LAKE JACKSON — Laughter echoed in the Lake Jackson Civic Center as Brazoria County business owners came together to honor four inductees into the Brazoria County Business Hall of Fame on Thursday.
The event honors outstanding business achievements and has been held every year for 21 years with the exception of COVID year 2020, said Kimberly Effenberger president of the Junior Achievement of Brazoria County, who organized the event.
Hall of Fame inductees included Walter Branson of Branson Construction, Kenjo Kelley of Kenjo’s Barbecue, Jay Mejia of Mejia Industrial and Mike Pyburn, owner of Almeda Water Well.
Branson went the organic route when he chose to start Branson Construction out of his garage in 1969. He dipped into real estate in 1980, naming his company Branson Real Estate.
He bought a 15,000-square-foot building in Lake Jackson in 1982 for Branson Construction and opened his third company, Branson Xtremely Clean in 2004.
Branson was awarded the Rotary Service Above Service Award in 1996 and is the Director of the Guerrero Surgery and Education Center in Guerrero, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Owner of Kenjo’s Barbeque, Kenjo Kelley also entered the Hall of Fame based on an impressive business background.
Kelley started mowing lawns at 10 years old and has worked ever since. At 19, he started working in the chemical plants as a boilermaker, making his way up to project manager. In 2000, he started his own field services called Ventech and sold half of it in 2006.
His barbecue journey began in 2013 with the opening of Kenjo’s BBQ. While other businesses closed in 2020, Kenjo’s stayed open and saw the company’s most successful year, adding food delivery and curbside pick-up.
Kelley was named 2016 Brazoria Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, Brazoria County Peace Officers Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 2018 and was the 2020 Angleton Chamber President’s award recipient.
Jay Mejia, owner and CEO of Mejia Industrial, began working at 13 years old at a gas station. At 22, he became a truck driver for the International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization. He soon became the branch manager for the company at their Freeport office in 1987.
One day he decided to reroute his path and, with the help of two former co-workers, he created Mejia Industrial Supply Company.
They opened their doors in 2003 and the crew of three amassed a 15-person staff and 38,500 square-feet of property with acreage for future expansion.
Mejia has been a director of the Associated Builders and Contractors Texas Gulf Coast Chapter and the recipient of the Small Business of the Year award from the Brazoria County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Mike Pyburn, owner of Almeda Water Well, attended Texas A&M University and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting in 1987.
He moved back to Brazoria County to work with Almeda Water Well Service in 1989. 22 years later, he purchased the company. He also owns M&M Hardware and JMP Utilities, where he serves as president and CEO.
In 2002, Pyburn was elected to the Alvin Community College Board of Regents, and he has held the position for 18 years.
Pyburn has served as Chapter Director, Statewide Director and President of the Texas Groundwater Association.
In 2017, he won the Texas Groundwater Association Contractor of the Year, along with the President’s Award for outstanding service to the groundwater industry.
Almeda’s Water Well Service is celebrating its 70th year and M&M Hardware its 40th.
A live auction at the Hall of Fame dinner raised $28,000. Proceeds will fund Junior Achievement scholarships for next year.
Eight students earned $1,000 toward tuition costs based on essays they wrote. The essay-winning student was awarded a $1,500 scholarship.
The organization honored Marinell Music with Performance Contractors as volunteer of the year.
Educator of the year went to Clute Intermediate teacher Darla Michaelidis.