Palmer Gills Award finalists narrowed to three

MCE officials announced this week that three entrepreneurs have been selected as the finalists in MCE’s Palmer Gillis Entrepreneur of the Year Award competition.

The three finalists include Jennifer Layton, of Layton’s Chance Vineyard and Winery and Lazy Day Farms; Kerry Palakanis, CEO of the Crisfield Clinic; and Michael W. Wilt, President of Warwick Fulfillment Solutions in Cambridge.

This is the third year of the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year Award and it is growing in popularity each year. The winner takes home a trophy and a cash prize and the honor of knowing all their hard work and efforts to make a successful business has been recognized.

“We had a terrific pool of great applicants this year to choose from,” said Joe Morse, CEO of MCE. “More than 25 names were submitted by their peers and all were worthy of this award. Narrowing the choices to three was not an easy task.”

Nominees for the award had to own a business in one of four Lower Shore counties in Maryland, with 100 or less employees, and be in business for at least two years.

Layton’s Chance Vineyard and Winery has been open to the public for the past four years. Under Jennifer’s careful watch, business has been steadily growing with almost 20 workers now on the payroll, including part-time and seasonal workers. The addition of a new sales person is already bearing fruit with their wine now being sold in 10 percent of retail stores in Maryland. Her goal is to reach at least 40 percent of stores in the next few years.

Jennifer is a busy working mother who also plays an active role in giving back to her community. She has a dedicated team whose motto, “We work like crazy so our guests can be lazy,” goes right to the heart of her work ethic. Her desire is to create a unique and relaxing experience for every guest who visits the winery. For her, they all become family.

She serves as President of the Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, and Vice President of the Maryland Winery Association. She is also active in the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Maryland Farm Bureau, and the Perdue School of Business at SU along with its Shore Hatchery Board.

Crisfield Clinic’s, Kerry Palakanis is a nurse practitioner who decided the rural town of Crisfield was a critically underserved area when it came to health care options so she opened the Crisfield Clinic.

In her two short years in business, she has seen rapid growth in her business and has big plans to expand it in the next three to five years. She also initiating a tele-medicine operation and hopes to expand it to Smith Island and schools in Somerset County, setting the standard for school-based health care.

She has been involved in numerous health related causes including the Nurse Practitioner Association of Maryland, Eastern Shore District Manager Healthy Somerset, a member of the Somerset Early Learning Advisory Council, the Migrant Clinicians Network, and a clinical provider for Bienvenidos Delmarva.

The third finalist is Michael W. Wilt, President of Warwick Fulfillment Solutions in Hurlock, MD. In his five years in business of fulfilling mail orders for various national corporations, he has hired 46 employees and hopes to expand that as his business stands ready to take advantage of larger cargo ships reaching East Coast ports in the next several years.

He credits the quality of the work force on the Eastern Shore for his success and his clients appreciate the quality of work his team provides. He says mutual trust and respect between employer and employee is key to achieving his goals.

In his spare time, he has been active in helping his community, serving as President of the Board of For All Seasons, President of the Board of Directors for the Family Support Center, and President and member of the Board of the Optimist Club.

Tickets are still available for the MCE Palmer Gillis Entrepreneur of the Year Award Banquet on November 6th at Salisbury University. To buy tickets visit or call (410) 546-1900.

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