Winners of Business Leadership Awards announced

Seven businesspeople have been chosen to receive Business Leadership Awards through a program presented by the UW Tacoma Milgard School of Business, Heritage Bank and the Business Examiner Newspaper Group.

These leaders will be honored – and one will be named Business Leader of the Year – at the third annual Business Leadership Awards event Jan. 28 at the Washington State History Museum. The Lifetime Achievement and Rising Star awards will also be presented during the event, which begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. The awards ceremony will start at 7:30 p.m.

The award winners were nominated by members of the community and selected based on criteria that included 2003 accomplishments, strategic thinking, integrated business knowledge, teamwork, professionalism and communication – competencies emphasized in the Milgard School of Business. Judges also considered nominees’ contributions to the individual’s field of business, the region’s business climate and the community at large.
Judges for the awards included Milgard School of Business faculty, members of the school’s Business Advisory Board and representatives from Heritage Bank and the Business Examiner.

“These awards are designed to recognize the achievements of Pierce County business leaders and cement the relationship between the business community and UW Tacoma’s school of Business Administration,” said Patricia Fandt, director of the Milgard School. “We’ve built our curriculum around the competencies people say are most important in hiring and achieving success. Now, these competencies help identify individuals for recognition in the community.”

The judges selected seven of the 23 nominees to be recognized with Business Leadership Awards. Judges said the range of individuals selected represents the diversity of contributions required to sustain a thriving business community.

One person from among the seven finalists will be named as the single “Business Leader of the Year.”

The 2003 Business Leadership Award recipients are:

* Melanie Dressel, President and CEO, Columbia Bank – Appointed senior vice president of private banking in 1993, Dressel rose to the rank of president within five years. The bank has prospered under Dressel’s leadership: in the second quarter of 2003, net profits were up 51 percent despite a continued slow economy and a challenging interest rate environment. Dressel’s tremendous business skill and competency, along with her commitment to giving back to the community, make her stand out as a true business leader.

* John A. Hall, President and CEO, Rainier Pacific Bank – Known as an excellent leader and communicator, Hall is also respected for his strategic thinking and service to the community. In the 1990s, Hall led a corporate transformation that allowed Rainier Pacific, formerly a credit union, to become a full-service provider of consumer banking, investment and insurance services throughout Pierce and South King counties.

* Don Johnson, President and General Manager, Simpson Tacoma Kraft – Noted in the community for his ethical standards, communication and professionalism, Johnson has been instrumental in a number of community service projects while setting a high standard in business practices. His record of community service includes leadership of campaigns for United Way and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. Seen as upbeat and solution-oriented, Johnson sets an example of teamwork, dedication to the community and communication that his employees are eager to follow.

* Andrea Riniker, Executive Director, Port of Tacoma – Over the past six years, Riniker has led the Port of Tacoma as it has developed into one of the Northwest’s leading container ports. She demonstrated leadership ability, emphasis on future business opportunities and focus on existing customers when she undertook a major strategic planning effort that strengthened the port’s commitment to customer service. In a recent industry customer service poll, Tacoma ranked in the top five ports in the country.

* Randy Rushforth, President, Rushforth Construction, Inc. – For 20 years, Rushforth has shaped Rushforth Construction into a $64 million annual enterprise through business development and customer service. Employees say Rushforth excels at communication and strategic planning. Recently, he initiated a formal strategic planning process and developed the company’s first-ever strategic plan. He is known as a team-builder and sets the bar for professionalism within the company.

* Linda Thomas, Executive Director, Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, Malanca, Peterson & Deheim LLP – Thomas has brought a wealth of experience, reality and common sense to one of the largest and oldest law firms in the Pacific Northwest. She manages the administrative functions for 90 lawyers and hundreds of support staff in three cities and faces daily challenges in all facets of the business. Her uncanny ability to connect with others has helped build focus and confidence during tough economic times. Her trademark humor, warmth and accessibility have made her a natural leader within the firm and the community.

* Janeanne Upp, Executive Director, Tacoma Art Museum – In 2003, Upp led the final stages of construction of a new, world-class facility on-time and within budget, while continuing to successfully operate its former location in cramped quarters inside a converted bank building. Upp, formerly an accountant, brings a new set of accountability principles and private-sector business management philosophies to the non-profit arena. Her skills were essential to the successful completion of TAM’s new building and continued operation within budget.

Admission to the Business Leadership Awards gala is $15. To order tickets, call 253/692-5641 or e-mail