Plenty to celebrate this season

Denis Mahoney
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Strings of street lights/Even stop lights/Blink a bright red and green/ As the shoppers rush home with their treasures.
— “Silver Bells”

How many times have you been asked, “Are you ready for Christmas yet?” Have you decked your halls, trimmed your trees or raised a glass of Christmas cheer?

If not, don’t get your tinsel in a tangle. There’s still time. And plenty of choice, too. That’s a great thing about living in St. John’s in 2013. You can shop for high-end, locally made earrings or chocolate truffles downtown, or head to the east end, where you can purchase a four-foot tall reindeer covered in blinking lights which mechanically grazes on the brownish-coloured grass peeking through the snow on the front lawn.

You can find whatever jingles your bells in a place where choice wasn’t always available. But I’ll get back to that, momentarily.

This is the time of year when shopping leads to running into an old friend, or sharing an eye-roll with a salesclerk who is trying so hard to please the difficult customer before you. Some say Christmas is over-commercialized, others may complain about demanding children, noting, “It wasn’t like that when I was their age.”

And hopefully, for most, it’s about family, celebration, helping others who are less fortunate and reflecting on the past year.

It’s why the St. John’s Board of Trade chooses to hold its annual Business Excellence Awards during the lead-up to Christmas. To come together as a community, to celebrate those who have worked hard all year and to reflect on the past year and to look ahead to a new one; filled with possibility.

For the past few months we’ve been celebrating the boom. Business is telling us, in emails and phone calls and over coffee, that there has never been a better time to open shop in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So while we’ve been busy celebrating the boom and working on building our province, this week we stopped to celebrate our colleagues and competitors in business and highlight some of their achievements with a meal and a toast.

Companies we awarded, including The Idea Factory, Le Boudoir, Hickman Automotive Group and Take the Shot Productions, are all innovators. Deloitte, Grant Thornton and Servicemaster all received awards for providing much-needed community services and for giving their employees the power to act.

Keith Butler — our community builder, volunteer of the year — believes it’s his responsibility to give back, and he does.

Contributing to boom

These businesses, owners and employees alike, are the boom. They demonstrate business excellence. And they should be congratulated. Business is making a contribution to building our communities.

In my last column, I talked about corporate responsibility and how an oil company made a donation to a local charity. A column printed later in this paper balked at that, saying that the $200,000 donation was a pittance to the multinational oil company.

But to the Gathering Place, and the people who use its services, that donation was a tidy sum and will be used to help many.

If we had no oil company to make that donation, would we even be able to provide the services the Gathering Place does? Or worse, would the need for those services be greater? Bah, humbug, indeed.

The boom creates the opportunity for us to give a hand up to all in need. We now have the capacity like we never had before to lend a helping hand. Business — big or small — is what creates all the new wealth in a place.

If we all worked for the three levels of government there would be little or no creation of new things, and ideas may never come to fruition. Business creates jobs and ingenuity.

But that comes back to choice. What would there be to choose from if no one innovated, if no one created new things or ideas? Perhaps we wouldn’t be grumbling about who is taking up two parking spots, or the credit card bill after the holidays.

But without business, without innovation, life would be very different. We would not have those wonderful tourism ads showcasing our province or the vision of Take the Shot Productions to produce television in our own backyard.

Think about how often we talk about iPads and tablets phasing out computers, and how quickly CDs were no longer the way to buy music; but we can still enjoy vinyl and, thanks to technology, you can even put your favourite 45 on your iPhone.

Whether it is art, fashion, that book you’re wrapping to put under the Christmas tree — either on an eReader or a traditional hardcover — none of that would exist without some kind of creative thought, some entrepreneurial spirit.

The choice, the opportunity, to make something new, something that people will love — that’s an amazing thing.

It’s worth getting excited about. It’s important to celebrate, which is why we applaud those companies who won this year’s Business Excellence Awards. It’s why we’ll keep talking about the boom, regardless of the naysayers.

This is an incredible time. We should be thankful for that this Christmas, if for no other reason than if you’re not prepared to face long lines, unstocked shelves and repetitive Christmas carols in the stores, you can always order online.

 Merry Christmas.

Denis Mahoney is chairman of the St. John’s Board of Trade.

Organizations: Board of Trade, Grant Thornton, Servicemaster

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