ENGINEERED FOR THE FUTURE INSIDE: Companies that are helping to make today’s economy and tomorrow’s innovation possible for future generations.
Environmental Services Water & Wastewater
Surface water sampling and field services, wastewater treatment assessment and optimization
24/7 Emergency Response
24/7 Emergency Response to spills, releases and environmental emergencies to land, air or water
Regulatory permitting, compliance auditing, ISO14001 auditing, peer-review
Laboratory Services Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV)
Industrial inspections, thermal imaging, multi-spectral imaging for vegetation health, remote sample collection
Soil & Groundwater
Phase I/II Environmental Site Assessments, remediation, soil and groundwater sampling, species at risk assessments
CALA-Accredited acute and chronic testing for aquatic, sediment and soils
Industrial inspections, thermal imaging, multi-spectral imaging for vegetation health, remote sample collection
Sediment sampling, commercial and environmental diving, provision of support vessels
519-339-8787 Pollutech EnviroQuatics Limited email@example.com www.pollutechgroup.com 704 Mara St., Suite 122, Point Edward, ON N7V 1X4
MP, Sarnia-Lambton 519-383-6600 Marilyn.Gladu@parl.gc.ca www.marilyngladu.com
INSIDE THIS ISSUE MARCH/APRIL 2019
The Earlier the Better
11 A Door to the Future 14 Delivering Client Value 16 Setting Their Sights
On Growth 19 Looking for a Little 'Zip'
in Your Life?
20 With a New Owner
in Place, MIG Engineering Continues to Grow and Renew 22 Big Firm, Even Bigger
20 4 â€¢ LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
28 From the Ground it Rises
THE FUTURE IS RIPE WITH OPPORTUNITY When We Help Others Prepare For It
hen we were considering how this third print issue of Lambton Shield would come together, the coinciding of Engineering Month and, just before Christmas, news of the sale of MIG Engineering to Devin Johnson, a mechanical engineer who returned to his home town four year ago, began to resonate. We turned to the Lambton chapter of Professional Engineers of Ontario to explore the kinds of initiatives they were pursuing to make it possible for young people (especially females, who are still very much underrepresented) to consider this pivotal career choice. Sarnia-Lambton is said to have one of the highest per capita numbers of engineering graduates in the nation, which is not surprising given the impact companies in our region have to Ontario’s economy and even beyond Canada itself. What’s also apparent is that these engineering firms have their own niche when it comes to attracting and retaining talent and in serving a diverse client base. All the while, the profession and the companies who employ engineering talent, see a future where more women become a much larger percentage than today. The vision for making that hope a reality is a key part of the overall theme for this issue. We hope you enjoy and “spread the word.” J.D. Booth Editor and Publisher firstname.lastname@example.org 519-466-2811
LAMBTON SHIELD Owned and operated by 1886917 ONTARIO INC. and published both in print and online at WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM. DESIGN AND PRODUCTION: CR Creative Co. Ltd., Wyoming, Ontario. EDITORIAL CONSULTANT: L. Sheridan
ADVERTISING & MARKETING MANAGER: Fatema Bhabrawala email@example.com (519) 381-1140 ON OUR COVER: Aimee Fraser is a grade 12 student at St. Patrick’s Catholic High School in Sarnia. She participated in a FIRST Robotics League event held at Lambton Mall in early March.
A proud member of the
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 5
Pictured at an event held at Lambton Mall in early March are, from left, Sarah Morrow, who works at Lambton College; Jeff Laucke, head referee of FIRST Lego League Ontario (who was there as part of Sarnia FIRST Lego League); and Abbey Hall, a student at Northern Collegiate Institute & Vocational School in Sarnia.
