Rod Wilkin, founder, president and CEO of Taco Casa, was named the H. Pettus Randall Entrepreneur of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama at a luncheon ceremony held Wednesday, Nov. 18 at Hotel Capstone. The award is named in honor of local entrepreneur H. Pettus Randall, III, who built Randall Publishing into one of the 25 largest publishing companies in America. Randall passed away in 2002.

Wilkin, a Kansas native who developed a love for Tuscaloosa after playing football for the University of Alabama, founded Taco Casa after discovering a lack of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants in the area. He opened the first Taco Casa location in 1974. Today, Taco Casa has seven locations – six in Tuscaloosa and one in Birmingham.

“Taco Casa is a Tuscaloosa institution, and Rod’s success story exemplifies the spirit of not only what this award represents, but is also indicative of what Pettus Randall meant to the community,” said Jim Page, Chamber president and CEO.

The Chamber also presented a Rising Star Award, which is given to a young, growing business in the community. This year’s recipients are three groups of entrepreneurs in the same industry – a first for this award. The Rising Star was given to Joe Fuller, Jason Spikes and Eric Hull of Black Warrior Brewing Company; Elliott Roberts and Bo Hicks of Druid City Brewing Company; and Jeremy Donald, Jeremiah Donald and Quintin Brown of Band of Brothers Brewing Company.

“These three groups of entrepreneurs were chosen because they have not only created exciting new businesses in our community, they have, together, created an industry that did not previously exist in Tuscaloosa,” said Al Spencer, vice president for economic development and public policy. “Our Rising Star winners have created a brewing industry that we feel will be an important contributor to our local economy. Also, numerous studies have shown that local breweries are important components in furthering a region’s local identity.”

Although the three breweries are competitors, they have consistently worked together for the good of the industry, launching Tuscaloosa’s Craft Beer Week, and creating a collaborative beer, Rising Tide. Their entrepreneurial spirit has allowed them to work as a team and raise the profile of the local brewing industry as a whole.