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Portage County Business Council Honors Businesses and Industry Leaders

By Portage County Business Council

Two Portage County businesses, one individual and one club were singled out for honors Tuesday, June 15th at the Portage County Business Council’s Annual Dinner Awards Banquet held at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center.

The Ambassador of the Year Award was presented to the entire 25-member club. Club members served more than 1,500 hours of volunteer time for the Portage County Business Council by attending ribbon cuttings, grand openings, ground breaking ceremonies, Business After Hours, Women in Business and many other events, visits to new and existing businesses and monthly committee meetings. They also ring bells for Salvation Army, donate holiday baskets to those in need and send hundreds of Santa letters to children all over the state.

The Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Bria Bella & Co., owner Tara Manzke, located at 925 Main Street in Stevens Point. Bria Bella & Co. was selected from several nominees based on their growth and financial stability, dedication to customer service and community needs, personal commitment, and innovative efforts to identify a market niche. The store has grown significantly since their first year of only having two racks of clothing available for sale. Their product selection has also grown from career and casual women’s attire to include outerwear, formal wear, men’s suits and tuxedo rental.

The Decree of Excellence Award was presented to Worzalla, who recently announced Phase III of their modernization plan to upgrade their manufacturing headquarters in Stevens Point. This $10 million investment will add additional print capacity for the U.S. book market. Totaling previous improvements made during other phases of the modernization plan, Worzalla has invested $30 million to upgrade its facilities and create jobs in Portage County. For its Phase III expansion alone, Worzalla is adding 40 new positions. This year Worzalla was listed in Printing Impression’s annual printing industry rankings report as the fourth largest North American book printer, as well as the 63rd largest printer in North America by annual sales.

The President’s Award was presented to Craig Gerlach, Superintendent of the Stevens Point Area Public School District. Superintendent Gerlach began his tenure with the Stevens Point Area Public School District in 2016. Since that time, he has vastly changed the climate and culture of the District, securing vital resources to support the educational programs and facilities through facility and operational referenda. He was chosen for this award based on his extraordinary job leading our community and our students through a great deal of change and uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Their dedication to bettering our local community is another element that makes all four award winners unique and valuable parts of the Portage County community.  We salute their work and congratulate them on these well-deserved awards,” stated Karen Myers, Director of Programs & Events for the Portage County Business Council.

“With such deep roots in Portage County, it is always an honor to be recognized by our partners like the Portage County Business Council. I dedicate this year’s Decree of Excellence to each and every Worzalla associate that contributes to our mission to deliver quality books to the world while doing all we can to support our local community,”
stated Jim Fetherston, President and CEO, Worzalla.

Representative Katrina Shankland and Senator Patrick Testin were in attendance at the event to hand out State of Wisconsin proclamations to the award recipients.

The presenting sponsor of the event was TDS. Other sponsors include Ascension, CliftonLarsonAllen, Delta Dental of Wisconsin, Herrschners Inc., Investors Community Bank, Keller, Inc., KerberRose Certified Public Accountants, Sentry, Simplicity Credit Union, Steel King Industries, The Dirks Group, Van Horn Nissan of Stevens Point and WoodTrust Bank.

The media sponsor of the event was WSAW TV-7 and News Anchor Jeff Thelen acted as Master of Ceremonies of the event.

For more information, contact Karen Myers at

Photo Caption: L/R Brianne Petruzalek-Worzalla, JoAnn Rutta-PCBC Ambassador, Megan Kuckkahn, PCBC Ambassador, Craig Gerlach-Stevens Point Area Public School District, and Tara Manzke-Bria Bella & Co.


About the Portage County Business Council-Where Economic Vitality Meets Quality of Life. The Portage County Business Council is the preeminent leader in economic development and community growth. The priorities for our members and the community are retention and attraction of businesses and employees. That is accomplished through engagement, growth, innovation, leadership, network development and partnerships.