A pillar of the Strait area business community for more than 90 years was recognized for its excellence earlier this month.
The MacDonald Family Midway Motors Ltd. was honoured with the Jack Hartery Lifetime Achievement Award for Business during the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce (SACC) spring AGM gala May 22 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
The now third-generation business – with locations in Middle River and Port Hastings – are renowned for their second-to-none commitment to customer service.
“This is absolutely fabulous,” general manager Scott MacDonald said, when he stepped to the mic after Hartery’s wife, Shirley, presented him with the award.
He described receiving an accolade associated with such a prestigious name and business leader from the region as a “fantastic honour.”
MacDonald’s grandfather, J.K., started the business, one that moved to his three sons; Bobby and ‘the twins’ – Jackie and Gordon.
“They are all very deserving,” he said of the recognition in crediting his father and uncles.
MacDonald expressed gratitude not only to their loyal customers over the years, but also the “generations of staff” that have contributed to those successes.
“We are deeply grateful,” he said, noting there are employees who have been with the company for more than 40 years.
SACC executive director Amanda Mombourquette said there could be “no more deserving” recipient of the honour.
Along with MacDonald Family Midway Motors Ltd., there were several other award presentations during the gala, including Owen MacLean, who garnered the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus Student Leadership Award, which honours someone for their community involvement and extra-curricular activities.
MacLean, a marine program student, was on work term and unable to attend the celebration.
Mombourquette called Danielle Patterson, recipient of the President’s Award, an “active contributor” to SACC, including providing expertise in areas, such as social media and branding.
Noting the growth of members wanting to get involved, Patterson reflected on a “renewed sense of energy” over the four years she has been part of the organization.
As for the Cultural Award of Merit honoree – the Potlotek Education Office – Mombourquette said it is the “most comprehensive [nomination] we have ever received.”
In summarizing some accomplishments, she noted the office’s focus on promoting, protecting and sharing of culture through avenues such as the creation of traditional regalia and land based learning, along with its community radio station.
Leon Burt, a tireless and long-time contributor to the Strait-Richmond Minor Hockey Association, received the Kevin Beaton Heart of the Community Award.
“I am overwhelmed to be the recipient of such a prestigious award that honours someone as special as Kevin,” Burt said.
“I am going to cherish this night for the rest of my life.”
He thanked his wife, Lisa, for her unwavering support of his volunteer efforts, along with his employer Glen Randall and System Care Port Hawkesbury.
Burt recalled advice his parents gave him, as a teenager, when he started his first job.
“Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t drag your feet,” he offered.
They also told him there were two types of people – leaders and followers.
Burt said giving back – volunteering – has allowed him to take on leadership roles.
In her traditional ‘year in review’ remarks, Mombourquette described the year as “one for the record books.”
“That’s incredible,” she said of an increase in membership of 57.
Mombourquette added that bump is part of a 55 per cent rise over the past three years.
“We are here to reflect your priorities,” she said, noting the importance of “advocacy” to the Chamber’s focus.
In touching on highlights for the region, Mombourquette described the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus as “awash in good news,” including the pending construction of a student residence, along with a marine bursary program for women and Indigenous peoples.
She added “there is going to be impact across Cape Breton.”
“We recognize the role of higher education as an economic driver for the region,” Mombourquette said.
She also noted the sale of Port Hawkesbury-based 1015 the Hawk, a long-time Chamber supporter, to Irving-owned Acadia Broadcasting.
Mombourquette congratulated former owners, Bob and Brenda MacEachern, for their past and continuing contributions to the region.
She added the Chamber is looking forward to forming a “new relationship” with owners, noting their “enthusiasm” about the Strait region and desire to become involved.
When it comes to the myriad SACC initiatives, Mombourquette outlined the success of the Small Halls, Big Ideas across rural Cape Breton.
“It is a sign that we are doubling down on our growth plans,” Mombourquette said of a recent staff addition.
Tainá Feitosa, as marketing and special projects co-ordinator, will focus on areas, such as digital services, for members.
Second to none
“It is such a great organization,” past president Richie Mann said when he took the podium.
He described his time – not only on the board, but also as an executive member – as “a pleasure.”
“I have met and worked with so many great people,” Mann, of Melford Atlantic Gateway, said.
The growth in membership of recent years is “one of the highlights” for him.
“We celebrate their successes,” Mann said, in touching on one of great things SACC provides to its members.
Reflecting on his time with the Atlantic Chambers of Commerce, he noted the Strait area, along with the Halifax and Truro chambers are considered “go to” in the business community.
As past president, Mann is the lone male member of SACC’s board executive, with Diana Martell becoming the first female president of the organization.
“It is a hidden success story,” she said of ROC Society, the social enterprise in Port Hawkesbury, where she serves as executive director.
She credited the greatness of SACC, including its executive, membership and staff.
“We all have ways that we can contribute and get involved,” Martell said, encouraging members to take advantage of the many opportunities available.
For more about the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce, including membership information and programs, visit straitareachamber.ca
STRAIT AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President: Diana Martell
Past president: Richie Mann
Vice president: Emily Rankin
Secretary: Heidi MacInnis
Treasurer: Beth Groom
Chris van den Heuvel