Pinnacle Bank, Morgan Hill Life newspaper are the 2019 large and small businesses of the year

Published in the January 16 – 29, 2019 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Photo by Marty Cheek
The staff of Pinnacle Bank of Morgan Hill pose for a photo after it was announced they are the 2019 Large Business of the Year.

The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce decided the community has so many fantastic businesses that it split its annual Business of the Year Award category into two. Pinnacle Bank received the 2019 Large Business of the Year. And this newspaper, Morgan Hill Life, received the 2019 Small Business of the Year Award.

A group of chamber ambassadors surprised the bank’s staff and CEO and president Jeff Payne.

Chamber ambassador Cecelia Ponzini presented flowers to Payne and chamber board chairman Rich Firato shook his hand and gave him the framed certificate for the Large Business of the Year honor. “Congratulations from the Chamber of Commerce,” Firato said. “Thank you for all you’ve done”

“We appreciate this,” Payne said. “This is a real honor for us.”

“You guys have done so much for the community, and we just want to thank you,” ambassador Leonette Stafford said.

“This is kind of a milestone,” Payne said.

Taking time for a group photo, everyone arranged themselves for the shot, to the amusement of two customers sitting at a nearby desk. “We’re sorry about this,” Executive Vice President Doug Moffat told them, and they nodded.

Photo by Steve Betando
Chamber ambassador Cecelia Ponzini, Morgan Hill Life publisher Marty Cheek, Marketing Director Mark Fenichel, editor Robert Airoldi, chamber chairman of the board Rich Firato, and then-Mayor Steve Tate after surprising the staff with the announcement at the Dec. 6 breakfast.

“We were surprised but very happy to hear how we were being honored,” Payne said later in an interview in his office. “We had clients and everybody was pretty observant and you saw everybody jump up.”

One reason Pinnacle is this year’s Large Business of the Year is because many of its 60 or so employees put in countless hours into the community volunteering, said Chamber CEO/President John Horner.

“Whether it’s giving their time during the summer months at the Chamber’s Friday Night Music series pouring wine or beer or helping with organizations such as St. Catherine’s Church or the Community Law Enforcement Foundation, you can find Pinnacle Bank’s people making Morgan Hill a great place to live,” he said.

Payne is involved with the Rotary Club of Morgan Hill as well as the Edward Boss Prado Foundation.

“The people pick things that they really like to participate in,” he said. “It’s not like an obligation. It’s something they want to do.”

The bank opened in 2006 with offices in Gilroy and Morgan Hill. A branch in Salinas followed later, he said.

“Whether you call it spirit or morale or just the overall environment, it makes me feel good when I hear people saying it’s really a good place to be, a good place to work, a good place to be a client,” Payne said. “Those things warm me. And they don’t happen unless you do have good morale and good people. Success kind of comes along with that.”

Pinnacle Board of Director Chair Susan Black helped in founding Pinnacle. The staff feels strongly about community banks because it keeps the money in the community and they can reinvest back into the local community, she said.

“When we started the bank in 2006, it was our mission to be the bank of choice for investors, clients, employees but also to be a really strong, responsible corporate citizen,” she said. “And we’ve taken that really seriously and so we’re delighted that the community is recognizing us and honoring us.”

Pinnacle Bank’s Denise Brown, the executive vice president/chief administration officer, was also there at the founding and recalled the atmosphere on July 17, 2006, the first day they opened their doors with 10 employees.

“It was excitement. We had worked really to get to the point where we could open the doors and have clients come in for business,” she said. “It was really exciting waiting for those clients to come in and we had some the first day waiting outside for us to open so they could start their accounts.”

The camaraderie of the staff makes Pinnacle a fun bank to work for, she said.

“It’s family,” she said. “Everybody works together and has kind of everybody’s back and makes sure things get done. First and foremost, we take care of the clients.”

Morgan Hill Life staff found out they would receive the 2019 Small Business of the Year award at the Dec. 6 Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast at Mama Mia’s restaurant.

Brittney Sherman, the Chamber’s engagement and membership director, announced the individuals and organizations that will be honored at the Chamber’s 2019 Celebrate gala held March 2 at Guglielmo Winery: Rich Firato for Man of the Year, Karen Crane for Woman of the Year, Edward Boss Prado Foundation for Nonprofit of the Year, Cherisse White for Volunteer of the Year, Gavilan’s Dr. Kathleen Rose for Educator of the Year, Live Oak High School senior Alexis Munson for Student of the Year, and Pinnacle Bank for Large Business of the Year.

One final category recipient would be surprised at the breakfast, she said. “For small business of the year, we have not yet announced but because they’re in this room, I’d like to pull them up now. It is Morgan Hill Life.”

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Publisher Marty Cheek, editor Robert Airoldi and Marketing Director Mark Fenichel walked to the front of the room where Cheek received a bouquet of flowers from Ponzini. Firato presented the framed certificate to Airoldi.

“We are shocked, to say the least,” said Mark Fenichel at the announcement.

A few photos were taken and then Cheek said: “Thanks, so much. This is a real meaningful award for us. We really care about our community, we really do, and that’s why we want to put out the best quality paper that we can. I love journalism. I’ve got ink in my veins. I’m concerned about the state of where journalism is going right now in America. This (award) is an indicator that people really support small-town newspapers. Thank you so much for your support — including the advertisers, who make it possible for us to publish our paper.”

Publisher Marty Cheek contributed to this story.

Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi

Robert Airoldi is the editor of Morgan Hill Life newspaper. If you have a story idea or an Around Town column item you want to tell him about, you can reach him at (408) 427-5865 or at editor@morganhilllife.com.
Robert Airoldi