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2019 Business Achievement Awards

2019 Business Achievement Award Winners!

The Brandon Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 Business Achievement Awards!


Business Person Of The YearRhonda Pardy
Community Service AwardRay Brownlee
Outstanding New Business AwardIon Coating
Business Excellence Award – Small BusinessG.T. Smith & Sons Electrical
Business Excellence Award – Large Business Guild Insurance Brokers Inc.
Lifetime Builder Of The YearRon Helwer


About the Recipients



Recongizes a business person that exemplifies outstanding business practices and achievements, that demonstrates leadership, vision, and the creation of economic growth, while contributing to the community.  This award recognizes individuals who are at the peak of their career.

Rhonda Pardy met her husband Craig in Newfoundland more than thirty years ago, and together they shared the desire of introducing the Tim Hortons brand to the City of Brandon. In November of 2001 their dream became a reality when they opened their first location on 18th Street with their second restaurant opening six months later on the Trans Canada Highway.  Those beginnings have now grown into ownership and investment in eight locations throughout Brandon, Virden, Neepawa and Moosomin.

Efforts continued after Craig’s untimely passing in 2016 by Rhonda, their children and their Tim Hortons team to keep the dream alive and growing.  How proud Craig would be to know restaurant number nine is slated to begin building this spring.  Their Tim Hortons team now consists of over 350 dedicated employees with an estimated payroll of $7 million.

Rhonda was the first female to serve on the national Tim Hortons Advisory Board for a five-year term.
Her personal and corporate community involvement has included serving on the Board of Directors of the Assiniboine Community College and the Helping Hands Soup Kitchen.

She takes great pride in having implemented and continued sponsorship of the Timbits hockey and Timbits soccer programs in Brandon and several surrounding rural communities.  These programs provide entry level kids with jerseys, medals, equipment, supplies and subsidized fees along with the opportunity to play the sports they love.

Other major sponsorships include the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation camps, Helping Hands Soup Kitchen, United Way, Brandon Christmas Cheer, the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, Brandon Wheat Kings, the Virden Rodeo, Brandon Regional Health Authority Foundation, the Tamarack Golf Tournament Operation Red Nose, the Brandon Santa Claus parade and the Kiwanis Car Derby.

Rhonda considers it a privilege and honour to do business in the City of Brandon, is proud to call Brandon home and looks forward to continued involvement in the growth of our community.



Recognizes an individual or business for outstanding community service to business and community endeavors and have contributed to the well-being of the community as a whole.

Ray was raised and educated in Brandon graduating with a degree in Education from Brandon in 1970. He married his high school sweetheart, Cindy in 1969 and have two daughters, Kristi and Becky as well as a 6-year-old granddaughter Kenzie.

Ray had a brief professional minor league hockey career that ended in in 1976. He then obtained his Real Estate license in 1974 and then in 1976 he acquired his Real Estate Brokers license. In 1980, Ray was one of three founding partners of a Century21 franchise and after selling real estate for 22 years, he became the Managing Partner of their franchise in 1996 until 2017. One of the highlights during these years was their “Canadian Franchise of the Year Award” in 2008.

During his professional real estate career, Ray was the Brandon Real Estate Board President, a Director of the Manitoba Real Estate Association and the Chairperson of the Manitoba Advisory Council. The opportunity to serve on numerous local charities was very gratifying for Ray, particularly organizations such as Services for the Handicapped, Easter Seals, Manitoba Westman Region Special Olympics as well as the Canadian Diabetes Association. He also served as the fundraising chairperson of the 2006 Special Olympics National Summer Games which were held here in Brandon.




This award recognizes the accomplishments of a business owner who has succeeded through innovation and risk-taking or achieved success in introducing new products or services or growing an existing product line through a unique approach.

Ion Coating was founded at the four-way crossroads of Demand, Opportunity, Necessity and Timing. Brandon-born brothers, Leland Kirton (29) and Taylor Kirton (25) have grown a business that was started out of personal need and now commands the attention of clients and industry professionals all over North America.

Never has there been a business that more clearly defined the phrase “garage start-up”. Leland started on a very small scale by powder coating his own projects in the family garage. At the time, he was working as a Brandon University trained wellsite geologist in the Alberta and Saskatchewan oil fields. The downturn in drilling that resulted from the oil and gas collapse of 2014 made him look hard at other avenues to pursue. Having already developed a reputation on the street for high quality powder coating, he moved to a small commercial location in Brandon’s east end to test the water. Ion Coating opened in early 2015 and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

By 2016, Ion Coating had grown to the point that a much larger location was required. At the same time, Taylor graduated from Brandon University, also as a wellsite geologist. The oil and gas industry had not rebounded, but, with Ion Coating growing rapidly, it was a natural move for him to become Leland’s partner in the business.

