SAMSSA: ten years old and growing
The Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) turns 10 years old in 2013. The annual general meeting (AGM) held in December 2012 celebrated this event with several of its partners in attendance.
SAMSSA has demonstrated that “building a mining cluster” exhibiting all the attributes of a dynamic and viable enterprise is totally dependent on a shared belief amongst all partners that the intelligence and expertise contained within the core of activity is always focused on improving the relevant tools for the global mining industry.
When you have over 500 mining supply and service companies concentrated within a geographical area such as Northern Ontario with over 50 years of hard rock underground experience and sales volumes that exceed $5 billion annually, you have a dynamic mining hub that is recognized globally. But that hub needs support systems to make it work effectively.
I am a great fan of Michael Porter who spent much of his life studying and researching the power of clusters, especially the emergence of the Silicon Valley cluster. Porter wrote “A business cluster is a geographic concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers and associated institutions in a particular field. Clusters are considered to increase the productivity and innovations with which companies can compete, nationally and globally. Put another way, a business cluster is a geographical location where enough resources and competencies reach a critical threshold, giving it a key position in a given economic branch of activity and with a decisive sustainable competitive edge over other places, or even a world supremacy in that field.”
I think it’s time for Northern Ontario to make the case that it is the world’s centre of underground mining expertise. The evidence is in place and can be verified.
The 2012 SAMSSA AGM was a model for our members because it reflected all essential components of a cluster, including a significant number of keynote speakers and activities that exemplify the effort SAMSSA has made in creating an all-inclusive cluster.
Over 140 attendees were first introduced to our SAMSSA Hall of Fame inductees. Each year, two members of the region’s mining supply community are selected by the SAMSSA board as major contributors to our overall success. Rick Lemieux, formerly of RDH and with over 25 years of ownership in building customized mining equipment, was acknowledged as a pioneer in the industry. Another entrepreneur, Bob Morin of Mobile Parts, was applauded for growing a global business with customers in 30 countries. Both of these men commented on the importance of being in the cluster and participating as members of SAMSSA.
Bob Morin, for example, stated that being in a Sudbury-based mining cluster added credibility to his business and opened doors internationally.
Access to capital and financing is critical for success, so we invited a representative from the commercial division of the National Bank of Canada to speak to us about the enhanced services it could offer to growing, mid-sized companies. The National Bank of Canada is one of the five commercial banks in Sudbury that are members of SAMSSA.
Having two presidents of our post secondary education institutions speak to us also demonstrated a willingness of community colleges and universities to support the mining cluster. Denis Hubert-Dutrisac of College Boreal emphasized the importance of a bilingual college which builds programs around the need to provide skilled graduates for the industry, while Dominic Giroux, president of Laurentian University, announced the formation of the Goodman School of Mines, which will have a broad mandate to provide modular executive programs for management personnel and owners of mining supply and service companies.
Two independent community agencies also spoke about their efforts to create awareness of the mining cluster.
Nicole Tardif, chair of Modern Mining & Technology-Sudbury, updated members on the efforts they are making to educate teachers and students about the importance of mining technology and innovation during Mining Week.
Vicki Jacobs, chair of the Greater Sudbury Learning Initiative, sought support for the expansion of a life-long learning program.
Also in attendance were representatives from some of the major mining companies and research institutions who are SAMSSA members.
I’m confident that 2013 will see a further refinement and growth of this important centre of mining excellence.