Pan-Northern Ontario Initiative Seeks Saskatchewan Market – by Adelle Larmour

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business  provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. This article was posted on their website January 21, 2011.

More than $100 billion to be spent in Saskatchewan within the next decade

Northern Ontario companies stand to cash in on billons being spent in Saskatchewan on potash (above) and uranium mining over the next decade. More than $100 billion is expected to be invested in Saskatchewan over the next decade and some Northern Ontario businesses want a piece of the action.

Twenty-two businesses from across northeastern Ontario have united in a pan-Northern initiative under the auspices of Ontario’s North Economic Development Corporation (ONEDC), a non-profit corporation representing the five major Northern Ontario cities.

ONEDC (pronounced One DC), created to implement pan-Northern economic development initiatives, has been working with the support of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry (MNDMF) and in-market consultants to help facilitate business opportunities for Northern Ontario suppliers.

To gain market intelligence about the various industries in Saskatchewan, and provide such information to the 22 Northern Ontario companies, Lester Cey, a consultant with LPC Consulting, was hired in May 2010.

Cey, a 30-year veteran of the Saskatchewan communications industry, spent the last decade as an account executive in the mining industry. His experience provides the networking capabilities to link suppliers to the Saskatchewan markets.

On Dec. 1, Cey was one of several consultants that participated in a series of presentations to Northern Ontario supply and service businesses on export development opportunities, sponsored by ONEDC and MNDMF.

Saskatchewan is the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash and uranium, its two main mining industries.

“Potash is about food, and uranium is about energy,” Cey said. “We have two huge players on a world scale that are right in our backyard.”

Investments of approximately $11 billion in brownfield expansions and $12 billion in new potash mines are underway.

Saskatchewan also produces 22 per cent of the world’s uranium. Cameco’s uranium Millennium Mine project will be the province’s first greenfield mine in 40 years. Three billion dollars is invested in the oil patch annually, another potential market poised for growth.

The agriculture industry is worth $500 million and is anticipated to hold its own. There are plans to spend about $2.7 billion over the next decade on infrastructure development for roads and a gas turbine power plant.

With a population of 1 million, Cey said there are some gaps that need to be filled, and Northern Ontario suppliers have the expertise and products to fill them.

Cey’s suggestions to get a foothold in the Saskatchewan market are to establish partnerships with suppliers and First Nations, and to leverage existing relationships with Northern Ontario mining experts now living and working in the province. As well, he suggests companies differentiate themselves, and go out to meet the people face-to-face.

“They want to see that you’ve made a commitment to our province,” he said. “It is still a handshake type of province…It is one of the best ways to do business. The success rate has been about that.”

And of course, putting up a storefront and employing local people puts companies on the ground floor.

Consortium members BDI Canada and TESC Integrated Construction Services have made the investment to set up shop in Saskatoon.

BDI Canada specializes in industrial products like bearings, power transmission, industrial and safety, and fluid power. Regional manager Roland Miron said Cey helps open the doors to bigger companies.

“He is on the ground and we can use his contact and knowledge to meet with the senior management of bigger companies,” said Miron. Miron established an 8,500-square-foot facility, has six local employees and is developing a customer base by focusing on smaller businesses and infrastructure.

In December, he had about 60 to 70 active accounts, a number that grows every month. He added that Saskatchewan is very business-friendly.

“Now that we’re in place, we can tackle the bigger corporate customers. For us, that is where the consortium is excellent.”

Sudbury-based TESC, a contracting company, also had set up a storefront about six months prior to joining the consortium.

TESC president and CEO Dario Zulich purchased a 10,000-square-foot building and hired about 30 employees. He said that establishing a business out there helps to break down barriers and shows a commitment to local people and businesses.

As a consortium member, Zulich said Cey has helped facilitate introductions, arrange meetings and be the initial voice of mining expertise for Northern Ontario. However, the members must take it from there and continue to foster relationships with Saskatchewan companies in order to obtain their trust and business.

“You have to be face-to-face,” Zulich said. “The consortium may arrange for a meeting, but you have to be out there, have a meeting and shake hands.”