A former investment banker turned fish farmer, a company that provides background-screening services for new employees and a long-time manufacturer in Greater Waterbury have all been chosen to receive a 2019 Harold Webster Smith Award.  The Waterbury Regional Chamber’s Small Business Council will present the 21st annual awards during a breakfast on Thursday, January 24, 2019, from 7:45-9:30 a.m. at the Aria Wedding & Banquet Facility, 45 Murphy Road in Prospect. The annual awards recognize smaller companies and small businesses executives who have demonstrated achievement and excellence.

Recipients of the 2019 Harold Webster Smith Awards are Eric Pedersen, founder, and owner of Ideal Fish in Waterbury, as Entrepreneur of the Year; Employers Reference Source Inc. in Waterbury as Small Business of the Year, and The Braxton Manufacturing Company Inc. in Watertown as Manufacturer of the Year.


The 2019 breakfast also will feature James C. Smith, son of Harold Webster Smith, as keynote speaker. Mr. 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.


Smith’s father founded First Federal Savings of Waterbury in 1935 to help people build and buy homes. Harold Webster Smith served as CEO until 1937, and as chairman of the board until 1995, when First Federal was renamed Webster Bank in his honor. Today, Webster Bank is the largest financial service organization in New England, and each year, the Chamber honors small business leaders who, like Smith, have the vision to expand, diversify, and prosper.


“In honor of Harold Webster Smith’s legacy and small business inspiration, we recognize small companies and entrepreneurs who share his passion for business development and his commitment to the positive economic progress of the Waterbury region,” said Lynn Ward, president, and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber. “Throughout his career, Harold Webster Smith served as an inspiration for countless small businesses. We are very pleased to recognize the many companies that share his ideals.”


The 2018 Harold Webster Smith Entrepreneur of the Year Award recipient is Eric Pedersen, 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.


Pedersen also has plans to significantly expand Ideal Fish in Greater Waterbury, hoping to use the area’s industrial foundation and easy access to major food markets across the Northeast.


The 2019 Harold Webster Smith 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 later expanded into Newington. It provides employment-screening services that directly address employers’ concerns about workplace violence; employee fraud and theft; falsified employment applications; drug use; turnover, and negligent hiring liability.


Over the past three years, ERS has expanded its staff, now employing 11 people, and over the past year has seen a 10 percent growth in sales. Turmel also is involved in many nonprofit organizations, including serving on the Wellmore Board of Directors and chairing its annual Festival of Lights fundraiser. She also will serve as chairwoman of the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce’s Business Women’s Forum, the state’s largest annual professional development event for women.


The 2019 Harold Webster Smith Manufacturer of the Year Award recipient, Braxton Manufacturing Company Inc., is located at 858 Echo Lake Road in Watertown. Founded in 1964, Braxton specializes in deep-drawn metal forming. Over its more than five decades of existence, Braxton has developed a reputation for modifying and improving the accuracy of metal-forming machines, known as “eyelet machines.”


The company employs 165 people at its Watertown facility, and another 65 at its facility in Tustin, Calif. It continues to add workers, in part by participating in the state apprenticeship program, as well as offering training to existing employees to promote advancement.


Braxton also has demonstrated a strong commitment to the community, particularly by regularly being a sponsor of the Chamber’s annual STEM/Advanced Manufacturing & Technology Expo, which promotes manufacturing careers to middle and high school students in Greater Waterbury.


Premier Sponsor for the event is Webster Bank. Supporting Sponsor is Braxton Manufacturing Co. Inc. Small Business Sponsors are Onyx II Fine Jewelers; Pisani Steel & Fabrication Inc.; Secor, Cassidy & McPartland PC; Thomaston Savings Bank, and Worx. If you or your organization does business with any of our honorees, a sponsorship is a great way to show support for them.


For tickets to the Harold Webster Smith Awards Breakfast, or to learn more about the Waterbury Regional Chamber, visit www.waterburychamber.com, call 203-757-0701, or email info@waterburychamber.com.