• Recognizing the Difference Makers at the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business A

  • Recognizing the Difference Makers at the Sault Ste. Marie

    Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Achievement Awards 

    Sault Ste. Marie, ON – It was a celebration of innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship, as the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC) handed out its Outstanding Business Achievement Awards on Thursday evening at the Sault Community Theatre Centre. 


    The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce wishes to thank the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) which returned as the event’s presenting sponsor. The Chamber also thanks community partners including media sponsor, Sootoday.com and Kevanna Fine Photography.


    This year’s Outstanding Business Achievement Awards is one of several SSMCOC events being rebranded with its ‘Difference Makers’ label. 


    Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce CEO, Rory Ring, explains that “for the Chamber, a ‘Difference Maker’ is a Chamber member, organization, or person, who accomplishes extraordinary things by creating positive change in our community and in the lives of others. They are people who have leadership roles in work, business, family, and community, creating networks of like-minded people everywhere and anywhere. They are organizations that embrace the broader purpose of creating positive change through determination, leadership, teamwork, inspiration, courage, excellence, integrity, generosity, and compassion”.


    The recipients of this year’s SSMCOC Outstanding Business Achievement Awards are:  


    S.&T. Group Electrical Contractors Limited was awarded this year’s Safe Work, Sound Business Award sponsored by Tenaris. The Safe Work, Sound Business Award recognizes a business that uses a safe work management system, participates in workplace and / or community injury prevention programs and has outstanding injury-free frequency and injury severity performance. 


    Spark Rehabilitation Inc. was presented with the Employer of Year Award sponsored by Sault College Employment Solutions. This award recognizes an employer who has created cultures and communities, through every aspect of their business. 


    Jessica Sommers of SK Group Inc. was awarded the Customer First Award (Individual) sponsored by Tenaris. This award recognizes an individual who continuously raises customer service to new standards of excellence and is a role model for others in customer service. 


    Algoma Public Health was presented with the Diversity Award sponsored by the Algoma Workforce Investment Corporation. This award recognizes a business or organization that embraces, celebrates, and applies holistic inclusion and participation of a diverse people, making the workplace a better environment in which to work, and the community a better place in which to live and raise a family.  


    Tenaris was awarded this year’s Community Investment Award sponsored by the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area. The Community Investment Award highlights outstanding community service by a business or agency. The recipient of this award contributes to the well-being of the community through initiatives such as sourcing products and services locally, retailing or utilizing local products, employment growth, and supporting the community through charitable activities. 


    Hogan’s Homestead was the recipient of the Innovation Award sponsored by PUC Services Inc. This award recognizes a business that has successfully incorporated a new idea, device, or method, or has utilized the application of better solutions to meet new requirements, internal needs, or market needs.  


    Danielle Ritsema of Woodstar Counselling and Consulting was presented with the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award sponsored by EAZY Express. The Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes the outstanding achievement of young entrepreneur(s) between 18 and 39 years of age. The award is given to an individual responsible for the success and growth of a Sault Ste. Marie-based company, who exemplifies the qualities of effective leadership, innovatively applies know-how, demonstrates excellent potential for growth, appreciates the importance in social, cultural, and environmental awareness, and has demonstrated commitment to the wider community. 


    Windsor Place Retirement Residence was the recipient of the Downtown Business of the Year Award sponsored by SK Group Inc. In support of the City of Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Strategy, as well as the strategic plan of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, this award recognizes a business that is invested in the downtown business community and contributes to downtown Sault Ste. Marie. This award honors their commitment to running a business in the heart of our city and their role in creating a vibrant downtown.  


    The Beyond Sault Ste. Marie Awards recognize businesses in any industry for excellence in the development of export markets for their products or services, through implementing a new export strategy that has positively affected its bottom line. Beyond SSM considers businesses that have succeeded in expanding outside of Sault Ste. Marie as well as exporting goods and services.


    The Beyond Sault Ste. Marie Award (up to 50 employees) sponsored by Bell was presented to TruNorth Naturals Inc.


    The Beyond Sault Ste. Marie Award (50+ employees) sponsored by Bell was presented to Canadian Bank Note Company Ltd.  


    Just Junk was awarded the Customer First Award (Business, Non-Profit or Agency) sponsored by Tenaris. This award showcases a business or agency that places the customer experience at the heart of their business strategy and builds a sustainable culture of customer service within their organization. 


