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Jennmar sets up shop in Northern Ontario

December 1, 2008
by Adelle Larmour
In: News with 0 Comments

Jennmar Corp., a U.S.-based manufacturer of strata-control products for the mining industry is setting up its Canadian operations in Sturgeon Falls, 35 kilometres west of North Bay.

The company originated in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1922 as a modest scrap steel business. It wasn’t until 1972 that the focus changed to manufacturing roof support systems for coalmines. The business eventually expanded into a whole range of products in strata-control technology for the coal and hard rock mining and tunnelling industries.

Under Frank Calandra Jr.’s leadership, various subsidiary companies were established, including JM Steel Corporation and JM Steel Specialty, manufacturers of mining- and construction-related steel products, as well as J-Lok, which produces resin for the ground-support systems. Jennmar Corp. has a total of 16 production facilities located throughout the United States, Australia, China and Canada.

Marc Lamothe, managing director of Jennmar Canada, said the company offers competitive prices and services.

“We buy steel from Nucor and are their fifth-largest customer in the U.S.,” said Lamothe. “We use a lot of steel, which makes us very competitive.”

Jennmar claims it is unique in that it offers engineering services with the purchase of its ground-support products. Its Keystone Mining Services have eight qualified engineers who have PhDs in rock mechanics available to meet the needs of its clients. One of those eight will be working directly with the Canadian operations.

Jennmar Canada will be manufacturing a variety of ground-support products like rebar /resin, mechanical rock bolts and friction style bolts. They also have a complete line of cable-bolt systems. These units work on the principle of compressing fractured rock between the bolt anchor end and the plate, which are attached to a long bar that has been inserted into the rock. Different systems and their applications are designed for soft or hard rock mining environments.

Other steel-related products include mine ties, belt hangers, channels, beams, roof mats and mesh, plates, crater plate/bit systems, and standing supports.

Lamothe, a new player to Jennmar but a veteran in underground support systems, said the move to Canada was necessary in order to capture market share in the country.

“You have to be here,” he said. “A lot of the mines are asking for just-in-time delivery with 24/7 service. It is to our advantage if we sell from Canada.”

Another strategic aspect of Jennmar’s move to the North is to seek out South American markets via Canada. Positive political relations between Canadians and countries in South America were a motivating factor.

The Sturgeon Falls property is located next to available rail service and the TransCanada Highway. Lamothe sees rail as an economical way to ship freight within Canada.

Initially, Sudbury was the area of choice, but a lack of available property led the search to the outlying regions. Many of Jenmar’s U.S. plants are situated in rural areas similar to Sturgeon Falls. The availability of laid-off employees from a closed Weyerhauser facility in Sturgeon Falls also helped with the choice.

“We have an available and eager workforce,” Lamothe said. “They are people who want to stay home.”

An attractive property package was offered, and West Nipissing’s economic development team aggressively pursued the company.

“It was a good fit between West Nipissing and us,” said Lamothe. “We needed their labour force and they needed the employment.”

Presently, Jennmar Canada’s sales office is in Sudbury. The company has secured contracts with FNX Mining, and with other companies in northwestern Ontario and in the Timmins mining camp. In order to fulfill current contracts, newly-hired workers are manufacturing rebar, mechanical bolts and cable bolts out of a temporary Sturgeon Falls worksite. Finished good are then shipped to a Sudbury warehouse for distribution.

Jennmar is building a 50,000-square foot plant with an additional 6,000 square feet for offices. The facility will employ between 60 and 90 people, and manufacture the full range of ground support accessories, including rock bolts, cable bolts and plates. Full production is targeted for the end of July 2009.

There are also plans to build a 30,000-square-foot resin plant (J-Lok) that will employ between 15 and 30 people.

New equipment and stringent safety standards will create a safe and efficient working environment.

“Frank makes a strong presence when he goes in somewhere,” Lamothe said. “He is not afraid to invest in all new equipment. That is where we do well. We’re very efficient and safety conscious.”

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