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Small firms work hard to earn big pat on back

Phil Graham & Co., Hennessey Construction, Capitol Marketing Concepts, SoHo South and EEI/Mod Tech Industries reap awards.

By SHARON L. BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The tile walkway leading from the parking lot to the main gate of Tropicana Field is on the resumes of two of the five winners of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce's small business of the year awards.

Landscape architect Phil Graham & Co. designed the Florida Power path, and Hennessey Construction Services Corp. built it before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays came here in 1998.

The walkway contains 900 linear feet of mosaic tile and features music and lights.

Graham won the chamber award in the category of companies with 25 or fewer employees. The company has been in business since 1967 and has seven workers.

"The award really is a tribute to the firm's long-lasting hard work over 34 years," said Phil Graham. "It's a salute to us for our contribution to the livability of our community."

Hennessey, which has been in business 81 years, won in the category of companies with 26 to 100 employees. It has 90 workers, 70 of whom are on-site construction workers. Bronson Alexander, a past president of Hennessey, bought the company two years ago, according to Jim Williams, construction manager.

"I think (the award) recognizes, in our particular case, an established company under new ownership," Williams said.

The company is working on the new YMCA being built on First Avenue S in St. Petersburg. Other Hennessey projects include Bon Secours Place, the Museum of Fine Arts and St. Anthony's Hospital.

In the category of 100 or more employees, Capitol Marketing Concepts Inc. of St. Petersburg won. It offers its 5,600 business clients travel promotions for their employees to spark competition and increase sales. The company was founded in 1995 and is owned by four partners: Thomas Coffeen, Nicholas Del Corso, Brian Bell and H. John Mejia. It now has 132 employees and 47 independent contractors throughout the United States. It recently consolidated its three locations into a four-story building in downtown St. Petersburg.

SoHo South Gallery & Frame Shop in St. Petersburg, owned by Marylyn and Bob Lowe, picked up the award for small business rookie of the year. This award honors the outstanding graduate of the chamber's Entrepreneurial Academy.

The Lowes created a gallery out of an eyesore of a restaurant supply warehouse on Central Avenue. Marylyn Lowe said progress in her business and its service as a "town hall' for the Grand Central District won the business the entrepreneurial award.

Minority small business of the year is EEI/Mod Tech Industries of Clearwater, a distributor of electronic and industrial products founded in 1993 by C. Susan Englander. It has 18 employees and plans to add 15 in the coming months.

EEI recently was approved by the Department of Defense to participate in a mentor/protege program with Alliant Defense Electronics.

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