Introducing 2016 Family-Owned Business Awards Finalists

Judging these finalists is an honor and a challenge

By Rob Martinelli

One of my favorite things about being publisher of Delaware Business Times is getting to be on the panel that judges the nominations for the Family Owned Business Awards. It’s always interesting to read the stories of so many incredible Delaware Family Owned Businesses. I said that this was one of my favorite things but it’s not easy.

In the following pages you will get a chance to read the stories of the 17 finalists for this year’s awards, and you’ll see why it’s difficult to pick winners from this group. This group of businesses left standing from the many nominations represents some of Delaware’s finest businesses — and more than that, they represent Delaware’s finest family-owned businesses.    

Today Media, the company that publishes Delaware Business Times, along with Delaware Today in this market, is a second-generation family-owned business as well. My two brothers and I are partners and run the company that our father started in 1945 with a printing company in Yonkers, N.Y. Dad decided to diversify into magazine publishing in 1975 and started Hudson Valley Magazine in New York. He was printing Delaware Today magazine for the previous owners and bought the magazine in 1981.  This is how I got to Delaware.

The reason I find it interesting to read the stories of the family businesses is I can relate to the hard work, struggles and rewards to transition a family-owned business to the second generation.  In fact, only around 30 percent of family- owned businesses ever make it to the second generation; 12 percent will be around into the third generation, with 3 percent of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation or beyond.

According to the Conway Center for Family Business, family-owned businesses make up 35 percent of the Fortune 500 companies, account for 64 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and generate 62 percent of the country’s employment. Research shows that family-owned businesses are less likely to lay off employees regardless of financial performance, and 24 percent of family owned businesses are led by a female CEO or president, and nearly 60 percent have women in top management team positions.

Our list of 17 finalists includes four third-generation, four fourth-generation and one fifth-generation family-owned Delaware businesses.  Two of the finalists, Bridgewater Jewelers and Mercantile Press, have each been in business for more than 130 years!

Now you see why picking the winners from this group is so difficult. In addition to myself, Founding Publisher Sam Waltz and staffers Allan Ash and Charlie Tomlinson, the judging was done by two other outside experts. I’d like to thank Margo Reign and Lisa Sable.

Margo is a business advisor for the Small Business Development Center of the University of Delaware. She was director of the Family Business Center from 1997 to 2005. Lisa is Mid-Atlantic regional executive with Vistage, an executive coaching organization that offers leadership training and businesses coaching to CEOs and executives.

I hope you will take the time to read the inspiring stories on the following pages and join us for a dinner event on June 23 at the Wilmington/Christiana Hilton when we announce the winners. 


Rob Martinelli is publisher and CEO of Today Media, which publishes Delaware Business Times as well as Delaware Today.

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