GRACEKENNEDY Ltd and the Hendrickson family of companies are this year's winners of the Jamaica Observer Business Leader Corporate Award.
The two were awarded for their continued contribution to the economy since Independence at a gala awards ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston last night.
According to the Award Selection Committee, the historic decision to name two winners resulted from the fact that both companies could not be separated by the scope, depth or quality of their impact on the Jamaican economy over the past 50 years.
The eight-member committee said that at its meeting last Friday to select the winner, it was locked in a four-to-four vote over who should be named Business Leader Corporate.
In these circumstances, the committee chairman has the right to cast the deciding vote, however, he decided that such a weighty question should not come down to his vote.
The committee therefore reported that the chairman was persuaded that there was nothing to separate the sterling contribution of the two companies and as such made the unprecedented decision.
The committee said it was difficult and heart-rending to have to narrow the list of companies — many of which were more than worthy to be nominated for the award — from 35 to the final 15.
During its deliberation on Friday, the committee further narrowed the field to six.
Last night, both GraceKennedy Chairman Douglas Orane and Group CEO Don Wehby, as well as Hendrickson family patriarch Karl Hendrickson and his son Garry thanked the Observer and said they were humbled by the award, which is now in its 16th year.
With 60 subsidiaries and associates cutting across almost every sphere of economic endeavour, GraceKennedy is Jamaica's ultimate conglomerate.
Grace earned $58.2 billion in gross revenue last year. Not only was its sales the highest among all the companies listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, it bettered the second place income generator — National Commercial Bank — by $13.5 billion.
The group generated $16 billion from exports to Europe, the USA and Africa last year, which dwarfed the country's US$117 million (about $10 billion) earnings from sugar export, Jamaica's second most important commodity export.
The Hendrickson family of companies include National Bakery Ltd, Jamaica's largest maker of breads, buns and other baked items. The group also owns and operates 2,300 rooms in Jamaica including the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston and the Holiday Inn Montego Bay, and agro-processor Caribbean Broilers.
At this stage of their journey, which began 60 years ago, they provide jobs for 4,500 Jamaicans, and have invested hundreds of millions of hard currency in expansion, plant upgrade and hotel acquisitions and refurbishing, over the last 10 years.
Fifteen companies were nominated for the Corporate Award in the programme that this year turned the spotlight on firms that have, and continue to be major contributors to the economy of post-Independence Jamaica.
In addition to GraceKennedy and the Hendrickson family, the nominees were West Indies Home Contractors, Jamaica Producers Group, Caribbean Cement Company Ltd, Pan Jamaican Investment Trust Ltd, Wisynco Group, Victoria Mutual Building Society, Red Stripe, Worthy Park Sugar Estate Ltd, the Gleaner Company Ltd, Scotiabank Jamaica Ltd, Jamaica Broilers Group, Jamaica National Group, and J Wray and Nephew Ltd.
The decision by the Observer to focus on companies represented a departure from the 15-year tradition of the Business Leader programme of nominating individuals rather than corporations. Given Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, the newspaper "wanted to demonstrate all the things that have gone right with Jamaica over the past 50 years".
This year, four corporate sponsors joined with the Observer to bring the project to fruition, all citing as one of the bases for their support, the opportunity that the long-term success of these corporations present as a potential roadmap for the survival and success of younger companies within the economy.
The sponsors were: Digicel Jamaica Ltd, MegaMart, Supreme Ventures, and J Wray and Nephew. The Carreras Group is an endorser of the programme.