BY DICK DESTEFANO
Retired Executive Director
A special night for SAMSSA happened in Sault Ste. Marie on September 26 2019 when Northern Ontario Business Awards choose SAMSSA as the Entrepreneurial Community of the Year and acknowledged it as a dynamic force in the economy of Northern Ontario. I had the privilege as former executive Director of SAMSSA to accept the award along with Dave Rector Secretary of the Board and was joined by Michael Gribbons Director and Kirk Petroski former President of SAMSSA.
One other important person was the presence of Paul Bradette who was a Trade and Investment Specialist and was seconded from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines 16 months ago to assist us in reviving and restructuring the organization that would meet the needs of new members and expand its base in the market place. I didn’t have the opportunity to acknowledge his contribution and successes in growing SAMSSA and asked him to respond to a number of relevant questions about his time on SAMSSA.
What was your motive in asking for a secondment from the MNDM to assist SAMSSA as an organization?
Paul: I always believed in what the organization was trying to do and wanted to get more involved in supporting their activities. It was at a good point in my career where I had built up a strong global network and coming to SAMSSA would allow me to help member companies grow their business.
What were your expectations on a professional level when you were invited to contribute as a full time member of the organization?
Paul: In my early discussions with a few Board members and Dick, I knew I would be given the autonomy to implement new programs and services that would increase the value proposition of the Association. I knew initially there would be some growing pains as I wanted to implement some changes as anyone would entering an organization. Having been here for nearly 16 months, I can say it has been a rewarding experience and the passion our volunteer Board has for advancing this organization and sector is impressive.
What were the key tasks did you think would expand SAMSSA’s presence as an organization and in the market place?
Paul: Like any other service, members need to feel like they are getting value for their membership dollar. Visibility is what we needed initially so that current and non-members could see that we were active in moving the sector forward, we ramped up our site visits to companies explaining what we were trying to accomplish. We partnered with the City and started a quarterly Export Club which provided a platform for like- minded businesses to get good intelligence but more importantly learn from one another and share best practices. From that point we need to demonstrate that we could deliver on the trade front and initiated our own in-coming and outgoing export program. To date we have visited Nevada with a mission to Chile later this fall.
What major agencies did you work with in moving your agenda forward?
Paul: Northern Ontario has a great support system from all levels of governments and we understood that we have a unique cluster that is one of the economic pillars for the North. We received tremendous support every time we presented our new Growth Strategy and the new value proposition we wanted to implement. They have been great partners and believe in what the Association is trying to deliver. From the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, Ministry of Energy Northern Development and Mines FedNor, Ontario’s North Economic Development Corporation, Trade Commissioner Services all provide critical support in our ability to deliver our mandate.
What did you learn from Members new and old that was important in developing your strategies?
Paul: Following our interviews with both current and non-members, we had a top 5 list of what they needed to help their businesses grow. First they wanted a stronger global presence/lead generation, networking opportunities, mining intelligence, both out going and in-coming missions.
Can you identify what you think were key successes by September 2019?
Paul: The critical piece was increasing membership by nearly 100% over the last 16 months. It has provided a wider audience to get our messaging out and increased our visibility to enable us to continue to grow. The implementation of a trade program has also provided significant value to members and demonstrated that the Association has the ability to deliver value for members here in northern Ontario and around the globe. Another key piece was the launch of our new website and global marketing campaign which is designed to drive new leads to SAMSSA members. The Association has recently recruited new Directors in Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, and North Bay and is currently looking for a representative from Thunder Bay to round out its new Team. The Association is looking into a name change which would be reflect the organizations new pan-northern Ontario mandate.
Paul said,” SAMSSA will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting companies from northern Ontario in increasing sales through channels that would otherwise be much more difficult to leverage. The sector has grown significantly and having a single voice to support the needs of a $7 billion industry will become increasing more important. The organization is positioning itself to expand dramatically and increase its value to both new and current members.”