Business Profiles

Gerry Price to receive IDEA: Local business visionary will be honoured in May

Gerry Price, Chairman and CEO, Price Group of Companies, and 2024 International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award (IDEA) recipient. Photo Credit: Thomas Fricke Photography

The selection committee for next year’s International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award cast its net around the world but ultimately found its 2024 recipient in its own backyard.

Gerry Price, CEO of Price Industries, a Winnipeg-based manufacturer of air distribution products, will be feted by the Manitoba business community at the IDEA dinner at the RBC Convention Centre on May 30, 2024.

Arni Thorsteinson, long-time chair of the IDEA committee who is retiring from the role at the end of December, says Price’s business accomplishments are virtually impossible to beat.

“The entrepreneurial achievement of taking Price Industries back in the late 1970s from $30 million in sales to an expected $1.5 billion next year is hard to match anywhere in the world,” he says.

He adds that Price, like Hartley Richardson, Izzy Asper and Albert Cohen before him, is a fantastic role model for students at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, because he has proven it is possible to be a significant international player without leaving home.

“Most of Price Industries’ growth has come in the U.S. market but they’ve maintained their head office, research centre and the core of their business in Winnipeg. It’s an international business but it’s firmly anchored here,” he says.

Next year’s event will mark the 40th anniversary of IDEA and AnnaMaria Toppazzini, CEO of the Associates, is expecting more than 1,500 attendees, which would make it the biggest in its history.

Bruno Silvestre, (Dean of the Asper School), Susan Glass (Chair of the National Arts Centre Foundation), Arni Thorsteinson (President of Shelter Canadian Properties), Anthony von Mandl (IDEA 2023 recipient), Denise Zaporzan (Chair of the Associates) and University of Manitoba President Michael Benarroch at the IDEA 2023 School Presentation on May 4, 2023.

The Associates, a group of business leaders dedicated to advancing business education of the next generation, boast 365 members—its highest total ever—plus there are 180 members of the Young Associates (39-and-under) making for nearly 550 industry leaders supporting business education at the Asper School. The Associates are the hosts and organizers of IDEA.

Each year previous IDEA recipients are invited to attend the gala and affiliated events and you can tell their numbers by the volume of private jets landing in Winnipeg a day or two beforehand, Toppazzini says.

With so much growth at Price Industries’ U.S. head office in Atlanta, Price may even have played a role in WestJet Airlines’ decision to launch a direct flight between Winnipeg and the capital of Georgia, which started in September.

“He is truly a made-in-Manitoba success story,” she says.

Asper students are encouraged to take part in the events surrounding IDEA, including a lecture hall presentation—complete with a question and answer session—at the Asper School, and volunteering and participating at the gala.

Thorsteinson, who will remain on the IDEA committee, is succeeded as chair by Paul Soubry, CEO of bus manufacturer NFI Group. Thorsteinson says while the IDEA’s concept has remained the same throughout its history, the number of people who attend IDEA and the Associates’ ability to raise money for the business school have increased significantly over four decades.

“We used to raise between $15,000 to $25,000, today we raise up to $400,000. It’s a very important source of income for the Asper School,” he says.

The Young Associates, meanwhile, will also be handing out some hardware.

Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports + Entertainment, owners of the Winnipeg Jets and a burgeoning real estate empire, will be presented with the IGNITE Award on September 18, 2024.

He’s the third recipient of the IGNITE Award, which is presented to a local thought leader whose passion and skills have created a legacy in business and for the city and province.As business in the province becomes increasingly diversified, the Associates’ roster continues to expand and represent non-traditional areas, such as not-for-profits, charitable foundations as well as medical and legal corporations.

“Our goal is for every Associate to have at least one touch point with the Asper School during the year. We had a 75 per cent engagement record last year,” Toppazzini says.

“We’re very fortunate to have such passionate members with time and influence to advance business education in Manitoba and make an impact in students’ lives. There is no better organization for that than the Associates.”

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