2016 Evening of Excellence Finalists


Recognizing a business that has excelled in creating, implementing or supporting a high-caliber education and/or workforce development system aligned with closing the employment gap.

D.A. Davidson, Seattle

This employee-owned investment and financial services firm invites students, young professionals and “second career” candidates into an industry that is notoriously difficult to enter. It offers internships, apprenticeships and hands-on programs to develop teamwork, decision-making and other crucial skills. D.A. Davidson has also donated more than $512,000 to 20 Northwest colleges and universities through its hands-on Student Investment Program.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland

PNNL and its operating company, Battelle, work to help students and educators succeed. PNNL helped catalyze and continues to provide backbone support for the Mid-Columbia STEM Education Collaboratory, Washington State LASER (Leadership & Assistance for Science Education Reform) and many other innovative educational programs. The goal: to support high-tech education and ensure workers in other industries have critical thinking skills, too.

WGU Washington, Kent

The Washington Legislature established WGU in Washington in 2011 to expand higher education to working adults, dislocated workers, place-bound students and any wanting access to an affordable, flexible accredited college degree. WGU Washington offers more than 50 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Last year its enrollment hit 9,300, with 5,100 new matriculates. Its students work at more than 3,000 Washington businesses.


Recognizing a business that has had a significant cause-oriented impact in its sector and/or community and contributed to the advancement of the economy.

International Air and Hospitality Academy, Vancouver

The schools of the International Air and Hospitality Academy provide high-quality training at low cost to help students from all socio-economic groups find satisfying, well-paid careers. Founder Ach Miller’s original vision in 1979 to provide excellent airline and travel training has grown to include coaching, mentoring and technical training for the hospitality, culinary, railroad and renewable energy industries.

Level 11, Seattle

Like the rockers in the film “This is Spinal Tap,” who design an amp that can be turned up to 11, this high-tech company brings a “one louder” approach to helping connect the world through the Internet of Things. The Level 11 team has doubled in size over the past year, growing from mainly software engineers to include user experience and virtual reality experts, game creators and even architects.

Wafla, Lacey

Wafla, formerly known as the Washington Farm Labor Association, is a nonprofit agricultural association that works with employers to provide a stable, reliable and productive workforce. Wafla pioneered the use of the federal H-2A legal work program in Washington. By providing administrative expertise on employment of seasonal workers, Wafla helps farmers focus more energy on their crops.


Recognizing a business whose products and/or services have positively impacted the way in which Washington employers and communities are connected to each other and the world.

Expedia, Inc., Bellevue

Whether through its mobile app, booking site or simply by making travel easier, Expedia is in the business of connecting people. This Washington-grown company now has 160 offices around the world, and supports its employees with paid time to give back to their communities. Expedia also encourages its employees to travel by giving them an annual travel allowance.

Mill Creek Pub, Battle Ground

The Mill Creek Pub’s decor, including a working water wheel and flume inspired by the nearby Cedar Creek Gristmill, connects visitors with the area’s history. Owner Russell Brent aims to also connect community members with one another. Whether people are gathering to discuss city business or support one another through fundraisers, the Mill Creek Pub is a place where people can hash out their differences, not wallow in them.

Seattle Symphony

Believing that music is a universal force for inspiration and wellbeing, the Seattle Symphony works with 60 local nonprofits to help Seattle’s homeless population. The symphony gives away thousands of free concert tickets, supports shelter programs and brings music into prisons. Through its Simple Gifts events and comprehensive Community Connections program, the Seattle Symphony is bringing hope and dignity to some of Seattle’s neediest residents.

Leading Environmental Practices

Recognizing a business that has put a priority on environmental improvement, education or outreach to its business sector and/or community.

Banfield Pet Hospital, Vancouver

In June 2016, Banfield Pet Hospital officially moved its corporate headquarters to a new, ultra-green building in Vancouver. The building (which is also designed to be dog-friendly), uses a geothermal heat exchange system, has a 20,000-gallon rainwater reclamation tank, roof-mounted solar, and regionally sourced building materials. It saves 56 percent of the electricity needed for a typical building of its size.

