Ray and Ladeine Thompson were awarded the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s 49th “Great Chief” award during the organization’s annual banquet, held virtually this year on Nov. 12.
Over 40 years ago, Ray Thompson founded Semitool and watched it grow to over 1,300 employees worldwide, contributing over $2 billion to the Northwest Montana economy. Semitool became a leading semiconductor equipment designer and manufacturing company and was later acquired by Applied Materials in 2009.
Ladeine Thompson, a librarian, has always been passionate about giving back to the community as well, the chamber said. Together, the Thompsons have supported organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Montana, Big Sky Bible Camp, Bigfork Children’s Theater, Bigfork VFW, Braveheart Chaplain Ministry, CASA for Kids, ChildBridge, Flathead Valley Community College, Heritage Learning, Ray of Hope, Glacier Symphony and Chorale, University of Montana, Hockaday Museum of Art, Stillwater Christian School, and numerous scholarships to area students.
The Thompsons most recent venture has been the revitalization of Sykes Diner in downtown Kalispell, recognizing the valuable role the long-time community gathering place has on the neighborhood, and in Thompson Precision, a certified machining and fabrication job shop manufacturer that specializes in the aerospace industry. Together, the Thompsons still employ nearly 90 people in the Flathead.
The Great Chief Award is the chamber’s oldest and most prestigious honor.
The chamber also handed out awards for its businesswoman and businessman of the year, DeSoto Grill owner Shawnna Steele and Kalispell Auto Group owner Gerrid Gandrud.
Mike Smith, of Glacier Bank, was named member of the year.