The annual Big50 gala dinner at the Remodeling Leadership Conference is always a special event. This year's was even more special, however, as it marked the introduction of a new honor in the industry: The Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The award seeks to reward a remodeler for his or her integrity, innovation, accomplishment, and entrepreneurial spirit. It was founded by its namesake, Fred Case, one of the most well-known names in remodeling. Mark Richardson, president of Case Design/Remodeling, the Bethesda, Md., company that Fred Case founded in 1961, said that while there are other recognizable names in the industry, there “isn't anyone more appropriate on a national level” to have an award named after them.

Explaining his reasons for developing the award, Case said that he “wanted to give back to the industry that's been so good to me.” He continued: “With the volume of remodeling we're looking at going forward, there are going to be some fantastic changes in the industry. I want to recognize people who are taking it to the next level.”

Four finalists were announced at the dinner on May 18. In alphabetical order by last name, they are:

John Abrams
Case Design / Remodeling John Abrams

John Abrams, South Mountain Co., West Tisbury, Mass. The author of The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community and Place has been acclaimed for his insights on socially responsible business. He and his company have made immense contributions to affordable housing, environmental preservation, and the local economy of Martha's Vineyard.

Dennis Allen
Case Design / Remodeling Dennis Allen

Dennis Allen, Allen Associates, Santa Barbara, Calif. Allen has spent each of his 32 years in business involved in the green building movement that has now started to pick up nationwide momentum. The company's unique structure — Allen Associates is the umbrella that supports a handful of individuals running their own remodeling practices — is an illustration of Allen's innovation.

Iris Harrell
Case Design / Remodeling Iris Harrell

Iris Harrell, Harrell Remodeling, Mountain View, Calif. In an industry still primarily filled with men (though this is starting to change), Harrell has been a familiar female face for 22 years. Another “green” remodeler, Harrell also is a leader in universal design. Three-quarters of the company's jobs are done for repeat clients.

Gerry Rogers
Case Design / Remodeling Gerry Rogers

Gerry Rogers, Mr. Rogers Windows, Chesapeake, Va. Rogers recently duplicated the success of his replacement window and door company by opening a second branch in Charlotte, N.C. But the profitability of Mr. Rogers Windows is most important in that it has allowed him to establish the Mr. Rogers Foundation, which provides money for scholarships for children in inner-city Philadelphia. The company's charitable contributions don't stop there, either; employees have raised more than $15,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by recycling aluminum windows.

SELECTING THE FINALISTS The finalists were chosen by a three-person panel of judges consisting of one representative from each of Case Design/Remodeling, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, and Hanley Wood (publisher of REMODELING). Each finalist received an award of $2,500. The winner will be presented with an additional $10,000 in a ceremony at the Remodeling Show (which is owned by Hanley Wood) in Las Vegas on Oct. 11.

Beginning this year, REMODELING will replace its own Lifetime Achievement Award (formerly Foundation Award) with the Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year Award. A profile of the winner will be featured as the cover story of the October 2007 issue of REMODELING.

Case, who endowed the award himself, said the financial award — which differentiates this honor from others in the industry — is an important piece. “As the individuals extend themselves to try new things, it costs them money,” he said. “I want to recognize that and give something back toward the effort.”

However, the monetary award isn't necessarily a “grant” to put toward continued entrepreneurship. Rather, it's more of a reward; “thanks, for the risks they've taken,” in Case's words.

The finalists recognize the importance of the award for the industry. “It holds up a standard of excellence that sets the bar for everybody to move toward,” Allen said. “We've been working for 20 and 30 years to keep stepping up professionalism [in the industry],” he continued. “We're making some headway, and it's great to have an award to further that.”