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Student honors
Two high school and two college students received a Student of Integrity Award at Wednesday’s Torch Awards ceremony, based on recommendations and essays they’d written. They were:
•Riley Blake Bannon, Manchester University
•Samuel Thompson, Huntington University
•Rachel Marie Bertsch, Bluffton High School
•John James Julien, Marian High School
Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Jim Benninghoff, president of Stucky Brothers appliance and electronics sales and service on Coldwater Road, holds the Torch Award his company was given by the Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana for business integrity.

BBB honors Rea chairman

4 local companies, 1 nonprofit get integrity awards

This year’s Torch Award recipients covered a range of business categories.

Being ethical isn’t easy sometimes. And it can be expensive.

But there’s no other way Jim Vann would do business.

Vann, chairman of Rea Magnet Wire, has been named the 2014 Individual of Integrity by the Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana.

Four local businesses and one nonprofit also were honored Wednesday for having integrity. More than 300 people attended the lunch at Grand Wayne Center.

The ninth annual Torch Awards were presented to Matthew 25 Health/Dental Clinic, Hartman Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning, E. Harper & Son Funeral Home, Stucky Brothers and Peg Perego USA.

After the ceremony, Vann talked about one of many times he was tempted to not do the right thing.

Rea Magnet Wire’s 401(k) employee retirement plan bought guaranteed insurance contracts from a Canadian company years ago.

About three years later, the Canadian company went bankrupt. Rea employees stood to lose about $1 million as a result.

So Rea’s owners, who were already heavily in debt from acquiring the company, borrowed $1 million more to buy those contracts and ensure that employees didn’t suffer the losses, Vann said.

“Long term, you can’t go wrong doing the right thing,” he said, adding that the rule holds true even when it’s tough going in the short term.

Jim Benninghoff, president of Stucky Brothers, is the grandson of one of the company’s three founding brothers. Doing the right thing by customers is a daily cost of doing business, he said.

The family-owned retailer can compete with big-box stores “by actually taking care of problems, by having a service department,” he said after the award presentations.

Benninghoff said it’s more ecologically responsible to repair items than to replace them after a few years of use.

Greg Smitley, the local BBB’s president and CEO, said the 3,400-member organization revamped its award selection process this year, his first as the nonprofit’s leader.

Previously, it was a challenge to generate enough nominations to have a legitimate competition, he said. This year, the BBB solicited suggestions from past Torch Award winners and its board of directors.

Instead of dividing nominees according to employee count, this year’s program selected them based on business category: retail, service, manufacturing, contracting and nonprofit.

Winners had to have an A+ rating with the BBB, have few or no complaints, have a long history of BBB accreditation and be a good representative of what the award stands for, Smitley said.