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The pieces of the puzzle are already there

September 1, 2010
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Commentary, Norm Tollinsky with 0 Comments

It’s hard to believe that a collection of 500 businesses concentrated in a defined geographic region and all targeting the same market could exist without some kind of organization or association to promote their interests.

This year, mining companies in the same geographic region are celebrating the 90th anniversary of their umbrella body, the Ontario Mining Association, so how could it be that the hundreds of companies supplying and servicing them waited more than eight decades to see the benefit of banding together?

SAMSSA, the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association, was established in 2003 as a fledgling organization consisting of a dozen or so suppliers. Today, with 110 members onboard, it has clearly achieved critical mass and, with the release of the Northern Ontario Mining Supply and Services Study this summer (see our cover story), its value as key contributor to the economy has finally been confirmed.

Output of $5.6 billion and 23,000 paycheques are bound to impress. However, the real finding of value lies in the unrealized potential of the sector.

Skeptics who stood on the sidelines and doubted the value of a regional supply and service association are coming onside. At 110 members strong, SAMSSA is here to stay and destined to grow along with the sector it champions.

According to the study, suppliers see the export market as having the greatest potential for growth. Today, it accounts for only 19 per cent of the sector’s output, or a little more than $1 billion, but some suppliers can see this figure doubling or tripling in the years ahead.

It won’t be a cakewalk. Selling radio remote control systems, bolters, or haul trucks to the mine down the highway is a no-brainer. Tackling markets halfway around the world is a lot more complicated, and requires expertise that isn’t always found in a small enterprise.

The Northern Ontario Mining Supply and Services Study talks a lot about the importance of consortia as one way for small businesses to find a place on the world stage.

A consortium may sound intimidating to some, but call it whatever you want. In essence, it boils down to working together – a not so foreign concept after all.

Consider the example of Minewise Technology, featured on Page 12 of this issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal. Everett Henderson, an electrical technologist and master troubleshooter, teamed up with Paul Ballard, a hydraulics specialist at the Fluid Power House, and Will Gove of Australian-based Swick Mining Services to design an active monitoring system to keep drillers safe from spinning drill strings.

“We both share a common view that if you bring to bear various groups that have a specialty in a certain area, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole,” said Henderson. “A lot of people want to do it all by themselves, but it’s unrealistic to think you’re going to be successful that way.”

There you have it. The pieces of the puzzle are already there. All that remains is to put them together.

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