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Local business stars at awards banquet


Kim Metke, owner of Pharmasave and Clinic Pharmasave here, walked away as Entrepreneur of the Year for the second time at the seventh-annual Chamber of Commerce awards banquet Saturday night at the Red Dog Inn.

He also won that award in 1996.

“I realized that I had a pretty good shot at winning it because of the initiatives we’ve done over the past while,” Metke said after accepting his plaque.

“I was quite happy to get it, but not completely shocked.”

Metke said a major factor in earning the award this time around was the opening of the new Pharmasave location last year and all the programs and services that have come with it—like the pill-dispensing robot, diabetes consultations and other health-related workshops, a digital photo lab, and much more.

Metke stressed that even though the award singles him out as an entrepreneur, his success mostly can be credited to those around him.

“It’s quite a nice reflection on the people I work with,” he said. “I really appreciate my family’s help and the families of my staff who helped with setting up the new store.

“It made such a big difference,” he remarked, adding people visiting from as far away as Germany had lent a hand getting the new store ready.

And the winning streak continued for fellow Clinic Pharmasave employee Carol Alton, who was honoured Saturday night with the Customer Service award (individual).

Unlike many of the other recipients, Vince Allan of Manitou Forest Products, which captured the Business of the Year (16+ employees) award, said he was confident they would win.

“I was preparing for it all week. People thought I was joking when I said we would win it, but I was serious,” Allan remarked.

“With the way the economy has been, especially for the First Nations, it feels really good to know we have worked to make it a success. It’s a wonderful feeling,” he added.

On the other hand, Connie Cuthbertson, owner of Northwoods Gallery & Gifts, was surprised it landed the Business of the Year (1-15 employees) award.

“There’s some awesome businesses out there. It’s pretty exciting,” she enthused.

“The only thing is I wish the whole staff would have come up on stage with me,” she added. “Without my husband and them to help me out, we wouldn’t be where we are. It’s a group effort.”

Like Metke, Cuthbertson also is a dual winner, having previously been named Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999. And Northwoods and its staff have been up for awards several times since it first opened its doors in 1998.

Meanwhile, Margaret Sedgwick, head librarian at the Fort Frances Public Library, is still reeling after being named Employee of the Year (not-for-profit) at Saturday’s banquet.

“I’m going to have it on display in the library as soon as I get it engraved,” she enthused.

“I felt really excited and quite honoured when they called my name. I had no clue,” she added, noting the entire library staff was on hand to share the moment with her.

Cynthia Manty, manager of Warehouse One—The Jean Store, also was “totally shocked” to receive the Customer Service award (business).

“We are a new business so to be nominated is a real honour,” she remarked. “I was happy just to be nominated. I never thought we would win.

“At Warehouse One, customer service is our number-one priority. When we train staff, that’s the first thing we teach them—I guess it’s working,” she noted, adding she was proud of her staff, and thankful to her family’s support.

< *c>Other awards

Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc. received the Safety Award (Business/Employer).

“We certainly appreciate the award, with thanks to the safety committee, and staff and board of directors,” said Mary King, occupational health co-ordinator for Riverside.

“Riverside tries very hard to ensure a safe workplace and this is a reflection on that,” she added.

Rounding out the award winners were:

•Jennifer Galusha (Kathy’s Katering)—Employee of the Year (private sector);

•Confederation College—Northwest Training and Adjustment Board Training and Adjustment Award; and

•John Reader (Ministry of Natural Resources)—Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. Safety Award (individual/employee).

Doug Cain also was given a special award for Volunteer of the Year for his work with the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.

Cain had been nominated for Employee of the Year (not-for-profit), but the Chamber decided he was not technically an “employee” of the FFCBC but a volunteer.

Chamber co-ordinator Dawn Booth said the Volunteer of the Year award likely will become a mainstay in the annual awards.

Sponsors of this year’s awards included CFOB, Rainy River Future Development Corp., Bearskin Airlines, Good Impressions Printing, Canada Post, Northwest Training & Adjustment Board, Bell Canada, Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, Union Gas, and Abitibi-Consolidated.

“The banquet always is a good event,” said Booth. “This year, we had more nominees than ever so we got a good crowd out.

“There only a few nominees who couldn’t make it. But everyone who did come were excited just to be there,” she added.

< *c>Officers installed

The evening’s program also included the installation of Chamber officers for 2002, who were sworn in by Coun. Deane Cunningham.

The executive of the board of directors includes Roberta Oliver (president), Brian Hagarty (first vice-president), Alan Tibbetts (second vice-president), Kelly Spicer (treasurer), Marla Thomson (past president).

Darren Brown, Christine Denby, Tannis Drysdale, Bud Edwards, Tammy Hayward, Jane Gillon, Tammi Shoemaker, Wayne Sabanski, Larry Syrovy and Debbie Williamson are directors. Board appointees include Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, Gary Rogozinski, Geoff Gillon, Christine Jourdain, and Ted DeBenetti.

This was followed by a speech by Oliver, who remarked she wished all the Chamber events were as well-attended as this year’s awards banquet.

She also said the year ahead will be challenging as the Chamber seeks to attract more members while re-evaluating the job it’s been doing for current members.

“We hope to get 200 members, which we’re close to,” she noted, adding she and Booth will be distributing surveys to Chamber businesses to find out how well the organization has been serving them.

“We just want to do what’s best for the Chamber members,” Oliver stressed.

Crystal Godbout also gave an update on the Business Retention and Expansion Initiative. She noted the study, started by the Chamber last spring and now backed by the RRFDC, is now being discussed with the intent to do something about the findings.

She added the study is going to be extended to businesses outside Fort Frances sometime this year.

Other highlights of the evening included a silent auction featuring a number of items donated by local business, which raised about $1,100 for the Chamber.

And after the awards wrapped up around 10:15 p.m., guests enjoyed a dance featuring music by “Streamline.”

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