SAMSSA Hall of Fame – Fred Castron and Conrad C. Houle

The SAMSSA Hall of Fame recognizes management leaders who have developed and provided mining advancing technologies and/or products and services that  have improved the efficiencies of mining globally and domestically and have built or assisted in building companies in Northern Ontario that have proven to be successful.

The leaders in the mining supply and service industry have proven that mining is only as efficient and productive as the quality of products and services provided from mining supply companies.  Over 400 Northern Ontario mining supply and service companies can boast of their historical influence in mining camps worldwide and their significant employment opportunities for skilled personnel making this sector larger in number than all direct mining and refining jobs in Northern Ontario.

SAMSSA and the Mining World congratulate the following inductees into the SAMSSA Hall of Fame: Fred Castron, Cast Resource Equipment Limited and Conrad C. Houle, Chairman and CEO, Tracks and Wheels Equipment Brokers Inc.

Fred Castron

The son of a blue collar mine worker in Penticton, B.C., Fred grew up in the 30’s and 40’s with limited formal education but he developed a fondness for numbers and a willingness to learn which would later serve him well as a young partsman working in the warehouses of Blackwood Hodge Equipment Limited.

After a forty year career with Blackwood Hodge, the last 24 years in Sudbury, Fred achieved many personal milestones including parts manager London Branch until 1970 and Branch Manger and later Vice President of Northern Operations that included Sudbury, Val D’Or, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.  He retired in 1994 but during his tenure, he took advantage of any opportunity to increase his knowledge of supplier products, personal development courses offered by the company and mentoring programs.

His career became his formal training and his own drive to succeed guaranteed that he would. In 1994 he began Cast Resource Equipment Limited with his partner and together they have grown the business into a group of four companies that collectively employ almost 75 people.  At Cast Resource his team set a new standard for remanufacturing underground equipment offering an unprecedented new machine warranty and cost per hour guaranties. 

He expanded the customer base around the world to include England, Ireland, USA, South Africa, South America and Mexico.  The company pioneered Tele Robotic scoop tram Operation and Maintenance at INCO Ontario mines.

As impressive as his business accomplishments, are the countless volunteer hours he has contributed including;
• Coaching many minor hockey and baseball teams
• Fundraising for various causes including “The Children of Cancer” event that raised money to help house families while away from home with their children stricken with the disease.
• Over ten years of fundraising for PC Party of Ontario both locally and federally
• Local CIM executive member for over ten years
• Largest small business contribution ever to United Way in 2005.

Fred has been involved in over $1 billion dollar worth of equipment and parts sales over a 54 year career.  Just recently, Fred opened an office Nevada.  From his humble beginnings Fred has risen to the executive level through hard work, and dedication to the industry and to his community.

Conrad C. Houle

“Success isn’t how far you go, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”  A personal philosophy and motto lived and honoured by Conrad Houle, President of Tracks and Wheels Equipment Brokers Inc.
Houle had a good life growing up.  A big family with no money, he was always well looked after.  The son of a hard rock miner, he was more interested in working than in school.  Houle says his mind was better occupied when he was working or doing physical labour.

Houle’s biggest educational experience began in the parts business in the mid 50’s.  His education at the time was a mine manager by the name of Tino Luoma.  Luoma taught Houle more than simple math and business.  Houle learned chances could be taken on him, and will always be grateful for the breaks and opportunities Tino gave him.

The adventurous Houle went on to work for a few other companies, including UH and Craig Auto Electric, who gave him the opportunity to progress in the company.

Venturing on into the sales of heavy equipment, Houle worked for VOB Equipment, Brouzes Equipment, Sheridan Equipment, Equipment Sales and Service, and Caterpillar Crothers Ltd., where he learned the business and was able to move on to his most exciting learning experience.

With 20 years in the heavy equipment industry and a dream, the then 42-year-old Houle became restless.  On February 1, 1980, with $350 in his pocket, Houle and his wife, Sheila, started what is now Tracks and Wheels Equipment Brokers Inc.

Operating out of their home in the beginning, Houle would buy and sell equipment.  They maintained a good clientele because they “went out and found what their customers wanted”.  Venturing into major lines was one of the best risks for Tracks and Wheels.  They can proudly say that they are the largest Kubota dealer in all of Canada.

The mining industry still remains at the core of Tracks and Wheels’ operations, although the addition of the Case and Kubota lines has greatly expanded their scope propelling them beyond mining applications into construction and forestry as well.

Manufacturing also plays a major role, extending the range of the business into the global arena.  The “Mine-Master” line of equipment, developed and manufactured by Tracks and Wheels, has been tried and tested and given the stamp of approval by industry giants such as Xstrata, and CVRD INCO.

Houle has built the company to the existing size of over 100 highly qualified and motivated employees, working out of five locations in Ontario and Manitoba.

Tracks and Wheels is a globally operating company which still holds to its core philosophy of “Service-Service-Service”.

Conrad Houle says, “Getting bigger is not the most important thing in life, but getting better and serving a client’s needs is the most important aspect of a business.  Despite all the competition, the main ingredient of success is service”.

Houle also provide superb service to the community in which he resides.  If you are fundraising and you need something, you can be sure that Houle will step up the plate.  He gives his time, energy and monies to many organizations within the Greater Sudbury area.  Over the years, Houle has helped out Sudbury Regional Cancer Centre, United Way, Big Brothers, Red Cross and was instrumental in getting the Strokes for Hope Golf Tournament up and running. 

There is not a man in town that can compete with Houle’s generous nature.  He knows full well that you get back only what you put in both in business and in the community in which you reside…and he does both very well.