On May 11, about 700 people converged on the Rotunda at the Fess Parker Doubletree hotel for the 23rd annual South Coast Business & Technology Awards. The event was started in 1995 by local business leaders who wanted to recognize the achievements of individuals and companies making an extraordinary commitment to the region’s economy. A volunteer Steering Committee nominates and selects the honorees and secures sponsorship support.
Since 2001, proceeds from the event have gone to the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara (SFSB) for scholarships for students studying business and technology-related fields at area colleges. This year’s event raised more than $270,000 and in the past 17 years, more than $2 million has been awarded to more than 900 students. The SFSB does not charge an administrative fee to manage the funds raised by this event — all proceeds go directly to student scholarships.
After an extended networking session over cocktails in the Rotunda, guests were seated in the Grand Ballroom where they were welcomed by Steering Committee Co-chairs Arnold Brier and Renee Grubb.
The Excellence in Service Award was presented by sponsor Montecito Bank & Trust (MB&T) to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). In presenting the award, Board President Janet Garufis remarked on how SBIFF shares MB&T’s core value of giving back to the communities that supports them.” In addition to the 11-day film festival, “SBIFF engages with the community through free and wide-ranging educational programming, many of which provide high quality learning opportunities for underserved and vulnerable populations.”
After expressing her gratitude for the award, Board President Lynda Weinman shared how “cinema allows us to understand each other, to hear different perspectives, actually experience what it’s like to be in each other’s shoes — and we really need that today more than ever.” She also noted that SBIFF is dedicated to being an educational film festival — the organization wants to use film as a touchpad to talk about important things and “we believe that stories and people can change the world.”
The Entrepreneurs of the Year Award went to Adam Firestone and David Walker, brothers-in-law who founded Firestone Walker Brewing Company in 1996 and turned it into the 10th largest craft brewery in the country.
The Company of the Year Award was bestowed on AppFolio, Inc., a software company specializing in property management and legal practice software. Founded in 2006 by Klaus Schauser and Jon Walker, the company now has 17,000 companies as clients. As evidence of its commitment to its employees, more than 30 were invited to share in the glory of the evening with their co-founder, Jon Walker.
The Executive of the Year Award was presented to James Takayesu, who has served as President and CEO of Tecolote Research for more than 20 years. Under his leadership, Tecolote’s annual revenues have risen from $23 million to $114 million and the value of its ESOP plan has increased more than 1,100 percent. The company fully funds employee insurance costs and offers generous pension benefits as well.
The Pioneer Award went to John Petote, who in 1983 co-founded CIO Solutions with just $8,000 and turned it into a multi-million dollar company that provides customized information technology and voice communications solutions. Petote has also invested in more than 70 start-up companies, venture capital funds, and real estate partnerships. He started the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance last year to encourage regional investment. Petote shared how passionate he is about serving on the board of the United Boys & Girls Club, in part because of the transformative effect it had on his own life, and he serves on other boards as well.
President and CEO Candace Winkler emphasized the tremendous impact of scholarships by citing a national study showing that of students who start a bachelor degree program, after six years, only 61 percent had completed the program, with cost cited as the main reason why the other 39 percent had not. By contrast, for the most recent group of recipients at the SBSF, after six years, 82 percent had obtained their degree, and this occurred despite the average family income of its recipients being below the national average.
Winkler also cited a recent study that indicated that in 2030, California will have a shortage of 1.1 million college graduates to meet its workforce needs. So “by investing in local students we are able to change lives and strengthen our local community, one scholarship at a time.”
Winkler announced that when the foundation sends out its awards letters this month, it will mark the granting of more than $100 million worth of scholarships awarded to 47,000 students in its 55-year history.
The foundation is on track to award more than $8 million this year to students throughout Santa Barbara County to attend college, graduate and medical school, and vocational school. The majority of the scholarships are based on financial need. The foundation also provides free financial aid advising.
For more info about the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, go to sbscholarship.org.
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By Gail Arnold