prestigious award.

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano?

TMG: Plano is a sizeable city with a small-town feel. Small businesses, through their participation in the Plano Chamber of Commerce, are able to make a positive influence in the community.

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

TMG: We would like to be known as the go-to video production company for small to mid-size businesses and community organizations in the North Dallas area.

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community?

TMG: We feel that the community gives us the opportunity to live and thrive in the Plano area. A community flourishes when business and civic organizations work together, and we hope that our involvement can help Plano become a better place to live for everyone.

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business?

TMG: Tetra Media Group produced a documentary that chronicles the One Day Only 24-hour live theater event hosted by the local theater group Rover Dramawerks. That documentary received an Honorable Mention award at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival. 


Mimi Conner, Aqua Fit Swim & Fitness Family Wellness Center owner

Fred Moses Minority Business Development Award

PSC: How does it feel to win this award? 

Mimi Conner: I feel very honored, thrilled and excited to be receiving the Fred Moses Minority Business Development Award.

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano? 

MC: My favorite thing about Plano is the people. We live in a great community that supports its small business owners.

PSC: What are your goals for the future? 

MC: My goals for the future are to grow Aqua Fit’s programs to meet the needs of its community. We just added more space and will be using this new studio space for great new land classes, educational forums and as an event center.

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community? 

MC: It is important to give back to the community because that is how a community thrives. Working, living, volunteering and shopping within your own community helps everyone to grow businesses, help increase employment and keep a community thriving and surviving.

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business? 

MC: Something that people might not know about Aqua Fit is that we try to never turn any future client away. We offer scholarships and assistance to those in need and work with agencies to assist their clients and find the right program for their clients. Many of our programs were developed because the clients needed something that other facilities could not offer. People are really surprised at all the classes and programs we have. Something that people might not know about me is that I am a second generation aquatic instructor and team leader. My mother was in this field for over 30 years. I am carrying on her legacy of helping my community.


Plano Balloon Festival

Community Partner of the Year

PSC: How does it feel to win this award? 

Plano Balloon Festival: The Plano Balloon Festival Inc. is excited and appreciative of the recognition we are receiving with this community award. The opportunity to showcase the festival, volunteers and the impact the nonprofits have on our community is very rewarding. 

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano? 

PBF: Plano is a city with committed and visionary leadership that creates an environment for all citizens to be involved and engaged in our community. With more than 5,000 volunteers supporting the efforts of the balloon festival, we understand the value of community engagement. 

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

PBF: The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will strive to continue to create a family-friendly festival with an emphasis on local nonprofit agency participation.  

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community? 

PBF: All aspects of our community have some type of impact on our citizens, including festivals and events. The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival accepts the responsibility of providing a high quality family-friendly event very seriously, striving each and every year to offer a unique festival experience and provide a venue for local area nonprofits to create awareness about their agency and programs. 

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business? 

PBF: The Plano Balloon Festival Inc. is a nonprofit agency operating with a 15-member board of directors and two staff members.


Rebecca Egelston Caso

Citizen of the Year

PSC: How does it feel to win this award?  

 REC: It is incredibly humbling. I am so fortunate to be able to work in the community, with great organizations and leaders. To be recognized at this level is amazing.

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano?

REC: My favorite thing about Plano is that it is so inclusive. If you are interested in getting involved, there are a multitude of opportunities available. I encourage people to find an organization whose mission resonates with them and get involved to make a difference in our community.

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

REC: I love my life and am so blessed to be able to volunteer for causes that I feel passionate about. I want to continue to help organizations build capacity, develop leaders for the future and work to keep our city and schools strong. I hope to have many more years of volunteering in Plano.

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community? 

REC: I believe we all have a responsibility to make our community a better place in which to live. There are always issues to be addressed in any community. I believe it is important to step up and help work towards solutions.

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business?

REC: I was actually terribly shy when I was a child. It was through hard work, accepting leadership roles and lots of public speaking that I was able to overcome my shyness.


Sanjiv Yajnik, president of Capital One Financial Services

Outstanding Corporate Citizen of the Year

PSC: How does it feel to win this award?

Sanjiv Yajnik: All of us at Capital One are thrilled that our company has been chosen to receive this prestigious award. Plano is a wonderful place to live, work, learn and play, and we are proud that our Financial Services Division is headquartered here. Thousands of Capital One associates work in our beautiful Plano campus, and we are committed to being a great neighbor and a significant contributor to the growth and prosperity of the city and the region as a whole. For us to be selected to receive this award in a city with such a vibrant business community and a high bar for greatness is a tremendous honor.

PSC: What's your favorite thing about Plano?

SJ: There are so many things to love about Plano – incredibly committed citizens, forward-thinking and engaged local leaders, dynamic businesses of all sizes, schools dedicated to achieving its mission of excellent education for each student, nonprofits who tirelessly support the needs of our community, and an array of amazing entertainment from the arts to fantastic cuisine, and so much more. There is truly something for everyone in Plano.

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

SJ: Capital One is committed to innovating the banking industry to ensure we meet the needs of our customers in this rapidly changing digital environment. Our undeniable passion for our customers is rivaled only by our commitment to being an engaged neighbor to ensure that the communities in which we live and work remain vibrant.

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community?

SJ: At Capital One, we feel strongly that we cannot simply be guests in our community; we must be active participants, working to better the lives of those around us. This is not a philosophy that is only driven from the senior executives, but the associates at Capital One demand it, expect it and truly have a passion for it. They give generously and selflessly of their time year-round to help "level the playing field" for those who need a supportive hand.

PSC: What's something people might not know about you or your business?

SJ: People know that our company is a leading corporate citizen in the DFW area, but they may not be aware of our Place Based Initiative strategy (PBIs), that we've launched in Plano and South Dallas. Capital One's PBIs are multi-faceted community revitalization projects created to serve as a catalyst for the continued development of local communities, including Plano east of Highway 75 and South Dallas. The PBIs represent a strategic investment by Capital One to enhance and expand economic opportunities for families and businesses in these two neighborhoods. Capital One is carefully listening to these important communities to really understand what is at the heart of its needs.


Sally Bane, Plano Economic Development executive director

Special Award of Merit

PSC: How does it feel to win the Special Award of Merit?

Sally Bane: I am delighted and, of course, feel quite honored. It was an enormous surprise. The employees of the city work every day with a laser focus to serve. We all do so to make this a “City of Excellence” and really don’t ever think about receiving recognition for what we all do with a passion.

PSC: What’s your favorite thing about Plano?

SB: The people. What a great community, filled with committed and energetic citizens working to continuously improve our city.

PSC: What are your goals for the future?

SB: It is pretty encapsulated in my favorite passage: “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: reach forward to what lies ahead.”

PSC: Why is it important to you to give back to the community?

SB: It is so important to be a builder, helping to create, improve and support a sustainable community. When you give, you get back far more than you receive. 

PSC: What’s something people might not know about you or your business?

SB: I love fly fishing, though I don’t get to do it as much as I would like. Fly fishing forces me to focus on that moment on the river and nothing else. Plus, with a fly rod in my hand, I can’t check my email messages.

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