There is no question that Jim Taggart, long-time chairman of Taggart Group of Companies, is a successful and generous businessman in our community. A self-promoter he most definitely is not.
Case in point: his natural reaction when asked about his 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award is to immediately deflect praise.
“I’m just part of a family business and I’m the old guy, so I get the titles, but if there’s any award deserved, it’s deserved by the group,” Taggart, 79, said in a phone interview.
Taggart is the eleventh recipient of the award, jointly presented by Ottawa Business Journal and the Ottawa Board of Trade (OBoT). The award, part of the Best Ottawa Business Awards, is presented to a businessperson who demonstrates long-term business success, innovation and perseverance, strong leadership and a legacy of community building. The selection process involves OBJ, OBoT and past recipients.
Taggart Group’s roots date back to the 1940s, when founder Harold Taggart built a few dozen homes for returning war veterans and, recognizing an opportunity in servicing the land, went out and bought the biggest shovel he could find to start an infrastructure company. Seventy-three years later, Taggart Group is a major employer in the construction and real estate business in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. The group, which includes Taggart Construction, Doran Contractors, Tamarack Homes, Taggart Realty Management and Tartan Homes, now has second- and third-generation family members working together for the common good.
Said Taggart: “My father put in place a plan for how he felt our company should evolve. I think it was a plan that made our family stick together and not go in different directions. It allowed everybody in the family to earn a decent living if they chose to stick with the family business.”
The family is well known for its philanthropic support of Ottawa charities, having donated millions to local causes. The family has expanded through marriage to include the Parkes, and runs its own Taggart Parkes Foundation. This June, for example, the foundation donated $1.4 million to a new south-end clubhouse for BCG Ottawa. “I’m proud of the fact that we try to run an honest, ethical business and that we try to give back to the community that we earn our living in,” said Taggart.
Taggart was “a very obvious choice” for the award, said former Ottawa mayor Jim Durrell, who is one of the former recipients and helped with the selection process. “It’s an award, frankly, that we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about. It’s easy to be a flash in the pan, to be a success for a couple of years, but a Lifetime Achievement recipient is somebody who has made a contribution to the betterment of Ottawa for a long period of time.”
Taggart is what you might call a reluctant recipient.
“He’s certainly not someone who likes to draw attention to himself,” said former award winner Roger Greenberg, executive chairman of the Minto Group. He explained how Taggart, due to his modest nature, needed to be encouraged by family members to accept the honour, as a way of celebrating the family business as a whole.
Yet, Taggart is very deserving of the recognition, both for his family’s philanthropy and for his guidance of the company, Greenberg continued. “I do believe it’s the leader who sets the tone.”
Former award recipient and retired construction chairwoman Shirley Westeinde sees Taggart Group as a positive example of a multigenerational family-owned business. “For them to all work together, and we know running any family business can be a challenge, I feel that the Taggarts are doing it quite well,” said Westeinde. “I know that Jim has played a major role in that.”
Ian Sherman, chair of the Ottawa Board of Trade and consultant at EY, sponsor of the Lifetime Achievement Award, said the award underscores the importance of family businesses.
"When an honouree such as Jim Taggart shares it so genuinely with his family, it also serves to promote the indispensable role that family businesses play in the economy," said Sherman. “The award this year truly recognizes not only Jim’s lifetime of achievements, but also family business leadership that is multigenerational with excellence focused on a variety of business dimensions: unity of family, tradition, passion, purpose, values, society and commitment to community.”
OBJ publisher Michael Curran said the Lifetime Achievement Award is a big part of the fall business celebration.
“Along with recognition for the outstanding CEO, CFO and newsmaker, the Lifetime Achievement award is the biggest honour we can bestow on a local business leader,” said Curran. “In this case, we’re recognizing a family business that dates back almost three quarters of a century. Imagine that. It’s quite incredible to remain vibrant and relevant for that long.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented during the Best Ottawa Business Awards (the BOBs) on Thursday, Nov. 25. The awards event is being broadcast on Rogers TV and YouTube beginning at 8 pm.
Past recipients of Lifetime Achievement
2011: Jim Durrell
2012: John Kelly
2013: Wes Nicol
2014: Roger Greenberg
2015: Shirley Westeinde
2016: Michael Potter
2017: John Ruddy
2018: Gordon Reid
2019: Dr. Jack Kitts
2020: Rob Ashe