PITTSBURG — Nearly 400 area business and community leaders, along with guests including Gov. Laura Kelly, attended the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet at Overman Student Center at Pittsburg State University on Thursday, May 16.

In addition to announcements of winners of the Chamber’s annual awards, Gov. Kelly made some important announcements of her own during the banquet.

Last fall, Kelly noted, she came to Pittsburg and signed a pledge to complete Highway 69 expansion project. "And because of our efforts this year to reduce highway transfers, we'll get it done," she said Thursday. "The upgrade of US-69 four-lane expressway from K-47 to north of Arma will begin construction this year."

Kelly also said she was working to prevent tuition increases at higher education institutions including Pittsburg State University, that the Block 22 project in Pittsburg presented a model that she used in developing her Rural Prosperity Plan and that other Kansas communities should replicate, and called for expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

Winners of the Chamber’s annual awards presented at the banquet included the Spirit of Pittsburg Award, given this year to Krista Postai, the Small Business of the Year Award presented to Custom Awards LLC, the City of Pittsburg Employer of the Year Award given to NPC International, the Educator of the Year Award presented to Pittsburg Community Middle School teacher Dan Moss, the Chamber Volunteer of the Year award given to Marsha Wallace.

Business Education Alliance (BEA) awards were also presented at the banquet, including the Bill Coleman Business Partner of the Year Award to Career and Technical Education Center of Crawford County Director Kris Mengarelli, the Jerry Lindberg Volunteer of the Year Award presented to Debbie Cherry of Southeast KansasWorks, and the Koeta Bryant Education Partner of the Year Award given to Karen Odgers, activities secretary at Pittsburg High School.

Finalists for the Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by BKD, LLP, also included Signet Coffee Roasters and Wood-Dulohery Insurance, Inc. Finalists for the Educator of the Year Award, sponsored by Pitsco Education, additionally included Adam Brown of Lakeside Elementary School and Mary Colvin of Southeast Junior High.