The roar that erupted from Palace Pointe Thursday night was a full-throated sign of hearty approval for Dale and Wendy Fortner, the owners of N Touch Wireless, which was named the Small Business of the Year during the Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet.
The Fortners have operated their business in one form or another for 21 years. In remarks to the crowd of about 250 people Small Business Center director Scott Keen said the Fortners have shown a willingness to put the needs of their customers first.
“This year’s recipient personifies all of the good things about entrepreneurism,” Keen said. “In hearing from their customers and neighbors, several ideals and actions shine through, representative of both the owner and what he has built into his business.”
Keen cited the Fortners’ honesty, professionalism and flexibility and he said the Fortners have taken a holistic approach to their business operations.
Dale Fortner said Friday that he was appreciative of the recognition. “We have always tried to do the right thing. I’m not a big “have-to-have money” guy. We have always tried to do the right thing. Sometimes it costs more to do the right thing than you make, but that’s what you have to do,” Fortner said.
The recognition put a happy spin on what otherwise had been a difficult 2019. Dale Fortner contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, in January. Within just a few hours of experiencing symptoms, Fortner was paralyzed from the neck down.
“I spent the first three months of 2019 in the hospital and the next five months learning how to walk again,” Fortner said.
His recovery has been steady and, though he says he still experiences weakness, on Thursday he walked to the stage with his wife wearing a big smile on his face.
Fortner credits his staff with knowing just what to do when he fell ill.
“My employees took my company and ran that company. That’s not something you can get everywhere,” Fortner said.
Fortner said the recognition from chamber members, all of whom stood and applauded as the Fortners walked to the stage, is a validation for his work philosophy.
“It means a lot to us. It gives us an understanding that people appreciate us,” Fortner said. Still the award came as a surprise. “I’m not a real award-type person. It kind of caught me off guard. But I’m just really appreciative,” Fortner said. While the honor may have been a surprise to the Fortners, it didn’t take long for word of the award to spread throughout the rest of the company.
“I think everybody knew about it before we got out of there,” Fortner said. People were already texting me when we were standing there and visiting with people.”
A true champion
Few people invest themselves so fully into a cause as Reggie Horton. The city councilman, Uncle Sam impersonator and longtime veterans advocate is also a constant presence at the Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce.
“He always stops in and asks... is there anything you need me to do today, is there any way I can help you today,” chamber director Lisa Busjahn told the crowd. “(Horton) comes through for us on a regular basis – it may be delivering new member signs, volunteering at Personality, recruiting new members, helping set up events such as ribbon cuttings, delivering our community guides. I could go on and on.”
Horton said the recognition was an unexpected honor.
“I was kind of surprised. I wasn’t expecting it. It was a great honor. I’m sure there are other people who deserve it more than I do,” Horton said.
His involvement in the chamber stems from his efforts with another civic organization.
“I just got into it when I got the American Legion in. They are members of the chamber. I got an individual membership. There’s a lot of benefits that we get from it. There are a lot of things that go on,” Horton said.