Kirkland Lake explosives manufacturer aims for bigger market share – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – August 12, 2014)

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. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business

Maintaining the status quo doesn’t cut it with Nordex Explosives president and CEO Jim Taylor. “You’ve got to always be looking for something new. Whether it’s new clients, new ideas, or a new something, you’ve got to keep moving forward.”

That philosophy and a well-rounded product line have propelled the Kirkland Lake explosives maker’s expansion into Western Canada.

The 44-year-old, publicly-traded firm is a manufacturer and distributor of emulsion and ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil) products for the mining, quarry and construction industries.

Within the last year, it’s also become the exclusive Canadian manufacturer and supplier of the Buttbuster perimeter control products made by Johnex Explosives of Australia.

It’s led to the installation of an exclusive production line at the Kirkland Lake facility on Adams Mine Road late last year, and the hiring of 18 new employees to run it, with enough capacity to possibly go North America-wide.

“We have room for growth,” said Taylor. “We’ve got products for just about every application underground and on surface, and they’re being made here.”

The company has a new joint venture partner in Vancouver with plans for a sales and distribution site in that province and two other spots being considered for a manufacturing plant slated to begin operations later this year.

Taylor won’t divulge the name of his B.C. partner except to say it’s a large conglomerate that has several companies within the construction and mining industries. “They’re very well connected into the industries that we’re looking at.”

Nordex has come a long way from when Taylor first arrived as a consultant in 2003.

The moribund company was basically “out of business,” he said, with only three employees on the payroll. But its inherent value was that the property was licensed to manufacture explosives.

“I knew absolutely nothing about explosives when I came here. It’s all been by osmosis,” said Taylor, who has a psychology degree and had previously done consulting for economic development and junior mining projects.

Nordex manufactured some patented niche products, but neither made or supplied anything proprietary. To move things forward, Taylor said they needed to be able to supply a full product line in order to make any headway.

They restarted primarily as a distributor and began manufacturing more and more of their own products by listening to what potential clients were telling them.

“We took all of that information and set about trying to come up with products and supporting equipment that would emphasis the positives and overcome the negatives.”

Today, the proof is in the quarterly results.

The company announced record sales of more than $4.8 million in its fourth quarter of 2013 and tabulated $3.4 million in sales through the first two months of this year.

“We have grown considerably from a company in 2003 that did considerably less than a million in sales to a company this year that the expectation is we’ll do 20 times what we were doing then.”

Taylor said the company now has enough equipment and products in place to “aggressively pursue a market share.”

Besides the company’s B.C. presence, Taylor said he has other plans in the works that could lead to more manufacturing locations across Canada and the U.S.

“The next thing for us is logical growth. It just can’t be all over the place.”

Compared to the 1980s, when Nordex was tied to the hip of the Adams and Sherman iron mines, the company made a conscious decision to diversify its client base.

“The more diversification you can have, the more secure the company will be.”

Within the last couple of years, Nordex has opened offices in Sudbury and on Manitoulin Island, the latter close to a large quarry operator, and it also maintains a Huntsville storage facility to serve quarry companies that supply aggregate to southern Ontario.

Taylor said they’ve also placed an emphasis on training customers on how best to use their products effectively and efficiently by creating an entire technical support team.

The company has also invested time and money on research and development.

It’s new Scorpion loading system and underground carrier was developed in-house and centred around safety. Built and designed with assistance from FedNor and the Kirkland Lake Community Development Corporation, the machine is loaded with a robotic arm and a camera system for delivering bulk emulsion products to the rock face and blast area.

Taylor said that innovation has been part of a new conversation with the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, a Sudbury industry institute, to talk about the potential to collaborate on deep mining projects.

“It’s an exciting time right now. One of the philosophies that I have is if you’re not moving forward, you’re actually going backward.”