AUGUSTA — While the winners of three Kenney Awards have already been announced, two others will be voted on Friday during the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual business recognition event.

The CYNERGY Young Professional Award honors chamber members and young professionals that have shown exemplary leadership in the region and recognizes their commitment to the betterment of Kennebec Valley. The finalists are:

Ranae L’ltalien Photo courtesy of Healthy Communities of the Capital Area

• Ranae L’Italien, 41, CEO of the Kennebec Valley YMCA, said she’s honored to be nominated because the Augusta area has so many professionals that do amazing things.

“Everybody’s had a crazy year and we’ve been working so hard to do whatever we can to help our community,” L’Italien said.

She started her career as childcare director 15 years ago and was associate executive director before serving as interim CEO. She was appointed as the organization’s top executive in June.

L’Italien has worked since then to create a new environment and culture with her staff to meeting the changing conditions in a year where a global pandemic reshaped people’s lives.

“This year has proved that the Y is a community service organization and not just a swim and gym, because our swim and gym were closed and we still survived,” she said. “We always look at the needs of the community and that’s how we adjust our programming and our path forward.”

Shawn McLaughlin

• Shawn McLaughlin, 40, opened State Lunch at the end of February 2020, just 20 days before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a statewide stay-at-home order that closed the downtown Augusta eatery and changed how restaurants were able to operate since then.

McLaughlin, who has been active with the Augusta Downtown Alliance, said he credits his staff for the restaurant’s ability to continue to serve food and cocktails by pivoting to takeout service and the community for its support.

“I have always looked at things that where there’s adversity and difficulty, there’s an opportunity,” he said. “Rather than feel bad for ourselves and focus on the negatives, I tried to shift our perspective from Day 1 to say where’s the opportunity?”

Katelyn Pushard

• Katelyn Pushard, 32, has worked at the Children’s Center in Augusta for about decade. Currently the director of development and grant manager for the Children’s Center, Pushard started her career there about a decade ago as a case manager, working with families and children with special needs.

Pushard also works in community relations and works on outreach, connecting with other organizations and meeting people who want to help those who need it the most both through the chamber and through the United Way of Kennebec Valley.

“I am totally honored, honestly, to be considered for the award,” Pushard said. “There’s not a shortage of young professionals doing incredible work in the community.”

President’s Circle Award

This award recognizes companies active in the region whose impact is shown through revenue and job creation. Nominees are leaders in their industries and maintain an exemplary business image. The three finalists are:

• Gosline Insurance Group was founded in Gardiner in 1955. The family-owned insurance company has expanded to 11 locations across the region in the decades since and has grown to 55 employees, offering personal and commercial insurance as well as retirement and financial planning.

Suzanne Chadwick, one of the company owners, said the company’s success — which includes building a new, larger building for Gosline Retirement Services in Farmingdale to replace the one completed several years ago — is due to the growth and success of the region.

“It speaks volumes about the community in how they recognize us and see us as a provider of insurance, a company that has knowledge and provides good service,” she said. “It’s nice to know we’ve been recognized. We’re growing, yes, but we’re definitely focused on good customer services and taking care of our customers.”

• Highbrow, a fast-growing Maine owned and operated cannabis company, has four retail shops, both medical and adult-use, including one in Manchester that opened in 2018; a fifth that is expected to open shortly in Bath.

“I don’t even know if I can put into words what this means,” Richelle Stacy, business manager at Highbrow Industries, said. “It’s not just an honor and step forward for Highbrow, it’s an honor and a step forward for the cannabis community as a whole that has fought so hard to destigmatize cannabis and its use and what the benefits are and who we are as people.”

Highbrow also operates the nonprofit Canna Claus to support a wide variety of community activities and organizations year round from libraries to food banks to heating assistance. Stacy said that’s an important part of their business because without the customers and patients the company would not be where it is now.

• Transco Business Technologies, with its headquarters in Augusta, serves the territory from Augusta to Millinocket, Vice President of Sales David Palmer said.

“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized and to be one of three finalists for this award,” Palmer said.

Transco Business Technologies helps companies streamline their document workflow and reduce expenses, offering information technology services to evaluate office workflows in addition to the hardware in the form of copiers.

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