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Winners named for 34th annual Northern Ontario Business Awards

Event celebrates nine outstanding business leaders from across the North

The 2020 Northern Ontario Business Awards (NOBA) are celebrating the remarkable achievements of nine entrepreneurs and organizations that embody the entrepreneurial spirit of the North.

Now in its 34th year, the annual awards program looks a little different in 2020. In lieu of the traditional celebratory dinner and awards ceremony, NOBA is taking on a virtual format, in respect of concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a year in which businesses continue to face unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, we believe it’s especially important to showcase the extraordinary efforts of Northern Ontario business leaders who are building wealth and prosperity in our region,” said Jeff Elgie, CEO at Village Media, Northern Ontario Business’ parent company.

“This year’s NOBA recipients represent the best and brightest in business that Northern Ontario has to offer,” added Abbas Homayed, publisher at Northern Ontario Business.

“Locally owned enterprises are the heart and soul of our region, and we applaud their continued commitment to the North and its people.”

Submissions were vetted by a diverse judging panel of experts, contributing expertise from a variety of sectors to examine all aspects of nominees’ business performance, from customer service and community involvement to human resource management and future planning.

Hosting the NOBAs each year is no simple endeavour, and we are grateful for the ongoing support of our sponsors, who continue to see the value in recognizing these worthy recipients. Thank you to: Acclaim Ability Management, CIBC, Ivey Group, Maximus Rose Living Benefits, Northstar Air, OLG, Ontario Power Generation, and Twiggs Coffee Roasters.

NOBA 2020 Winners: 

Company of the Year (1-15 employees): Sunnynook Farms, Echo Bay

A farm-to-table enterprise, Sunnynook Farms produces meat, produce, and preserves on 200 acres in Echo Bay, just east of Sault Ste. Marie. Products are sold at the farmgate, the local farmers market, and to restaurants throughout the area. The second-generation-run family farm has also generously donated more than 10,000 pounds of produce to local charities.

Company of the Year (16-50 employees): Sunwire, Sudbury

Sunwire provides residential and business internet and telephone services to clients in Greater Sudbury and throughout Ontario. This rapidly expanding company has landed a spot on the list of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies for two consecutive years. 

Company of the Year (51+ employees): Manroc, Manitouwadge

This family-owned mine contracting company is best known for developing the unique Alimak system used in stope mining. Over 34 years, Manroc has worked on projects around the globe, all while embracing innovative new technology and creating a work environment where safety is paramount.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Don Champagne, North Bay Plastic Molders, Corbeil

At the onset of COVID-19 last spring, Champagne and his team at North Bay Plastic Molders quickly pivoted from producing parts for the mining sector to address PPE shortages in the medical industry. The North Bay company is now producing plastic face shields, which are receiving wide distribution. 

Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Rachel Pessah, Bright Spot Therapy Services, Timmins

At Bright Spot Therapy Services, Rachel Pessah leads a team of professionals providing speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, reading intervention, and autism assessment services for clients in Timmins, Sudbury and remote fly-in communities. In just under two years, the growth in demand for their services has required an expansion into a new office and the hiring of more personnel.

Innovation Award: Flosonics Medical, Sudbury

Flosonics Medical's proprietary technology, the FloPatch, helps monitor a patient’s blood flow in real time, with results sent directly to a physician’s smartphone or tablet. This innovative device creates efficiencies in helping physicians determine whether intravenous fluids are an effective treatment for critically ill patients. 

First Nations Business Award of Excellence: Watay Power, Thunder Bay

Unprecedented for its size and scope, the $1.6-billion Wataynikaneyap (Watay) Power project will connect 17 remote Indigenous communities to the provincial power grid for the first time. Job creation, increased business opportunities, and improvements to resident health and the environment are among the anticipated benefits of this project, which is one of the largest to be majority owned, led and controlled by First Nations.

Entrepreneurial Community: Wabun Tribal Council, Timmins

A regional chiefs council representing five member First Nations, Wabun Tribal Council has led the way in creating a unique template for negotiating resource development projects taking place in its members’ traditional territories. Known as the “Wabun Model,” this standard has helped bring economic stability to the communities and certainty to the mining industry.

Judges’ Choice: Rheault Distillery, Hearst

Rheault Distillery has been producing its award-winning vodka, whisky, rum, and liqueurs since opening in 2014. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the distillery switched to producing hand sanitizer, and is now distributing the product in Canada and the U.S.

Full profiles, along with videos featuring interviews of the winners, will be posted soon to

About the Northern Ontario Business Awards

Since launching in 1986, the Northern Ontario Business Awards has become the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario. These awards serve to heighten the visibility and influence of business in the North and bring peer recognition to the business leaders who create prosperity and economic growth. The Northern Ontario Business Awards is an initiative of Village Media.