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Local man to receive cash award, plans to launch his own business

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's common to hear workers complain about paying taxes. For Willmar resident and stroke survivor Neil Hughes, paying taxes again is a goal he's striving to achieve.

Hughes has plans to achieve this goal by opening up his own nut roasting business -- a franchise of the Nutty Bavarian Company -- in the Kandi Mall in Willmar.

Tonight, Hughes' goals are coming closer to reality as he receives the Judd Jacobson Memorial Award. The $5,000 cash award recognizes the pursuit of or achievement in a business entrepreneurial endeavor by a person with a physical disability or impairment.

Hughes, 51, was a farmer until a massive stroke in 1993 caused left side paralysis. Today, he walks with a cane and walker, and he is employed part-time with West Central Industries of Willmar.

"Since my accident I have aspired to become financially independent and free of government assistance. ... I would like to become a taxpayer again," Hughes said in a news release from the Courage Center, which administers the Judd Jacobson Memorial Award.

According to the news release, Hughes plans to use the money from the Jacobson award toward the purchase of a nut roaster, start-up inventory, mall rental, insurance and an adaptive jig which will help him fill the nut cups. He also hopes to make a down payment on a portable arena cart to sell his products, which includes homemade chocolates, at local festivals.

Hughes' nominators mentioned the research he has done, including cost and profit evaluations, checking with the mall about hours and scheduling, and marketing techniques. He even conducted taste tests, all while being realistic in sales projections.

The Jacobson selection committee was inspired by Hughes' story and his desire for a better quality of life, according to the news release.

Hughes will receive his award tonight during a reception at the Courage Center in Golden Valley.

Jacobson was a Minnesota business leader who became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident.

-- Jenna Dillon