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Business award honors female entrepreneurs

When Deborah Hill-Grimes returned home in 1976 to work at her father’s construction supply business, she knew she was entering an industry where she would have to earn the respect of her peers.

Even today, there are few similar firms across the country led by women. Bryce Hill Inc. has grown under her leadership, contributing to some of the most notable building projects in Clark County in recent years.

She is among three area entrepreneurs who will be inducted this month into the annual Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.

This year’s event will also honor Betty Pitzer, who will be honored posthumously as a hall of fame laureate. Michael Farms, an Urbana company that provides produce for large grocery stores and food service distributors, will also be honored with the Entrepreneurial Business Award.

Junior Achievement of Mad River Region serves Clark, Champaign, Logan and Madison counties. The organization’s goal is to prepare area students for the workforce, and teaches students about business, financial literacy and work readiness.

The Business Hall of Fame was established in 1990 to recognize area business leaders who are dedicated to helping the community grow.

Looking back on past laureates, Hill-Grimes said the award is particularly meaningful because previous winners have made such a significant contribution to the region.

“What a regal award,” she said. “It’s like being alongside royalty.”

Her father started a coal distribution business in the 1930s, which eventually evolved into providing brick and building supplies as well as ready-mix concrete. Hill-Grimes returned to the company in 1976 after college and was named president in 1990.

Since then, the company has contributed to some of the region’s most significant projects, including the NTPRD Chiller Ice Arena and Springfield Regional Medical Center.

According to the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the U.S. has more than 7,545 ready-mixed concrete producers. Of those, 36 have female presidents or CEOs and Hill-Grimes said she is one of only six in Ohio.

She said her company’s success wouldn’t have been possible without her employees and the support of customers.

Hill-Grimes also has been active in community service for organizations such as the Wescott House and and the Springfield Museum of Art.

Pitzer grew up in Springfield and graduated from Wittenberg University. Pitzer was instrumental in founding Elderly United, an agency now known as United Senior Services, which provides a wide range of services to seniors throughout the region.

Pitzer was the agency’s founding executive director. Pitzer received numerous awards for her community service throughout her life, and dedicated her career to developing services that assisted seniors throughout the region.

When she started Elderly United, it had two staff members. By her retirement in 1991, the agency had grown to a staff of 59 and served as many as 5,000 members.

Pitzer died in 2011 at the age of 98.

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