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Akwesasne business wins SBA Small Business Excellence Award


AKWESASNE - Phoenix Physical Therapy was honored earlier this month with an SBA Small Business Excellence Award at the DoubleTree Hotel in East Syracuse.

The Canton Small Business Development Center selected Phoenix Physical Therapy owned by Andre Rieksts, Lisa Francis and Michelle Gauthier to be nominated for the award for the district.

“You do not go into this business expecting awards,” Mr. Rieksts said. “To us every day is about treating every patient; the work we do here is unbelievably satisfying and has made a difference.”

Phoenix Physical Therapy opened on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation four years ago as the result of a successful cooperative project between commercial, private and public funding, according to a press release from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“It was really quite an honor and a surprise to be noticed for our work,” Mr. Rieksts said,

He worked with the SUNY Canton SBDC on developing a business and financial plan. Mr. Rieksts said SBDC was extremely helpful in helping them open the business. SBDC representatives would stop in occasionally to check up on their progress.

The business was a recipient of the Akwesasne Revolving Loan Fund, administered through the tribe’s Economic Development Division, currently led by Lindsay Tarbell. Ms. Tarbell was in attendance and said, “The business model was developed with the vision of providing a much needed service within the community, while creating a business model built for longevity.”

SBDC came to Mr. Rieksts to tell him that they had nominated Phoenix Physical Therapy for the award. Shortly after, they came back to Mr. Rieksts to say that Phoenix Physical Therapy won the Excellence Award for the district.

According to Mr. Rieksts, they are have served almost 1,000 patients in the area since their opening.

Mr. Rieksts teamed up with Ms. Francis, his wife and a licensed physical therapist of 28 years, and Ms. Gauthier, 14-year licensed physical therapy assistant, to develop a full-service physical therapy practice “to provide innovative, top-notch outpatient physical therapy services in the community of Akwesasne, which was previously not served,” the release said.

Mr. Rieksts said that this award would not have been possible without their patients. He also wanted to thank the doctors of Alice Hyde Medical Center Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center and Canton-Potsdam Hospital Orthopedic Center for supporting them with referrals.

“Thank you to SBA for getting us to this point and all of the medical providers in the area,” Mr. Rieksts said. “I would also like to thank the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. They gave us a lot of assistance to get open. I want to thank Lindsay Tarbell and Steve Cook, with the (St. Regis Mohawk Tribe) Office of Economic Development.”

Mr. Rieksts also wanted to thank Theresa Gardner, supervisor of the Outreach Chronic Care Nursing Department at Indian Health Service.

“I want to thank Theresa Gardner for being a good counselor, helping us throughout the business, sending us referrals and for being a close personal friend who is so valuable on multiple levels,” Mr. Rieksts said.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance, who attended the award ceremony, said, “Small business is the backbone of an economy. It was an honor to witness Phoenix Physical Therapy receive this award. I look forward to the day when more of our local businesses are nominated for their success.”

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