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Northern Ontario Business Awards return to Sault Ste. Marie

Recipients in 10 categories lauded for entrepreneurial spirit, achievements

Northern Ontario business leaders are a rare breed, with a distinct set of strengths required to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace. For 33 years, the Northern Ontario Business Awards (NOBA) program has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit and winning achievements of the best companies, individuals and economic development initiatives.

“It is our belief at Northern Ontario Business that without locally owned private enterprise, our communities would be much weaker. Without locally owned business there would be no heart and soul, much less the philanthropy and volunteer power, to keep our communities vibrant and healthy,” says Michael Atkins, president of Laurentian Publishing and Northern Ontario Business.

“There is nothing quite as gratifying as celebrating the best among us. Congratulations to our winners who are helping to build Northern Ontario brick by brick.” 

With a crowd of more than 350 guests in attendance at the Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre, 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. 

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One of the reasons for the longevity of the NOBAs is the integrity of the awards program, 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: Liana Frenette, CEO of TBT Engineering (Thunder Bay); Pat Dubreuil, president of Manitou Gold and entrepreneur (Sudbury); Steve Black, senior project engineer for Glencore Kidd Mine (Timmins); and John Febbraro, director of business development for the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (Sault Ste. Marie).

NOBA has become the largest annual gathering of its kind in Northern Ontario since it was launched in 1986. 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 State of the North Conference coincided with the event.

The 2019 Northern Ontario Business Awards program was co-hosted by Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano and Abbas Homayed, vice-president and publisher of Northern Ontario Business.

2019 NOBA Winners

Company of the Year 1-15 employees
Winner:  MetricAid (North Bay)    
Sponsored by:

Reducing emergency room wait times – from the outset, that’s been the goal of the 2019 Company of the Year (1 to 15 Employees). Since 2012, they’ve made significant progress with their physician-scheduling algorithm, now being utilized in hospitals across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

Company of the Year 16-50 employees        
Winner:  JTR & Custom Works (Timmins)    
Sponsored by: KiSS Radio

Holding fast to its mission, the winner of the 2019 Company of the Year (16 to 50 Employees) has three main goals: provide top-notch service, give employees a safe place to grow within the trades, and be actively engaged in the community. This company excels at all three.

Company of the Year 51+ employees 
Winner: North Star Air (Thunder Bay)
Sponsored by: OLG and Gateway Casino SSM

Partnering with Indigenous communities and providing above and beyond service are the hallmarks of the 2019 Company of the Year 51 plus Employees. Giving back to the communities they serve is another. This airline has contributed $3 million dollars to fund youth sports programs, construction projects and more.

Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Jennifer Twigg (North Bay)
Sponsored by: Kia Canada

From one inspiring cup of fresh roasted coffee on the west coast to a growing Northern Ontario franchise, the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year was just slightly ahead of her time. She will tell you her first 10 years in business weren’t always easy as she struggled to educate consumers. 25 years later, she is still on the grow.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Angela Caputo – The Breakfast Pig (Sault Ste. Marie)
Sponsored by: Algoma University

The 2019 Young Entrepreneur of the Year started working in the hospitality industry as a teen, sparking an enduring love of food and the restaurant business. Today, her popular eatery, which she built from the ground up, puts a focus on locally sourced food with menu items ranging from the traditional to the outrageous.

Innovation Award
Winner: Drillco (North Bay)    
Sponsored By: Tulloch Engineering

One system to serve three applications at a lower cost; that is the idea that earned this company the 2019 Innovation Award. This team recognized that drilling technology was not keeping pace with the demands of a changing industry, so they developed a system that is the first of its kind in the world and a guaranteed game-changer.

First Nations Business Award of Excellence 
Winner: Agoke Development Corporation (Thunder Bay)
Sponsored by: Ontario Power Generation

A historic, two-year interim agreement between three First Nation communities and the provincial government provided a launch pad for the recipient of the 2019 First Nations Business Award of Excellence. Making swift progress, their goal is to create 300 additional jobs over the next five years while making a huge economic impact.

Entrepreneurial Community of the Year 
Winner: Sudbury and Area Mining Supply and Service Association (Sudbury)         
Sponsored by: Huntington University

Fifteen years ago, the world knew about Sudbury as a leading mining region, but it didn’t know as much about the supply and service sector that supported it. A small contingent of industry leaders decided to change that. Together they formed the 2019 Entrepreneurial Community of the Year to showcase, market and grow the area’s mining know-how.

Judges' Choice Award
Winner: Norpro (Sault Ste. Marie)
Sponsored by: Maximus Rose and Acclaim

From carpentry to welding to telecommunication sales, the winner of the 2019 Judges' Choice Award was always an entrepreneur at heart. When opportunity knocked, he answered, and six years later, his company has grown to become an end-to-end service provider in security, health and safety, and communication.

Export Award
Winner: Manna International (Sault Ste. Marie)        
Sponsored by:  GFL Environmental Inc.

Building strong relationships on a foundation of integrity and respect has kept this agri-business busy exporting soybeans and other Canadian products overseas for more than 30 years. Now, with an understanding of the challenges, risks and rewards, the leader of the 2019 Export Award is sharing his knowledge and expertise with other small and medium sized Canadian enterprises.

34th Annual NOBA – 2020 – in Thunder Bay

For 2020, NOBA travels northwest to recognize the important contributions of business to our economy and our communities. The 34th annual Northern Ontario Business Awards will be held in Thunder Bay.  

For more information on NOBA, contact Sharon Bowes, marketing manager, at 705-698-2845, toll-free at 1-800-757-2766, or