Earth Friendly Products, Lacey

Since 1967, EFP has been making household and commercial cleaning products using plant-based ingredients and environmentally friendly processes. It has more EPA “Safer Choice” certified products than any other manufacturer. EFP has achieved carbon neutrality at all five of its American manufacturing facilities, avoiding 54 million pounds of carbon annually, and is Zero Waste Platinum certified.

Nucor Steel Seattle

As Washington’s largest recycler and operator of a hyper-efficient minimill, Nucor’s core business is aligned with its environmental goals of reducing carbon emissions and climate change. Thanks to millions of dollars of investment, Nucor’s Seattle facility is one of the greenest in the world, using as little as 10 percent of the energy consumed by many of its global competitors.

Employer of the Year

Recognizing an employer who has implemented innovative job retention, creation, benefits and/or compensation plans that foster a thriving work environment.

Energy Northwest, Richland

While providing safe, reliable, low-cost electricity to more than 1.5 million public power customers, Energy Northwest is also committed to serving its employees and surrounding communities. The company adopted an Excellence Model to select and retain the right people. Its diversity of employee-focused programs is focused on ensuring each employee has the right skills, knowledge and attributes required for the job.

Phillips 66, Ferndale

While its employee benefits are comprehensive, Phillips 66 goes beyond that to provide generous support to its employees. Phillips 66 facilitates on-the-job mentoring and pays up to $8,500 per year for employees to pursue higher education. It matches employee charitable donations dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000 a year. Its refinery has an on-site clinic, 24-hour fitness facility and employee garden for veggies and flowers.

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Pullman

After listening to the needs of its employee-owners, the SEL Family Center was born. It has a free full-service medical clinic, a free workout facility with personal trainers, and an on-site childcare center. That’s just one benefit of working at a 100 percent employee-owned company, where employees receive, at no cost, an allocation of SEL stock. SEL regularly is listed among America’s best workplaces.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Given to an entrepreneur whose business is less than five years old and has made a significant impact in their industry.

Aslan Brewing, Bellingham
The four co-owners of Aslan Brewing are committed to the environment and community. For CEO Jack Lamb, Brewmaster Frank Trosset, General Manager Pat Haynes and Sales Director Boe Trosset, that means using sustainable and local raw inputs. It also means donations to charity, purchasing of green energy credits, free indoor bike parking for employees — and the production of 5,000 barrels of award-winning organic beer.

C2S Technologies, Bellevue

Jagan Chitiprolu has come from a remote village in India to become the CEO of a global technology company growing at 20 percent a year and generating $20 million in annual revenue. He is devoted to Washington: his global data analysis company’s name was born as “Coming to Seattle” and evolved to “Committed 2 Success.”

Heritage Distilling Company, Gig Harbor

This family-owned and operated craft distillery opened in 2012 and is now the third-largest craft distillery in Washington. Co-founder Justin Stiefel, an attorney, helped change state law to support the fast-growing craft distilling industry. Heritage calls itself a “brainstorming factory” that quickly brings innovative products to market, like its 2015 Spirits Advent Calendar — 24 mini bottles of vodka, gin and whiskey.

M3 Biotechnology, Inc., Seattle

Leen Kawas, president and CEO of M3 Biotechnology, is leading the way in delivering therapies for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. A 30-year-old immigrant from Jordan, she earned her Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology from WSU and has raised $12 million for R&D through two oversubscribed financing rounds. She serves on many boards, including the Washington Governor’s Life Science Advisory Board.

Schilling Cider, Auburn

In 2012 Colin Schilling and Mark Kornei founded a company dedicated to innovative, flavor-forward hard ciders made from the best local ingredients and sold at a fair price. They support the craft cider industry, with classes for the public, active involvement in cider-related legislation, and the Schilling Cider House that serves other companies’ high-quality craft ciders for the public to enjoy.