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First Nation competes successfully with multi-nationals
When the 2012 Alberta Business Awards of Distinction were announced recently, TAWS Security Ltd. stood out among the winners as an up-and-coming business in Fort McMurray. The First Nation-based company employs 85 percent First Nation or Métis workers.
Isabell Ringenoldus, founder of TAWS, was surprised and pleased that she had been awarded the Aboriginal Woman Entrepreneur Award of Distinction.
“I was a correctional officer in a BC men’s prison for three years, and learned the basics of security there,” Ringenoldus said. “I had the opportunity to move back home and started working in the security industry here in Fort McMurray, and then decided I could branch out on my own in 2007.”
With the economic recession hitting, the timing wasn’t great. It was difficult to get everything in place, from manuals to licensing requirements. But after about a year Ringenoldus was ready to go. At the beginning she and one employee kept 24-hour shifts covered. That changed after a few months when she was successful in additional contract bids, which allowed her to hire more staff. Then Ringenoldus got her first break, a contract with Enbridge Pipelines. And TAWS – which is an acronym of the first initials of the name of a beloved family member who is now deceased – has never looked back, operating from the Fort McMurray First Nation number.
TAWS clients include those involved in the oil sands, construction and plant sites.
“We do 24-hour gate security and patrol for a lot of the big players,” Ringenoldus said.
She is a full believer in the potential of women in the workforce and of her 45 staff, about 85 percent are female employees.
Ringenoldus encourages other people to follow their dreams. “As long as you find something that you love doing, and you are good at, it will work out. It is hard work and you need to be patient, but you can do it!”
The Best Practice Award of Distinction was given to PTI Group Inc. of Edmonton. With 2,800 employees, it is one of North America’s largest suppliers of remote site services, working with First Nations and Métis communities. PTI’s area of expertise includes modular workforce accommodations and catering services.
“We are truly honoured to have been recognized,” said Stephen Crocker, manager of Aboriginal Relations for PTI Group. “Together with our partners, we’ve made great strides in the past three years in the area of Aboriginal relations. It’s rewarding to see that programs we’ve developed in the area of Aboriginal employment, training, and contracting are making an impact in the community.”
The Sawridge Group of Companies was awarded the Eagle Feather Award of Distinction, a salute to a First Nations-owned business that demonstrates outstanding achievement in business while incorporating entrepreneurial and cultural concepts in its operation.
With 600 employees, the company operates hotels in several Alberta communities, introducing guests to Aboriginal culture in a warm and welcoming way. It also shares its annual dividends to administer social and educational programs that benefit the communities.
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