In the few short years since its inception, Ion Coating has become renowned throughout North America for exceptional show-quality powder and ceramic coating especially in the world of automotive enthusiasts. The client base continues to grow with well over half of new business coming from beyond Westman borders. Powder coating has always had a reputation for stunning colours and durability but finding an applicator that was prepared to pay attention to the finest details seemed to be what was in short supply. Leland and Taylor have answered the challenge and haven’t looked back. The fact that so many clients outside the Westman trading area are prepared to bypass their local powder coaters, as well as endure the added effort and expense of shipping their projects to Brandon, speaks volumes about the quality of work Ion Coating provides.

Ion Coating may have gained notoriety through clients in the automotive world but their reputation for unparalleled quality and attention to detail has opened up doors in residential, commercial and industrial work. The Kirton brothers have taken to heart the adage; “Listen to your customers, they’ll tell you what they want.” As a result, customer requests for specialized projects have created additional lines of business that will see Ion Coating again relocating to a larger facility as soon as a suitable site is identified.

By customer request, Ion Coating has also expanded into the sale of after-market automotive performance and cosmetic parts as well as hard to source replacement parts. Many of these are suitable for powder coating to create a truly individualized look for the vehicle owner.

Restoration of vintage items has become an important line of work. Some pieces are exceptionally well made, are family heirlooms or are simply irreplaceable. They just need some love for a new lease on life. Ion Coating will completely dismantle, refinish and restore almost anything to a customer’s specifications. Ion Coating has successfully restored garden furniture, small vaults, cast railings, antique bicycles, wood stoves and century–old house dampers to name just a few. If it’s metal, it can be coated.

No two projects are the same. Each requires individual planning and execution. Some demand significant problem solving and unique solutions. Innovation, creativity and attention to detail ensure the highest quality finish.

Leland and Taylor Kirton are excited that Ion Coating has joined the ranks of Brandon businesses that have developed national and international influence. The future is bright and the opportunities are many for Ion Coating.



Honors a business with fewer than 15 employees that demonstrates continual business excellence through positive business growth, exemplifies superior customer service and embraces an outstanding commitment to quality.

G.T. Smith & Sons Electrical is a family run business that has served Brandon and Westman for over 100 years. Our company was started in 1918 by Guy Thomas Smith; he started out on a bicycle doing small jobs around Brandon. His sons Dan & Art took over the company in the 1940’s. They were kept busy with the Shilo expansion and rural electrification projects. Dan’s son Bruce Smith and Wes Beatty took over the business in 1968 they enjoyed several years serving customers, they completed such projects as the Airport, Brandon City Hall, Victoria Inn and Water Treatment Plant up to 1996 when they retired. Bruce’s son Blair Smith who is the current owner took over the business and he continues to serve the community and surrounding area. Blair worked hard to make the company successful. We have done work in the provinces of Saskatchewan and in Alberta. Some of the projects we have done around Brandon are Western Asphalt, Assiniboine Industrial Services, Motel 6, Best Western and Fed Ex. With continuing to provide our quality service to Crane Steel Structure, Shur- Gro, MNP, Nav Canada, Fowlers Hyundai. The company out grew the original location at 859 9th Street and we moved to a larger location at 440 Richmond Ave E.

G.T. Smith & Sons are very proud that they have been able to serve Brandon and area for as long as they have. It is very rare to have a family run business last over 100 Years. They thrive on providing exceptional customer service and professional work to our customers and this shows that they have accomplished this and they will continue to provide exceptional customer service and professional work to all their customers. they have always tried to be fair and honest with customers and support them when it is possible to use their services.



Honors a business with more than 15 employees that demonstrates continual business excellence through positive business growth, exemplifies superior customer service and embraces an outstanding commitment to quality.

Guild Insurance Brokers was formed in 1990 with the amalgamation of two brokers to become Guild Insurance Brokers Inc. In 1994, Guild purchased another local firm (Peters Insurance Agencies), giving the company four Autopac and general insurance outlets and a commercial lines office. In 1997, the Commercial Lines and two of the Autopac/general insurance outlets were combined at a new home office at 24th Street & Victoria Avenue where it remained for nine years. Guild relocated its home office to its current location at 2830 Victoria Avenue in 2006 after a complete renovation of the former RCMP building. In 2014, Guild merged with HMS Insurance Agencies in Carberry and Shilo to become Guild/HMS Insurance Group Inc. In addition to the home office on Victoria Avenue and the offices in Carberry and Shilo, Guild/HMS Insurance Group has locations at Shoppers Mall Brandon, Virden and Wawanesa.  They are also shareholders in Wallis Agencies with offices in Glenboro, Baldur and Holland and part of their long-term succession plan.

With 60 employees across southwestern Manitoba, Guild/HMS is committed to being a leading insurance provider for western Manitoba. Guild/HMS offers a wide variety of insurance products and policies, from automobile insurance and driver licensing to personal lines (i.e. homeowners, tenants, seasonal dwellings), commercial lines, farm, rental, travel, marine and life. Guild/HMS also specializes in group benefits, surety and bonding. The company’s trusted advisors work in partnership with dozens of insurance companies throughout Canada, ensuring that they are able to offer their clients the best insurance products on the market at a great price. The Guild/HMS team believes in building and maintaining relationships with its clients by providing exceptional customer service, sound advice and peace of mind.

