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Entrepreneur of the Year keeps business in the family

Business and community leaders applauded William Day last night. The president and founder of the Day Group of Companies, located in Copper Cliff, was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Northern Ontario Business Awards gala dinner.

Business and community leaders applauded William Day last night. The president and founder of the Day Group of Companies, located in Copper Cliff, was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Northern Ontario Business Awards gala dinner.

The dinner was held in Sudbury for the first time in five years and was attended by more than 500 peopleÂ?many travelling from all points north.

There were nine business awards presented: Company of the Year (three categories, based on size), Entrepreneur of the Year, Young
Entrepreneur of the Year, Entrepreneurial Community, First Nations Business, Innovation and JudgesÂ? Choice awards. In excess of 100 nominations were adjudicated by an independent panel of judges.

Day, who at age 71 still puts in a full workday, remembers when deals used to be made with a handshake. He built his company on honesty and trust as it grew from a one-employee firm in the mid-1950s to a diversified 450-employee operation encompassing transport, construction, aviation, forestry and environmental divisions covering all of northeastern Ontario.

Born in Escuminac, Que., Day spent his early years in the bush working alongside his father. In 1950, at 16, Day ventured west, landing in the
booming mining town of Sudbury, landing a job as construction labourer.

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He bought his first three-ton truck in 1953, and DayÂ?s first big break came when Falconbridge Ltd. contracted him to do short-haul mine service work.
In 1955, the Day Group was born. Today, the company has grown to include Day Construction, Day Aviation and Day Transport.

DayÂ?s five sons work for him. Shawn takes care of all the bush operations, Bart buys and sells heavy equipment, Darren is the construction
manager, Everette oversees the transport department and Andy, who owns his own truck, transports chips from the mill to customers.

Company of the Year

Testmark Laboratories Ltd. of Garson won the Company of the Year Award (16-50 employees). The company provides clients with proficiency, technical expertise, competitive pricing and superior customer service for water, soil, waste and particle testing. Mark Charbonneau is the companyÂ?s CEO and founder.

Sales shot up 47 percent over last year, and for the last five years, have increased about 29 percent annually.

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Two years ago, Testmark moved from their cramped quarters to a 42,000-square foot, renovated, elementary school house to create a science-based entrepreneur incubation centre for young researchers who have great ideas but little or no start-up capital to go along with them. Another reason was to position the company to take advantage of new food and pharmaceutical initiatives on the horizon.

Testmark is expected to be one of the top three labs in Ontario fairly soon. Labs usually grow by acquiring other facilities. Testmark is looking to expand its base in Northern Ontario and establish a small lab in Toronto that could funnel new work to Sudbury.

Innovation Award

HLS Hard-Line Solutions Inc. of Dowling won the Innovation Award. In its nine-year history, the company has flourished into a prosperous business that services a vast international market, including mining giants in its own backyard, such as Falconbridge and Inco.

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HLS expanded its product base and is a world-leader with its newer line called digital communication system (DCS), which is a replacement for underground mining communication systems.

The company is co-owned by Jamie Lachapelle and Walter Siggelkow.

With a staff of 35, the company has about 500 systems out in the world, and is focusing on expanding markets and products. HLS now serves countries in North, South and Central America, Europe, Africa and, in the near future, China.

The company is currently developing something called the miniature miner. It is an extension of all the technologies being developed thus far and is designed for mining in the future when the ore veins decrease in size, while ground stresses increase. It is meant to move less material in a smaller space on a more consistent basis, operated from the surface.

JudgesÂ? Choice

AKFIT Inc. won the Judges Choice Award sponsored by Northern Life. AKFIT began as a fitness consulting operation in 1989, which Karen Hastie launched after she graduated from Cambrian CollegeÂ?s charter fitness and leisure management program.

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In those days people were just starting to think about wellness and their fitness levels. AKFIT helped individuals and organizations select the right combinations of equipment to achieve their goals.

Today, AKFIT sells more than 30 models of aerobic and other equipment.

Hastie is working on a floor plan for a fitness centre in a new resort in Muskoka. She is also working with a First Nations community to equip a new gym and training its staff. About 80 percent of the companyÂ?s sales are related to retail and commercial customers.

She recently launched a new franchise called kidsFIT Inc. Its goal is to provide children with a safe place to become more active. It is a pet project now, but Hastie has received communications of interest in franchises from all over North America. The kid gyms will feature instructor-led, age-appropriate workouts and equipment.

Essay winner

Jordan Stopciati, 17, a recent graduate of Lockerby Composite School in Sudbury, earned the $3,000 post-secondary-school scholarship for his essay, Time Well Spent: a look at volunteerism and leadership in communities.

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He not only writes about leadership and volunteerism; he lives it. Stopciati devotes at least four hours a week to volunteering. That doesnÂ?t include his extra-curricular activities, such as editing the school newspaper, playing in the school band and jazz ensemble, being a team member on Reach For The Top, and participating on the schoolÂ?s award-winning Improv team. He also volunteers at his local community church, as well as at his motherÂ?s workplace and in his fatherÂ?s business. In 2004, Stopciati participated in the Shad Valley Leadership and Entrepreneurship Program at Memorial University in St. JohnÂ?s, Nfld.

Stopciati is currently enrolled in psychology and sciences at Laurentian University.

This annual scholarship for high school students is funded by Union Gas and administered by Northern Ontario Business Awards. A record 46 essays were submitted from throughout Northern Ontario. The competition was adjudicated by Rachel Proulx, a Sudbury-based entrepreneur and by Carol Deguire, former director of executive programs with Northern Ontario Business. Deguire is currently employed by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (East Campus).

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This yearÂ?s NOBA judges were David McGirr, NorthernTel and Telebec (Timmins); Tom Morris, Wasaya Airways (Thunder Bay); Kathy Wells-McNeil, Total Nursing Care (Sudbury); and Robert Jackson, Prestige Glass International (Elliot Lake).

CTV stations throughout the north will broadcast a special half-hour documentary highlighting all of this yearÂ?s award recipients Sunday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 pm.

NOBA 2005 Winners

Entrepreneur of the Year
William Day, Copper Clff

Entrepreneurial Community Award
NEOnet, Timmins

Essay winner
Jordan Stopciati, 17, Sudbury

First Nations Business Award
Sewell Gas Bar, Sault Ste. Marie

Company of the Year (1Â?15 employees)
LiddleÂ?s Fishing Adventures, North Bay

Company of the Year (16-50 employees)
Testmark Laboratories Ltd., Garson

Company of the Year (51+ employees)
G-P FlakeBoard, Sault Ste. Marie

Innovation Award
HLS Hard-Line Solutions Inc., Dowling

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Carole Long, Thunder Bay, owner of Pita Pit

JudgesÂ? Choice
AKFIT Inc., Sudbury