Kazuko celebrates 25 years ownership at PWB
Kazuko Komatsu was born in Japan and comes from a family endowed with a rich Samurai heritage.
She was brought up to cherish many of the Samurai principles such as benevolence (love, affection for others, sympathy and nobility of feeling are regarded as the highest attributes of the soul); courage (a virtue only in the cause of righteousness; and honor (a vivid consciousness of personal dignity and worth is implicit in the word honor.
After moving from Japan to Canada in the late 1970s, Kazuko began buying and exporting Canadian goods to Japan. This included such things as herring, peat moss, and log homes. One of those products was Dragon dry beer. In 1990, however, the owners of Pacific Western Brewing had run into serious financial difficulties; even the unionized employees had not been paid for two months, and efforts to sell the operation to Cariboo’s larger competitors such as Labatt and Molsons were unsuccessful. Kazuko decided to buy the company and a year later, becoming the brewery’s seventh and longest-serving owner and the first Asian-Canadian brewery owner in Canada.
After Kazuko took ownership of the company, rather than eliminate the union, she embraced it and salvaged 50 well-paying jobs. She went about rebuilding the company using two basic concepts: quality and innovation. Kazuko pursued and obtained the ISO 9001 quality manufacturing standard in 2004 – a first for a brewery in North America. This was followed up in 2005 when the brewery became the first Canadian brewery to be awarded a gold medal at the Industry International Awards in Munich, Germany. Kazuko, furthermore, used innovation to develop and market a low-malt beer in Japan, known as Happoshu, that became popular among consumers for having a lower tax than higher malt beers.
Throughout the 25 years that Kazuko has owned PWB, she has grown the business, the workforce and its contributions to the Prince George Community as well as the BC and Alberta communities emphasizing three things: quality, quality, and quality.
PWB has supported many community initiatives such as Water Shoreline Clean-up projects, University of Northern BC, Kordyban Cancer Treatment Lodge, reforestation, salmon stock rehabilitation, the Peak Performance Project in support of music artists, Spirit of the North Health Care Foundation and support to local athletes and teams through the Hometown Heroes Program as well as its successful bid to become an official sponsor of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Kazuko has overcome significant challenges to make contributions to her community as follows:
- Despite not being fluent in English, Kazuko worked hard to become proficient in the English language and thrive in the Canadian business community.
- Even though her brewery is located in the Interior, Kazuko has sought out markets for PWB products throughout the rest of BC, in Alberta, Japan, US, China, Argentina, France, and Russia.
- While classified as a mid-sized brewery in BC, PWB is a small brewery in comparison to its large global competitors such as Labatt and Molsons. Despite its relative small size, Kazuko has continued to develop PWB globally thereby she has been able to give back to the local and provincial community. Kazuko has done this while re-building PWB and actively competing against these much larger breweries with a global reach. The fact that six previous owners were incapable of making it a viable business is a testament to Kazuko's leadership strength.
1) BC Senior Men's Baseball donations: Ten-year sponsorship ($130K) enabling winning teams to travel to host cities for the Western Conference and National championships.
2) Peak Performance donations have assisted new and emerging young BC music artists develop their full potential.
3) Spirit of the North Health Care Foundation: monetary assistance with the purchase of medical equipment to support improved healthcare at the University Hospital of Northern BC, Prince George, BC.
4) University of Northern BC: helped support students and education with contributions to the library, scholarships, bursaries, and the Charles Jago Northern Sport centre.
5) Simon Fraser University: helped establish the Jack Austin Center for Asia Pacific Business Studies to stimulate research and community outreach.
6) Established Hometown Heroes program to support local athletes reach their national or international dreams with bursaries.
7) Contributed $100K to the Building of Kordyban Lodge operated by the Canadian Cancer Society to assist patients recovering from or undergoing treatment.
8) Developed a program to replant BC forests that have been devastated by the effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle; this was applauded by the Ministry of Forestry. PWB is committed to replanting one million trees by 2020.
9) Supporting the Priest Valley Vicars Rugby Club which is an over 40 years of age rugby team located in Okanagan Valley.
10) University of Alberta Hospital contributions to help fund the purchase of a state of the art Gamma knife for delicate brain surgeries.
11) Support of Canuck Place Children's Hospice providing specialized pediatric palliative care for children living with a life-threatening illness and support for their families.
12) PWB successfully became an Official Sponsor of the 2015 Canada Winter Games that were held in Prince George, BC. PWB supported the community and Canadian athletes as a sponsor.
Impact/Reach of Contributions
The wide support that Kazuko has provided to so many organizations has reached many people and had a positive benefit to both the local Prince George community as well as the larger BC province.
In summary, Kazuko's contributions through PWB have reached the following individuals, groups, or communities:
1) Young up and coming athletes through PWB's Hometown Heroes program and its sponsorship of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
2) Young Musical Artists through its contributions to the Peak Performance project.
3) The sick, injured, or elderly through contributions to hospitals in BC/Alberta, Canuck place Children's Hospice, and the Cancer Society's Kordyban Lodge.
4) The community and lumber and silviculture industries in BC through contributions to reforest BC trees.
5) Students and the pursuit of higher learning through contributions to UNBC and SFU.
6) The health of salmon bearing streams in Powell River, Comox, and Port Alberni through contributions and support of volunteer salmon stock rehabilitation groups.