For the first time, two area businesses are among the finalists for the Texas Workforce Commission’s Employer of the Year Awards. Sherman’s Eaton and Presco Products are each among the top three for the large employer and small employer of the year award, respectively.

The awards are given by the workforce commission to recognize businesses “whose efforts and initiatives resulted in an extraordinary impact on the state of Texas, as well as employers, workers and the community in which the employer operates.”

“It is a pretty exciting time for me because I was the one to do the written nomination for both of them,” Workforce Solutions Texoma Executive Director Janie Bates said. “This is the first time for us to have a finalist in each of those categories.”

Bates mentioned the two finalists during a recent meeting of the Sherman Economic Development Corp. Bates said the region has not won the award since Champion Cooler was named small business of the year in 2012, but Texoma has been home to finalists for the past three years. Before Champion Cooler, the award was last received by a Texoma business when TMC won the large employer award in 2001.

“Three years ago, it was Emerson; last year it was Denison Industries,” Bates said during the meeting referring to previous finalists. “This year we have two companies — two Sherman companies. … So those are really huge honors for them because they get all this press and big banners to put up in their plants, and it’s a big morale booster for them.”

Bates said she decided to nominate both of the businesses due to their work in the community as a business and the work of their employees. Both businesses were founding members of the advanced manufacturing program, which works to prepare students for local jobs in manufacturing and industry upon graduation.

Among Eaton’s accomplishments, Bates said, representatives for the company had been involved with the United Way of Grayson County as a board member, and Eaton has also started a wellness campaign for its employees.

From a more personal standpoint, Bates said she recently was principal for the day at the Perrin Learning Center and was told by the principal that the school needed a working shower for students lacked adequate facilities at home.

After speaking with local representatives, Bates said Eaton donated money and manpower to make the improvements to the school, which included plumbing and restroom renovations.

“It is good to give back to the community,” Wade Lowrey, interim Presco plant manager, said. “We are a part of this community, we plan to stay a part of this community and much of our workforce comes from this community.”

With regard to the employees, Lowrey said Eaton employees donated more than 1,000 hours of their time in the past year to local organizations and causes.

“It is a huge honor for our employees on the floor because they put countless hours into the community,” Lowrey said, regarding the nomination.

Bates said she decided to nominate Presco for the small employer award, in part, due to its second-chance program, which offers employment previously incarcerated individuals who are working to reintegrate into society.

“We are proud to do it because so many others aren’t willing to take that chance with people working back into society,” Presco Senior Vice President David Chisum said.

He said the company has never had an issue with employees in the program.

Among its other efforts, Chisum said the company recently added a health clinic on site for its nearly 180 employees, giving them access to low-cost health care for themselves and their families.

Since the announcement was made, Chisum said the nomination has been a point of pride for employees at the plant.

“We consider it a great honor. There were a few of us who had tears in our eyes when we found out,” he said. “One of the things this shows our works is that someone thinks Presco is as good as an employer as they do.”

Bates said the winners of the awards will be named during the workforce commission’s annual banquet in November.