The Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy in Norfolk is a finalist among the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s best small businesses in the country. The academy – which also goes by its initials MAMA – is one of 17 finalists for the chamber’s Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award. The award “celebrates the achievements of small businesses and honors their contributions to America’s economic growth,” according to a July 17 news release.
The award winner will get a $25,000 prize at the Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12.
All finalists also are automatically entered into an online ballot, in which the public votes for a community excellence award winner recognizing a small business that has demonstrated leadership and community engagement that positively affects the quality of life. Online voting runs through July 31. Customers, employees and neighbors are encouraged to vote.
MAMA has supported Toys for Tots, homeless shelters, Little League sports and Scout organizations.
The national chamber said it selected MAMA out of a record number of applicants. The Hampton Roads Chamber selected the academy as its 2016 Business of the Year.
Eighty-five percent of the academy’s 35 employees are veterans, including academy President Ed Nanartowich, who served in the Naval Reserves.
The academy serves about 3,000 students annually and offers more than 90 U.S. Coast Guard-approved courses in subjects such as firefighting, navigation and engineering. Eighty percent of students pass their courses on the first attempt.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction from veterans to come in with no idea what to do and then be told that they are actually sitting on a gold mine of information and competencies that they can easily roll into a six-figure salary with time and training,” Nanartowich said.
The school also offers full scholarships to disadvantaged youth and recent high school graduates looking for work.