Minto firms owned the podium, as leading lights from the area business community were recognized at the 2009 STARS in Business awards ceremony. Five of the six award winners and two of the runners up were Minto companies.
The October awards night stressed the resilience of local business and industry, opening with a slide show referencing recovery from recession and disaster by area companies. In fact, the first STARS award given out on the evening was a replacement of an earlier award won by Markdale-based Chapman Ice Cream, as the company’s original award was lost in a blaze which destroyed the company’s manufacturing facility earlier this year. Rebuilding efforts at Chapman’s and the Durham-based Thuroweb printing plant, destroyed by a Tornado last summer, were highlighted in the introduction.
The theme of thriving through adversity continued into the first award presentation, a Customer Service Excellence award won by Harriston Motors. Founded in 1918, the General Motors-Chevrolet dealership learned last spring they would be losing new car dealership status as of January 1, 2010, as part of the North American auto giant’s massive restructuring efforts.
“We’re in the process of re-inventing ourselves,” said General Manager Dave Mallet as he accepted the award, adding new President Wendy Grosz, widow of owner Gordon Grosz, who passed away in June, has taken the reins of the company.
John Caesar, Collision Centre manager noted the service department regularly goes to extra measures to help customers who are upset, after having been involved in an accident.
“To me, that’s just something a small town business should do to make the customer feel comfortable,” he said.
C and M Seeds/Palmerston Grain, RR 3, Palmerston, was named Company of the Year (Over 15 Employees). C & M Seeds was formed in 1978 through a partnership of the Cameron and McLaughlin families (hence C & M) and now remain privately owned by the McLaughlin family. In 1983 Palmerston Grain was formed and handles large volumes of wheat, corn, soybeans and canola for movement into both the domestic and export markets. With Archie Wilson as the General Manager and Katie Schneider as the Grain Merchandiser, C & M Seeds employs 50 people.
“We’ve been fortunate to have great customers and great employees,” said Wilson, as he accepted the award.
Kimbal Printing took top honors in the Company of the Year (under 15 employees) category. A commercial printer and graphic design company based in Minto Township, Kimbal Printing has been in business since 1975, bringing offset printing to an area still dominated at the time by letterpress operations. Owner John Burgess takes pride in staying on top of emerging technologies in the industry.
“As the technology moves along, we just try and stay ahead of it and serve the customer that way,” said Burgess, who’s company employs five people.
“Any company, no matter what size is only as good as it’s employees,” said Burgess, who is also active in the Minto Chamber of Commerce.
“If you don’t have a strong business community, I honestly believe you don’t have a community,” he commented.
Palmerston area resident Kim Delaney was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year. Her business, Hawthorne Farm Organic Seeds is a certified organic farm, specializing in organic seeds (vegetable, herb, flower, heirlooms). Operating from a 100-acre property between Harriston and Palmerston, the business was founded in 1997. Delaney, who moved to this area from Toronto became interested in organic seed while working for the Ministry of Natural Resources on a project involving locating and transplanting rare prairie grasses.
Delaney looks at her farm as much as a way of life, as a business.
“I want this farm to stay organic, I want it to stay self-sustaining. I want it to stay a family farm,” she stated, adding she would also like her solar-powered operation to “stay off grid.”
Clifford-based Larry Grummet Insurance received the award for Corporate Citizen of the Year. Founded in 1984, the company today has five offices, employing 15 people. Management and staff play a very active role in the communities the company serves, offering support to many endeavours and organizations including Rotary, Meals on Wheels, Chamber of Commerce, the Clifford Car and Tractor Show, minor hockey and Big Brothers and Sisters.
In the current economic climate, with governments at every level struggling to find the cash to provide services, “I think we’re going to see that volunteerism becomes more and more important,” said company president Randy Ruetz, who feels the business community has a major role to play in that area.
”The stronger your community, the stronger your business is,” he stated.
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award went to Brent Russell, of Dunwood Signs and Textiles. The company has been in business since 2002 supplying all types of signage from vehicle magnetics to highway billboards, custom textile print and embroidery shop. Russell has also developed his business into a digital design shop…keeping in mind that product is still produced “in house” and created with his own hands.
Runners up for the awards were: Evergreen Variety, Harriston (Company of the year Under 15 Employees); Harriston Home Hardware (Corporate Citizen); Adell’s Beauty Salon, Mount Forest (Customer Service), The Plumbers Wife/Coffey Plumbing and Heating, Arthur (Entrepreneur), Infinite Glassworks, Eugenia (Young Entrepreur).
The Saugeen Territory Awards of Recognition and Success (STARS) are presented annually by the Saugeen Economic Development Corporation and local Chambers of Commerce and business associations. There were 19 nominations for this year’s awards, which were presented October 28 in Mount Forest.