April 6, 2005 - The Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce awarded the Pinnacle Award for Small Business of the Year to EXPLORER Newspapers on April 5. The chamber honored the business during its awards banquet at Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa.
The award recognizes small businesses with 49 employees or fewer that have made significant contributions to northern Pima County by providing good leadership and being involved in the community.
The selection committee, made up of past chamber presidents, chose EXPLORER Newspapers from a list of three finalists.
The EXPLORER, at 7235 N. Paseo del Norte, is a locally owned and operated community newspaper that works to facilitate positive improvement in the community.
"We are proud to be the community voice," said Melanie Larson, the publisher and president. "We feel very strongly about that."
The EXPLORER is Pima County's oldest and largest locally owned and operated community newspaper.
"As a locally owned company, we are proud of the fact that 100 percent of our revenues stay here and are reinvested locally," Larson said.
The paper has grown considerably since 1993, when Larson and her partner started it in their garage in Oro Valley.
In January, the newspaper expanded its coverage area to include the Catalina Foothills. Today, the paper circulates 41,000 copies that reach more than 100,000 readers weekly. The EXPLORER has an award-winning staff and employs 28 people. "We are still a very small company," Larson said.
Last year, the newspaper won more than two dozen national and state awards.
The EXPLORER covers schools, transportation, water, politics, music, art and other areas generating neighborhood news.
"We help the readers come together as a community," Larson said.
The EXPLORER not only covers northern Pima and southern Pinal counties, it also works to build a sense of community by sponsoring events that bring people together.
"We identify strong community events by the number of people (they) will help," Larson said.
During the newspaper's 12 years of service, it has made about $1 million in financial and in-kind contributions to the communities of Oro Valley, Marana, Catalina, SaddleBrooke, Oracle, Casas Adobes, Sun City, Tortolita, Tucson and Catalina Foothills.
"Our $1 million turned into much more in the long run," Larson said.
The newspaper gives to the community in many ways throughout the year. Its largest philanthropic event is Holiday Traditions, a holiday celebration on the first Sunday of December.
The event brings members of the community together to celebrate at the Tucson Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort.
The resort and the EXPLORER join together for a tree lighting ceremony that includes holiday choral performances by local school groups and pictures with Santa Claus.
At the event, the EXPLORER makes substantial donations to local charities, giving 100 percent of its proceeds from its annual Jingles Holiday Special Section to charities at the event.
Last year, the newspaper donated more than $14,000 to 12 charities.
"Last year we added a piece to it," Larson said. "We had local companies adopt live Christmas trees and decorate them."
Twelve trees, donated by AAA Landscape, were auctioned to benefit the charities selected by the newspaper.
"We made sure every single charity got something," Larson said.
In the 12 years since it was founded, EXPLORER Newspapers has been involved in the community in other ways, too.
It continues its Shop Around the Corner program that encourages consumers to shop locally and support local businesses.
Shop Around the Corner is now in its seventh year. According to Larson, the program emphasizes the importance of every dollar spent locally. The program helps to create jobs and keep money in the local economy - "it's very important for continued local economic vitality," Larson said.
In cooperation with the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, the EXPLORER also publishes the Northern Pima County Map and Guide, which provides newcomers with vital information about new attractions and communities. The guide is completely funded through advertising sales, and portions of the earnings are shared with the chamber.
According to Larson, The EXPLORER supports many organizations, including the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, Habitat for Humanity International, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce.
"We understand it's not just about turning a buck," Larson said. "It's about being a good community partner."