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Opportunities in Ontario’s Ideal Manufacturing Community

February 27, 2014

What prompts a Smiths Falls, Ontario company to open a 20,000 sq. ft. space in Quinte West, Ontario? Kilmarnock Enterprises’ president, Isabelle Graveline, says the decision to open a new site in Quinte West was based on its ideal location along Ontario’s Highway 401 corridor.

Kilmarnock is one example of a company who provides world-class support services to the region’s large cluster of manufacturers. “As a full-service industrial support company, we’re a key part of our clients’ operational and improvement needs, helping them stay at full capacity,” says Graveline.

Being able to reliably reach and service most clients (within 30 minutes) is a key component of Kilmarnock’s value-add when something breaks on a client’s production line.

Quinte West is central to all of our clients. Companies like food processors, pharmaceuticals, alternative energy, forestry, and paper-based companies are along the Highway 401 corridor.”

In 1981, Graveline’s father started the company on the family’s apple farm in Jasper (Ontario), and in the subsequent 32 years, the company has grown quickly and steadily. Graveline and her two brothers took over the business 15 years later.

A Proactive Region

“We’re very excited about the opportunities we have in 2014,” says Graveline. “There seems to be so much negativity published about manufacturing these days,” and that’s certainly not the opinion shared by Kilmarnock staff, who agree the negativity about Ontario manufacturing is “one-sided.”

“There’s a lot of positive movement in Ontario manufacturing. Perhaps we get to see that perspective more because we work across so many industries, but manufacturing is alive and well in Ontario.” Indeed, a recent publication by the Quinte Economic Development Commission (QEDC) shows that manufacturers are getting ready to leverage new opportunities—and grow.

Under QEDC and partners’ leadership, Bay of Quinte manufacturers gathered throughout 2013 to prepare to meet challenges, and capitalize on industry changes. The result was the creation of the publication, “Engaging People, Embracing Technology: The Greater Quinte Region’s Strategy to Advance Manufacturing,” which held a 2013-2018 plan for helping the region increase global competitiveness by adopting new technologies and leveraging human capital to raise performance.

“It’s a very proactive region that is always looking ahead and initiating things local industry might need. QEDC and partner organizations hold a lot of events for manufacturers where we can meet each other and talk about challenges and opportunities. That’s huge for us,” says Graveline.

A Supportive Region

Such support and leadership for industry in the Bay of Quinte is typical in Graveline’s experience. “When we first arrived in Trenton (part of the City of Quinte West), we were really lucky to have so much support from QEDC, the City’s economic development team, and Loyalist College–all on their own initiative. It’s very difficult to start a business from scratch in a completely new area. But they welcomed us–extended their help to us—and we were given the support we needed, such as a summary of which funds might be available to us in the region. It was really helpful, phenomenal, in fact.”

The support still continues: “I still get several invitations from QEDC, who is always interested in making introductions for us and helping us make alliances.”

Graveline says Loyalist, a local college, has been highly supportive too. “They have excellent machine shops where they are training future tradespeople. We’ve been able to have lots of great conversations with Loyalist College about our needs. And we’ve had great success in hiring the graduates of their trades programs.”

A Central Region

In the 2014 business climate, being able to share staff between their site in Smiths Falls and Quinte West has also allowed Kilmarnock to creatively meet spontaneous service demands daily.

“We’re only two hours from our other location in Smiths Falls (Ontario). The central location of Quinte West allows us to share our workforce across both sites – we can draw from our Quinte West staff when we need them for a big project in Smiths Falls, and vice versa.”

“We hired 20 people full-time since we came here, who are all local to the area. Our employees can get to our clients’ sites without travel costs for our company. There’s also a benefit for our clients, who often need our services in a rush–we do a lot of 911 emergency work for production sites. We offer 24/7 servicing, and from this location our employees can get to a client’s site within 30 minutes to fix the problem.”

Accommodating part-time employees is another Innovative option in Ontario: “We also have around 15 people who “Elect to Work”–that’s a program encouraged by the Ontario Ministry of Labour. They’re on our payroll but they only come to work when we need them, and they also have the option to decline work. A lot of these people are semi-retired or have other part-time work. It’s a great labour option in Ontario—a complete win-win for the employee and for the employer.”

A Region Rich, and Diverse, In Talent

The Bay of Quinte region has provided a strong employee base for the new Kilmarnock location. “We have very specific employee needs. We hire people who are committed to our business philosophy of professionalism and our ethics. We look for employees with diverse skill sets who are committed to travel and providing 24/7 serviceable hours.” Graveline recognizes that not all people working in the trades are able to do this. “It’s a great location for hiring people because the trades base is bigger here.”

The end result? A skilled team of employees enjoying a higher quality of life in the workplace.

“We now have an amazing group of individuals with us. They are able to offer diversified service to our clients and they really enjoy the versatility of our work. We’re not just welders and millwrights, there’s a lot of cross-disciplinary knowledge required that our staff now have. And they enjoy the diverse range of tasks they are asked to do everyday.”

Visit Kilmarnock Enterprise

The QEDC is so proud of what this company has achieved – we made a video – see below!

Tags: Kilmarnock Enterprise

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