More than 400 business and opinion leaders from across the North celebrated the achievements of 11 companies and individuals at the 26th annual Northern Ontario Business Awards (NOBA) gala on Oct. 4 at the McIntyre Curling Club in Schumacher.
NOBA has become the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario since it was first launched in 1986. The event was co-hosted by Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren and Northern Ontario Business publisher Patricia Mills.
The awards and gala celebrate successful businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Northern Ontario. The event rotates annually among the five major cities in Northern Ontario.
Awards include Company of the Year (three categories, based on size), Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Entrepreneurial Community, First Nations Business Award of Excellence, Innovation, Export and Judges’ Choice. The Union Gas Essay Scholarship, worth $3,000, was also presented.
An independent panel of judges adjudicated more than 100 nominations from around Northern Ontario. The panel comprised Marc Boudreau, president and CEO of Bestech in Sudbury; Barbara Ray, secretary/treasurer at RES Equipment Sales in Dryden; Joe Parisi, a partner with Ross Pope & Company LLP in Timmins; Jeff Elgie, a partner at Lucidia in Sault Ste. Marie; and Laurentian University professor Dr. David Pearson of Sudbury, who judged the Union Gas Essay Scholarship.
The winners include:
Category: Company of the Year (1-15 Employees)
Winner: Evans Bertrand Hill Wheeler Architects (North Bay)
Sponsored by: BDC
Evans Bertrand Hill Wheeler Architecture (EBHWA) began in 1956 with architects Norman Critchley and Lucien Delean. Three more eventually joined the firm – Brian Bertand, Paul Trussler and Jim Evans – and later Ian Hill and Marcus Wheeler. In its current form, the firm continues the tradition of quality and excellence established more than half a century ago. With a staff of about 20, the firm is the largest in the North Bay area and undertakes projects spanning from Gravenhurst to Parry Sound, to James Bay and on towards the Manitoba border. About 80 per cent of its work is in health care and education, which includes elementary and secondary schools and post-secondary institutions, hospitals, clinics and homes for the aged. Its biggest project, to date, has been the North Bay Regional Health Centre, a 755,000-square-foot facility that includes the District Hospital (acute care) and the Regional Mental Health Centre (specialized forensic mental health services).
Category: Company of the Year (16-50 Employees)
Winner: Form Architecture Engineering (Thunder Bay)
Sponsored by: OLG
The well-known tenet of modern architecture that buildings should be designed to be functional and based on their intended use is what FORM Architecture Engineering strives for. A past winner of the Northern Ontario Business Awards in 2004 under the previous name of Kuch Stephenson Gibson and Malo, the firm was established in 2002 with the merger of two Thunder Bay firms: Kuch Stephenson Architects and GBW + Architects and Engineers. When colleague Cory Stechyshyn was elevated to become the sixth partner – joining Stephenson, Walter Kuch, Michelle Gibson, Jim Malo, and Ian McEachern – they wisely avoided a ridiculously long letterhead by choosing a new identity last year to better reflect the firm's vision and reputation for innovative design. The 35-employee, multi-disciplinary firm brings a mix of youth and experience in architecture, structural engineering, interior design and technical expertise that spans three generations.
Category: Company of the Year (51+ Employees)
Winner: B&D Manufacturing (Sudbury)
Sponsored by: BDO
Skilled in an array of trades, employees with the Chelmsford company, located just outside of Sudbury, bring with them a valuable skill set, along with a dedication to excellence in their work. That expertise helps B&D, a family-owned and -operated company, fabricate a diversified range of services and products for the mining, construction and recreational industries. Founded in 1980, B&D became known for its portable align boring machines before expanding into equipment for use in mines and mills, open pit trucks, open pit shovels and construction. Today, the company has close to 140 employees and does $20 million in annual sales around the globe. Keeping the company competitive after 32 years in business is its keen attention to quality control and continuous improvement. The company consistently strives for improvement in quality, process and new product development, while looking for cost-cutting initiatives without jeopardizing quality.
Category: Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Luc Stang (Mattawa)
Sponsored by: KIA
Luc Stang has set a lofty goal for Gin-Cor Industries. The president and CEO wants his Mattawa-based heavy truck equipment company to eventually be recognized as one of Canada's 50 best managed companies. Making Gin-Cor a place where people want to come to work and where employee input is respected and valued will mean attracting the best people to fuel the company's future growth plans. In drawing inspiration from business management guru Jim Collins, Stang isn't satisfied with merely being a good company, but wants to create a culture where employees are engaged, take ownership of the work they do, and embrace change. The 60-employee company is considered an industry leader in "upfitting" by customizing all brands of truck chassis to install dump boxes, snow plows, sanders, flatbeds, cranes and decking.
