A Winnipeg manufacturer that doubled its sales at a time when most of the world was in the throes of, or recovering from, a global economic recession has been named Manitoba's exporter of the year.
Conviron, a 48-year-old firm that has become a world leader in the design, manufacture and installation of controlled-environment systems for plant-growth research, was one of five 2012 award winners announced Thursday by the Manitoba division of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME Manitoba).
The others were another Winnipeg manufacturing firm, Intelligent Hospital Systems, and three local business leaders, Monarch Industries president and CEO Gene Dunn, Kitchen Craft founder Herb Buller and the late Harry Zoltok, founder of Motor Coach Industries.
Intelligent Hospital Systems will be presented with the CME's Emerging Award, Dunn and Buller will receive the Hall of Fame Award and Zoltok was named winner of the Pioneer Award.
CME Manitoba head Ron Koslowsky said Conviron beat out two other finalists for the export award. The selection committee took into account things such as growth in revenues and export sales and the company's reputation in the community.
"Sometimes it's quite close, but Conviron was a clear winner this year," Koslowsky said, noting the company doubled its revenues over the last three years, and 85 per cent of its revenues came from export sales to more than 90 countries worldwide.
"And we're talking about that kind of growth at a time when a lot of other companies would have been happy just to maintain their export sales," Koslowsky said. "It's just a great story about a growing Manitoba company."
Company president and CEO Steve Kroft said a lot of things have helped to fuel demand for Conviron's products, even in tough economic times. Population growth, food shortages and global warming all have governments, universities, and private-sector seed companies scrambling to develop higher-yielding, drought-resistant seeds and crops, he said, and many are using Conviron chambers in their research and development work.
While debt-plagued governments are cutting spending in a number of areas, food- and agriculture-related research usually isn't one of them, Koslowsky said.
"Putting food in people's bellies trumps almost everything else."
He doesn't see that changing any time soon, which means Conviron should continue to see strong growth in revenues and export sales, he said.
Conviron's specialized products include reach-in chambers, walk-in rooms and research greenhouses that precisely control light, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and other gases.
While they're most commonly used for plant research, they're also being used in a growing number of industrial applications, including materials testing, environmental simulation, stability testing and biosafety-level containment.
Kroft said Conviron's track record for developing new products to meet changing market needs is another reason for its continued success.
The CME Awards will be presented at a gala dinner in Winnipeg on March 22.