An introduction to engineering as a potential career turns out to be one of the best ways to sustain the profession… and the economy
hen people talk about engineering, especially if they live in Sarnia-Lambton, there’s a better than average chance that they actually know someone who’s an engineer, a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario, the licensing and regulating body in the province. And while the region has one of Canada’s highest concentrations of professional engineers in Canada, the executive of PEO Lambton have a goal of seeing that number increase. That goal is largely based on the fact that in order for the economy to flourish, engineers are an essential element in the early stage of development in just about any industry—and not just the petrochemical sector for which Sarnia-Lambton may be best known. 6 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
Jennifer Ladenchuk, a structural engineer who serves as director of Education Outreach on the PEO Lambton executive, makes the point that a student who knows an engineer is far more likely to at least consider the profession. It’s a big reason why she and her colleagues on the executive have taken on a number of activities, most if not all of them geared to reaching students at an early age. Some of those activities, like “Go Eng Girl,” an initiative of the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering, are clearly built on a foundation of encouraging females to consider a profession that remains dominated by males. While the number of women in the profession has been increasing by about 1% a year since 2008,
While the number of women in the profession has been increasing by about 1% a year since 2008, there is still a considerable gender gap, with women (more than 50% of the population) now accounting for just 12.8% of practising professional engineers in Canada, according to Engineers Canada. there is still a considerable gender gap, with women (more than 50% of the population) now accounting for just 12.8% of practising professional engineers in Canada, according to Engineers Canada. David Woodill, who works as an electrical engineer at Langtree Controls, has a leadership role in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization formed by legendary inventor Dean Kamen, perhaps best known for the Segway (although he also invented the world’s first drug infusion pump and a portable dialysis machine).
“We’re starting to see fruit,” says Woodill, referring to the Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago—and the second-best time is today. “When I look at the number of students that have been involved in these programs, we’ve ‘graduated’ or influenced at least 12 or more students to go into engineering over the years,” he said. Woodill says that while there are quite a few girls who participate on the FIRST teams, he hopes emphasizing the value of equality and, perhaps just as important, the building of various “soft” skills that are essential in any business, will pay off in the long run. “FIRST is not just about engineering,” he says. “It’s about breaking through a wall into a realization that you need a business model, and that means developing marketing and everything else that’s associated with that, including community outreach and connectivity. It’s a big envelope that has room for everyone.” Through FIRST, young people are learning how to positively interact with others, which is part of the culture that Woodill says that students will carry with them throughout their career.
FIRST will turn 30 this year and it still holds to Kamen’s original vision: if you get kids excited about science (and, by extension, engineering) at an early age, they’re more likely to take that passion through to university. “It’s our collective future,” notes Woodill. Branches of FIRST, which include FIRST Lego League and FIRST Robotics Challenge, while geared to a different age group, tend to build on the interests of kids as they’re growing up, but all designed to accomplish the same end result—getting science and engineering “on the list” of careers a youngster is likely to at least consider for their future. Woodill says PEO Lambton, which sponsors FIRST Lego and FIRST Robotics Challenge, is getting close to seeing the first students who became involved in one or more of the programs graduate as a career engineer. One of those happens to be Woodill’s own son, who is in his third year of a computer engineering program at McMaster University. Along the way, Adam Woodill recruited a friend who is in engineering at Western University in London and who has worked as a co-op student at Langtree Controls.
Dave Woodill of Langtree Controls (left) is pictured with members of the FIRST Robotics League team he coaches. They were at an event held at Lambton Mall in early March.
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 7
With a goal of giving students in schools throughout the Sarnia-Lambton area a taste of what a career in engineering might look like, the Science Education Partnership involves members of the profession and both the Lambton Kent District School Board and the St. Clair Catholic School Board. Events like this one held at Lambton Mall in early March are evidence of their work.
“It’s about acquiring practical skills in being able to complete something, to focus on what’s needed, set priorities and meet deadlines, things like how do we think this is going to work,” he adds. FIRST is also something that transcends the traditional team aspect of school, which might be heavily weighted toward athletics. “There’s power in that,” says Woodill. “Whatever is engrained in the human psyche, it’s being part of a team that has influence when it comes to belonging.” Woodill says he’s seen it happen: a student who would typically get themselves in trouble, then becomes part of a team and ends up being a mentor. “We’ve seen the behavior shift,” says Woodill. “The kid thinks ‘I’ve never thought of myself like that. Now maybe I can go to college.’” FIRST and its extensions aren’t the only area that PEO Lambton is engaging the next generation. Lauren Verwegen, a mechanical engineer working at WorleyParsons, is overseeing two initiatives, Mathletics and Kangaroo Math, both geared to investing in helping young people see the value (and fun) of an essential element in how the world works. Verwegen, who moved to Sarnia-Lambton in 2015, took on Mathletics shortly thereafter, gradually putting her own spin on the one-day event, including moving it to a Saturday in November. Great Lakes Secondary School has hosted Mathletics for the last two years. 8 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
Volker Oettershagen is a member of the Lambton Chapter of Professional Engineers Ontario. He is pictured with Wendy Hooghiem, who coordinates the Science Education Partnership.
