In a sign of the times, the Institute for Family-Owned Business presented its first National Service Award to a manufacturer of medical testing swabs.

Puritan Medical Products, a Guilford-based family business that started out with mint-flavored toothpicks a century ago, is now North America’s largest manufacturer of medical testing swabs, with multi-million-dollar government contracts. In the first two months of the pandemic, Puritan increased production to seven days a week and onboarded hundreds of new employees for 24/7 operations. The company has grown from one facility to three, all in Maine, with plans to build a fourth plant in Tennessee.

“It’s been a wild ride,” said Executive Vice President Timothy Temblat at the Oct. 6 awards dinner at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. “I credit all of this to our employees and thank all of them for their support.”

The 21st (almost) annual Institute for Family-Owned Business awards were much anticipated after being postponed in 2020. The Institute received 166 nominations, from which 24 semifinalists were highlighted and, ultimately, seven award recipients were chosen for their innovation, service and sustainability.

“We’ve been trying to do this for 2½ years, so we’re very excited to be here,” said Executive Director Catherine Wygant Fossett.

One honoree – Volk Packaging, based in Biddeford – was recognized for donating specially made boxes for veterans’ homes to respectfully return personal effects of deceased veterans to their families. Another – Dolphin Marina & Restaurant, a fourth-generation family business in Harpswell – was recognized for exceptional customer service. And a third, Origin, was celebrated for bringing textile manufacturing back to the Farmington area.

Several honorees are noteworthy for their environmental stewardship. Springworks Farm of Lisbon has a proprietary, closed-loop aquaponic system where they raise tilapia that produce natural fertilizer for their organic lettuces, which in turn clean the water for the tilapia. Horch Roofing of Warren recycles all their roofing waste, which is converted into recycled products and paving materials. And Zachau Construction of Freeport, named Large Business of the Year, advances the use of cross-laminated timber, a solid engineered wood panel that offers design flexibility and low environmental impact.

The Small Business Award was presented to one of Maine’s oldest businesses – one that has been around since its rolling hills were part of a British colony. Smiling Hill Farm, a Westbrook dairy producer for three centuries, is known for its distinctively retro glass bottles of milk and yogurt, cheese and ice cream. But it has also grown into a destination – for playscape meet-ups, barnyard visits and cross-country skiing. The Knight family is innovative, too, saving whey from their cheese to feed their pigs and collecting mountains of post-holiday pine trees to feed their goats.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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