THE AWARDS just keep coming for Clarence ship building and repair business Harwood Marine.
On Saturday night, the business, which has traded in the region for more than 40 years, picked the Clarence Valley Business Excellence Awards Business of the Year title.
And turning it into a winning trifecta, Harwood Marine apprentice Sean Waite was named Trainee or Apprentice of the Year and the business also won its Trade, Industry & Manufacturing category award.
Managing director Ross Roberts said this award probably meant more to the business than its Northern Rivers Business Awards win earlier this year, where Mr Roberts was named the Business Leader of the Year.
"Here we are among our friends and peers," Mr Roberts said.
"That's why it's so gratifying to do well," he said.
"We had our senior employees and management staff at the awards. It was a good turn-out."
Mr Roberts said awards such as the Business Excellence Awards were important for his company.
"It helps build your profile," he said. "Fair enough, the Government is saying it doesn't want to build ships for the Navy, but it does have to repair them.
"We have the facilities to do this and getting this kind of recognition helps us."
Harwood Marine, which employees 48 people including 14 apprentices, is bucking the trend with its employment record.
"Around 51% of our employees are aged under 30," Mr Roberts said.
"I know we're a business that needs strong, skilled workers, but the only way you can get them is to make them.
"In a time when a lot of young people are leaving the region to find work, we are providing them with an incentive to stay."
He was thrilled to see Mr Waite pick up the Apprentice of the Year.
"He's a bit different, being a mature age apprentice, but he has done very well for himself," he said.
"He came to us after working in different fields, but showed aptitude for his trade.
"Like a lot of our employees, he has that country mentality of taking responsibility for his work."
The future is also looking promising for the industry, which has plans to expand its site on the river bank downstream from the
Harwood Sugar Mill.
"We've got bookings up until the middle of next year," Mr Roberts said.
"One of the jobs I'm looking forward to doing is repairs of a floating dock," he said.
"Because of its shape, it's going to be one of those jobs that pose a real challenge to us."
Harwood Marine has a chance for more awards this year as its category win in the Northern Rivers Business Awards makes the company a finalist in the NSW Business Chamber State Business Awards, to be held in Sydney on Friday, November 28.