Hundreds of area business leaders gathered Thursday at Buffalo Run Casino for the 2009 Miami Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala.

The star-studded evening, sponsored by First National Bank, Heaven and Earth Hospice, Integris Baptist Regional and High Winds Casino, is the chamber’s annual event recognizing excellence in Ottawa County.

The News-Record’s own, Mark Rogers, was honored with this year’s Ambassador of the Year award.

“It is a tremendous honor to have been recognized for Ambassador of the Year,” said Rogers. “It’s nice to be honored for something I enjoy doing.”

The Ambassador of the Year is awarded to the Chamber Ambassador that shows dedication and support to the chamber events.

“It’s exciting to see new businesses open and employees recognized or to see businesses expand,” said Rogers. “I enjoy being a part of watching all of those things happen.”

Rogers said he would encourage anyone who has a desire to see the community move forward become involved with the Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a great networking opportunity and it’s a great support system for area businesses,” said Rogers. “That’s what the chamber is all about - helping businesses succeed.”

Rogers said he was also glad that the News-Record allows him the opportunity to participate with the ambassadors.

“The News-Record has always been very supportive of me and the chamber,” said Rogers.

Thursday’s red carpet event recognized several businesses in Ottawa County.

First Assembly of God was recognized as “Non-Profit Organization of the Year.”

The “New Business of the Year,” award went to Stonehill Grill. Vance Ford Lincoln Mercury was recognized as the “Business of the Year.”

Tracker Marine took home “Industry of the Year.”

Dr. Cindy Machado, Principal at Wilson Elementary, received the “Excellence in Education” award.

Dr. Jeffery Hale, NEO A&M President, was honored with the “Impact Award.”

“This recognition was a surprise and honor that Donna and I both appreciate,” said Hale. “The Impact Award is certainly greater than one individual. For me to receive it is truly a compliment to the hard working faculty and staff on our campus, as well as the alumni and friends of the college who offer their support. Those are the people who are often not rewarded but whose efforts should receive just as much praise.”

The gala ended with the passing of the gavel. Alex Acupan, 2009 Chamber of Commerce Chairman introduced 2010 Chairman Dennis Thomas.

For more information about becoming a chamber member, contact MACC Director Cindy Morris at 542-4481 or visit the chamber office, located at 111 N. Main.