Category: Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Joseph Mansourian (Sudbury)
Sponsored by: CIBC
It wasn't until Joseph Mansourian had already graduated with a degree in aviation management that he realized he didn't belong in the air. But in the four years since establishing his own marketing firm, the 30-year-old's success has soared. As founder and managing director of OvertheAtlantic in Sudbury, Mansourian oversees three employees and a host of freelancers who offer services in communications, branding, public relations, design and marketing. Clients include the Greater Sudbury Airport, the Salon du livre du Grand Sudbury, the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association and Collège Boréal. For the latter's marketing campaign, the firm won a Canadian Marketing Association award, the first Northern Ontario creative firm to do so.
Category: Innovation Award
Winner: Three H Furniture Systems Ltd. (New Liskeard)
Sponsored by: DAY Group
Three H Furniture Systems was founded in 1973 as a family-run business, and nearly 40 years later, the New Liskeard company still very much is. Based on European design, Three H builds its furniture to the inch, to easily accommodate any custom request. It was at Chicago's NeoCon Show this past June where Three H unveiled a web technology it’s been working on for more than two years. RED, which stands for Rapid, Easy, Design, is a proprietary software extension for Google Sketchup that allows anyone to design and price layouts for free.
Category: First Nations Business Award of Excellence
Winner: The Silver Moccasin (Cobalt)
Sponsored by: Ontario Power Generation
Business owner Connie Boyd isn't daunted by the distinction of being Cobalt's only retailer. The Silver Moccasin opened on the town's main street in 2007 and she hasn't looked back since. Her array of native-inspired artwork, jewelry, hand-made moccasins and mukluks have attracted local and regional customers to the store on Silver Street, and worldwide customers through her online business. Boyd is Aboriginal and has always had an interest in native arts and crafts, and painting. She worked for the Métis Council in Haileybury and was instrumental in opening up a native gift shop as a means of raising funds for the council. The office and shop eventually had to close and she decided to open up a similar store in Cobalt where she and her husband live.
Category: Entrepreneurial Community of the Year
Winner: Sault Community Career Centre (Sault Ste. Marie)
Sponsored by: Air Canada
The closure of Citizenship and Immigration offices across Northern Ontario means places like the Sault Community Career Centre are becoming a vital immigration gateway for Sault Ste. Marie. The not-for-profit employment agency has carved out a specialized niche for itself in recent years by rolling out the welcome mat for newcomers to the city. What began with three employees in 1992 as a community information agency has grown to 24 with an expanded mandate. The primary goal of the centre is to help clients re-enter the labour market, but it's evolved over time to help older unemployed workers find jobs and it's become a much-needed settlement office for immigrants to Canada.
Category: Judges' Choice Award
Winner: Porcupine Canvas (Timmins)
Sponsored by: Highvec Canada Inc.
Porcupine Canvas has been catering to a variety of customers in the region, across Canada, and even overseas. Located in Schumacher, the business has been adept at responding to customer needs and changing markets. When the company first began, Deni Poulin started knocking on doors, including the mines, to let people know about the business. In the first five years, it grew exponentially. Customers often find products Porcupine Canvas has manufactured, but want them modified to suit their needs. It can mean canvas buckets used for drill bits transformed to hold samples of dog food. Clients may need a new technical instrument that requires a padded case, or the company may be asked to replace old cases that aren't made anymore.
Category: Export Award
Winner: Mining Technologies International (Sudbury)
Sponsored by: EDC
After more than four decades in the mining industry, Bob Lipic, CEO and president of MTI, has learned a few things about exporting to markets around the globe. Most importantly, it's that quality and consistency can make or break a company's reputation, so adhering to deadlines, minding time zones, and overcoming language and cultural barriers are just part of the business. MTI’s manufacturing and distribution locations have been established in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, and a network of agents and distributors extends to more than a dozen countries on nearly every continent. The majority of MTI's revenue now comes from products made by the company at its manufacturing facilities in Sudbury and North Bay.
Category: Union Gas Essay Scholarship
Winner: Victoria Coombs (Kapuskasing)
Sponsored by: Union Gas
Victoria Coombs said she wasn't very energy conscious growing up. Throughout the years, she always thought that she should be, but simply didn't know where to start. The 2012 winner of the Union Gas Essay Scholarship used that thought process in crafting her essay to write it from the perspective of somebody who isn't familiar with the steps of what it takes to reduce their own personal energy demands. Her essay, entitled "Directing my energy to reducing energy demands," highlights common and useful tips to help make a difference when it comes to green energy.
Full winner profiles have been detailed in a souvenir magazine, and video vignettes will posted on www.noba.ca on Oct. 5. A television documentary about the winners will be aired on Eastlink TV in Sudbury on Monday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; and in Timmins on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Mark your calendars: the 27th annual Northern Ontario Business Awards will be held in North Bay on Oct. 2 and 3, 2013. For more information on NOBA, contact Kimberley Wahamaa, operations manager, at 705-673-5705 or 1-800-757-2766, ext. 320, or email inquiries to [email protected]