By LARRY KANTER Staff Reporter Philip A. “Flip” Smith was fed up. After more than two decades operating Flip’s Tire Center in Van Nuys, Smith had seen his shop’s Sepulveda Boulevard neighborhood marred by prostitution, trash and grafitti. Taking a cue from the neighborhood watch groups that had helped reduce crime in residential neighborhoods, Smith launched a “business watch” group, which met with police, removed garbage and scrubbed the walls clean of graffiti. That was four years ago. Smith’s group now has more than 75 businesses on its membership list and he has exported the idea to other Valley communities. In recognition of those efforts, Smith was named one of five finalists for the 1997 Fernando Award, the Valley’s highest honor for volunteers, at a banquet late last month. “When people get together, they really can find solutions to these problems,” said Smith, 50, who also is involved in the Rotary Club, the Mid-Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. “I like the Valley and I want the Valley to succeed,” Smith said. The other four finalists are Kenneth C. Banks Jr., a North Hollywood insurance broker; Horace H. Heidt, president of an apartment complex agency and an entertainment industry consultant; Terry York, owner of Terry York Automotive Group; and Walter W. Mosher Jr., founder and president of Precision Dynamics Corp. in Pacoima. “It’s extremely important for the company to be part of the community,” said Mosher, 63, a three-time Fernando Award finalist who is being singled out for his work with youth groups and family counseling centers. Mosher encourages the 350 employees of his medical devices firm to get involved in volunteering as well. This year’s Fernando Award winner will be announced Nov. 7 at a black-tie dinner at the Warner Center Marriott hotel.