Big night takes off in a flurry
GEORGIE and Tim Latimer, of Air T&G Helicopters, thought the Ballina Business Awards night on Saturday was winding down when the high flying couple picked up the big one - Business of the Year.
“It was a surprise, but it was a nice pat on the back after 3½ years of blood, sweat and tears,” Mrs Latimer said yesterday. “What we do isn't an easy game.”
More than 350 local businesspeople attended The Northern Star Ballina Shire Business Awards at Ballina RSL.
Ballina Chamber of Commerce president Nadia Eliot-Burgess said the night showcased the strength of the area's businesses.
“The tremendous success of the awards program lies directly with the calibre of businesses operating in the Ballina Shire,” she said.
The Latimers, who moved to Ballina from Katherine in the Northern Territory to set up the business, started their company in February 2006 with a Bell 47 helicopter.
Today they have five copters in the air and are about to employ another full-time pilot, in addition to part-time administrative staff.
Air T&G Helicopters offers a flying school for budding pilots, aerial film and photography, and airport transport, all while helping fight fires and assist during times of floods.
“What we do is very diverse,” Mrs Latimer said. “One week we are training, the next we are fighting bushfires. I think this is one of the reasons we have been successful. You need to diversify to survive.”
Mrs Latimer said before moving to Ballina, she, her husband and business partner Tim, did extensive market research to back their business plan.
“We looked at things like population, expected population growth, local councils, and the area's aesthetics to see if people would want to fly around the area,” she said.
“But the biggest drawcard was Ballina Airport because it offered us the opportunity of transport flights.”
Other award winners included Craig Parry, of Eyereflect Photography, who won the New Business Award.