Macomb County is packed with tons of fantastic locally-owned businesses that are doing big things for the community — and every year the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development celebrates these businesses, and all that they do, with the Macomb Business Awards.
This awards competition, in its 9th year in 2021, allows members of the community to nominate their favorite businesses to different categories of competition.
This year’s categories included the Champion of Workplace Culture, Hometown Hero, Diversity and Inclusion Leader, Manufacturer of the Year, Trailblazer of Future Talent and Hidden Gem, which is a small business that offers a unique “Made in Macomb” product.
Once businesses are nominated a panel of judges selects winners in each category. The 2021 winners are as follows:
- Champion of Workplace Culture: PMS Diversified Construction Services
- Hometown Hero: PTI Engineered Plastics, RCO Engineering and Wish Upon a 3D Star
- Diversity and Inclusion Leader: Macomb County Habitat for Humanity
- Manufacturer of the Year: Prosper-Tech Machine and Tool LLC
- Trailblazer of Future Talent: TK Mold and Engineering Inc
And the Hidden Gem? The winning business with a distinct Macomb County flair goes to Shelby Township’s Ethel’s Baking Co.
About the hidden gem
Ethel’s Baking Co. opened back in 2011 as a certified gluten-free craft bakery and has since expanded to sell its goodies in fresh bakeries across the U.S. and Canada.
“Celiac disease has been in my family for 40 years and I believe everyone should be able to eat good food together,” Jill Bommarito, the Founder and CEO of Ethel’s, explains. “I want gluten-free treats to be the rockstar at the party.”
And rockstar of the party they are. Many of Ethel’s sweet products are the brainchild of her grandmother, Ethel, from whom the company gets its name.
“These are her old recipes from the past,” Bommarito adds.
Ethel’s Baking Co. was nominated for the Hidden Gem category of the Macomb Business Awards by Jack Johns, the Project Manager for the Macomb County of Planning and Economic Development, who has been working with Bommarito since the company’s inception.
“Jack Johns sat down with us before we opened our doors to talk to us about resources that we could use,” Bommarito says. “We had 1,300 square feet when we started at that time. He helped us become part of the branded program to get us distributed in Canada. He helped us apply for grants to grow multiple times, which ultimately lead to us growing and moving into a 20,000-square-foot facility in 2020.”
“Jill has been on an amazing journey and I feel like it has been a journey of doing what is right for those with food restrictions,” Johns says. “She has helped several businesses with questions they have, gave them information about suppliers and has been on several panels talking about the food industry. She is one of the best business owners in the industry that I have worked with.”
Bommarito learned that she had been nominated as Macomb County’s hidden gem early in September and learned that Ethel’s had won the prestigious title at the end of the competition on Sept. 16.
“I was shocked (that Ethel’s won) because there were so many amazing companies in the category we’re in,” she says. “For me, and for Ethel’s, this award is recognition. It allows us to stop, take a breather and realize that we are making a difference in the community. You realize how fortunate you are to be in the community, to have each other and to have even more positive things happen — it means a lot more than an award you hold in your hand.”
Bommarito says that she is excited for the continued growth of Ethel’s Baking Co. and is preparing to launch new flavors of baked goods, including new turtle dandy and lemon crumble bars. Plus, new Michigan-inspired flavors in honor of the collaborative community that helped her business thrive.
“The biggest takeaway is that this is a very collaborative community and we have each other’s back,” she says. “We’re super thankful about the help and efforts that the community and Michigan in general have put toward helping us and those synergies help make businesses more successful.”
“We are a family business, regardless of size — we are founded on those principles and we’re only as good as our people.”