Business is booming in the Humboldt region, and that boom is being recognized on the provincial stage.
Six companies and individuals in the Humboldt region are finalists for eight Achievement in Business Excellence (ABEX) awards from the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce.
Discovery Ford, Reel Attracts Cinema and Video, Humboldt's RBC Royal Bank branch, Diamonds of Detroit, Colin Tamme of Koender's Manufacturing in Englefeld, Lorraine Forster and her company Prairie's Edge Development Corporation are all up for awards in a variety of categories.
"These awards have gained prominence as the most highly esteemed symbols of business excellence in this province," said DonnaLyn Dyok of the Humboldt and District Chamber of Commerce (HDCC). "The ABEX awards highlight pivotal business elements of provincial prosperity and are the only business award that honours all private sector enterprises in Saskatchewan regardless of size and economic activity. Each of our businesses should be extremely proud to have made it to the finals."
Reel Attractions is a finalist for the New Venture Award, and Diamonds of Detroit is again a finalist for both the Marketing Award and the Service Award.
Discovery Ford Sales is up for the Growth and Expansion Award, while Forster and Tamme will be competing for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Forster's Prairie's Edge Development Corporation is also up against another Humboldt company, the RBC Royal Bank, Humboldt branch, for the Community Involvement Award.
The owners of Reel Attractions were humbled by the Mark of Excellence award they received from the HDCC this year. Now, "to go to this level is almost... we're still somewhat in disbelief," said Laurie Warford, who owns the business with her husband Dudley, and Brian and Sherry Wormald.
Since taking over the business just over a year ago, the new partners have done a lot to improve it - cleaning up, painting, putting in new flooring, adding a laundry mat, upgrading shelving on the movie rental side and putting a new roof over the two theatres, just to name a few.
"There's still more to do... it's a work in progress," Warford said. "What we've done so far is absolutely huge and we're so grateful people recognize and appreciate it."
Diamonds of Detroit has been a finalist for an ABEX award four times in the past, in the marketing and customer service categories. The business brought home the Customer Service award in 2003.
But becoming a finalist doesn't get old, noted Michelle Bankowski, owner of Diamonds of Detroit, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall.
"It's nice to know, after 25 years, we've been able to maintain and even improve customer service,'" she said. "Being able to keep up a standard is always easier said than done... We're especially proud of it, especially going into our 25th anniversary."
With their new location and subsequent expansion in the past year - moving from its downtown location and buildings in other parts of the city to a new, larger lot on Hwy. 5 west - it's not surprising Discovery Ford is a finalist in the ABEX growth and expansion category.
"It's quite an honour," said Steve Dillabough, one of the co-owners of the business with Gord Lees and Ernie Moisan. "It's speaks volumes about the staff we have," he added. "It's a nice compliment to the staff."
Up for the Young Entrepreneur Award for the second year in a row, Lorraine Forster said she felt "fantastic" and "very excited" when she heard she was up for two ABEX awards this year.
"I'm really looking forward to the event," she said. "It's a great showing for the city."
Forster is especially pleased with that Prairie's Edge is a finalist in for the Community Involvement award.
They have worked very hard, she said of her company, to put in public parks at their developments at Lucien and St. Brieux Lakes, and this is "an opportunity to showcase that work."
Being a finalist for the ABEX award will provide great exposure for their projects, she added.
"One summer, it will be a hot, lake summer, and people will be looking for a place to go, and hopefully, they'll think of us."
Colin Tamme, general manager of Koender's Manufacturing (1997) in Englefeld, is competing with Forster in the Young Entrepreneur category.
With the changes Koender's has gone through over the past few years, and the success they've seen, Tamme was pleased to throw his company's name in for an award this year, and to accept the honour of being named a finalist.
In two years, Tamme said, they've been able to double the size of their company through diversification. About five years ago, he explained, they were only producing agricultural products. Then they decided to diversify, so they weren't so dependent on one industry.
"Our product line from five years ago is 80 per cent different," he said. "We have to keep changing. It's the only way it works for us."
Getting named as a finalist for an ABEX award, he feels, "shows that we've been able to overcome a lot," he said.
"It's kind of a good feeling," he added, and recognizes the hard work being put into Koender's.
"It's just so rewarding. It's awesome," said Jodi Smith, manager of the RBC Royal Bank branch in Humboldt, regarding their standing as a finalist for the ABEX Community Involvement award.
A lot of times, it's difficult for branches of a national corporation to stand out for what they do in the community, as they don't have quite the freedom an independent business has, Smith indicated.
That their branch has been recognized locally with an HDCC Mark of Excellence award this year, and now is listed as a finalist for a provincial award "is a huge compliment," she said, to what the staff of the branch do in the community.
"I'm very proud of my staff," she noted.
The number of nominations from this area definitely says something about Humboldt's business climate, the nominees agreed.
"If I was mayor of this community, I'd be one happy camper," Bankowski smiled. "It'd a very accurate indication of what's going on in this area.... it's very progressive, very ambitious. The entire community is a visionary community. ... There's always been something special about Humboldt and district."
"The province is seeing us as we've seen us in the last couple of years," said Smith. "We're just booming. All the right things are happening in the area and people are sitting up and taking notice.... We've always know what we have here. Now it's time to be able to show it off."
"I think people are going to stand up and stake notice of Humboldt," Forster said, after so many will be represented at the awards.
"Five businesses is significant. Hopefully, we'll see some businesses bring home hardware."
"With all the (Humboldt businesses) being finalists, it shows the demand for service and the growth and development we're having here," said Warford.
"Humboldt is absolutely on fire," said Dillabough. "You can't identify one thing that is driving the economy, and that's good news. When it comes to (any) industry, Humboldt is definitely on the map. People are talking about Humboldt. When you have this many nominations going to the ABEX awards, it kind of says something.... It's an exciting time to be alive."
"We are very excited to have five of our members representing Humboldt in six categories at the Awards Ceremony to be held on October 30 in Regina," noted Dyok.
"It's awesome," she said. "I was very, very pleased when I looked at the list of nominees (from the whole province). Then I saw Humboldt and Englefeld and I was even more excited."
Last year, two HDCC members were up for ABEX awards. Bumping that up to five "shows how Humboldt is growing.. and (we are) starting to toot our own horn a bit."
As a community, Humboldt tends to be humble, Dyok noted. Having the business community come forward to celebrate success is good sign.
"Things are really happening here," noted Dyok, and Humboldt is being noticed at the provincial level more and more.
The provincial chamber, she said, is calling on Humboldt more and more often to provide input.
"It shows you we are starting to be recognized as a major centre in Saskatchewan," Dyok stated.