    The Family Tree was the recipient of the Indigenous Business of the Year Award sponsored by Tenaris. This award recognizes a business which is operating, or being managed, with a minimum of 51% ownership by an Indigenous person or group. To be considered, the business has distinguished itself by fostering growth, innovation, marketing strategy, and consumer excellence, while showing leadership and dedication to the preservation of culture, values, and identity.  


    Algoma Family Services was awarded the Community Non-Profit Business of the Year Award sponsored by Dumanski Office Interiors / Compass Imaging. This award recognizes and rewards excellence and innovation among non-profit organizations resulting in significant social impact within Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma district.


    Field Trip Health was presented with the Rising Star New Business Award sponsored by KPMG LLP. This award recognizes a business that has been in operation for no less than 1 year and no more than 3 years and has demonstrated strong potential by way of growth, innovation, and leadership. Additionally, the business has demonstrated a culture of risk-taking and trailblazing and has positioned itself to achieve similar successes in the future through new or innovative products or services, quality of merchandise, customer service, job creation, growth potential, and market served. 


    Justin Marchand, of the Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services Corporation was awarded the Indigenous Professional of the Year Award sponsored by Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. This award is presented to a person who has made an impact in the Indigenous, Metis and Sault Ste. Marie communities and in so doing so, serves as an inspiration to us all.   


    The Canadian Mental Health Association Algoma was presented with the Leader in Accessibility Award sponsored by Ergo Office Plus. This award recognizes an organization that shows leadership in integrating and providing accessible and barrier-free working conditions for employees and accessibility in customer service. This business or organization values the contributions of persons with disabilities, promotes the development of an inclusive workplace culture and is compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. 


    The Chamber presents Business of the Year awards based on business size: To be considered, a business will have distinguished themselves by fostering growth, innovation, marketing strategy and consumer service excellence in their sectors.  


    The Business of the Year Award (up to 50 employees) sponsored by the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area was presented to Northern Superior Brewing Co.


    The Business of the Year Award (50+ employees) sponsored by Enbridge Gas Inc. was presented to PUC Services Inc.


    Three awards were introduced to the Chamber’s line-up starting last year, including the Sustainability Award, as well as two Economic Impact Awards, one for a business or organization and one for an individual.


    Hearterra Inc. was the recipient of the Sustainability Award, sponsored by Tenaris, which recognizes an organization that has taken actionable, overt steps to be part of the solution to complex societal issues. By embracing the principles of sustainability, they set criteria used to evaluate their organization’s commitment to sustainable operations by measuring environmental impact and mitigating future environmental risks. They recognize that outcomes impact stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers, and the local community; and they demonstrate the principles of governance by preventing conflicts of interest, operating in good faith, and demonstrating transparency among their employees and stakeholders.


    The Chamber’s Economic Impact Awards, sponsored by Algoma Steel Inc., recognize, and honour an individual and a company / stakeholder Chamber member that have made significant contributions to the economic vitality of Sault Ste. Marie in terms of capital investment, job creation and facility expansion. Consideration is given to the significant contributions made to the local economy through innovation, entrepreneurship, new investments, commitment to the region, and the work they have accomplished which has had a positive impact on the economy.


    This year’s individual to receive the Chamber’s Economic Impact Award, sponsored by Algoma Steel Inc., is Tony Porco. Tony’s commitment to Sault Ste. Marie is second to none and measured in decades of entrepreneurial leadership, fortitude and a get it done attitude. In 1992 Tony launched Superior Industrial Services (the SIS Group) and has invested in many other businesses such as Ashley HomeStore, Paul Davis Systems and The Machine Shop. Tony’s vision of creating The Canal District as a leading tourism destination anchored by The Machine Shop has become an important tourism destination with local historical roots, and is home to an event hall, gelato shop, a restaurant and two bars. It also hosts the Agawa Tour Train which brings over $7 million in economic activity over 8 weeks in the fall. SIS has established itself as a leading manufacturer of steel components for major infrastructure projects across Ontario and the United States such as the construction of the Electric Arc Furnace at Algoma Steel. Tony’s group of companies employ well over 300 people in our community, in jobs ranging from manufacturing to serving. He is an avid supporter of Bon Soo and ARCH Hospice.


