It was a night of firsts at the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) annual general meeting.
The first time a woman will be president and the first time a journalist has been inducted into the Mining Hall of Fame.
Norm Tollinsky, editor of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal (a sister publication of Northern Ontario Business), was presented with the honour on Dec. 4 at Dynamic Earth.
He and the journal were lauded for 12 years of covering stories specific to the mining industry and bringing stories of the hard work and innovation coming from it.
Taking the podium, he thanked everyone for the honour, adding there was no greater feeling for a writer than being appreciated by the readers.
“In one way or another, I've been writing about the Sudbury mining cluster for 40 years,” he said. “The credit, first and foremost, belongs to you, the entrepreneurial spirit, your expertise and your determination to expand into the markets that you serve beyond the Sudbury Basin.”
He said the journal plays a small, but important, role in that growth, helping to tell the public about new products and services, innovative technologies and solutions to problems make headlines in print and around the world to help grow their business and open new markets.
He said it was more than a paycheque for him, as he takes great pleasure in sharing their knowledge, knowing his work contributed to their success.
“It generates new business and helps you create a sustainable and prosperous mining supply sector in Northern Ontario,” he said.
The award is being shared with two other people who helped found the journal: David Robinson, who, according to Tollinsky, thought of the journal, and Lauentian Publishing president Michael Atkins, who took his advice.
Before stepping off the podium, Tollinsky reminded everyone that if they had stories to share to contact him.
There was no shortage of praise for Tollinsky's work with the mining industry.
“Working with Norm is unbelievable,” said executive director Dick DeStefano. “He's thorough, he's fair, he's balanced in his stories and I can't believe anybody can personally write that many articles in one year in a quarterly magazine. His name is in every story.”
Atkins made a few remarks about Tollinsky's career in journalism, which he came back to after stints in plumbing and being a political assistant. It started as the editor of the Manitoulin Expositor, to editor of Northern Life, to founding editor and publisher of Northern Ontario Business, group publisher, to the current writer of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal.
“He's one of the best writers we've ever employed,” Atkins said. “He's an extraordinary worker.”
He added he was surprised Tollinsky didn't start his own business, with his drive and ambition.
“I asked him, what is it? And he said it's the mission,” Atkins said. “It's the excitement of the entrepreneurs in Sudbury, in Northern Ontario, to see them be successful. I don't do press releases. I like to get inside their heads, I like to know what's going on and I want to know where it's headed and I love to help.”
Another first happening that night was the announcement of the first woman president of the board of directors of SAMSSA. Alicia Woods will take over in the new year.
She was unable to attend the meeting due to a personal matter.
Also being inducted into the Mining Hall of Fame is Tom Palangio, president of Wipware, Inc., for his company's efforts to create wealth and jobs in the community and the marketplace.
As per tradition when a head of the company is inducted, a member of the family makes a statement. Son Thomas talked about the humble beginnings of the family and his father, the son of Italian immigrants.
With a degree in architectural design, and training in electrical and mechanical engineering, Tom started his career with Ontario Hydro. But when a chance came up to work for DuPont, now ETI, he started a career in explosives.
“Who doesn't want to blow things up?” Thomas joked. “That began his love affair with explosives. Luckily his wife was a nurse. After 27 years with DuPont and ETI, he worked his way up to technical specialist, where he realized that measuring blast fragmentation may be a lucrative niche.”
With his partners they created the Waterloo Image Enhancement Process or WIP. Shortly after, he founded Wipware, Inc. out of his home.
The technology allowed him to travel the world and be involved in major projects, like the Panama Canal.
He returned home to be involved in more local pursuits, including seats on councils and boards that support the future generations of mining in the region, including SAMSSA, Blue Sky cluster, the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT), and Nipissing University.
He's also won numerous awards, including the Northern Ontario Business Award twice for Entrepreneur of the Year.
After that speech, Tom had only a few words to add.
“It's an honour and a humbling experience for me, and I want to thank you all,” he said. “I've known and admired the achievements of former recipients of this award, and I'm flattered and more than pleased to join their ranks.”
He said it was humbling to look back, and the summary of his career reminded him how fast time passes, adding he couldn't have done it without his family's help.
“I hope I can inspire others and show it's never too late to achieve their dreams,” he said. “I was almost 50, I left the comfort of the corporate world to start my own company, and five years later, my only regret was I didn't start it sooner.”