SAMSSA celebrates ten years, 2003-2013 – by Dick DeStefano (Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal – February 2014)

Dick DeStefano is the Executive Director of Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA).  This column was originally published in the February 2014 issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal.

After 10 years of effort and service, the Sudbury Mining Supply & Service Association (SAMSSA) has become a significant presence in the Northern Ontario mining cluster.

SAMSSA’s annual meeting on December 4th was a testament to the association’s success, attracting 175 representatives from its 140-strong membership of corporate and associated companies and agencies.

There were two special honourees, the announcement of a new board of directors, and the attendance of Vale executives who announced the return of a local purchasing team to Sudbury, much to the pleasure of the audience.

SAMSSA has created a dynamic forum for it members to not only market and promote their expertise globally, but also to establish a community or network to further the members’ common goals.

Kirk Petroski, outgoing president, remarked, “SAMSSA has played a major role in identifying sources and building networks that have made many companies expand their horizons over the past 10 years.”

The new board members were introduced and confirmed for two years by the attendees. They include president Mike Mayhew, practice leader and director of global mining with Stantec; vice-president Tom Palangio, president of Wipware; treasurer Andre Ruest, general manager, B&D Manufacturing; secretary, Dave Rector, manager of business development, Rector Machinery; and director Alicia Woods, director of sales for North America, MacLean Engineering.

My favourite moments at this event are the honouring of our pioneers who are inducted into the SAMSSA Hall of Fame.
Historically, it has been our practice to not only choose deserving and respected individuals, but also to have a family member provide a personal profile of an honouree, adding an important dimension to the awards.

This year, the honourees were Bill Fuller, founder of Abraflex, and Darryl Lake, founder of NORCAT. Bill Fuller Bill’s son, Jeff Fuller, provided a number of amusing stories about his father’s entrepreneurship and adventures.

In 1974, Bill was promoted to manager of Allis Chalmers’ northern district. He was responsible for sales and service for northeastern Quebec, Northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The catch was the job was in Sudbury. His friends in Vancouver logically asked why he wanted to move to the moon.

Bill was undeterred and found a place in the woods, way out on the shores of Ramsey Lake. He packed up his young family and drove across the country to Sudbury.

While he was in Sudbury, Allis Chalmers purchased Elliott Rubber and Plastic and Bill took the lead as general manager of the new division.

“In 1981, Bill came home and said, ‘Donna, I have a plan. I quit my job. We’re mortgaging the house and I’m going into business,’” recalled son, Jeff.

That was the birth of Abraflex, which did rubber lining, rubber press moulding, urethane moulding, and pipe spool fabrication.

Bill developed a diversified product mix and export market. Abraflex served Northern Ontario, Western Canada, the U.S., Russia, and South America (which famously and predictably copied the pump parts he sold them).

“Bill got a call out the blue asking him if he was interested in doing some lining at a big project in Toronto. He laughed it off at first, but soon realized they were serious and Abraflex received probably their most talked about job – rubber lining the beer coolers at the Skydome,” said Jeff.

Darryl Lake Darryl Lake has provided the mining industry with a unique model of training and innovation through NORCAT.
Darryl Lake’s daughter and granddaughter provided some sensitive insights into their father’s, and grandfather’s dynamic career.

Darryl was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, and worked as a research metallurgist at Algoma Steel. It was there that he realized he wanted to teach.

“We all moved to Sudbury in 1968 so dad could teach at Cambrian College,” recalled his daughter. “At Cambrian, dad become co-ordinator of the Chemistry, Metallurgy and Physics department and even had a greenhouse outside of his office. He then became chair of that department for a number of years”.

Next came being dean of health sciences, trades and technology. While at Cambrian, Darryl started the first bilingual Chemistry program in Ontario, the Northeastern Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Resource Centre and the Ontario Centre for Ground Control Training, all as a leadup to founding NORCAT.

NORCAT has grown its facilities to over 70,000 square feet. The centre is used by clients, long-term residents, and training and development services, as well as for incubator and event space. NORCAT also has one of the first operating mines dedicated to training.