Chattanooga 2017 small business award winners and other finalists:
* 1-20 employees: Skye Strategies, winner; 6 Strong Media, Flywheel Brands
* 21-50 employees: Creswell Richardson, winner; Flying Squirrel, JHM Certified Public Accountants
* 51-200 employees: Tranco Logistics, winner; Kelly Auto Group, Meditract
* Nonprofit: CADAS, winner; Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga, Siskin Children’s Institute
Volkswagen wasn't officially on the program Wednesday, but half of Chattanooga's 2017 small business award winners Wednesday cited their links to the automaker and its suppliers as key.
"It has completely changed our customer base," said Rob Creswell, president of Chattanooga-based Cres- well Richardson, an industrial supplier of bearings and belts to manufacturers.
Byron Trantham, who co-owns Tranco Logistics with twin brother, Bruce, told about 1,200 people at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce small business awards luncheon that their company is VW's primary carrier in the city.
"There are transitional moments in the life of any company. That one moment for us was when Volkswagen came to town," Bryon Trantham said about the German carmaker that announced in 2008 that it was opening an assembly plant in Chattanooga.
Three companies and a nonprofit received awards: Tranco Logistics in the 51- to 200-employee segment; Creswell Richardson (21-50 employees); Skye Strategies (one to 20 workers); and nonprofit CADAS.
Jennifer Hoff, Skye's president and founder, said her grant writing, strategic planning, and fund development company has been on "a phenomenal journey."
"It's such an exciting time in Chattanooga," Hoff said. "It has so many opportunities for entrepreneurs."
Hoff said she probably wouldn't have started a company if not in Chattanooga.
"If you have a good idea, passion and work hard you can succeed in Chattanooga," she said, adding the business has undergone "extraordinary growth" the past year.
Creswell said the company, which now employs 30 people, was started by his father, Bob, 47 years ago.
"He had a vision," he said. "He had an opportunity to go to a big-box company in Ohio. He wanted to grow his business here."
Creswell said his father based the business on customer service.
"It's sort of a lost art," he said. "We try every day to remember that art."
The company president said he expects business to be up about 20 percent this year.
"With Volkswagen coming in and its tier one suppliers, it has helped our business tremendously," he said. "We didn't have any automotive business 10 years ago."
Bruce Trantham said that Tranco is primarily a warehouse and transportation business that started in 1995. Now, Tranco has 170 trucks and about 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space in Chattanooga, he said.
Trantham said the company is strong in the automotive sector, but services a variety of other companies such as Coca-Cola, Amazon, Resolute andothers.
"Tranco is growing rapidly," he said. "We look to grow thoughout the states and internationally."
Bryan Trantham recalled that Tranco hauled the Chattanooga VW plant's first car.
"One car in one enclosed car trailer a whopping 800 yards from its pilot hall to its newly built engineering building," he quipped. "This thing was surrounded by guards and escorts."
Later this year, VW expects to have about 3,400 employees at the plant making the Passat sedan and Atlas sport utility vehicle.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.