Businesses in Sault Ste. Marie and other northern Ontario communities will now find it easier to fill out applications and hopefully win contracts to build components for Canada’s defence industry.
At the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) office Monday, Sault MP Terry Sheehan announced $785,740 in FedNor funding for a three-year project, the money to be used in part by the corporation to hire a project manager and coordinator to provide technical support to companies in preparing their bids and certification efforts as they seek defence contracts.
“The Canadian defence industry is made up of over 660 firms that generate $10 billion in sales and contribute close to 60,000 jobs in Canada,” said Sheehan, pointing to Algoma Steel as a prime local example, the company recently awarded a contract to manufacture steel plates for new Royal Canadian Navy ships.
“(Today’s funding) will now help small and medium enterprises compete for this work,” Sheehan said.
The FedNor funding will be spread out to support companies in the Sault, North Bay, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Timmins, the three-year project, its manager and coordinator to be located in the SSMEDC office.
“It’s exciting,” said Dave Rector, Rector Machine Works president, speaking to SooToday.
“With the creation of this new project manager position we’ll be able to look at Canada’s defence sector to diversify our company. Before, there was a lot of red tape you had to jump through to get your controlled goods designation. This person will be able to walk us through the process without having to designate a separate person to look at all the paperwork.”
Rector said his company has, in the past, looked at making drivelines for LAVs, eight-wheeled amphibious armoured reconnaissance vehicles used by the Canadian and U.S. armies.
“We’ll be making small parts, platework, anything like that, which is really exciting, it could mean bigger contracts to grow the business. If you’re not growing, you’re stagnant, and we want to be able to employ more people in Sault Ste. Marie,” Rector said.
“We’ll be on the information sector side, keeping the hardware and the computers safe through our Unique Data Systems which we acquired...the defence industry is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, but we’re excited,” said Brad Gregorini, NORPRO president, also in attendance at Monday’s funding announcement.
“We’ll be working hard to help local and pan-northern Ontario companies to find and enter into the multi-billion dollar defence industry and the opportunities that exist there...there are nine companies in Sault Ste. Marie that have the designation (to seek defence contracts, along with 22 companies across the north),” said Dan Hollingsworth, SSMEDC executive director.
“We’re expecting to hire the program manager in the next month and a half, then the manager will take the opportunity to hire a program coordinator. Companies are ready, and others want to get into this defence sector because it’s lucrative,” said John Febbraro, SSMEDC industrial and business development manager.
“We’ll help them out with certifications in controlled goods, quality management, website development, whatever they need, because there are specifications these prime contractors want to see on a website before they even go to visit a company,” Febbraro said.