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Chamber honors industries for impact on local economy
Coleman Natural Foods, ZF Group, IMS Gear Georgia win top honors
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Employees of ZF Wind Power and IPSEN personnel install a rail for machinery in ZF’s new heat treatment insulation plant off Calvary Church Road Wednesday afternoon.

Three area companies were named as industries of the year Wednesday by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
A ceremony recognizing Coleman Natural Foods, ZF Group and IMS Gear Georgia took place during an annual luncheon sponsored by Lanier Technical College in Oakwood. The event took place at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

Coleman Natural Foods, which does business as King's Delight on Memorial Park Drive in Gainesville, won in a category of businesses with 501 or more employees.

ZF Group, which has an operation on Palmour Drive in Gainesville and one opening off Calvary Church Road in South Hall, won in a category of businesses with 151-500 employees.

And IMS Gear Georgia, which is on Palmour Drive, won in a category of businesses with one to 150 employees.

"Though Gainesville-Hall County's existing industries don't make front-page headlines every day, the investments that these companies provide, the jobs they create and their community involvement is invaluable," said Shelley Davis, the chamber's vice president of existing industry.

The chamber "appreciates our manufacturers, processors and distributors every day, and we wanted to take this time for an event to allow the entire community to recognize what they mean to us and the impact they have upon our economy."

The Hall County area has more than 300 such companies, including more than 40 international subsidiaries.

Nominations were taken for the awards, handed out for the first time in 2010.

"The award criteria was economic impact, corporate responsibility and work force excellence," Davis said.

Here's a little more information about the winners:
IMS Gear, which set up shop in Gainesville in 1995, has nearly doubled its work force in a year and hopes to top 100 employees soon.

The company, primarily an automotive parts supplier, plans to add power steering, brake system and new seat component programs in the next three years.

ZF, located in Gainesville Industrial Park South since 1987, is opening ZF Wind Power in the new Gainesville Business Park.

The company employs 282 people at the Palmour Drive facility, where drive axles and transmissions are made. The new plant will start production in late 2011 on gear boxes for the wind industry.

Coleman Natural Foods was established in Gainesville in 1989 and now employs 850 people, producing organic protein products and chicken sausage.

The company has added 75 positions and doubled vendor spending over the past two years.

In other honors at Wednesday's luncheon, ElringKlinger USA in Buford also won the employer recognition award and SKF USA in South Hall won the environmental and safety recognition award.

SKF USA, which has been in Hall since 1975, employs 229 people producing precision ball bearings. And ElringKlinger has been in Hall since 2008 and produces automotive shielding systems.

In accepting their awards, officials with the businesses each talked about their companies, as well as future plans and expectations.

Some were downright giddy about growth prospects, especially those hammered by the economic downturn's effects on the automotive industry.

"We have recovered with a vengeance," said Elizabeth Umberson, ZF Group's general manager.

Philip Wilheit, chairman of the Gainesville-Hall Development Authority, talked at the luncheon about Hall's industrial development.

"We are not a one-trick pony here," he said. "We're not just a textile town; we're not just a poultry town. We have many segments of our economy here that really serve us well during times like we've just gone through.

"If one (sector) is down, another will pick it up. ... It hasn't been a bed of roses, but we've survived it much better than most other communities in this state."

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