Ron Miller of Miller Technologies was recognized as an entrepreneur, innovator and astute businessman. He learned about designing, manufacturing and support for underground mobile equipment during the 12 years he worked for Jarvis Clark in North Bay as chief designer for underground mining machinery.By 1979, Miller was ready for a new challenge and started his own consulting business. It was a one-man operation performing custom design work.”I designed and built our first three-wheel Minekart personnel carrier,” Miller said. That kick-started his business. He estimates the company sold more than 100 units to mining companies in the U.S. and Canada, giving him a foot in the door in the underground mining industry. “From there, we designed other vehicles for underground.”
Over the years, Miller Technologies became a dealer for Toyota land cruiser trucks, JCB and Komatsu fork lifts. This helped diversify his business during the low periods of the mining cycle.
Miller’s specialty became custom building to meet the client’s needs.
He often modified the product and converted it for underground use.
The Toyota land cruisers and Triple 4ce underground four-wheel utility trucks became the company’s bread and butter models. More recently, Miller Technologies has won orders from Hydro One and exploration companies for vehicles designed for crossing harsh terrain and making ice roads.
Upon his retirement, Miller’s two sons, Chad and Kent, took the reins, keeping it a family-owned and operated business.
Miller offered a few words of advice for those who may be starting out: hire the right people for the right job and look after them by paying them well and challenging them all the time. Also, work with customers by finding out what their needs are and satisfying them, he urged.
“Sometimes you have to take risks in order to achieve better returns.”
Peter Matusch, of the Sudbury-based CCM Group of Companies, was also honoured at the breakfast meeting.
Speaking without bluster or ego, Matusch betrayed no hint of his hardscrabble past, which began in war-ravaged Germany at the end of World War II, and ultimately led to his current role as president of the CCM Group of Companies.
The Group consists of three companies: CCM Contracting Ltd., Metex Manufacturing Ltd., and Equipment North. CCM Contracting, an amalgamation of Copper Cliff Mechanical Ltd. and Minetech Ltd., performs industrial plant construction and maintenance, mine and dam construction, civil works, concrete and general contracting. The second company, Metex Manufacturing, manufactures and fabricates industrial process equipment. Collectively, the group specializes in customized products and services. Equipment North is a mining and construction equipment rental company.
It’s a legacy of Matusch’s success, fostered by hard work and unabashed humility, that has made the business what it is today. It’s only through the words of his son, Steve Matusch, co-founder of Ionic Engineering Ltd., that one would ever know of Peter’s history.
“He has a German obsession with perfection and attention to detail. All of his customers are repeat customers because he believes in quality workmanship,” said Steve, describing his father as a shy but hard-working man who lives for his work and his family.
“As his son and friend, he’s one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met.”
Born in the Sudetenland along the Czechoslovakian border in 1946, Peter was an infant when he and his mother were put on a train as part of the mass expulsion of more than 500,000 Germans at the end of World War II.
Never having known his father, who served as a soldier in the German army, Peter and his mother were forced to resettle in Germany. His mother was forced to steal food from surrounding farms, and at the age of six, Peter began to travel the countryside, offering his services as a worker to raise money for the family.
It’s this hard history that stuck with him. He emigrated to Canada at the age of 13, and worked in the Kingston shipyards for years before moving to Sudbury and joining the pipefitters union.
“He says he took every bit of overtime that was offered to him, and I believe it,” said Steve. “His only hobby was his family. He did everything in his power to make sure we didn’t live through what he grew up in.”
In 1978, at the age of 32, Peter decided to start his own industrial contracting company, Copper Cliff Mechanical.
Over time, the business grew off the sweat from Peter’s brow as he adapted and thrived.
However, a series of bad contracts and tough times through 1995 nearly destroyed everything he had worked for.
“I checked the soup kitchen, but I didn’t like the menu,” said Peter, smirking. With that, he began the hard work of rebuilding his company. Since then, he’s poured his energy into diversification and “being better,” strategies he credits for his business rebirth. The hard work paid off. 2008 was the best year in the company’s history.
“Never put all your eggs into one basket,” advised Peter. “You really need to diversify your services.”
These days, the company includes a number of divisions, including CCM Contracting Ltd. and Equipment North, run by Peter’s wife Rena. The company had 400 employees in its heyday, but today has 40.
“CCM is one of those companies that flies under the radar, and it’s quite a bit bigger than most people know, those who know if it,” said Steve. “I think the company’s a reflection of the person who built it.”
The work ethic that built the CCM Group is something Peter worked hard to pass on to his son.
Steve recalled a time when his father made use of an Inco contract to temper his blossoming teenage rebellion.
In 1984, Steve was sent to Stobie Mine to hammer out some sewage pipe, which was only accessible through a 400-foot, unlit, cramped crawlway. Dragging his sledgehammer behind him, he had to smash a cast-iron pipe, which covered him with “what you would expect you would be covered with.” The only alternative was to ask a fellow worker to use a cutting torch, which would fill the tunnel with acrid, sewage-scented smoke.
As unpleasant as it was, Steve says he suspects to this day that it was his father’s mischievous way of showing him the importance of hard work.