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Manitobans' work ethic praised

'It's a tough business community': IDEA winner

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IF you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

Stu Clark, a Brandon-born entrepreneur who has made millions in Alberta's oil and gas sector, believes there's a reason so many Manitobans have become leaders of industry across Canada.

"This province produces people who have a hell of a work ethic," said the recipient of this year's International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award.

"It's tougher to be a successful entrepreneur in Manitoba than anywhere else in Canada. It's a tough business community. The successful people are successful for a reason. They've been able to keep their businesses intact and growing. New entrants have a tougher time. There's only so much business to go around," he said.

The IDEA is presented annually by the Associates at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba. Clark is no stranger to the U of M. The business school's entrepreneurship centre bears his name and he has donated more than $9 million to the school.

His efforts have resulted in a perpetual funding source for the program, which focuses on an underappreciated element of business education.

"If students are exposed to entrepreneurship in university, they might want to build companies down the road. It has the ability to improve everybody's wealth. If you get more businesses started, you get more employment and more wealth," he said.

Clark, who earned a bachelor of commerce degree from the U of M in 1976 -- he paid his own way through school -- is chairman of Storm Resources Ltd. and Rock Energy Inc. He founded Pinnacle Resources, an oil and gas exploration company, in 1986. He and his partners raised $2 million of shareholder capital and subsequently sold it in 1998 for about $1 billion.

"I had zero money. I took risks. I was fearful of having no money. When money became less of a driving force, I took stock and decided I had to do something with this money. It wasn't about doubling or tripling it, I had to help somebody," he said.

Clark also has spent several years on the board of the Friends of the Canadian Museum For Human Rights, a cause to which he has donated $4 million.

"I'm not somebody who writes a cheque and walks away. I like to be involved (in the decision-making). I'm prepared to support causes that allow me to do that," he said.

"I look at it like an investment. The return isn't monetary; it's the return for everybody else. Will it be valuable for society? Will other people use it?"

Clark is only the fourth Manitoba-born winner of the IDEA, following Izzy Asper, Gerry Schwartz and Albert Cohen.

The IDEA was presented to Clark at a black-tie dinner at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Thursday evening. He also received a custom-made pure gold medal produced by the Royal Canadian Mint specifically for the IDEA.

Clark's wife, Janice, and his three children, Matthew, 28, Heather, 26, and David, 24, flew into town on Thursday for the dinner.

Past IDEA recipients include Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Murray Edwards (Canadian Natural Resources), Dame Anita Roddick (The Body Shop), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Jim Balsillie (Research In Motion) and the husband-and-wife team of Schwartz and Heather Reisman (Onex Corp. and Chapters).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2012 B4

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