The Pierce County Economic Development Corporation (PCEDC) held its annual meeting Jan. 30, 2018, to recognize local businesses for their contributions to Pierce County.

PCEDC Board of Directors President Michael Fronmueller welcomed everyone to the event, held at the University Center at UW-River Falls.

PCEDC Executive Director Joe Folsom spoke to attendees about his return to the area and being ready to help Pierce County. He wants to have open communication with the public and be able to collaborate on ideas for the betterment of the county and its entrepreneurs.

He opened up discussion for anyone who had questions and spoke about ways to grow agricultural tourism in Pierce County. Folsom emphasized the importance of reaching people in Minnesota with opportunities for Minnesotans to come experience some of Pierce County agriculture.

"Who are we trying to bring in," Folsom said about Pierce County agricultural tourism. "Best opportunity other side of river, let's bring wealth across the river. Bring metropolitan to rural [area]."

The PCEDC also recognized local businesses for their contributions to Pierce County with the small business of the year, large business of the year and ag champion of the year awards.

Small Business of the Year

South Fork Cafe in River Falls received Small Business of the Year honors.

Since 1987, owners Chris and Dawn Berendes have served the River Falls community homemade meals and a breakfast buffet on Saturdays and Sundays.

Chris and Dawn, along with their 16 hardworking employees, offer customers made-from-scratch soups, homemade pies, homemade waffle cones filled with Bridgeman's ice cream, and a full menu of other foods.

South Fork Cafe has also been active in the community with its Veterans Support efforts, Cruisin' for a Cause Bike Run and Bowls of Hope. They also support local organizations such as American Legions Lifeline, FFA Alumni Tractor Pull, Relay for Life, St. Jude's Children's Hospital and many more.

Large Business of the Year

Large Business of the Year went to Cernohous Chevrolet in Prescott.

Since 1932, Cernohous Chevrolet has served Pierce County, first with its original location on Broad Street and now at its Orrin Road locations in Prescott, its home since 1976. The business was founded by Raymond Cernohous and remains a family owned and operated business.

Cernohous offers a one-stop-shop for customers offering full service, parts, accessories and a body shop.

The business has 48 employees. The company says they work to exceed their customers' expectations while offering a fair price for automotive needs.

Ag Champion

The recipient of this year's Ag Champion was the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at UW-River Falls.

CAFES has about 1,500 undergraduate students in 14 different majors and has the largest major (in terms of enrollment) with its Animal Science major. In addition, CAFES offers students 21 student organizations in which to participate.

In recent years, faculty have developed an agricultural-focused study abroad experience for students which has included trips to India, Ireland and Argentina. One of the newest international initiatives in the works is a collaborative effort between CAFES and the AERES University in the Netherlands on a joint International Food Business degree. Students pursuing this degree will spend a year at the partner university.