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Northern Ontario's outstanding business leaders honoured at NOBA ceremony

Awards return to North Bay as 10 business leaders receive accolades

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 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 - Rector Machine Works (Sault Ste. Marie); Paul Reid, Business Development Officer - City of Greater Sudbury (Sudbury); Liana Frenette, CEO - TBT Engineering (Thunder Bay) and Mark Tulloch, CEO - Tulloch Engineering (Huntsville)

Richard Eberhardt, Program Director of rethink Green – Sudbury judged the essay scholarship submissions.

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.

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 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 16 to 50 Employees credits strong relationships, engaged staff and attentive after sale service to their success. This comprehensive approach has led to a 60% 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 51 plus 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 thousand sq.ft. 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 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 business man? 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 fueled 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 Betwournay – STUFFF Lubricant 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 Folden Lake First Nation, the owner of this freelance, multi-media company has travelled across Canada and as far as Cost 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 entrepreneur’s, 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: The 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 dollars 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 percent 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