Students, who are in grades 5 to 8, are given a clicker device and while the questions are not timed, once 75% have answered a question that first appears on the auditorium screen, the answer is revealed. “Maybe it’s a concept they haven’t learned yet, so we take up the answer with them,” says Verwegen. The objective, she says, is twofold: to demonstrate that there’s a purpose to math beyond the very simple addition of numbers and to introduce the idea of engineering as a possible career. “We want to show them that this is how you use math to solve a problem,” adds Verwegen, who acknowledges that awareness of the PEO Lambton chapter is also a key goal. “We’re getting the word out.” Kangaroo Math, which is in written, multiple choice form, has been adopted by PEO Lambton, is organized as a non-profit in Canada and around the world (it was established in 1991 by two French math professors, although a similar concept was used in the Australian Mathematics Competition which began in 1978. Students participating are from grades 1 to 12 and those competing will eventually be ranked by participants from around the world, with an awards program taking place in June. PEO Lambton has partnered with Lambton College this year, which provided space for the Sunday, March 24 event, held at the college. PEO Lambton members help with logistics and overseeing the contest. Another key event is Go ENG Girl, with PEO Lambton partnering with Western University’s engineering department for the last two years to host at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park. Held on a Saturday in October, the event attracted several dozen girls from grade 7-10 who took part in various hands-on activities, took a tour of the Research Park, and found out about mentoring opportunities. Katherine Albion, a PhD chemical engineering graduate from Western and now executive director of the Research Park, was keynote speaker at last year’s event. Discovery Day, which also takes place in March as part of Engineering Month, serves as another opportunity for young people to be connected to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) in an interesting and fun way. Sponsors of the event, held at Lambton Mall, have display space at which they provide a fun activity—and youngsters get a “passport” stamp as proof of participation. Put together, the various events and initiatives of PEO Lambton are intended to not only help sustain interest in the profession but also underscore the importance of engineering as being key to continued prosperity for Canada and Sarnia-Lambton in particular. Remember that Chinese proverb about the best time to plant a tree being 20 years ago—and the second-best time being today. The members of PEO Lambton are taking that admonition to heart when it comes to the future growth of the profession.
EXTENDING THE VALUE OF DIVERSITY IN THE ENGINEERING PROFESSION The real benefit comes from seeking different ways of thinking about a problem When it comes to the issue of diversity in general and the engineering profession in particular, Bruce Matthews would quickly acknowledge that there’s been a lot of discussion around the subject. But from Matthews’ perspective in his role as chief executive office of Consulting Engineers of Ontario, the organization that represents approximately 170 engineering firms, the need for diversity takes hold in the context of collaboration and decision making. “In the engineering realm, diversity goes with the issue of innovation,” said Matthews, who was first licensed as a professional engineer in 1990 and who has worked in staff and leadership roles at Atomic Energy of Canada, CIBC, and the Real Estate Council of Ontario. ‘it’s not necessarily thinking outside the box,” he adds. “You may have multiple people looking at a problem, but if they’re all fundamentally looking through the same lens, you’re doing yourself a disservice with respect to maximizing your potential for innovation and creativity in problem solving.” And while the concept of diversity in the workforce is often connected with gender and cultural background, Matthews takes it in a slightly different direction. “My view, frankly, is the best form of diversity can’t be assessed visually. You have to know a bit more about the individuals that you are assigning to collaborate on a given project.” That said, he also acknowledges that bringing more women into the engineering profession is a goal that deserves attention: Engineers Canada, the organization that makes up all regulatory organizations (including Professional Engineers Ontario) wants to see 30% of newly licensed engineers to be women by the year 2030. That’s an ambitious target considering the current number is just 17% and Matthews says there needs to be a major shift in the attitudes, mindset and corporate culture of the industry. “All that focus needs to be on the outcomes,” says Matthews. “You want better decisions and more creative solutions for the problems companies are facing. All of this is critical to the prosperity of Ontario and the country as a whole.” Getting there is at least in part about perseverance, including initiatives like those being made by the Lambton Chapter of Professional Engineers Ontario. “An organization can try to do it themselves, but it’s on the demand side—reaching young people in public school and high school—that will make these kinds of careers more attractive,” adds Matthews.
