The small town of Pilot Mound has only 700 residents, but one resident’s agribusiness has been named one of the country’s top 500 fastest-growing companies by Canadian Business.
NextGen Drainage Solutions, a land-improvement company, placed 77th countrywide based on its five-year growth percentage. It and 11 other Manitoban companies made the cut, and company president Brett Sheffield was proud of the accomplishment.
"I think it shows Manitoban companies can do well," said Sheffield, 34. Since NextGen started in 2012, it’s grown to become one of the largest agriculture tile drainage companies in the region, with 24 employees in Pilot Mound and hundreds of clients in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
"There is opportunity in small towns for companies as long as you focus on customers and quality," he said. "For a (company from) a small town of 700 to be beating out companies from Toronto and Vancouver is pretty rare."
Apparently, not that rare: in 2013, another Pilot Mound-founded agriculture company, Farmers Edge, ranked 18th on the list and has since grown from 100 employees to 650. But aside from NextGen, all the other Manitoban companies to make the cut this year are situated in Winnipeg.
Bold Commerce, the local e-commerce software titan, placed 12th overall, one of only three Prairie companies to place in the top 25. Bold’s five-year growth rate is 6,878 per cent, and the company employs upward of 280 workers in the city. It’s one of the highest finishes for a Manitoban company in the list’s 31-year history.
Other local firms to make the cut are: Tiber River Naturals (193); Neovation Learning Solutions (196); Heartland International English School (257); People Corporation (280); Manitobah Mukluks (342); BCV Asset Management (352); Label Source (447); Value Partners Investments (453); Clear Concepts (457); and Bison Fire Protection (472).
Many of those companies have already made the top 500 in previous years, including Bison Fire Protection, which has made every list since 2013.
Though the bulk of the list’s companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area or in B.C., Economic Development Winnipeg says the city’s presence on the list is still worth celebrating.
"We’re proud to see Winnipeg companies are being recognized among the fastest-growing in the country," president Dayna Spiring said. "Our city is home to many other thriving businesses and successful startups, who all contribute to Winnipeg’s economic growth."
One of those startups is independent insurance brokerage Avant, which was the only Manitoban company to make the Canadian Business top 50 startup list, placing 34th.
"When we were notified we’d been named to the list, at No. 34, it was definitely a good day," said company president and CEO Cole Leitch, 36. Avant, which was founded in 2016, has earned several insurance-industry honours, but this marked the first time the company was recognized nationally outside the insurance realm.
"It’s a testament to our business overall and how we’re growing," Leitch said.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.