Throughout its growth, Guild/HMS Insurance Group has maintained a small business feel and stayed true to its roots. The Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – remains at the forefront of the organization. Local support has been instrumental in helping Guild/HMS grow into the brokerage it is today and the Guild/HMS team recognizes the importance of giving back to its communities. Each year, Guild/HMS develops a community action plan, which sets money aside for local non-profit organizations, events and charitable activities. The Guild/HMS team is very active in the community, with volunteer participation in the United Way’s annual Christmas Tree Auction, the MS Walk, the Food for Thought school breakfast program and Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraisers, just to name a few. Guild/HMS also sponsors student scholarships, supports a wide variety of minor sports and 4-H clubs and is an avid promoter of Brandon’s major agricultural fairs.

Guild/HMS Insurance Group is proud of the success it has achieved and is excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The Guild/HMS team loves the communities it works, lives and plays in, and looks forward to growing with its communities for many years to come.



Honors and recognizes an individual who has successfully achieved, toiled and contributed to Brandon’s success through a lifetime commitment to business and community service.

Ron Helwer was born and raised in Libau, Manitoba second eldest in a family of nine.  The family operated a mixed farm, worked at clearing and breaking new land, and doing custom work for extra income.  In 1941, Ron’s father grew a crop of Renown wheat on new land that yielded 60 bushels/acre – a record at that time. In 1956, Ron married Vera Katazinski, a school teacher that came to the district, and together they raised three children, Sherry, Reg, and Gail.

Ron’s business career started in Libau where he and his father Fred opened a Massey Harris and fertilizer dealership in 1952.  In 1960, he purchased an Esso fuel agency in East St. Paul and supplied fuel for the floodway construction as well as fuel oil for the City of Winnipeg.  The family moved to Brandon in 1968, where Ron became a Shell agent selling fuel, fertilizer and farm supplies and this was the origin of Shur-Gro Farm Services.  In 1990, Ron purchased Munro Farm Supplies and in 2017 acquired a majority stake in South East Seeds Inc. of Niverville and Dugald.  Collectively, the business has grown from a single outlet to 13 branches located across Manitoba, all under the Shur-Gro Farm Services banner.  In 2018, Shur-Gro Farm Services celebrated its 50th year in business.

Ron is very proud of Shur-Gro’s footprint in the agricultural industry of Manitoba.  Shur-Gro has always been an innovator and supporter of new technologies and were one of the first crop input businesses to provide custom application, field scouting, soil testing, and precision farming techniques.  Ron has invested in state-of-the art facilities and equipment with the goal of “servicing the growing needs” of customers with quality service and value.  Other ventures include Brandon Terminal, an associated business for fertilizer transloading, which has been expanded to handle an annual throughput of 80,000 – 100,000 tonnes of dry fertilizer.

Shur-Gro employs approximately 140 staff at its 13 branches in Manitoba.  A key fundamental to Shur-Gro’s strategy has been employee engagement and training.  Graduates are sourced from agricultural schools at Assiniboine Community College and the University of Manitoba.  Hiring is done locally, which also includes numerous seasonal staff during the busy season.  Materials and supplies are purchased within the communities of operation, thus supporting the livelihoods of neighbours.

Ron has always been an innovator and supporter of agriculture in Manitoba.  In 1978, Ron was key in establishing the Western Fertilizer and Chemical Dealers Association and served as its President from 1979-1980. He has also served with the National Fertilizer Solution Association in the U.S. from 1977-1991.  Ron has been a long-time supporter and advocate of the Canadian Association of Agri Retailers (CAAR). He was awarded the CAAR President’s Award in 1981, CAAR Retailer Hall of Fame Award in 2008, and Shur-Gro was recognized with the CAAR President’s Award for Retailer of the Year in 2012.  Ron was inducted into the Manitoba Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2014. In 2018, Assiniboine Community College of Brandon presented Ron with an honorary diploma in Agri-Business in recognition of his five decades in the industry.

Ron has been an active member of the community in Brandon, serving as a Lifetime Member of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce and receiving the Chamber’s Business Person of the Year Award in 1986.  He also served as Director of the Manitoba Provincial Exhibition during 1980-1990.  Ron has served as a member of the organizing committee for the 1979 Canada Winter Games, President of the Brandon University Foundation 1995-1996, and was recipient of the Apex Award for meritorious service and outstanding leadership to the Brandon University Foundation in 2002.  Ron continues to support important organizations in the community such as ACC, YMCA, Brandon Hospital Foundation, Murray House Cancer Center, The Dome Building and is presently serving as Chairman of Fund Raising for the Kidney Foundation of Manitoba.

Ron has been an integral part of the business and farming community in Manitoba and is highly regarded by his peers and friends. He built Shur-Gro on a strong foundation of innovation, integrity, and customer service.  Putting customers first and being dedicated to their success is a credo that has served Ron well.  Ron’s enthusiasm and strong work ethic is inspirational, and is applauded for reaching his goal of owning the largest independent fertilizer dealership in Western Canada.