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 9
10 â€¢ LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
door to the future With engineering as one of its foundations, Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park is helping frame what we’ll be seeing decades from now.
here may be no more passionate person to talk about engineering than Dr. Katherine Albion, the executive director of the Western SarniaLambton Research Park located on the former headquarters of Dow Chemical Canada Inc. Albion, who earned both her bachelor’s degree and doctorate in chemical engineering from Western University in London, joined the Research Park in 2008, a year after her graduation. Her first job was as a commercialization and research engineer, engaging with clients and getting her professional feet wet as she learned how the local community worked, the various relationships that could be built and strengthened. Four years later, Albion took the reins of the Bowman Centre for Sustainable Chemistry, located at the Research Park with a mission of catalyzing big energy projects, the kind of work that essentially put Sarnia on the map.
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 11
Shortly thereafter, in 2013, Albion became director of Commercialization at the Research Park, a role she held until January 2018, when she succeeded the retiring Tom Stifler as executive director. “A lot of our commercialization efforts here in Research Park depend on engineering,” says Albion. “It encompasses everything from the lab stage, through the small bench stage and right up and through the pilot phase and then scaling up again at the commercial stage of a company’s development.” In short, without engineering there would not only be no Research Park, there would be no companies with the products we depend on now or will in the years to come. For Albion, one of the most challenging areas is how a company scales—a term that’s used frequently to describe how an idea that works in principle and even may be able to be demonstrated in small “batches” will ultimately be able to deliver a sustained level of value to investors and to the public that buys what the company has to sell. But throughout those stages, the focus on engineering can’t be overlooked. “In so many things that we’re doing here, the focus is on engineering,” notes Albion. “There’s so many labs and pilot plants where advanced projects are then optimized and improved before they’re ready for commercialization. They all depend on engineering.”
Today, the Research Park Albion oversees in her lead role has about 25 tenants involved in some stage of their commercialization, typically small companies, often starting up, frequently at the lab phase or pilot plant phase of their existence. Among the numerous examples Albion outlines is Western Phytoceutica Inc., a natural products company focused on development of ginseng-based products. The firm has been at the Research Park since 2013. The company, Albion says, has partnered with Lambton College in its natural products laboratory, and has expanded its footprint at the Research Park.
12 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
While Albion says the Research Park is almost (95%) full, she acknowledges that at least in some respects, it’s not desirable to be without some room for growth, particularly if a tenant wants to expand the space it currently occupies.
“They’re great for the community and gives us great exposure here at the Park.”
Albion continues to value the natural (and formal) connection with Western University, which has two representatives on the Research Park board.
One of those is in the relationship the Research Park continues to develop with Lambton College.
There are also two signature events that take up some of her time but which deliver lasting value for the Research Park and the companies locally that support those initiatives. One is Western’s Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Capstone Competition, a oneday presentation of work done by students that takes place this year on March 29 at the Research Park. As Albion notes, the projects presented are a glimpse into the future. “This is the future some 20 or 30 years down the road,” she said. “This is the stuff we’re going to one day be seeing as common place that started here.”
What Albion is also seeing is something of a “spider web” network of interactions that are building new levels of value.
“We work with them on a daily basis,” says Albion. “There are some great relationships, including most of the labs at Lambton College working with us on various commercialization projects.” The Research Park is also reaching out through events like Go Eng Girl, which will take place in October as an opportunity to introduce young girls—grades 7-10—to the concepts of engineering through hands-on activities that organizers hope will spark a lasting (and personal) interest in the profession.
While the Research Park is almost (95%) full, at least in some respects, it’s not desirable to be without some room for growth, particularly if a tenant wants to expand the space they already occupy.
It’s also an event that gives students great exposure, often their first opportunity to face industry representatives they may be facing as employers one day soon. Albion chuckles, albeit almost nervously, as she recalls her own experience presenting at a Capstone event some years ago.
