When Thomas C. Pitrone heard his name called for the fourth annual National Small Business Association's 2009 Advocate of the Year Award he had to control himself. He felt as if his skin was the only thing keeping him from going everywhere at once.

He was honored at a luncheon in Washington, hosted on Tuesday, June 9th. Pitrone claims he's a highly emotional person. "I had to steal myself against emotion because I couldn't have gotten through the speech," Pitrone said. He spoke of business people and how America was built on the idea of small business.

Pitrone is the sole proprietor of The Integrity Group, a financial consulting and money management firm in Willoughby, Ohio, which he has run for the last 25 years.

NSBA's President Todd McCraken says the process to be awarded is largely a peer review, which means of the 200 attendants to the conference, many of them voted for Pitrone. "Tom has just been both tireless and selfless in advocacy for small company's," McCraken said. "So many things he's worked on go far beyond his company and that's unique."

In a time when credit card, healthcare reform and tax policy for small businesses is in limbo, Pitrone is advocating more than ever on behalf of his company and company's like his. "Things like proper health insurance are expensive and hard to get because of tax rules and log jams," McCraken said. "[Tom's] been a real leader on those measures."