By Matthew Liebenberg
The exciting annual process to recognize business excellence in Swift Current got off to a great start with the announcement of two award recipients.
Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce CEO Karla Wiens announced the winners in two categories during surprise visits to their office locations in the city.
The Swift Current Broncos is the 2022 SCBEX Hall of Fame inductee and Pioneer Co-op is the recipient of the 2022 SCBEX Member Business of the Year award.
The awards will be officially presented to them during the 24th annual SCBEX Spirit of Swift Current Business Excellence awards ceremony, Oct. 28.
Wiens indicated the annual SCBEX awards season is certainly one of her favourite times of the year. It has become a recent tradition for the chamber to announce these two award recipients during personal visits.
“I phone and try to be coy about why I just want to book a meeting,” she said. “So I’m sure when the chamber wants to show up, and especially during this time of year, there might be an inkling.”
Her first announcement was made on Sept. 28 at the InnovationPlex, the home of the Swift Current Broncos.
“It is very heartwarming to see the absolute joy on people’s faces in being recognized for this very worthy recognition of all of the community efforts that the Broncos do, from the players all the way up to the management in the office,” she said afterwards. “It’s a team, not just the hockey players, but it’s a team that does a lot in and for our entire community and region.”
The Broncos hockey club has been a chamber member since 1991 and Nathan MacDonald, the Broncos executive vice president of business operations, has been serving on the chamber board of directors since 2019.
Wiens said the selection of the Broncos as a SCBEX Hall of Fame inductee is a reflection of the club’s role in the community.
“They are a fixture and a corner stone of our community,” she mentioned. “So whether or not you attend the games, people know who Charlie Horse is and the Broncos are out and about supporting many other community events. The players and the board and the management and the staff are out volunteering all over the community, making relationships, and that’s what will keep a successful club here.”
She mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges to organizations such as the Broncos.
“The past several years has been a challenge for many people, and especially people who are hosting events and sports teams have had a really rough go,” she said. “And the team has had some challenges, but at the end of the day they are all about engaging this community and providing an opportunity to people and families and friends to come together and enjoy and root for our WHL team.”
Broncos Board Chair Trent McCleary was present at the announcement to receive the award certificate on behalf of the club.
“It’s a nice surprise and hopefully it’s good timing of a lot of positive things to come for this year for the Bronco hockey club,” he said afterwards.
He noted that it was certainly a very nice feeling to receive this recognition and to become part of the SCBEX Hall of Fame, with only one business being inducted each year for the past 23 years.
“It’s very gratifying that we’ve been able to sustain a club in a city this size for this long and have the success that we’ve had,” he said. “It’s a tribute to the staff members, to the players, to the community as a whole just because they continue to support us. We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs, and I think as a club we’re on the upswing with the on-ice product as well. We’re just very ecstatic with an award like this.”
Wiens visited the Pioneer Co-op administration office in the Wheatland Mall on Sept. 29 for the next award announcement of SCBEX Member Business of the Year.
The Pioneer Co-op has been a longstanding member of the local business chamber. According to Wiens the Co-op’s membership stretches back to at least 1962, but it could even be longer. It has a regional impact with retail locations in various communities that provide a wide variety of products and services.
“Most of the products and services you can imagine you need, Pioneer Co-op provides in different shapes all across southwest Saskatchewan,” she said. “So as the Member Business of the Year recipient, we’re very proud to award that.”
She added that Pioneer Co-op’s regional focus is certainly similar to the chamber’s emphasis on both Swift Current and surrounding area.
“A lot of our recent projects and initiatives are on a regional focus and our rural community is very important to everyone,” she said. “So Pioneer Co-op is very much a part of that.”
Pioneer Co-op CEO Larry Kozun said the award announcement was unexpected, but it is very appreciated.
“We’d like to thank the City of Swift Current and the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce for creating a business environment for businesses to grow,” he mentioned. “We really appreciate that. Also, it’s definitely a team effort to receive such an award. Our team members, team leaders, all of our staff, also our board of directors, work very hard every day.”
Pioneer Co-op was started in 1936 and it currently operates 30 locations in 19 communities around southwest Saskatchewan. He emphasized the organization is always looking for growth opportunities and ways to improve operations.
“And one thing about Pioneer Co-op, we are on the cusp of all the changes and trying to keep ahead, and we really appreciate the challenges that come every day,” he said.
An indication of this business attitude is the recent opening of a new Springs Drive gas bar, car wash and liquor store in Swift Current. A major renovation of the Wheatland Mall service station building is currently taking place.
Another important aspect of the Pioneer Co-op business approach is a commitment to supporting the communities where they operate.
“One of our pillars of Pioneer Co-op is community,” Kozun said. “We’re 19 communities. So we try and support each of the communities every week, every month. We try to donate, we look at how we can support the community, because without the community you will not exist.”
The selection of the 2022 SCBEX Hall of Fame and Member Business of the Year award recipients took place after the business chamber’s board of directors considered several candidates in each category. The winner was then selected through a secret ballot vote.
The announcement of the three finalists in each of the other eight award categories will be announced at the Big Reveal event in the Great Plains College gymnasium, Oct. 6.