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Winners named for the 35th annual Northern Ontario Business Awards

Nine entrepreneurs and organizations have been selected from among the best in the region

Nine outstanding entrepreneurs and organizations from across the North are being lauded for their contributions as winners of the 2021 Northern Ontario Business Awards (NOBA).

An initiative of Village Media, NOBA has become the largest annual event of its kind in Northern Ontario and in 2021 is observing its 35th year. This year’s celebration will be held online only, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched in 1986, NOBA aims 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.

“We’re impressed with the high calibre of our 2021 winners, who have demonstrated resilience and perseverance during what has been a challenging 20 months for many business owners,” said Jeff Elgie, CEO at Village Media, the parent company of Northern Ontario Business.

“We applaud these businesses and entrepreneurs for their ongoing role in building a strong Northern Ontario economy.”

“Over the last 35 years, we have honoured some remarkable winners through our awards program, and this year we’re pleased to add nine more names to our growing list of recipients,” said Abbas Homayed, publisher of Northern Ontario Business.

“Small businesses in Northern Ontario help generate employment, growth, and stability for this region, and we take pride in highlighting their achievements.”

NOBA 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: Northern Credit Union, Algoma University, CIBC, Maestro Digital Mine, N1 Solutions/Northern Ontario Angels, North Bay Plastic Molders Ltd., OLG, Ontario Power Generation, Sunwire, and Twiggs Coffee Roasters.

2021 Northern Ontario Business Awards:

Company of the Year (1-15 employees): Penokean Hills Farms, Bruce Mines

This collective of cattle farmers from across the Algoma District has been producing high-quality beef since 2005. Under the Penokean Hills Farms banner, area farmers grow and finish their animals on a proprietary, award-winning mix of peas and barley, shipping their meat to customers across Northern Ontario and to high-end restaurants and butcher shops in Toronto. The company is currently in the process of building a brand-new abattoir and processing facility to meet growing demand.

Company of the Year (16-50 employees): Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre, Little Current

Open since 2013, the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre has met a need for additional accommodations in the area, while enhancing the tourism industry as a whole. Collectively owned by six area First Nations, the hotel generates revenue for its members, boosts the marketing profile of Manitoulin Island, and creates employment for residents: in 2019, the hotel employed 78 people, 80 per cent of whom identified as status First Nation.

Company of the Year (51+ employees): Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, Kenora

Established in 2010 in a former fire hall, Kenora’s Lake of the Woods Brewing Company has built up a strong following with its signature brews and value-added products, including a line of handcrafted salad dressings, mustard, and barbecue and hot sauces, through collaborations with other small businesses. With growth has come expansion to satellite locations in Winnipeg, Man., and Warroad, Minn., and construction now underway at its Kenora headquarters will boost its production capacity there tenfold. The company is also a strong proponent of community involvement, contributing more than $300,000 in sponsorships and in-kind donations throughout northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Felix Lopes Jr., owner and president at Lopes Group of Companies, Coniston

Since taking over Lopes nearly two decades ago, Felix Lopes Jr. has grown the steel fabrication company exponentially. In 2020, Lopes Jr. launched Salto Heat Treating, which increases the longevity of steel products, and he continues to expand his holdings at the Coniston Industrial Park, employing up to 200 people across divisions. He's also an active and enthusiastic member of the local community, contributing to projects that help enhance the quality of living for residents. Over the years, that’s included funding and in-kind support for a skateboard park, a children’s splash pad, a greenhouse that helps cultivate crops for the local food bank, and a series of bridges in the city’s Rotary Park. The company regularly welcomes co-op students and apprentices training in the skilled trades, many of whom have gone on to become full-time employees, and Lopes Jr. has additionally set up scholarships designed to assist students pursuing their postsecondary education in Northern Ontario.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Larissa Stevens, owner and president of LBS Environmental Consulting, Thunder Bay

Long interested in the environment and water systems, Larissa Stevens puts her education and experience to work on consultation projects in environmental and hydrological management for clients in Ontario. She has served as an environmental scientist, a junior project manager, and an environmental assessment officer on a number of projects; one of the more significant projects she’s worked on is the ongoing development of the Marten Falls First Nation Community Access Road. In 2018, Stevens launched her own company, LBS Environmental Consulting, which aims to support First Nation participation in environmental processes. Stevens is currently training toward full certification as a geoscientist, and in her spare time advocates for the role of women in the mining and minerals industry.

Innovation: Farquhar’s Dairy, Espanola

Farquhar’s Dairy has been in operation – producing butter, milk and ice cream – since 1933, but the long-time producer embraces new processes and technologies to remain efficient and relevant in today’s competitive dairy industry. Between 2018 and 2020, the company teamed up with Cambrian Innovates, the research and development (R&D) arm of Cambrian College in Sudbury, to build a new chiller system. This one-of-a-kind project, which enlisted the help of students at the college, reduces energy use, boosts efficiency, and makes the operation more environmentally friendly.

Indigenous Business Award of Excellence: CreeQuest Corp., Cochrane

Launched by Tina Sheridan in 2010 as a small catering and event-planning company, CreeQuest Corp. has grown into a full-service, Indigenous-owned mining service company. Key contracts include providing catering, housekeeping and janitorial duties at the Young-Davidson Mine and Detour Lake Mine. The company and its spinoffs employ 120 people, more than half being women and close to half being Indigenous. CreeQuest additionally gives back to the communities it serves, donating $734,000 over five years for community projects and recently launching a mentorship program for young Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Community: Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping at Canadore College (ICAMP), North Bay

More commonly known as ICAMP, the Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping is a 13,300-square-foot facility situated on the North Bay campus of Canadore College, housing a range of highly specialized equipment including precision 3D scanners, CNC machines, robotics, microscopy, design and simulation software, and additive manufacturing. Designed to assist entrepreneurs in taking their ideas from concept to reality, the equipment and expertise at ICAMP has, to date, helped complete more than 700 projects, assist more than 300 companies, and create more than 180 new jobs. The centre’s success has necessitated a number of expansions and additions over the years; the most recent is the Concept Development Lab, which is expected to open in early 2022.

Judges’ Choice: Great White North Technology Consulting, Timmins

Based in Timmins, Métis-owned and operated Great White North Technology Consulting offers managed IT services throughout Northern Ontario and in select regions across Canada. Their expertise lies in servicing First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities, especially those in remote and Northern regions who face unique challenges due to geography. Since launching in 2012 in a small location with just a few people, Great White North has grown to a team of 14, expanding its offices multiple times. Business has ramped up over the last 20 months as more and more businesses have sought the company’s assistance in moving their operations online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full profiles of the winners, along with celebratory videos highlighting their achievements, will be posted later this fall on and