Originally published HERE, by the Brantford Expositor
Published on: August 27, 2020 | Last Updated: August 27, 2020 9:05 PM EDT

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended what is traditionally a highlight of the year for the Brantford business community – the Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards banquet.

But the chamber adapted the event and, on Thursday night, presented a digital version that can be accessed on the its website or Facebook page.

“Our entire office is now a television studio,” said chamber CEO David Prang before the event, which was a combination of live-stream and pre-recorded messages online.

Instead of filling the ballroom of the Best Western Brantford Hotel and Conference Centre on Holiday Drive, the chamber encouraged members to order dinner from a chamber member or buy a new outfit to show off on the live-stream.

“It’s disappointing not to be able to gather with our business community to celebrate the excellent work being done and congratulate people in person but this is the reality,” said Prang. “Our chamber staff looked at how other communities responded and came up with a plan to deliver the night.”

Four major awards were handed out Thursday night: Vive Mechanical Inc. was named the Waterous Holden Amey Hitchon Company of the Year;  Sam Tavernese of PQI Canada Limited was named Enterprise Brant Entrepreneur of the Year; retired businessman James Boughner was honoured with the annual David Baxter Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement; and the Bell Community Builder Award went to Crossing All Bridges Learning Centre.

Started in 2010, Vive Mechanical has added a plumbing division and a residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning division. It has more than 20 employees.

The company of the year award goes to a firm with a strong corporate philosophy, good business achievements and positive impacts in the community.

Also nominated in that category were Brantford Honda and Brantford Toyota.

The chamber said Tavernese was recognized for taking a financial risk, maintaining a high standard of employee and customer relations, hitting exceptional business achievements and promoting this area.

Through ProQuip, Tavernese has promoted adoption of green technology using LED and solar lighting systems. He is committed to environmental stewardship and lowering the cost of doing business by reducing energy use.

Other finalists in the entrepreneur category were Ed Doucet of Re/Max Twin Cities Real Estate and Luigi Casasanta of Casasanta Bakery Equipment, formerly LC Bakery.

In presenting the Baxter award to philanthropist Boughner, Sonoco Canada’s Carole MacClure said the award is meant to honour someone who has made their community a better place to work, live, play and conduct business.

Born in Elora, Ont., Boughner moved to Brantford as a young boy and began working for his father at Brant Engineering and Tool Co. as a tool and die maker. In 1963, he and Les Snyder formed Screen Print Display Advertising and Boughner later became the company’ssole owner.

“In the late ’90s, Jim created the James F. Boughner Foundation, which continues to provide local charities and students with support,” said MacClure.

“The foundation has supported many local initiatives including the construction of the new birthing centre at the Brantford General Hospital, the Safety Village of Brant, the Brant United Way, Kids Can Fly, the BCHS Foundation, DARE and student scholarships.”

Those scholarships go to graduating students in Brantford or Brant County to support their post-secondary education.

Boughner has been a past president of the Brantford Club, the Shriners Club and the Royal Order of Jesters and has received numerous honours and awards.

Each year, the chamber also chooses a local business or organization whose community contribution has created a substantial “social return on investment.”

Crossing All Bridges was recognized for providing programs, opportunities and jobs for adults living with developmental challenges. The centre runs the Shredding Barriers company, which provides shredding services.

Also nominated were the Grand River Council on Aging for its work to recognize the needs of seniors, and the Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant for year-round art exhibitions, programs and community activities.