“I’m nervous for them,” she says with a smile on her face, somewhat in relief that she’s well beyond that stage in her own career.
And what attracted Albion herself to the engineering profession? She doesn’t quite answer the question but does indicate it was a decision that may, like many others in life, was made by happenstance.
“I really didn’t know a lot about engineering at the time,” said Albion, who grew up in London. “When I came to the university, I didn’t have a lot of background, especially not the kind of programs we have today that help girls discover what engineering is all about.” What’s clear is that she dived right in, eventually not only earning her undergraduate but taking a doctorate, which involved spending six months in the research department of Syncrude Canada in Edmonton as part of her thesis.
When Capstone moved from Western’s main campus several years ago, one of Albion’s tasks was to work on developing a network of sponsors and a team of judges, which brings valuable insights into industry expectations for the young engineers about to graduate.
“I can’t picture myself being anything else than an engineer,” says Albion.
“Some of them in the last five years have been hired in Sarnia and some have had co-op positions in Sarnia as prospective employers have come and watched them do their presentations, hiring them when they graduate,” she notes.
“We can approximately double when we need the space,” she adds.
Another event is Research Bridges, an event similar to the Capstone event but involving doctoral and master’s students from Western who summarize their thesis in three minutes and one slide, something that Albion admits is challenging in that it involves no technical jargon. That event takes place in June and while Albion admits it’s a somewhat exhausting exercise in some ways, she also looks forward to hosting the various events.
As far as the growth of the Research Park, there is lots of land available for expansion, when the right time comes.
ENGINEERING DRIVEN BY DESIGN industrial facilities & pipelines municipal engineering building engineering surveying & mapping
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 13
“The three founding partners were very practical, hands on people, and that’s one of the things that continues to set Langtree apart—in the field expertise and experience when it comes to finishing a job,” said Woodill. Another current key individual in the firm is Alpesh Patel, who immigrated to Canada from India in 2000, when he joined Langtree as an electrical engineer specializing in controls and instrumentation. Patel, Woodill and other key members of the Langtree team (identified as such on their website), understand the relationship that is constantly being built with clients and, by extension the general public who ultimately relies on the services provided. “Our first duty is to the public,” notes Patel. “That’s our number one priority and it’s our license—the public and public safety.”
David Woodill, left, and Alpesh Patel are members of the employee ownership group at Langtree Controls.
CLIENT VALUE At Langtree Controls, it’s about building and sustaining an environment where trust and relationships can flourish
t was mid 1992 when the original founders of Langtree Controls—Noel Lambe, Jonathan Wong, and Wes Trevail—first exercised their collective vision for a different approach to providing service related to the controls business in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.
But in a complementary way, as clients depend on the expertise represented in the people who work at the firm, trust plays a big part in a relationship that continues to build upon years of work. Consider as one example ARLANXEO, the current name for a firm that began doing business as Polysar, where Langtree has provided services longer than many of its own employees. That kind of institutional knowledge, about the reasoning for the installation of various control systems, would be hard to duplicate. In short, experience counts. “We’ve always had a deep connection with clients,” says Woodill. Not only that, but the company’s guiding principle for being customer focused sets a tone for the kind of approach that goes a long way toward sustaining those relationships. “It’s about the quality of our services and really understanding what the client needs, not necessarily what they want,” notes Patel. Woodill continues along that line of thought.
The trio—parts of each of their last names were used to form the Langtree name— had worked elsewhere and, like many entrepreneurs before and since, they saw opportunity.
“We can do work that makes more money but that doesn’t always work for the client. Our mission is to see that what gets put in the field is what the client needs. It might be something that’s big and shiny, but it may not be what is really needed if it doesn’t fit with what they want to do in the long term.”
That vision was also about “doing things right the first time,” says David Woodill, an electrical engineer who joined the firm two years after its founding.
That also factors in when it comes to an approach to growth for the company itself.
14 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
Along with Woodill and Patel, Langtree, which is an employee owned firm, has some 65 staff in total, at least 15 of those 65 being licensed professional engineers, plus another eight or so that are Engineers in Training, the formal name that the Professional Engineers Ontario uses for the five-year period before the coveted P. Eng. designation is earned. And while the firm has had significant growth over the last 10 years, it’s what Woodill and Patel both refer to as “controlled” or “managed” growth, not at a pace that’s too fast.