    This year’s business to be presented with the Chamber’s Economic Impact Award, sponsored by Algoma Steel Inc., is Tenaris. Over the past 4 years Tenaris has been on a transformational journey crystallizing its commitment to Sault Ste. Marie by investing over $200 million in capital projects, employing over 750 individuals in the Sault, and utilizing many local suppliers and contractors. The economic spin-offs from the investments and people new to the community is estimated by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters is 3-5 times. These spin-offs can be seen in the health of our community, its services, and its infrastructure. Tenaris believes that there is no success without a strong community.  As a result, in the last 12 months, Tenaris has contributed around $750,000 to community projects focused on education, but also in areas requiring additional resources. In the last year, Tenaris has welcomed 400 people to tour its operations ranging from youth, to educators, to business leaders to some of Canada’s leading energy companies.


    The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year Award, sponsored by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), was presented to Randy Schuran. Initiated in 1985, the Volunteer of the Year Award is given annually to an individual, or individuals, whose time commitment and contributions to the Chamber have been outstanding. Over the past several years the Chamber has been honoured to have a volunteer that not only openly demonstrates his commitment to the Chamber but also to the community in which he lives. One of his colleagues describes him as a person that is as rare as it comes. You will see him at almost every Chamber event promoting our members, connecting people together and having a good laugh. He has volunteered and been a fund raiser for Habitat for Humanity, Easter Seals, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Bon Soo winter carnival. He is passionate about education and believes he is still on the learning path, whether this is about business, the financial industry, the Chamber network, or Economic Reconciliation. He seeks knowledge with experience and passion.


    Jo-Anne Brooks, the President of Eazy Express a national courier service, based out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with more than 27 years of experience was presented with the Skipper Manzzutti Award for Business Achievement. From its humble beginnings as a local business with nine full-time employees Jo-Anne, and her late husband Ted Brooks, grew Eazy Express into a national company employing over two hundred full- and part-time employees and subcontractors.  Presently, Eazy Express is represented in over 40 communities throughout Canada. Jo-Anne has always been involved in the political landscape through her volunteer work across all party lines working with former mayor John Roswell’s campaign as well as several provincial and federal candidates. She was the founder of what has become the United Way Big Cup Scramble Golf Tournament of the United Way, she supports Rotary Community Day Parade and Bon Soo. She is also an avid contributor to minor sports and charity by supporting the Soo Thunderbirds and the Soo Sabrecats. Named after one of the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce's dedicated past presidents, Captain Feliciano "Skipper" Manzzutti, this award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding business achievement within the past year, or number of years. Like the award's namesake, the recipient of this award has set a high standard for exemplary entrepreneurial and community minded achievement.


    Elaine Pitcher, who has practiced law, specializing in corporate and commercial matters and advanced estate planning and administration for the past thirty years, was presented with the Paul Dalseg Community Achievement Award. Active in her community, she has served as the Chair of the Northeast Local Health Integration Network, Board member of the Sault Area Hospital, and was Chair of SAH during the new hospital build, which was one of the largest public-sector projects in Sault Ste. Marie’s history. She has held the positions of Vice Chair of the Ontario Council of Regents and Chair of Sault College and numerous other boards and agencies. She has been the recipient of many awards including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Ontario Leading Women Building Communities Award, The Harry Hamilton Award given by the Algoma District Law Association and the Dr. William Hutchinson Award for Community Service in the health sector. Quote from Elaine: “I am very humbled to have been nominated and considered for the Paul Dalseg award which was named after and recognizes the work of such an extraordinary member of our community. His quiet yet remarkable involvement in all aspects of our great City is something I have always admired! This truly is an honour!” The Paul Dalseg Award recognizes a businessperson in Sault Ste. Marie who has demonstrated exemplary interest in the community, and in so doing, has made a major, outstanding and unique achievement or contribution to the life of the community.


    The Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services Corporation was awarded with this year’s SSMCOC President’s Award. An organization that has consistently and thoughtfully grown over the years in size and influence to change and uplift the lives of the people in the communities they work in.  In its just over 30 years of existence, some accomplishments in now specific order include; managing 2,800+ rental units, including apartment buildings, townhouses, and single family homes in locations across Ontario: in 2022/2023, built 489 new units providing shelter to 509 people that otherwise would not have a home; in 2023 – built the first urban indigenous hub in Hamilton, ON  - a health and social services center offering primary and allied health services such as wholistic integrated education from early years to seniors rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing and being  - there will also be 80-100 fair market rental housing units on the property. It is an organization that understands the strong correlation of having a home and health and wellbeing by also offering access to health-related supports, mental health and additions supports, life skills development and culturally relevant supports. Initiated in 1982, the President’s Award recognizes individuals or an organization who make an exceptional effort, going above and beyond the call of duty in any area of business and community development. The recipient of this award is chosen by the Chamber’s Past Immediate President. 

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