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gta's top employers 2013

The Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort, nestled in the cliffs alongside a slice of white beachfront, was built by Don Smith, EllisDon’s founder, who first purchased the land in St. Lucia in 1985.Thomas Hart Shelby

One of the coolest (or warmest) employee perks offered by the Top GTA Employers comes from EllisDon Corp., a general contracting, construction and project management firm based in Mississauga.

EllisDon's staff, plus their friends and family, can book a vacation discounted by about 30 per cent in non-peak times at the company-owned and operated Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in St. Lucia.

The company has an emotional attachment to the place. The five-star luxury resort, nestled in the cliffs alongside a slice of white beachfront on Labrelotte Bay, was built by Don Smith, EllisDon's founder, who first purchased the land in 1985. It opened for business in December of 1989 and, except for an interlude when there was a change of ownership (the company sold and repurchased it), it has remained in the company's hands.

The lush 60-acre all-inclusive resort, open to the public as well as EllisDon's employees, offers a variety of accommodation from hotel rooms to three- and four-bedroom villas and estate villas, many with private plunge or full-sized pools. All have stunning views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. About 20 per cent of EllisDon's 1,164 employees have visited and a number of employees have also purchased a fractional interest in the resort's Private Residence Club.

"Employees have always been encouraged to visit the resort and many return on an annual basis," says Janine Szczepanowski, vice-president of leadership and development at EllisDon. "It gives employees an opportunity to have a vacation they might not otherwise have. It's absolutely gorgeous."

Getting access is simple for employees as EllisDon has an individual inside the company who co-ordinates the bookings by e-mail. Highlights include the bar on the beach – great for sipping Bowen's Angel, a dark rum cocktail made using two local liqueurs – three different kinds of restaurants and one of the best kids' clubs on the island for those who bring the family. Water sports from windsurfing to sailing and kayaking are included. Visitors can also hike through the rainforest to try to spot the St. Lucia parrot or search for the island's endangered green iguana. But watch out for the poisonous fer-de-lance, a pit viper, and the island's boa constrictor which grows to three metres.

While Ms. Szczepanowski says it's rare that they offer the resort for free, they have occasionally used it as a reward for extraordinary service. Beats a nice pat on the back.

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