On October 26, the Fernie Chamber of Commerce honoured the finalists and winners of the 2018 Fernie Business Excellence Awards (pictured) held at Best Western Plus Fernie Mountain Lodge. A judging panel whittled 160 nominations down to three finalists per category with the highest scoring applications winning. Photo by Vince Mo

Outstanding Fernie businesses honoured

What started as two tradies working out of a pick-up truck has evolved into an award-winning construction company with 27 staff.

Now, LWE Builders owners Ian Larsen and Steve Whelan can add another feather to their hardhats after being named Business of the Year at the Fernie Business Excellence Awards on Friday night.

The award is selected by year-after-year growth, measured by gross revenues and employee size.

Look back: Sparwood businesses honoured

Read more: Elkford businesses, volunteers honoured

Read more: Local men honoured for contribution to recreation community

LWE Builders was established in 1999 and has experienced huge growth over the past three years, doubling its employee count and substantially increasing revenues.

Whelan said he and Larsen have been focused on improving the operations side of the business.

“Finding good people, that’s key,” he said. “We tend to try and hire like-minded people, it’s pretty easy to do in Fernie somewhat in terms of like-mindedness, numbers are harder to get.”

Whelan admitted there have been “lots of ups and downs” as the local construction economy fluctuated with Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

But he feels Fernie is in a strong position and the market has diversified, with LWE Builders clientele coming from across Canada, the UK and Australia.

Whelan, Larsen and six of their employees accepted the award before a sellout crowd of 144 people at the Best Western Plus Fernie Mountain Lodge on Friday night.

“It was a great honour and I thank the Chamber,” said Whelan on Monday.

“It was cool to look out into the room and see all of the ski bum faces that I’ve known for years that have now over the years figured out a way to create a life in Fernie, not just for themselves but also their staff, and the cool services they offer in town as well.”

This year, the Fernie Chamber of Commerce received 160 nominations across 13 categories for the annual awards, 94 of which were unique nominations.

A judging panel comprised of business professionals from outside Fernie scored the award applications to narrow each category down to three finalists, with the highest score winning.

“The awards are an opportunity to pause and reflect on the businesses that make our community great,” said Vadnais. “It lets our business community know that their work is noticed and appreciated.

“The evening is a chance to bring community leaders and builders together and celebrate years of hard work.”

The recipients of the 2018 Fernie Business Excellence Awards are:

Citizen of the Year Award – Chuck Shoesmith; Volunteer of the Year Award – Rick Wiess; Spirit of Fernie – Wapiti; Community Tourism Achievement – Fernie Wilderness Adventures; Outstanding Customer Service – Big Bang Bagels; New Business of the Year – Fernie Copperworks Inc.; Entrepreneur of the Year – Sydney Salvador, Chopstick Truck; Team of the Year Award – Three Sisters Day Spa; Employer of the Year Award – Giv’er Shirt Works; Fernie Business of the Year – LWE Builders; People’s Choice Award – Denham GM; Chamber Legacy Award – Gerald Price, GPI Chartered Accountants; Community Leadership Award – Fernie Brewing Company.

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