Skip to main content
Alba Santiago and Kathy Suttles pictured with Dena Sherrill, VP of Housing, REI Oklahoma; Leon Gray, NeighborWorks America; and Martin VanMeter, Board Member, REI Oklahoma.


Oklahoma Economic Development Award Winners Announced

Alba Santiago and Kathy Suttles pictured with Dena Sherrill, VP of Housing, REI Oklahoma; Leon Gray, NeighborWorks America; and Martin VanMeter, Board Member, REI Oklahoma.

(OKLAHOMA CITY, September 13, 2023) – REI Oklahoma, an economic development nonprofit serving all 77 counties, has announced the winners of their top three awards to be celebrated at the annual Dream BIG Oklahoma event on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at the Grand Casino Resort in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Dream BIG is a statewide event hosted by REI Oklahoma to showcase the 'best of the best' who help build, invest in and grow Oklahoma's economy. The event recognizes individuals, small businesses, corporations and other organizations making a significant impact in economic development and for their commitment to serving others.

"REI Oklahoma has been actively involved in assisting our state with economic development since 1982," said Sherry Harlin, REI Oklahoma's chief operating officer. "We know the dedication it takes not only to create and build a business but to do it in a way that greatly benefits those in our communities."

REI Oklahoma program awards are also given at the event, but community nominations determine the top three awards. This year’s award winners include:

Dr. Fern Green-Bowling Diamond Award | Aly Cunningham, Happy Plate Concepts

The Dr. Fern Green-Bowling Diamond Award recognizes a woman in business who has served as a shining example to others and has made a significant impact in her business and community. Past winners include Mary Billings, Elote Café and Catering (2022), Robin Roberson, Goose and Gander (2019) and Kathy Robinson, Schoolware, Inc. (2018).

Dream Big Award | Marcus Ude, Universal Development Enterprise

The Dream Big Award recognizes an individual, business, or organization that is not afraid to "dream big" by making a substantial difference in their community, state or where it is needed most. Past winners include Miss Mary's Market (2022), Barbara Whinery and the 4RKids Foundation (2019) and the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives' "Electrifying Guatemala Project" (2018).

The Vision Award | Kimray and The Kimmell Foundation

REI Oklahoma's Vision Award recognizes an organization, business, or other entity that has turned its dreams and visions into reality while enhancing Oklahoma's economy. Past winners include Governor Bill Anoatubby and the Chickasaw Nation (2022), John A. "Rocky "Barrett and Citizen Potawatomi Nation (2019) and the Green Family and Hobby Lobby (2018).

“It feels really good to be recognized and know that people see you and what you are doing,” shared Aly Cunningham, award winner and co-owner of Happy Plate Concepts. “At Happy Plate Concepts, we don’t do the extra work for the accolades; we do it because it is the right thing to do.”

Other REI Oklahoma program award winners include:

REI Down Payment Assistance Mortgage Company of the Year Gateway Mortgage Jenks, OK Interview with Mark Revard, Divisional Executive Vice President/National Production Manager

Excellence in Entrepreneurial Services Award Choctaw Nation Small Business Development Durant, OK

REI Business Lending 504 Borrower of the Year Layco Electric Innovations Tulsa, OK

REI Business Lending Direct Borrower of the Year Bond Laundry Co. Durant, OK

REI Down Payment Assistance Mortgage Loan Officer of the Year Alona Hayes, Supreme Lending Lawton, OK

REI Minority Business Center Client of the Year Chloeta Oklahoma City, OK

REI Minority Business Center Partner of the Year Bailey Walker Ada, OK

REI New Market Tax Credit Project of the Year Stillwater Medical – Blackwell | Blackwell Hospital Trust Authority Blackwell, OK

REI Women's Business Center Client of the Year She Shed Bistro Wilburton, OK

REI Women's Business Center Partner of the Year Mvskoke Fund Okmulgee, OK

“REI Oklahoma is not only building our state’s economy, but we are also helping our fellow Oklahomans build a better tomorrow,” said Scott Dewald, REI Oklahoma president and CEO. “We are here and ready to serve those in rural and urban communities who have a vision of creating economic security for themselves and their families. On behalf of our board, staff and sponsors, we congratulate all of our award winners."

Dream BIG Oklahoma will include dinner, drinks, and award presentations to winners who are doing great work in Oklahoma's economic development landscape. Patron tables and individual tickets are available to purchase for this year's Dream BIG Oklahoma event.

This year’s sponsors include the event’s Catalyst Sponsor, First United. Luminary Sponsors include the Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Inasmuch Foundation, InvesTrust Wealth Management LLC, OGE Energy Corp. and US Bank. Spark sponsors include Ada Jobs Foundation, CohnReznick, Hilltop Securities, i2E Inc., Kimray, McAfee & Taft, Oklahoma Business Roundtable and the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology.

For more information about Dream BIG Oklahoma, table reservations or to purchase tickets visit, call 800-658-2823 or email

About REI Oklahoma

Since 1982, REI Oklahoma has focused on cultivating an environment conducive to economic growth and job creation. As a statewide organization, REI Oklahoma understands the importance of adapting to specific community needs, respecting community culture and addressing the barriers many Oklahomans face. REI Oklahoma's headquarters are in Durant, with additional Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices. With the various point of entry to access services to REI Oklahoma, regardless of where a client enters, they have access to all REI Oklahoma programs. These programs include Business Lending, Housing Down Payment Assistance Program, Minority Business Center, New Market Tax Credit Program, and the Women's Business Center. To learn more about REI Oklahoma, visit or call 800-658-2823. Follow REI Oklahoma on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube

Featured Posts

Gateway Team Members Included in Scotsman Guide’s Top Women Originators 2024

Read More

Gateway Named to Top Mortgage Lenders by Mortgage Executive Magazine

Read More

Gateway Appoints Jonathan Wallace as Chief Financial Officer

Read More