Cleveland woman named Mel Bedwell Small Business Person of the Y - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland woman named Mel Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year

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A Bradley County woman was named the 2013 Mel Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year.

The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce recognized Debbie Ledford Melton, general manager and partner of Don Ledford Automotive Center Inc., for her excellence in business and community involvement.

The basis for this award is formed around staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales or unit volume, innovativeness of product or services offered, response to adversity, and evidence of contribution by the nominee to aid community-oriented projects.

The Don Ledford Auto Center has thrived while other car dealerships have closed their doors. During the 2009 General Motors dilemma, four GM dealerships in Cleveland were on the closure list, including Don Ledford Automotive Center Inc., but the Ledford's dealership remained in business, focusing on their pre-owned and service operations while Melton rallied the troops for battle to save her family's business.

"She took control of the situation and rallied the community," says Karen Dyer, controller for the automotive center and nominator. "With unflagging tenacity, she began working with city, county, state and national legislators and began making presentations to GM officials to have her voice heard."

And when tornadoes struck local schools, Melton opened her dealership to help collect school supplies, filling several school buses with much-needed items.

Melton is the 15th individual to receive the Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year award since its renaming to honor the contributions of the late Mel Bedwell and 20th to receive the award since this recognition program began.

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