2020 Harford Award Recipients Announced at Harford Chamber’s 28th Annual Ceremony

The Harford County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Harford Award event was held on Thursday, October 15th from 5:00–7:00pm. Over 100 members of the Harford County businesses community attended this year’s virtual event.  In partnership with the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, the event’s title sponsors were Baltimore Gas and Electric and Harford Community College. Leading up to Harford Award, attendees received gift boxes filled with items from event sponsors along with party supplies for an interactive celebration.

The prestigious Harford Award honors businesses and organizations which exemplify a strong commitment to the Harford County business community. Especially throughout the past year, the 5 recipients have displayed extreme resilience, grit, and innovation. Recipients are chosen through a nomination/application process focused on business growth, increased employment, unique and creative business strategies, technology innovation, and support of public and private education.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman offered opening remarks noting that the event kicked off Harford’s 13th Annual Business Appreciation Week. He praised the Harford County business community for coming together in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to support our emergency service organizations, first responders, and prioritizing health over bottom line profit.

The Harford County Chamber of Commerce is proud to present the 2020 Harford Award Recipients: Island Spice Grille & Lounge (Hospitality/Tourism), Group Benefit Strategies (Service), United Way of Central Maryland (Non-Profit), Thompson Toyota (Retail), and The John Carroll School (Andy Klein Legacy Award). Attendees viewed videos highlighting each of the recipients, which can be accessed here.

Island Spice Grille and Lounge was established in 2013, inspired by owners Kasandra and Jazz Tucker’s genuine love for authentic Caribbean cuisine. Island Spice’s success is evident through its growth in space, sales, and services. The addition of a full-service bar, lounge, private dining/banquet room, and outside patio seating increased the physical footprint while increasing sales year over year. In the first 2 years Island Spice served approximately 500 customers per year, whereas in 2019 Island Spice served an excess of 5,000 customers! Island Spice is also dedicated to serving our community – donating over $25,000 to local non-profits in 2019.

Group Benefit Strategies was launched by Glenn Arrington, Jr. in 2004 and now serves clients across Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Providing a long list of insurance and benefit services, their employees embody high standards for industry knowledge and accessibility to information. Glenn Arrington actively supports his clients and the business community, serving on various boards and committees including the Chamber’s Government Affairs committee. Group Benefit Strategies generous philanthropic initiatives include sponsoring events for the Harford County Recreation girls’ basketball and lacrosse programs while also volunteering time through coaching. Over the years, charitable donations exceed a quarter of a million dollars benefiting many of our local non-profits.

United Way of Central Maryland is on the horizon of celebrating its 100th year in 2025, and they are proud of their numerous accomplishments, and looking ahead to reshaping philanthropy in communities. United Way of Central Maryland focuses on Harford County’s homeless and ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) populations. Educating communities on the needs of ALICE families is accomplished through a Walk a Mile experience. This is an immersive poverty simulation that creates empathy and understanding for the barriers faced by these families. United Way’s Project Homeless Connect has a strong impact on strengthening Harford County’s business climate. In 2020, UWCM provided over 60 criminal record expungements, 174 Dental encounters, 120 eye exams, 100 pairs of prescription glasses, 84 photo IDs, and 185 birth certificates. With a mission to restore participants’ confidence and help get them back on the road to self-sufficiency and a more gainful path to employment, all of these services allow participants to leave with a plan to better their lives and take on larger, more productive roles in our community.

Thompson Automotive, Inc., owned by the Thompson family, was an acquisition and expansion in 1989 to Harford County. This location is an anchor of automotive sales and service in the Route 40 Corridor offering 6 different stores from which customers can meet their automotive needs. Their local leadership continues to accomplish many goals with passion, little fanfare, and a commitment to Edgewood. Thompson Automotive in Edgewood has experienced record growth, more than doubling, in vehicle sales and vehicle services, and creating 65 new jobs in Harford County over the last ten years. Their humble beginnings have become the anchor for change and revitalization for the Route 40 Corridor. Thompson’s financial donations to charities and nonprofits, just over the past 5 years, have amounted to over a quarter of a million dollars.

Finally, the Harford Chamber presented the second annual Andy Klein Legacy Award, which recognizes a business or organization that has previously received a Harford Award (at least 10 years prior.) The award honors the late business leader, philanthropist, and generous supporter of many worthy causes in the county, Andy Klein, who tragically passed away earlier this year. The John Carroll School is the 2020 Andy Klein Legacy Award, a fitting recognition since Mr. Klein himself is an alumnus. John Carroll opened its doors 1964 and received the Harford Award in 1997. Over the past two years alone, John Carroll hired 9 additional faculty and staff members to support its business strategies and increased enrollment, bringing its total number of employees to 106. In addition, John Carroll utilizes numerous independent contractors and seasonal coaches while supporting dozens of local vendors for signs and print services to catering and event supplies. Beyond its economic impact, John Carroll proudly supports the community in which it is located. John Carroll’s 72-acre campus is home to dozens of community events, from outside sporting events and concerts to performing arts productions and fundraisers for other local nonprofits.

If you would like to nominate a business or apply for the 2021 Harford Award, the application will be open April of 2021 on the Chamber’s website.

The Harford County Chamber of Commerce would like to thank all of the Harford Award recipients, sponsors, and attendees as well as all of the Harford County Chamber members for their contribution to local economic growth across all sectors. In partnership with the Harford County Office of Community and Economic Development, the 2020 Harford Award premier sponsors were Baltimore Gas and Electric and Harford Community College.  Additional sponsors included by Venture Access, Harford Mutual, Visit Harford, Freedom Federal Credit Union, Harford Bank, The John Carroll School, Campion Insurance, Vagabond Sandwich Company, Jack’s Small Engines, It’s Payday, Bel Air Downtown Alliance, Beacon Staffing, Laurel Bush Family Dentistry, Advanced Eye Care & Aesthetics, Island Spice Grille & Lounge, and Thompson Automotive.

About the Harford County Chamber of Commerce: The Harford County Chamber of Commerce has worked continually as the recognized voice of business in Harford County since 1976. The Harford Chamber is the premier business advocate in the county, helping members connect and thrive to create a vibrant economy across all sectors. For more information, please contact Kate Rodriguez at 

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