Centuries of service heralded

A pair of Red Deer organizations with a combined 216 years of operations were honoured at the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year Awards Wednesday evening.

A pair of Red Deer organizations with a combined 216 years of operations were honoured at the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year Awards Wednesday evening.

Westerner Park, which was founded in 1891 as the Red Deer Agricultural Society, and McLevin Industries, which dates back to 1917, each captured a 2012 Business of the Year Award. Westerner Park came out on top among employers with 50 or more staff, while McLevin Industries claimed the title for businesses with 16 to 49 employees.

A third Business of the Year Award, for businesses with 15 or fewer staff, went to 360 Fitness.

Westerner CEO and general manger John Harms and board chair Michael Donlevy were accompanied on stage by a dozen employees and board members. Both men praised the approximately 250 full- and part-time staff who work at Westerner Park, as well as the many volunteers who assist them.

“The inspiring force behind the Westerner Exposition Association has always been, and continues to be, our volunteer and staff base,” said Harms.

Westerner Park hosts more than 1,500 events and 1.5 million people each year. Donlevy commented on the impact the non-profit organization and its facilities have had on the city and region.

“For over 120 years, Westerner Park has been a place for people to gather, to celebrate events.”

McLevin Industries, which started out as a blacksmith shop run by Hugh McLevin, is today operated by Hugh’s great-grandsons: Keegan and Lachlan McLevin. It performs custom fabrication work, as well as steel distribution and processing.

Keegan McLevin said the award was a “great honour” that was due in large part to McLevin Industries’ staff — some of whom were there before he and his brother were born.

“Without our employees, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” he said of their contributions to the company’s success.

McLevin also praised the city that has served as McLevin Industries’ home for nearly a century.

“Red Deer really is a great place to do business and to live.”

360 Fitness earned its Business of the Year Award after little more than three years of operation. But the one-on-one personal training studio grew from 30 to 400 clients during that period.

Marie Wheeler accepted the award on behalf of her husband Jack Wheeler, who owns the business but was out of town.

“Our gym is different from anything else out there because of the accepting environment and the encouraging attitude — all due to our fantastic clients,” she said.

Wheeler, who works as a trainer at the gym, added that 360 Fitness’s staff are the “backbone of our business.”

“They are innovative, enthusiastic and most importantly have a deep-down passion for helping people.”

Wheeler also remarked on the opportunities that Red Deer has provided.

“It is truly a great city to operate and do business in.”

The other finalists for 2012 Business of the Year Awards were Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in the large employer category, Nexus Engineering & Machine Inc. and The Redwoods Retirement Residence among medium-size businesses, and Big Bend Market and The Bra Lounge for small employers.

Last year’s winners were Hamill’s Dairy Queen, L.A. Radio Group Ltd. and Red Deer Discount Golf Centre.

The Chamber received 40 nominations for this year’s awards event, which was its 31st annual. It took place at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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