The NorthWest Business Association raised over $10,000 during this year's Taste of the Northwest Business Expo, a record for the organization.

The event, which brings together local dining establishments and other Northwest businesses, has been successful in raising funds to provide youth scholarships for the Calallen, Robstown and Tuloso-Midway school districts over the last 20 years.

The organization works to stay informed of city and county issues affecting the area, for the benefit of citizens and merchants in the northwest community.

One of the recent additions to that community is Michael Cotton, who started the Cotton's BBQ in August.

No stranger to the restaurant industry, Cotton is the grandson of Joe Cotton, whose famous restaurant provided delicious barbecue to the entire Coastal Bend area for nearly half a century. Following a fire last year that destroyed the old restaurant, Cotton, his father and his cousin came together on Cotton's BBQ, which currently provides catering services with the same flavor and techniques that are synonymous with his family's name.

“We have everything we did at the resturant, just on a smaller scale. A lot of catering. We hope to have dine in coming soon,” Cotton said. “We're just happy we can be here at the Taste of the Northwest, to let them know that we are still around.”

With Cotton at the event were many of the same cooks and waitstaff that the public had come to know well over the decades at Joe Cotton's. Cotton said he made it a point to stick with what works, and that includes the amazing staff from Joe Cotton's.

“We have a lot of our old help back, our cooks and waitstaff. The same employees and the same great taste,” Cotton said. “Other businesses have been very welcoming and positive about the restaurant reopening. A lot of people thought we'd be gone forever.”

Among the other restaurants represented, the staff at Rigatoni's proved visitors with a delicious Chicken Caprese, with white wine sauce, sauteed artichoke hearts, capers and mushrooms. Rigatoni's has been serving the northwest community for 12 years.

Angela Garcia, Rigatoni's manager, said the event is a wonderful way for businesses to get their name out there, and focus on Rigatoni's strong points, which includes their wonderful specials and authentic Italian cuisine.

Stephanie Knief, with Access Ford, was upbeat about the turnout at the event. This was the first year Access Ford participated in the event, and their table was heavily trafficked through the evening.

“It's been pretty good, pretty busy,” Knief said. “There's a lot of friendly people, new faces. This is our first year participating. As a local business, we wanted to show our support for local activities.”

Knief said business is growing in the northwest area, as she has seen sales double over the last four years.