At the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours gathering last Thursday, The McDuffie Mirror was named the 2007 Small Business of the Year.
"Thank you," said Publisher Jason Smith as he accepted the award. "I am proud to be in this community. I grew up here, I live here, and I work here. This is a dream come true for me. Thank all of you for everything you do for us and for this recognition."
As the announcement was being made, Mr. Smith said he was adding the facts together, but still couldn't believe the answer until it was announced. He said it sounded familiar when Chamber President Tommy Phelps said the winning business "employed six people," and they were "always involved in the community, and their involvement is with physical work, not just standing on the sidelines watching."
"The committee had no problem choosing this business to be the business of the year when we considered their level of involvement in the community," Mr. Phelps said.
Committee member Sean Kelley said involvement was a big factor because "not too many people get involved with the Chamber ... and everything the Chamber does is for the community." However, Mr. Kelley said an even larger factor in the choice was "the quality of the product that The Mirror puts out, the apparent growth of the business and the respect that it gets."
"I mean, it is called the 'Small Business of the Year,' and not the 'Biggest Helper of the Year,'" Mr. Kelley said. "It was just about to the point that (The Mirror was) the obvious choice."
The McDuffie Mirror's first edition came out July 3, 2003. The office was located in the Magnolia Center on Jackson Street, with a staff of five employees. In 2006, the business, which is owned by Morris Communications, moved to its permanent location on Railroad Street in downtown Thomson.
The Mirror focuses on substantive news reporting of city and county government, schools, law enforcement and courts, as well as features about local people and their interesting lives.
"I am very proud of The McDuffie Mirror," said Don Bailey, President of The Augusta Chronicle. "In our company, it is our goal to serve the community. And this award validates that The McDuffie Mirror is doing just that."
Approximately 65 Chamber members attended the Business After Hours event, which was held at the Depot and hosted by Jimmy and Dena's Body Shop.
"Today is an affirmation of what the Chamber is trying to promote, and that's good business in Thomson and McDuffie County," Mr. Phelps said.
As recipients of the Small Business of the Year Award, The Mirror received a plaque, a banner and small sign for the front of their business, recognition in the Chamber of Commerce newsletter and local newspapers, and a gift certificate to Chile Peppers. Carolyn Gilbert, the Chamber director, said ice cream and pizza will also be delivered to the employees.
But for Mr. Smith, The Mirror and its hometown staff already have their reward, he said.
"This award is great, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it," he said. "But when it comes down to it, this award is about more than just our newspaper. It's about our community and the successful newspaper they've helped us create."