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Northern Ontario Business Awards program returns to North Bay

Awards presented to winners in 10 categories
The Northern Ontario Business Awards is an annual celebratory gala hosted by Northern Ontario Business.

Northern Ontario is home to some of the most forward-thinking business leaders in the country and around the globe. For 32 years, the Northern Ontario Business Awards program has celebrated this entrepreneurial spirit and the winning achievements of the best companies, individuals and economic development initiatives.

“Our stock and trade are people who create wealth, build community, take risks, plan projects, exploit markets, run out of money, and start again,” said Michael Atkins, president of Laurentian Publishing and Northern Ontario Business.

“It is this constant determination to remain relevant and maintain the power of our communities that makes it so special to live in Northern Ontario. We come together to celebrate this spirit.” 

With a crowd of more than 300 guests in attendance at the North Bay Granite Club, awards recognizing outstanding contributions to the North were presented in 10 categories: Company of the Year (1 to 15 employees, 16 to 50 employees and 51+ employees), Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Entrepreneurial Community, First Nations Business Award of Excellence, Innovation, Export and Judges’ Choice. The annual $3,000 Union Gas Essay Scholarship was also presented to a Northern student.

The quality of the awards program is underwritten each year by a respected panel of judges from across Northern Ontario. They are asked to look at all aspects of business performance, from customer service and community involvement to human resource management and future planning. This year’s judges were: David Rector, president and co-owner of Rector Machine Works (Sault Ste. Marie); Paul Reid, business development officer for the City of Greater Sudbury (Sudbury); Liana Frenette, CEO of TBT Engineering (Thunder Bay); and Mark Tulloch, CEO of Tulloch Engineering (Huntsville).

Richard Eberhardt, program director of reThink Green Sudbury, judged the essay scholarship submissions.

Since it was launched in 1986, NOBA has become the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario. These awards have served 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. This year, the Northern Policy Institute's State of the North Conference coincided with the event. 

The 2018 Northern Ontario Business Awards program was co-hosted by North Bay Mayor Al McDonald and Wendy Watson, immediate past chair of the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation. Eastlink TV aired the awards ceremony live, and will rebroadcast the program every Wednesday in October and Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. Your TV North Bay will air a documentary featuring the winners' stories at 7 p.m on Oct. 23.

2018 NOBA Winners

Company of the Year (1-15 employees)
Winner:  9 Lives Design Inc. (North Bay)    
Sponsored by: Weaver Simmons LLP
Art and sport are not mutually exclusive for the winner of the 2018 Company of the Year award (1 to 15 employees). The competitive drive that landed this North Bay resident on Canada’s National Junior Ski team as a young teen also pushed him to progress from a freelance graphic designer to operating an award-winning design studio.

Company of the Year (16-50 employees)    
Winner: Rock-Tech (Lively)
Sponsored by: Air Canada
Catering to the underground mining industry, the winner of the 2018 Company of the Year award (16 to 50 employees) credits strong relationships, engaged staff and attentive after-sale service to its success. This comprehensive approach has led to a 60 per cent growth in the last three years!

Company of the Year (51+ employees)
Winner: Legend Boats (Whitefish)
Sponsored by: OLG
The winner of the 2018 Company of the Year award (51+ employees) has a long history in the North and a simple philosophy for success: “We look after the employees, and they look after us.” Now operating from a 50,000-square-foot facility on the Vermillion River, this company is well poised to serve the boating community for decades to come.

Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Daniel Brunet, DJB Mining Products and Services (Timmins)
Sponsored by: Kia Canada
From a one-man enterprise working out of a trailer to a busy service and supply company with more than 30 employees, the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year has earned the respect and loyalty of his clients by putting quality, customer service and safety first. Next on the agenda for this enterprising businessman? A foray into the global market.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Mark Weckwerth, Bay Roofing (North Bay)
From the time he graduated from high school, the 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year was on the fast track to success. His entrepreneurial spirit and passion for community was fuelled by his father who always encouraged him to see the bigger picture. This led his business to undergo several incarnations over the past decade, to meet community needs.

Innovation Award
Winner: Bill Betournay, STUFFF Lubricants Inc. (Richards Landing)
Sponsored by: Village Media
Not every innovation is created by design. For this self-professed tinkerer, his fast-growing product line was created purely by accident. Motivated by the desire to find a non-toxic, environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based shop lubricants, the winner of the 2018 Innovation Award found the solution in a common kitchen ingredient.

First Nations Business Award of Excellence 
Winner: Wolf Eye Productions (North Bay)
Sponsored by: Ontario Power Generation
Diligent, determined and professional – these are words clients use to describe the 2018 recipient of the First Nations Business Award of Excellence. A member of the Golden Lake First Nation, the owner of this freelance multi-media company has travelled across Canada and as far as Costa Rica pursuing unique work opportunities. 

Entrepreneurial Community of the Year
Winner: Waterfront District BIA (Thunder Bay)
Sponsored by: Huntington University
Rebuilding and rebranding the area into a business-friendly zone has led to a complete transformation for this city’s waterfront. Now a thriving hub for artists and entrepreneurs, the collective efforts of the 2018 Entrepreneurial Community of the Year have created a welcoming hub that draws the community to the waterfront for concerts, fundraisers and other special events.

Judges' Choice Award
Winner: 2018 World Women’s Curling Championship Planning Committee (North Bay)
With a focus on sports tourism, this Northern Ontario city was hungry to land a major sporting event. Despite the skepticism of many in the community, the nine-day event set a national record for attendance and pumped more than $7 million into the local economy. The 2018 Judges’ Choice award winners give the credit to the army of 400 volunteers for this world-class event.

Export Award
Winner: The Walden Group (Lively)
Sponsored by: Export Development Canada
Recognizing solid growth comes from broadening your horizons. The winner of the 2018 Export Award established a sales and service centre in Mexico, followed by the development of distribution agreements in Chile and Germany, with Mongolia and Africa on the horizon. Today, upwards of 30 per cent of their company output is export related.

Union Gas Essay Scholarship
Winner: Tamara Burgess (Elliot Lake)
Sponsored by: Union Gas
Essay: The Role of the Education System in the Future of Energy Conservation

33rd Annual NOBA – 2019 – in Sault Ste. Marie

The 33rd annual Northern Ontario Business Awards will be held in Sault Ste. Marie. For 2019, NOBA travels the Highway 17 corridor to recognize the important contributions of business to our economy and our communities. For more information on NOBA, contact marketing manager Sharon Bowes at 705-698-2845, toll-free at 1-800-757-2766, or at