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Original visionaries recognized at NWT 25th anniversary celebrations

From vision to reality, through growth and expansion, the North West Terminal celebrated their 25th anniversary on Sept. 22

UNITY – The mood was festive as farmers and others came out to celebrate North West Terminal’s 25-year anniversary, on a beautiful, sunny Sept. 22. Celebrations included school tours, harvesting of the 2021 Farming for the Future crop, a barbecue lunch and recognition of staff, board members and the original founders of the company. All events were held outside.

Brent Hepting, a 13-year employee of the company who has worked “both sides of the track,” – on both grain terminal and NS Pure ethanol operations – acted as emcee to begin the official portion of the program. A lifelong Unity resident who was not involved with NWT in its early years, Hepting said he can’t believe it’s been 25 years since the people of Unity watched the concrete silos rise high into the sky just east of town.

CEO Jason Skinner spoke about the vision and efforts of founders, promoters and past directors.

“It’s their vision and drive to raise the money to build the assets that we see here today, and it’s their leadership that guided the direction of the company and employees from day to day.”

Skinner gave what he termed a “simplified” history, saying the original group gathered in the back room at the Heidleburg in 1993 to talk about whether they should build a grain elevator or not.

“They threw some money in the hat and got the wheels going … The promoters, along with the founders, then took this vision, went out to their neighbours and their communities and worked on selling shares to raise the funds to do the project.”

At some town hall meetings only one or two people turned out but the promoters and founders persevered.

The directors “set the direction for the company and ensure that everything operates as it should and this is the job where you get the most stress, I think, and the least amount of pay,” said Skinner.

Skinner introduced the current board of directors: Brad Sperle, president; Brian Kohlman, vice-president; Larry Briggs, secretary; Mervin Slater, Paul Marshall, Jason Veikle, Vern Schultz, Tim Stewart and Garan Rewerts.

Sperle also spoke about the vision of the founders. Although he wasn’t involved at the start, he said he could “still hear all the detractors, just telling these people over and over again that ‘you can’t do this, a bunch of you dumb farmers can’t build an elevator. What do you know about this?’ And I don’t know if it was just being stubborn or if they just knew, but they were right.”

For the benefit of the younger farmers in the crowd, Sperle pointed out there had been a lack of competition and thus poor service in the area.

“You couldn’t haul grain after 5 o’clock in the afternoon. You couldn’t haul grain on the weekends. It didn’t matter if it was in the middle of harvest … They would just take the grain when it was convenient for them basically. And this group of farmers and businessmen had had enough of that and decided we could change it and they were right. My hat is off to them.”

Sperle said the important idea from the beginning was customer service and it has led to $100 million facilities, and a company that is a leader in several different industries. He said the company “is still based on customer service because that’s what got us here and will continue us forward.”

Skinner introduced the “remarkable group of founders and promoters and past directors” and had each wave to the crowd before they were assembled for presentation of appreciation gifts and a group photo to finish off the afternoon.

Recognized were Robert Cumming and Rick Bullerwell, founders, past board members and past presidents; Gerald Rewerts, Andrew Blais, Dale Cumming and Vern Schaab, founders and past board members; and founders Marvin Fenrich, David Geddes and Allen Jenson.

Promoters introduced were James Skinner and John Leier, promoters, past board members and past presidents; Randy Miller, Robert Wallace and Art Sieben, promoters and past board members; and Carla Beloin, Lyndon Flad, Sam Magnus, Francis “Butch” Boskill, Kevin Haight, Terry Hochbaum, Pat Wildeman, Raymond Hawkins, Judy Lane, Art Sieben, Earl Cuff and Bill Fraser. Tim Kelly is a past board member.

The contributions of the late Boyd Partington and Gary Hennings as founders were also acknowledged. The late Pat Herle was recognized as having been one of the promoters.

Hepting noted present at the celebrations were not only many of the original visionaries who founded North West Terminal but also a few staff members who weren’t even born 25 years ago. Also attending the celebrations were Unity Mayor Sharon Del Frari and Cut Knife-Turtleford MLA Ryan Domotor. Both Hepting and Skinner paid special tribute to two original staff members still working for the organization – Bart and Barb Brown.