Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce (HWCC) held its 13th annual Business Awards Celebration on October 4 at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, recognizing individuals and companies that were “Impacting Our Future” over the past year.

The event also featured a bittersweet tribute to honor May Yer Theresa Thao, who resigned as Executive Director of the HWCC on September 8 after being selected by Governor Tony Evers to serve as Assistant Deputy Director for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).

In that role, Thao became the first Asian American to serve in an Executive Office position in Wisconsin history. Beginning as HWCC’s sole employee, Thao grew the organization and expanded its economic assistance across the state under her five years of leadership.

“It’s been an honor to serve my community, and while I’m proud of the Chamber’s successes and growth over the years, I’m most proud of the team,” said Thao. “As the drivers of our programming and the backbone of the organization, I have complete confidence in their abilities, passion and diligence to carry forth our great work and continue growing the Chamber under a new leadership.”

HWCC announced at the end of September that Zongcheng Moua to serve as Interim Executive Director. A long time HWCC advocate, Moua will serve during the transition period while HWCC finds a permanent replacement. Moua has lived in Milwaukee for over 28 years and is well connected to the Hmong and other communities. He has also served as a board member for HWCC in the past.

“I have known HWCC ever since its inception. It is an honor to have this opportunity to work with the HWCC Board of Directors and staff members during this transition period,” said Moua. “I have always been a strong advocate, partner and supporter of HWCC from the beginning. I look forward to continuing HWCC’s mission and work diligently to move the organization forward.”

The HWCC Business Awards banquet was a reflection of the Hmong population’s economic growth across Wisconsin, and partnership support from outside the Hmong community. Wishing the chamber well for its efforts included speeches by Mayor Tom Barrett, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, and Judge Kashoua Kristy Yang.

Winners at the event included Mee Yang, Professional of the Year Awardee (Oshkosh); Yee Leng Xiong, Young Professional of the Year Awardee (Wausau); The Pixel Booth, New Business Startup of the Year Awardee (Milwaukee); Style & Grace by Pang Vang, Emerging Small Business of the Year Awardee (Milwaukee); and Jongma Homes LLC, Business of the Year Awardee (Green Bay).