Habitat for Humanity, ReStore named small business of year

Habitat for Humanity, ReStore named small business of year

CHAMPAIGN — For the first time in recent memory, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year award will go to a nonprofit.

"I've been here almost 18 years, and I do not recall that we have given this to a not-for-profit in the past," said Laura Weis, the chamber's president.

But she said the Habitat for Humanity and ReStore of Champaign County is a deserving recipient of this year's award.

"It might surprise some people that a not-for-profit won this year, but not-for-profits are also businesses that employ people and have an impact on the local economy," she said.

The local Habitat for Humanity was selected from six nominations, Weis said.

In the last three years, Habitat's home construction has increased by more than 30 percent, sales at Habitat's Restore thrift shop have increased 21 percent with annual revenue growth of over $800,000, and it has added three full-time positions, the chamber said.

"I think it's great that they recognized us," said Sheila Dodd, Habitat's executive director. "(Even though) we're a nonprofit, we're still a business, we still pay taxes, we have an impact on the community and we still provide jobs."

Dodd said the recent growth has been driven by a $2 million grant it received in 2014 from the national foreclosure settlement, which helped it raise more funds.

"That allowed us to leverage other dollars and turn it into a $4.5 million project over three years," Dodd said.

The local Habitat used to build about two or three houses a year. It now builds about 10 a year, Dodd said, and hopes to continue at that pace.

She estimated that the property owners at the homes they've built paid $225,000 in real estate taxes last year.

Champaign City Manager Dorothy David praised the nonprofit's growth in her letter of support for Habitat.

"Habitat has grown to be a valuable economic generator in our community — their investment in our community has stabilized neighborhoods, led to growth in our tax base, generated income for local businesses and vendors, created job opportunities for local residents, and most importantly created a healthy, stable living environment for new homeowners across the community," David wrote.

She also praised the ReStore for helping to keep items out of landfills, providing low-cost products for those in need and for helping to provide job training and employment opportunities.

Habitat's volunteer manager Kim Gollings said at least 150 people volunteer a month, whether to help in the ReStore or with building a home.

Habitat uses proceeds from its ReStore to cover its operating budget, Gollings said, so that when people donate to Habitat, 100 percent of that goes to building houses.

"It's a very unique model we're able to have as a not-for-profit," Gollings said.

Earlier this year, Habitat completed its 100th home in its 25th year in Champaign County and was recognized nationally as one of only 23 affiliates of distinction.

"There's just a lot of good things going on," Dodd said.

Previous winners

In a ceremony set to begin at 11:30 a.m. today at Champaign's Hilton Garden Inn, Habitat for Humanity and ReStore of Champaign County will join the following list of Small Business of the Year award-winners, as chosen by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce:

Year Business
2016 Express Employment Professionals
2015 Rogards Office Plus
2014 Bailey Edward
2013 Swanson Roofing
2012 Shatterglass Studios
2011 A to Z Painting
2010 HL Precision Machining
2009 do good Consulting
2008 Common Ground Food Co-op
2007 Chief/Bauer Heating & Air Conditioning
2006 Benefit Planning Consultants
2005 Browne's Fine Jewelry
2004 Ragle Dental Lab
2003 Mettler Center
2002 Curtis Orchard
2001 Twin City Tent & Awning
2000 Martin Hood Friese & Associates
1999 The Lewis Insurance Store
1998 Flightstar Corporation
1997 The Herriott Group
1996 Norrell Services
1995 UpClose Marketing & Printing
1994 Opportunity Specialists
1993 Chemical Maintenance
1992 University Sportswear
1991 Development Services Center
1990 Berns, Clancy and Associates