January 2, 2019

Waterbury chamber announces 2019 award winners

Ideal Fish founder Eric Pedersen is the Waterbury Chamber's 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year.

A former investment banker-turned-fish farmer, a company that provides background-screening services for new employees and a venerable Watertown manufacturer have been tapped to receive the 2019 Harold Webster Smith Awards from the Waterbury Regional Chamber.

The chamber's Small Business Council will present the 21st annual awards during a Jan. 24 breakfast at the Aria Wedding & Banquet Facility in Prospect. The awards recognize smaller companies and small-business executives who have demonstrated achievement and excellence.

This year's recipients are: Eric Pedersen, founder and owner of Ideal Fish in Waterbury, Entrepreneur of the Year; Employers Reference Source Inc. in Waterbury, Small Business of the Year; and the Braxton Manufacturing Co. in Watertown, Manufacturer of the Year.

The breakfast also will feature James C. Smith, son of awards namesake Harold Webster Smith, as keynote speaker. Smith, who retired as CEO of Webster Bank in 2018, will discuss his work as co-chairman of the state Commission on Fiscal Stability & Economic Growth, which recently issued an updated version of its recommendations for solving the state's financial crisis.

Entrepreneur of the Year Eric Pedersen is founder, president and chief executive officer of Ideal Fish, an aquaculture company at 64 Avenue of Industry in Waterbury that annually produces 150 tons of European seabass, also known as Branzino. It is the largest indoor saltwater fish farm in the country.

In addition to developing a state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system for his saltwater fish, Pedersen developed an innovative process to raise freshwater produce in an aquaponics system that uses the by-products of his aquaculture system as nutrients for growing healthy, organic vegetables.

Small Business of the Year Award recipient is Employers Reference Source (ERS) at 1587 Hamilton Ave. in Waterbury. Founded in 1993 by the father of the current owner, Lori Turmel, ERS provides employment-screening services that address employers' concerns about workplace violence, employee fraud and theft, falsified employment applications, drug use, turnover, and negligent hiring liability.

Founded in 1964, Manufacturer of the Year Braxton Manufacturing of Watertown specializes in deep-drawn metal forming. Over its more than a half-century in business, Braxton has developed a reputation for modifying and improving the accuracy of metal-forming machines, known as "eyelet machines."

For more information about or tickets to the awards breakfast, visit waterburychamber.com, phone 203-757-0701, or email info@waterburychamber.com.

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