Rodger Pridgeon has been named the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year. The award was announced in April byU.S. Small Business Administration South Florida District Director J. Malcolm Richards, and Pridgeon accepted his award on May 10th in Melbourne during the 2022 National Small Business Week Summit.
Pridgeon is the owner and president of Corporate Air, Inc., a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) that provides fuel, aircraft maintenance, hangar space, and charter jet services at the Vero Beach Regional Airport.
According to Richards, the National Small Business Week Awards celebrate the sacrifices and achievements of small business owners and their significant contributions to our economy and our communities.
“America’s entrepreneurs are doing their part to power our nation’s historic economic comeback,” said Richards. “Many small businesses wereable to successfully pivot and with tenacity and resilience have not only survived the pandemic but have thrived. Corporate Air, under the leadership of Rodger Pridgeon, is a perfect example of such resiliency. These awards honor those in our community who have excelled in business ownership, demonstrating these virtues that are among the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurship.”
Judging criteria included staying power, demonstrated by sustained growth and expansion in services or square footage occupied, as well as growth in number of employees; increase in sales, net worth and net profit from 2017 to 2019; response to adversity, be it financial, physical, legal or other crisis; and contributions to community-oriented projects, such as the contribution of time, money and resources to charitable causes, as well as membership and personal involvement in local organizations that serve the community.
Debbie Petrell, Senior Vice President & Sales and Marketing Manager, Florida First Capital Finance Corporation, nominated Pridgeon for the award.
“As one of many in our portfolio of exceptional small business owners, Rodger Pridgeon of Corporate Air soars as a trendsetting entrepreneur and community advocate,” said Petrell. “His leadership, innovation and commitment to the local community, both in the business and nonprofit sectors, is exemplary, and we are delighted he is this year’s award recipient.”
An Aircraft Maintenance Technician by trade, Rodger Pridgeon grew up in Western New York State and moved to Vero Beach in 1980, working for Chautauqua Airlines as Director of Maintenance. Anticipating the airline’s withdrawal from the community, Pridgeon started an aircraft maintenance business on the side, transitioning into working full time for himself when Chautauqua Airlines officially closed their Vero Beach office in 1987. What began as a one-man show has grown to an award-winning, thriving business with 15 employees.
Running a successful and growing business wasn’t the only criteria considered for the award, however. Being an active contributor to the community was also a factor. Just as Pridgeon is passionate about his business, he is equally as passionate about his community. He served on the Board of Directors of the Children’s Home Society of the Treasure Coast for 10 years, including as Board Chair for two years. He regularly provides hangar space to local nonprofits in need of a large venue to host fundraising events, at no cost to the organization. American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, Children’s Home Society, Jake Owens Foundation, and Women’s Refuge and are some of the charities served in this way. He is also a strong supporter of veterans. In fact, the last two times the Vero Beach Air Show was in town, the Pridgeon family hosted a hangar party for friends and clients to watch the show up close, asking for donations to benefit the Veteran’s Council of Indian River County. Upwards of $20,000 has been raised for veterans as a result.
“Of course I’m honored to be recognized as the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year, but whether I am recognized or not, I will always continue doing what I love to do: invest in my business, including the people who help make it happen, and in my community, which I love,” said Pridgeon.