President of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Ron Harr emceed Wednesday's awards. (Photo: Staff)

Two businesses—Card-Monroe Corp. and Coulometrics—took the top honors at Wednesday's Spirit of Innovation Awards, where Chief Technology Officer for IBM Public Sector Dr. Katharine Frase shared her initial thoughts about the Scenic City. 

"There is a truly unusual level of citizen engagement and public-private partnership in Chattanooga," she said in her keynote address. 

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Leaders also made a business announcement Wednesday. Click here to see what it was. 

Click here to read about last year's Spirit of Innovation Awards. 

Frase said that in her 24 hours in Chattanooga she was struck by the mixture of manufacturing operations, big companies and small businesses. She said she was impressed by the decision to fill downtown with interesting local businesses instead of only big-box stores. 

She said such decisions and efforts are important now more than ever because people have a choice about where they live, and many people can work from anywhere. 

She said there is a wonderful business climate here and a great quality of life. 

"I want to reflect back to you how impressed I've been with what you've already accomplished," she said. 

Frase also reflected on the future challenges Chattanooga leaders will face, one of which is scale.

The question of scale takes into consideration how leaders manage growth so that the city becomes both nationally relevant and, at the same time, keeps its magic. 

"And how do we ensure going forward that the whole community comes along—that the potential talent base of the Chattanooga area is brought along?" she said. 

About the winners 
Card-Monroe Corp. took the Spirit of Innovation Award at the 13th annual event. 

The company manufactures carpet tufting equipment and won the honor for its cutting-edge work in creating ColorPoint, a new carpet manufacturing method that has been described as the most revolutionary innovation the industry has seen in the past 30 years, officials said.

More than 750 area business leaders attended the event.

"The Chattanooga Chamber established the Spirit of Innovation in 2001 as America’s first community-based innovation award," Ron Harr, president and CEO of the chamber, said. "The goal then, as now, was to promote the importance of innovation by publicizing our region’s most creative and cutting-edge companies."

In addition to Card-Monroe Corp., leaders with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Quickcue LLC and Variable Inc. as finalists for the 2013 Spirit of Innovation Award.

Along with the Spirit of Innovation Award presentation, the Chattanooga Technology Council named the winner of the Early Innovator Award, which honors emerging technology-based companies that have produced a groundbreaking prototype product or beta-stage software application that represents the potential for a significant competitive advantage.

This year’s winner was Coulometrics, which provides a wide variety of services, such as independent testing and validation of new materials for energy storage devices, according to the business' website. 

Finalists for that honor were Learning Blade and Sovee