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Hat trick for Alpha Technologies

A local power solutions company is three times lucky. Last Thursday, Alpha Technologies was named Business of the Year at the Burnaby Business Excellence Awards gala.
Alpha Technologies
Big win: Representatives from Alpha Technologies, including president and CEO Mark Schnarr, centre, received the Burnaby Business of the Year Award last week.

A local power solutions company is three times lucky.

Last Thursday, Alpha Technologies was named Business of the Year at the Burnaby Business Excellence Awards gala.

On Friday, the company won Exporter of the Year in the Advancing Technology and Innovation category at the B.C. Export Awards.

On Monday, Frost and Sullivan, a U.S. growth partnership company, announced it had awarded Alpha the 2013 Global Power Solutions Entrepreneurial Company of the Year Award.

"It's quite the three business days here, to say the least," Alpha president and CEO Mark Schnarr said in an interview Tuesday.

It's not a bad hat trick for the company that started out in a Burnaby basement in the mid-'70s.

Fred Kaiser, Alpha's chair and founder, developed a backup power system in his basement after a power outage prevented Delta Cable customers from seeing the end of the Grey Cup.

Kaiser sold it to Delta Cable and other Canadian cable companies, and then began selling in the States, according to Schnarr.

Alpha has grown into a $600 million company and now provides powering solutions for broadband cable, telecommunications and other industries, including traffic, security and renewable energy.

The company backs up some systems with wind or solar power, according to Schnarr.

"It's a large and growing market," he said.

The majority of Alpha's sales take place outside of Canada - about 80 per cent, Schnarr said. The company is looking to expand into new markets as well - Turkey, Central and South America, Russia and India.

"What we're trying to do is really grow our business outside of Canada," Schnarr said.

Expanding into other countries comes with it's own set of challenges, from dealing with regulatory bodies to cultural differences, he added.

"We've got to understand a lot about, sort of, the very unique powering requirements of customers in different countries," he said.

Schnarr has been with the company for six or seven years, he said, after working at B.C. Telecom and Telus for 30 years. He has lived all his life in Burnaby.

"Actually, I had retired," he said. "So this has been, actually it's been a heck of a lot of fun being involved with Alpha Technologies and watching the business grow as it has over the last five or six years."

Though it has been based in Burnaby for decades, the company didn't become a member of the Burnaby Board of Trade until fairly recently.

Alpha moved to its current location on Riverfront Gate four years ago, Schnarr said.

"I originally wasn't interested in joining because I wasn't getting any help from the city or the Burnaby Board of Trade at the time for bus service down here," he explained.

But Paul Holden, president and CEO of the board, offered to help the company resolve the issue, according to Schnarr.

"I'm exceptionally grateful of the work that Paul has done to help move the yardsticks there," he said.

Previously, before the move, Alpha had about 100 employees but now they're at 700, according to Schnarr, with nearly 600 in Burnaby.

The company's strong presence in the city made winning the Burnaby Business of the Year Award all that much sweeter, he added.

"It's nice to be recognized here," Schnarr said.

Alpha wasn't the only big winner at the Burnaby Business Excellence Awards gala.

Everland Natural Foods won Small Business of the Year; Corinne Kessel of Greenscape Design and Décor won Business Person of the Year; Burnaby Firefighters Charitable Society won Not-For-Profit Organization of the Year; False Creek Collision ECO won the Environmental Sustainability award; Alture Properties won the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award; Webtech Wireless won the Business Innovation Award; VanCity won the Burnaby Community Spirit Award; and Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers won the Family Friendly Organization Award.

ABC Recycling was inducted into the Burnaby Business Hall of Fame.