CORVALLIS - Seven family-owned businesses have earned 1999 Oregon Family Business of the Year awards from Oregon State University's Austin Family Business Program. Winners include businesses from Salem, Eugene, Portland and Corvallis.

"Family business awards recognize the contributions that family-owned businesses make to their industries and to their communities," said Patricia Frishkoff, Austin Family Business Program director.

Family businesses employ more than half of the national workforce and "in Oregon, more than 90 percent of businesses are family owned," she added.

"We established this program more than 10 years ago to honor these amazing families." Frishkoff added.

A panel of 32 family business owners served as judges to select the winners from 51 applicants. Criteria for the awards are business development, family-to-business linkage, contributions to community and industry, innovative business strategies and practices, succession preparedness, and - except for the "new" business category - multi-generational family business involvement and longevity.

Otto's Sausage Kitchen, Inc. in Portland earned the title of "Old Family Business of the Year." Otto Eichentopf started the business as Woodstock Market in 1927.

Generations L.L.C., a Portland-based assisted living, extended car and retirement community corporation, operated by the White and Gabriel families, is 1999's "New Family Business of the Year."

Wildish Land Co. of Eugene, was awarded title of "Large Family Business of the Year," with about 450 employees. The business begin when Thomas C. Wildish, a North Dakota businessman saw his business decline during the Great Depression and decided to strike out for the challenge and opportunities of Oregon.

Mater Engineering of Corvallis earned "Small Family Business of the Year" honors. The Mater family enterprise began in 1945 when Milton and Jean Mater moved to Corvallis and started Mater Machine Works.

Portland's Thermal Mechanical was named "Minority-Owned Family Business of the Year." The business was founded in 1985 by John Witty, a member of the Creek Tribe from Muskogee, Okla.

The "Women-Owned Family Business of the Year" is Power Equipment Systems of Salem, an enterprise operated by the Burrell and Yunker families.

The Austin Family Business Program works to foster healthy family businesses with various seminars, workshops and other events. For information, contact the program at 800-859-7609, or 541-737-3326 or visit the program website at

Award sponsors include: U.S. Bank; Perkins & Co. P.C.; Tarlow, Jordan & Schrader; and Mass Mutual.

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Maureen Reeves, 541-737-6018