Chamber honours three winners
Among the dignitaries who spoke before the presentation of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Business of the Year Awards on Tuesday evening was Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski.
A short time later, her son Jeremy found himself at the same podium — accepting one of the awards on behalf of The Coverall Shop, a family business of which he is president and general manager.
“There are a lot of thank-yous and I’ll try to keep them short,” said the younger Jablonski. “I am the son of a politician, so well see how that goes.”
In addition to The Coverall Shop, which was honoured in the category for businesses with one to 15 employees, other Business of the Year Awards recipients were IFR Workwear Inc. and Bilton Welding & Manufacturing Ltd. IFR Workwear was recognized among businesses with 16 to 49 employees, while Bilton Welding & Manufacturing topped the list of finalists with 50 or more employees.
IFR Workwear president Reg Radford, who accepted his company’s award alongside his daughter and business partner Erin Buckland, prefaced his remarks with a qualifier.
“Well, I’m not the son of a politician.”
Bilton Welding & Manufacturing president Bob Bilton, also tried to lower the audience’s expectations.
“Well guess what? I didn’t write a speech, so this will be short.”
But all of the award recipients took the time to emphasize the importance of their staff.
“It’s very lonely in the beginning as an entrepreneur,” said Bilton. “And it’s really, really wonderful to be able to start to become partners with your staff.
“When you have a business, your staff really do make it.”
Founded by Bilton in Innisfail 20 years ago, Bilton Welding & Manufacturing employs close to 200, plus contractors. The company’s namesake described how it does custom fabrication work, with the oilpatch where the bulk of its output ends up.
“When the dollar is appropriate for export for Canada, we are into world markets: Africa, Europe, Mexico, South America, the Caribbean,” said Bilton in a video presentation.
Radford commented on how IFR Workwear has grown into one of the country’s largest manufacturers of fire-resistant workwear since 2005.
“In the last year we’ve used over 650,000 metres of reflective striping,” he said.
“And we’ve used over 460,000 yards of flame-resistant fabric.”
IFR Workwear sells through distributors across Canada and beyond, including The Coverall Shop.
The company is currently building much larger premises in Queens Industrial Park. Radford explained in the video about IFR Workwear that such growth has been part of his formula for success.
“I’ve learned over the last few years, in all these industries, you either grow or you die. It’s simple; if your business isn’t growing you’re going the other way.
“So we’ve made it our priority to just keep growing, and it’s worked very well for us.”
The Coverall Shop sells coveralls and safety equipment, including customized, ready-to-wear garments. Jablonski credited some of his company’s good fortune to quick turn-around times with respect to its products. But, he added, The Coverall Shop’s core philosophy has also benefitted it greatly.
“Our biggest concern is about people, not so much bottom lines or profits,” he said. “We think that’s going to come as a result of taking care of people — and that’s our clients and our staff, and making sure people are always number 1.”
Jablonski also remarked on other attendees at the awards ceremony.
“There are some unbelievable examples of business leaders in this community. Some of the best in the world are in the room tonight.”
Other finalists for the Chamber’s 2013 Business of the Year Awards were Babycakes Cupcakery and Stems Floral Gallery in the one- to 15-employee category; Carpet Colour Centre — Carpet One Floor & Home, and Deermart Equipment Sales Ltd. among employers with 16 to 49 staff: and Peavey Industries Ltd. and Red Deer College in the 50-plus employee group.