The annual award recognizes an individual’s achievements within Chester County.
Gary Smith, CEO and president of the Chester County Economic Development Council, noted that for the first time in the organization’s history, an individual from the agricultural business community is being recognized by the council.
“We are celebrating the legacy of an individual who has distinguished themselves with community service and corporate leadership. As with any business, you have to be innovative and entrepreneurial. The mushroom industry is a legacy industry in Chester County. It’s part of our heritage,” he said.
Located in Kennett Square, the family-owned business began nearly 90 years ago when Pia’s grandfather emigrated from Italy to Chester County and began to grow mushrooms. Pia’s son, Michael, is the fourth generation continuing the family’s legacy. Currently, the business is aiming to expand mushroom growing facilities in the area, increasing employment opportunities in Chester County.
Each year, a committee made up of Chester County business leaders determines eligible local businesses and nominates candidates for the Business Hall of Fame award. The committee looks for specific criteria among the candidates, including someone who has started a business and been successful ensuring its growth year after year.
“We also look for someone who has been extremely generous and has an unselfish heart, as far as giving to others. The Pias are a great example of that. There are four generations in this family business,” added Smith.
South Mill Champs is the third largest mushroom supplier in North America with growing operations in Pennsylvania and British Columbia, Canada. The company supplies two million pounds of mushrooms each week to retail, wholesale, food service and industrial customers throughout North America.
Pia noted the economic impact the company has had by creating thousands of jobs, and expects to see continued growth within the industry into the future.
“Fortunately mushrooms are very much on trend these days,” he said. “Their popularity has really exploded as consumers are looking to add more plant based and functional foods to their diets. My goal is to have our company’s growth continue here in Chester County, where my family began this journey nearly 90 years ago. I’m very appreciative the council chose to recognize me. It’s a real honor.”
Mushrooms are part of the economic backbone of southern Chester County and the mushroom industry employs so many residents directly and through related industries, according to state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19th Dist.
“So, it’s only fitting and proper that Michael Pia, one of the leaders of the mushroom industry, is honored for his vast contributions to the business community in our region,” Dinniman said. “I congratulate Michael, the Pia family and South Mill Champs on this richly deserved recognition and offer my best wishes for many, many more years of success and growth in the future.”
Pia has served two terms as president of the American Mushroom Institute and has served on the Mushroom Council, of which he is a founding member. He has also served as a board member of several local organizations including the Chester County Economic Development Council, YMCA of the Brandywine Valley, Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce, Alliance for Better Housing and United Way. He and his wife Nancy also run the Michael & Nancy Pia Foundation, which focuses on improving the lives of children by supporting local charitable organizations.
Pia is the 14th person inducted into the Chester County Business Hall of Fame.