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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Awards give tribute to community leaders

A lawyer and community leader was officially handed one of the top honours bestowed by Niagara’s regional chamber.

On Thursday, the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of the 13th Annual Niagara Business Achievement Awards.

As part of the ceremony, four special presentations of bestowed awards recognized longtime accomplishments.

Robert Welch was handed the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at a Holiday Inn banquet in St. Catharines that drew 400 people.

“I am somewhat overwhelmed by all this,” said Welch, 62, a senior partner at Niagara’s Lancaster, Brooks and Welch law firm. When earlier told he’d be handed and award, “I was very surprised and knew nothing about being nominated … it was a real stunner.”

“I am gratified but surprised,” the St. Catharines resident said ,in an interview after the awards.

Welch has a long history of community involvement, including acting as chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara and a long stint as a former director of the United Way of St. Catharines and District.

He’s also had top-level involvement with the YMCA of Niagara, Niagara Community Foundation and other organizations.

Welch was also a former Niagara Region Councillor from 1985-1994.

Being locally involved “is always something that I’ve done,” he said. “I have just felt it’s something you do and you have a responsibility … in public service or volunteer service, it’s something, for me anyway, you consider to be of value.

“And I have been happy to do it.”

Mishka Balsom, president and CEO of the Chamber, said each of the people and companies honoured “are larger than life heroes to Niagara. “Their contributions go far beyond their actual accomplishments,” said Balsom in an e-mail.

“Their contributions were in no doubt made possible, in part, by their common passion for Niagara,” Balsom said. “Their commitment has created a legacy that does great honour to our region.

“These organizations are the heart of our economy, prosperity and growth.”

Other awards were as follows:

  • Business of the Year – White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa
  • Excellence in Business: up to 10 employees – Big Country Raw Food; 11 to 50 employees- Future Access Inc.; 51 or more employees Kraun Electric
  • Outstanding New Business – ProActive Chiropractic and Training Centre
  • Excellence in Technology and Innovation – Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc.
  • Excellence in Environmental Leadership – Pinchin Ltd.
  • Excellence in Manufacturing – Ladson Creative Millworks
  • Excellence in Tourism – Niagara Sport Commission
  • Excellence in International Business – WP Warehousing Inc.
  • Young Professional of the Year – Mary Jane Johnson (Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre and Foundation)
  • Builder of the Year Award – to Phil Ritchie of Keefer Developments.
  • The Volunteer Business Person of the Year Award – Doug Smith of C.R. Smith Financial and Wise Guys.
  • The Community Leadership Award – Dr. Suzanne Johnston of the Niagara Health System.

Ed Learn Ford Lincoln in St. Catharines hosted a Friday celebration to mark a grand reopening of its new state-of-the-art facility after more than two years of extensive renovations.

The Ontario Street dealership has new Ford and Lincoln showrooms, six new Quick Lane bays,a Quick Lane reception area, a re-designed parts department and a new customer lounge.

A newly-paved and landscaped facility also features a new technician lunch room, locker area and new fleet service bays. The renovation began in October of 2013, ending in March 2016.

The Bizzline column appears weekly. Send your north Niagara business story/information tips to or tweet to @don_standard.

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