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Thunder Bay suppliers primed for achieving export readiness

Another dozen or so Northern Ontario mining suppliers are participating in the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and MinesOne-on-One Strategic Export Marketing Program, including a group of companies based in Thunder Bay.The program links participating suppliers with an international sales consultant and has as its goal the development of a written export marketing plan.Leading the one-on-one consulting exercise in Thunder Bay is Mel Sauvé, a sales, marketing and business development professional with more than 20 years of experience representing mining suppliers in the U.S., South America, Asia, Europe and Australia.Thunder Bay companies signed up for the program include TBT Engineering, KBM Resource Group, Fladgate Exploration Consulting Corp., the Wasaya Group and Fairbarns Metal Fabrication and Machine Shop.
In addition to the one-on-one consulting, the program also provides participating companies with three days of workshops on branding, advertising, trade show effectiveness, website optimization and working with foreign sales agents.

More and more Thunder Bay suppliers are repositioning themselves to serve the mining industry as the region’s former industrial mainstay, the forestry sector, has fallen on hard times, said Sauvé.

Unlike the supplier cluster in northeastern Ontario, which boasts hundreds of well-established companies providing a myriad of products and services, Thunder Bay’s supplier base is largely represented by engineering firms, metal fabricators and exploration service companies.

Thunder Bay companies “were smart enough to figure out that the mining industry offered some opportunities and positioned themselves fairly quickly to capture business,” said Sauvé.

“I honestly thought that I was going to find companies that are not well-positioned or well managed, but it’s quite the opposite. The one thing that’s interesting about them is that they all have a niche and they’ve been reasonably successful in growing that part of their business.

Instead of targeting the northeastern Ontario mining market where they would face stiff competition from Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay suppliers, many of the Thunder Bay companies are focusing their attention on opportunities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, said Sauvé.

Sixteen companies in northeastern Ontario have already taken part in the one-on-one export marketing program led by Jon Baird, managing director of the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE).

A third intake of companies in the northeast is currently underway.

The province’s $4 million export marketing assistance program for the mining supply and service sector in Northern Ontario also provides funding for export marketing initiatives, trade shows and incoming missions.

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