Saipan Sea Ventures Inc. chief executive officer Anthony Pellegrino and RJ Corp. general manager Marcia E. Ayuyu both bagged on Saturday night the Saipan Chamber of Commerce's coveted 2012 Businessperson of the Year award, marking the first time it has drawn a tie since the recognition started in 1996.
“This is really a dream come true for me. It's an honor for me to be standing here to get this award,” Ayuyu, a mother of five, told the audience as she shared the stage with Pellegrino to receive their award.
She thanked her husband, a 1998 Businessperson of the Year awardee Joe C. Ayuyu of McDonald's of Saipan, for his support. She thanked the person who nominated her, as well as her role model and inspiration, 1999 Businessperson of the Year Marian Aldan-Pierce of DFS Saipan Ltd.
“Every time I go to meetings, important meetings, I look at all of you and I said if you can do it, I can do it,” she added, to the applause of the crowd.
She started managing businesses when her husband opened the first McDonald's Restaurant on Saipan in 1993. Ten years later, they decided to open RJ Corp. to start diversifying their businesses by building, buying and managing apartments, warehouses and commercial buildings for rent. In 2010, she was nominated as Businesswoman of the Year by Glimpses of Guam.
Pellegrino, for his part, recognized individuals for putting ideas into action to better the CNMI. He also said that Arctic Circle Air, of which he is president and shareholder, has been made much bigger than imagined to serve all the islands because of individuals like his business partners Paul Zak and JMSH LLC president Hee Cho, both present at the ceremony.
Pellegrino, a former member of the CNMI Board of Education, started his business ventures on Saipan in 1984. Besides Saipan Sea Ventures, he also owns Saipan Ice and Water Co., Saipan Aquaculture Inc., and the Northern Marianas Trade Institute, a non-profit trade school.
CNMI's importance to US military
Saturday night's ceremonies at Aqua Resort Club also served as the installation of the 2013 Chamber board of directors led by president Alex Sablan, with U.S. Naval Forces Marianas and Joint Region Marianas Rear Adm. Tilghman D. Payne as guest speaker.
Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Senate President Jude Hofschneider (IR-Tinian) and House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan) joined other CNMI government officials, businesspersons and guests.
Payne assured of the Marianas' importance in the ongoing rebalancing of forces to the Asia-Pacific region because of its strategic location and called for continued partnership between the military and the community, while at the same time commending the CNMI for its continued hospitality to military personnel and their families visiting the islands for rest and recreation.
“Keep doing what you're doing,” he said, adding that during a tour of the island, he and his family were “struck by the beauty of Saipan.You really do live in paradise.” Payne is also the U.S. Defense Representative for Guam, CNMI, FSM and Palau.
Chamber executive director Richard Pierce and 2005 Chamber Businessperson of the Year awardee David M. Sablan Sr. of Century Insurance cracked jokes between speeches and presentations of awards.
Associate Judge David Wiseman swore in the new Chamber officers and directors for the twelfth consecutive year.
Alex A. Sablan of Tan Holdings Corp. replaced Douglas Brennan of Microl Corp. as Chamber president.
Sablan outlined the new officers and directors' plans for the year, including working with other stakeholders in putting a stay on the next round of 50-cent minimum wage increase that is scheduled for this year, and revisiting the CNMI's Qualifying Certificate program as proposed in Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero's (IR-Saipan) bill in the 17th Legislature.
Deleon Guerrero, in an interview at the Chamber ceremonies, said the leadership is working on this proposal once again but this time he said he would ask another lawmaker to introduce the bill.