Every year since 1974, the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce has recognized outstanding industries and businesses in New Ulm. Chamber President Sarah Warmka said the chamber board votes on the businesses being honored based on three criteria: economic impact, years in operation and community involvement.
KNUJ and Windings are both past recipients of the award. Windings first received the business of the year in 1993 and KNUJ received it in 1994.
KNUJ interim general manager Jim Bartels gave the acceptance speech via video recording. Bartels gave a brief history of the station beginning with its founding in May 1949 and moving through multiple locations before settling at its current building next to the Glockenspiel.
Bartels said the Glockenspiel was a heritage site and KNUJ was a heritage radio station.
Bartels wished to recognize the staff and all former and current on-air personalities for making KNUJ one of the top small-market radio stations.
He said KNUJ was blessed with a big signal and that AM radio will never die as long as people take care of it. KNUJ currently has its largest audience in its history.
KNUJ Program Director Brian Filzen also served as the Master of Ceremonies for the banquet and stated he could never find a better group of co-workers than he had at KNUJ.
Windings’ acceptance speech was delivered by CEO Heather Braimbridge-Cox. She said it was humbling to be the torch bearer for this title.
Braimbridge-Cox also gave a brief history of the company from its start in 1965 to becoming an employee stock ownership plan company.
As of 2008, Windings is 100% employee-owned.
In 2020, the company consolidated its multiple buildings into a single building that encompasses over 70,000 square feet of production space.
Braimbridge-Cox said the key to her company’s success is its ability to win in the present while driving for the future. She acknowledged that the last two years of the pandemic were unexpected and the company needed to rethink how it works. Despite the obstacles of the pandemic, she believed it forced people to start looking out for each other.
Braimbridge-Cox said she was so grateful for the restaurants that stayed open to serve people, banks for providing financial support, and municipal government and the chamber for seeking out business solutions.
“They are all heroes,” she said “And all uniquely New Ulm. It is who we are. ”
She said the business of the year award is not just for Windings but for all of us.
“I’m happy we all found resilience to come back.”