By ROMANO CEDILLOS
Two stars shined support on each other last night at a ceremony to celebrate Tucson’s small-business community.
Lea Màrquez-Peterson, and friend and fellow businesswoman Elizabeth Gonzalez-Gann, were among four finalists nominated for the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Leader of the Year at the Sixth Annual Wells Fargo Copper Cactus Awards Banquet.
Màrquez-Peterson, owner of American Retail Corp., a local gas station and convenience store firm, was presented the award at a ceremony held at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa, 3800 E. Sunrise Drive.
Copper Cactus is southern Arizona’s oldest and largest awards program focused on small businesses, said Lori Banzhaf, spokeswoman for Monsoon Marketing, the company coordinating the event.
The awards set a record this year with 414 southern Arizona companies being nominated. In 2002, 125 businesses nominated.
“This year we created a bigger-than-ever public awareness campaign to tell people about the awards program,” said Patrick Yalung, regional manager for Wells Fargo in Tucson and greater Arizona.
Gonzalez-Gann, who was nominated for her success as owner of Jan-Co Janitorial, said, “We’ll be happy no matter who wins. We’ve competed for the same awards before.”
The two businesswomen travel in the same circles while supporting the ideals and goals of the small business community.
Màrquez-Peterson, who is also president of the Tucson chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said she believes “the challenges I’ve faced in the male-dominated industry, as well as my work to help form the Pima County Small Business Commission, was key to my nomination.”
“The Tucson small-business community is very tightknit,” she said. Small-business owners “support each other very well here. There’s always enough business for everybody.”
“We have to understand that small business is really big business,” said Betty Hess, one of five Copper Cactus judges. “Small business makes up 98 percent of all tax revenue in Arizona, so you can see why it needs everyone’s support.”
Aside from her work with Jan-Co, Gonzalez-Gann has an eye on making an impact in the education of future businesswomen. She is the founder of the Elizabeth Gonzalez-Gann Scholarship for promising young Latinas.
COPPER CACTUS WINNERS
Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Leader of The Year Award
Lea Màrquez-Peterson, American Retail Corp.
Community Service Awards
Bear Essential News for Kids; DeConcini, McDonald, Yetwin & Lacy; The Specialists; Pepsi-Cola Bottling of Tucson
Business Growth Awards
Tucson Long-term Care Medical Group; Pathway Developments; Engineering & Environmental Consultants; Care Giver Connection of Arizona
Best Place To Work Awards
Azmira Holistic Animal Care; Venture West Group; Casa de la Luz Hospice; ScriptSave
PHOTO CREDIT: VAL CAÑEZ/Tucson Citizen
CUTLINE: From left, Elizabeth Gonzalez-Gann, her friend Lea Màrquez-Peterson, and Gonzalez-Gann’s brother and business partner, Fernando Gonzales, talk during the Copper Cactus Awards last night at the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa.