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Best of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, the Savannah Morning News, Business in Savannah and savannahnow.com continue the tradition of profiling companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment during the past year.

The Business in Savannah staff chose the honorees from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community members, utilizing broad criteria — from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.

BiS Small business of the year: Blue Force Gear

Always better. That’s the trademark of Blue Force Gear, a Pooler-based military gear manufacturer, and it rings true not only in their products but also in customer service and daily operations.

BiS Retail business of the year: Yia Yia's Kitchen

If you spend more than five minutes talking to Stathy Stathopoulos, you’ll quickly realize his passion for bringing something new to the Savannah community runs deeper than the authentic imported Greek olives, feta cheese and pastries he sells at Yia Yia’s Kitchen on Habersham Street.

BIS Entrepreneurial business of the year: Verdant Kitchen

What a year it has been for Verdant Kitchen. The gourmet health and wellness company, borne of a collaboration between Savannah businessman Howard Morrison and global energy consultant Ross Harding, features products made of ginger and other organic foods grown at Morrison’s historic Lebanon Plantation in Savannah.

Savannah Morning News file photo Howard J. Morrison and Ross Harding partnered to form Verdant Kitchen, a certified USDA Organic farm and processing facility in Savannah. The ginger and turmeric harvested are used in different products from ground ginger to honey-infused ginger.

BiS Business advocate of the year: Charles Bowen

As a kid, Charles Bowen was drawn to movies such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Inherit the Wind” and although the Savannah lawyer admits he didn’t know he would practice law later in life, it seems as if the thought was never far from his mind.

Steve Bisson/ Savannah Morning News file photo - Charles Bowen with The Bowen Law Group was named Business Advocate of the Year by the Savannah Morning News and Business in Savannah.

BiS Manufacturer of the year: International Paper's Savannah Containerboard Mill

International Paper’s Savannah Containerboard Mill is hiring but not necessarily because business is growing — although it is. It’s also not creating new positions. Instead, it’s filling upcoming gaps in its workforce of 600-plus, gaps that were created nearly 20 years ago. 

Photo courtesy of IP International Paper’s Savannah mill is hiring as its first generation of workers are beginning to retire.

BiS Newcomer of the year: Nine Line Apparel

Savannah-based Nine Line Apparel offers support for America's combat wounded. It’s a multi-million-dollar company that was essentially started by accident. Brothers Tyler and Danny Merritt, both Army captains, wanted to do something to help raise funds for Eddie Kline, one of Tyler’s West Point classmates who had lost three limbs in Afghanistan.

Danny Merritt of Nine Line Apparel explains the company's President Street facility. (Photo by Carl Elmore/For the Savannah Morning News)