Title: An iron-clad success story

Sub-title: Like many Sept-Iles SMEs, Metal 7 grew rapidly by supplying the region’s iron ore producers

 

At first glance, Sept-Iles hardly seems like a hot bed for small- and medium-sized businesses. The town is dominated by large iron ore producers and Alouette Aluminum, one of the province’s largest primary aluminum manufacturers, is the town’s largest employer.

 

However according to one long-time resident, those big companies and the 1,000 or so smaller businesses in this Quebec north shore community get along just fine. “Larger firms often need a whole range of goods and services to conduct operations,” said Christian Michaud, president and general manager of Metal 7. “In fact that is how we got started.”

 

Thirty five years ago, Arthur Leblanc, a foreman at Iron Ore Canada, left his job to set up a machine shop that would supply parts to his old employer. Today Metal 7, which Michaud co-owns with four partners, employs 85 workers and exports all over the world. “Our key competitive advantage is our thermal spraying equipment and technology,” says Michaud. “The process significantly increases the life-cycle of parts we supply.”

 

According to Michaud, being located in Sept-Iles has several advantages. “We have access here to one of the largest deep water ports in Canada in terms of tonnage shipped. Furthermore, it is a salt water port, which means that we can use it year-round,” says Michaud, who recently completed a term on the board of COPIC, a corporation set up to promote economic development in the town. “The quality of life in Sept-Iles is also exceptional as is its education system. There is a also growing tourism presence here and the town is now a regional development center.”

 

Of course Sept-Iles’s successes have bred challenges, such as an increasingly tight labour supply. “We simply can’t find qualified people any more,” says Michaud. “So we have to hire them straight out of school and then train them ourselves. But I suppose that sort of thing goes with the territory when you are growing.”

 

Peter Diekmeyer (peter@peterdiekmeyer.com) is a Montreal-based freelance business journalist.

 

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