The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce handed out its top awards at an Aug. 12 dinner that celebrated a rebounding economy for North Santa Barbara County.
Commercial construction firm Halsell Builders was named Business of the Year, retired City Engineer Rick Sweet received the Robert F. Grogan Public Service Award and James E. Peterson, a well-known local chiropractor and athletic coach, was named Robert P. Hatch Citizen of the Year.
Halsell is a family-owned business that typically devotes a share of its profits each year to helping build or renovate homes for disadvantaged families.
According to the most recent reports from the California Employment Development Department, the unemployment rate in Santa Maria has declined to 5.7 percent amid a surge in multi-family housing construction and an improved retail environment.
As former city engineer, Sweet laid some of the groundwork for that recovery by securing funding for large public works projects such as the widening of Highway 101, reconstruction of levees along the Santa Maria River and developing new water supplies.
About 300 people attended the dinner at the Santa Maria Elks lodge.