Van Horn Automotive Group, which has tow dealerships in Stevens Point, was recognized by the Wisconsin Chapter of The ESOP Association as 2019 Company of the Year.

The award is presented to a company that demonstrates a commitment to employee ownership as exhibited by involvement with the Association and its programs, communication with employees, and commitment to the Association’s vision.

Van Horn, a family born, employee-owned automotive group headquartered in Plymouth, was founded in 1966 by Joe Van Horn as a single Chevrolet dealership. It was purchased by his children Chuck, Teresa and JP Van Horn.

It has grown to include 18 automotive dealerships, a finance company, a real estate business and several insurance companies. The group employs more than 580 people through- out Wisconsin and Iowa.

Out of the 185 employee-owned companies in Wisconsin, the ESOP Association considered five finalists and awarded one winner for this award.

“Since we started the ESOP in 2015, we’ve been diligently working to build awareness and value among our ‘employee owners,’ ” said co-CEO and ESOP Trustee Teresa Van Horn. “It’s a long process, but it’s really start- ing to pay off in the mindset of how our employees treat each other and their customers.”

Van Horn Automotive Group became the first partially employee-owned car dealership group in Wisconsin in 2015.

The group’s 500 full-time employees own 30 percent of the company as part of the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

Due to growth and expansion, full-time employees increased by more than 100 in the last year and turnover rate has decreased by 8 percent.