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Okanagan College named business of the year

By KRISTI PATTON
January 31, 2012 · Updated 12:17 PM
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Okanagan College was named business of the year at the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards banquet Saturday.

"You may not automatically think of the college as a business, but we are. We all have our targets and expectations that we have to achieve and we work very closely with the business community," said Donna Lomas, regional dean South Okanagan/Similkameen. "We want to be able to have graduates who are relevant to the current employment circumstances, so it is really important we work hand-in-hand with the businesses."

While Okanagan College offers a wide variety of career, continuing education, degree, developmental, trades and technologies, university studies and vocational programs, they offer even more to the community as a whole. The Penticton campus is now home to one of the greenest buildings in the world, the new Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, which will host the green building design and construction certificate program. Pattison donated $2.5 million to the centre over five years, with the caveat that the Okanagan College Foundation match that figure in fundraising.

"A lot of the work we are doing in the new centre relates directly to producing employable grads in a wide variety of businesses. We also have been working closely with Accelerate Okanagan to help sponsor the business incubator that will hopefully take new entrepreneurs and help them produce the next big thing for Penticton," said Lomas.

The centre has raised the profile of Penticton and its Okanagan College location to an international level through innovation, community engagement and leadership.

"I think the college has been working hard to provide and support the community. It was a really great feeling to have the community say you are doing all right. We were really pleased," said Lomas.

Steve Jones and Chris Boehm were selected for the Young Entrepreneur Award. The pair took a former old tire shed and renovated it into a quaint burger shack known as Burger 55. The two entrepreneurs donate time, money and food to the Food Bank, Fest of Ale and countless other causes throughout their two years in Penticton. Burger 55 sponsors the Penticton Vees and minor hockey throughout the area and lend their hands to charities such as the Jumpstart Foundation and Movember (prostate cancer awareness).

President and co-founder of the Penticton and Area Cycling Association, Andrew Drouin won the Community Booster Award. As an avid biker, Drouin has been instrumental in lobbying the provincial government for highway safety for the Ironman race, acquiring a new hiking and cycling route on the south access to Campbell Mountain that will be sustainable and reduce erosion, securing Ministry of Transportation signage directing people to trails, helping bring the Bike-To-Work Week event to Penticton and working to establish a bike skills park within the city limits.

Wendy Williams and her team at Get Bent Arts and Recreation won the Service Excellence Award for their exceptional service to clients and to the community. Their mission is to build healthy individuals and a healthy community through positive friendships, mentoring, asset-building, charitable contributions and community partnerships.

Through grant funding, Get Bent developed a Esteem Team group of youth from 12 to 21 that create workshops for middle school classes on anti-bullying, self-esteem, body image and media influence on youth. Get Bent has also developed a chair-yoga instructor course for recreational co-ordinators working in seniors facilities and is now teaching the course throughout B.C.

Other award winners included: the Tourism Advisory Council for the Hospitality/Tourism award, McCoy Trailers for the Industrial Business Award, British Columbia Wine Information Centre for the Retailer Excellence Award, Nurse Next Door for the New Business Award, Nikita Afonso earned Young Citizen of the Year Award and Andre Martin won the Business Leader of the Year Award.