April Lacey, , ExpNews@ExplorerNews.com

Thirteen local businesses received 2005 Copper Cactus Awards, which recognize excellence in the practices of small businesses in the greater Tucson area.

To qualify for the Wells Fargo Copper Cactus Awards, businesses must be for-profit, at least two years old, locally owned and operated, have 250 employees or fewer, and display excellence in the categories of Best Place To Work, Business Growth and Community Service. The awards were handed out at a dinner at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa on Oct. 13.

Also awarded at the event was the Tucson Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Leader of the Year award, which honors a manager or owner of a company who is active in the day-to-day activities of the company and exhibits commendable business conduct. This award went to Britton Dornquast, owner of Hear's Music, a music store at 2508 N. Campbell Ave.

Dornquast, who started Hear's Music in 1991 after graduating from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, said one reason he has the ability to work on several community projects relating to small businesses is that he trusts his employees to make decisions without constantly having to consult him.

"They're given a lot of autonomy. You don't have to micromanage them," Dornquast said.

Because staff members have so much day-to-day decision-making power, Dornquast is able to serve on several boards and commissions that foster the growth of small businesses in the area, he said.

Dornquast serves on the Pima County Small Business Commission, the Tucson Small Business Commission, the City Sign Code Commission and Greater Tucson Leadership.

Overcoming challenges is another trait of his leadership. The change in the music industry from CDs to downloaded music and file sharing made his business a third smaller than it was five years ago. But Hear's Music fared well compared to larger companies because it was able make changes faster, shifting from five-percent mail-order sales in 2000 to 40-percent mail-order sales today.

The Copper Cactus awards were split into categories based on the number of employees a business has: one to 19; 20 to 49; 50 to 99; and 100 to 250.

Titan Health Management Solutions, one to 19 employees; GBP Risk Solutions, 20 to 49 employees; Pepper-Viner Homes, 50 to 99 employees; and CyraCom International, 100 to 250 employees, won the awards for Best Place to Work, which recognizes businesses that encourage growth, education, and development for their employees through the workplace environment or employee benefits.

Pepper-Viner Homes is a Foothills homebuilder and CyraCom International, which provides medical interpretation and translation services, has an office in the Northwest.

TriSports.com, one to 19 employees; Creative Cabinets, Inc., 20 to 49 employees; Bedmart, 50 to 99 employees; and Arizona Family Care Associates, 100 to 250 employees, won the awards for Business Growth, which honor business that are unique and successful in the way they are handling growth or change in the current marketplace.

Ronin, one to 19 employees; Tucson Sidewinders Baseball, 20 to 49 employees; American Home Mortgage, 50 to 99 employees; and Lovitt & Touché, 100 to 250 employees, won the Community Service Awards, which honor businesses that invest in the community through volunteerism, contributions or support of nonprofit organizations.

Judges for the Copper Cactus Awards included Ellen Hargis, president and chief executive officer of the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona; Sharon B. Foltz, community relations director of Tucson Electric Power Company; Charlie O'Dowd, owner of Paper Paper Paper; Sherry Hoskinson, associate director of the University of Arizona's Karl Eller Center; Tom Collier chief executive officer of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona; and Dana Robbins-Murray, vice president of facilities and marketing for Bookman's Bookstore.

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