An extension of that kind of thinking has played out in a series of conferences where all employees and spouses visit a resort for several days, the last being a four-day, three-night trip to Mexico. There have been eight trips like that over the last dozen years.
It’s about the quality of our services and really understanding what the client needs, not necessarily what they want. —Alpesh Patel.
As the company grows, it does so with an eye not to the next job but for what the relationship with its clients will be in the next 50 years. That also means working well with others, an important way of doing business for a firm like Langtree, which has its specialties, well-recognized and appreciated in its market. “We have pretty well-defined areas that we’re responsible for handling,” notes Woodill. “We try do make sure that’s outlined right up front, so it doesn’t become a problem and that works for us and for the firms we work with on various projects.” Another key factor for engineering in this area is a healthy respect for the industrial environment, where dealing with operating pressures of various gases at 40,000-50,000 pounds per square inch are not uncommon. For those key reasons and beyond, safety is engrained in the mindset of people that work at Langtree Controls, both current and future.
Those kinds of personal interactions ultimately pay longterm dividends for the company as employees are able to relax together and get to know one another outside normal work hours. It also goes a step further as a culture of cooperation and consultation becomes stronger.
Having employees work in a team also means you’re also helping to minimize risk, says Woodill. “There’s a better chance of correcting something before it goes out, which means there are multiple layers of protection.” Now, Patel sees the culture of Langtree as being critical to the ongoing success of the firm. “It’s not just words,” he says. “It’s the way we want to run the company. If people work together in a way that’s going to be a success, they need to understand each other, and we work hard at that.”
Investing in the Bioeconomy
Hiring new graduates out of various engineering schools is part of a process that’s intended to renew the firm over time, notes Woodill. “We stay in touch with the schools—pretty much all of them—and give them all the opportunities possible,” he adds. Sometimes, someone who is from the area has a preference that they’d like to have a career locally, and that certainly becomes a possibility when the desire and the need align. “We’re always in need of quality people who want to be here,” says Woodill, who hails from Whitby, although his wife is from the area.
Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) is a nationally-focused not-for-profit organization based in Sarnia, Ontario. BIC provides critical strategic investment, advice and services to business developers of clean, green and sustainable technologies. Our expertise in commercialization builds a stronger Canada. BIC champions and supports the development of the Sarnia-Lambton Hybrid Chemistry Cluster. BIC continues to help early-stage companies achieve commercial success by: * Providing experienced business and engineering support * Supporting the development of pilot scale and commercial demonstration projects * Removing barriers to commercialization * Providing direct financial investment
“She was happy when we came here.” In Patel’s case, spending five years working in India before working another five years in Saudi Arabia eventually lead to his introduction to the opportunity at Langtree. Woodill became part of the standard process Patel needed to prove he met Canadian qualifications and the rest is history. One initiative that Langtree management employed was to engage the services of a firm that provided a series of team building exercises, done one day a month for four months. Every employee, including management, was involved in the interpersonal skills training.
Process Scale Up
Full Scale Production
‘Creating jobs and economic value sustainably for Canada’
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 15
Mike Thompson, left, and Paul Croft co-manage the Sarnia office of Rally Engineering.
SIGHTS ON GROWTH
The first step is knowing what kind of business is right for a firm like Rally Engineering 16 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
t’s clear from speaking with Mike Thompson and Paul Croft that it was the structure of a business plan that they presented to the senior management team at Rally Engineering, headquartered in Edmonton, that has been formational in the success of the Sarnia office the pair co-lead. That plan, which took shape with the opening in late 2016, remains key to Rally’s future success, say Thompson, the business development lead, and Croft, who serves as senior project manager. In the case of Croft, he’s seen a career that included working for smaller engineering firms, then a much larger one, where he eventually worked on what he calls a “mega-project,” the type of work he now says he’ll avoid at all costs. “It’s like pushing a boulder up hill,” says Croft. “The minute you take your foot off the gas, it rolls you over. There isn’t a lot of satisfaction involved in getting things back on track.” Thompson, whose career has included various stints at engineering firms, mostly in the business development role he now has at Rally, reconnected with Croft at a firm they both worked for before setting their sights on what a local Rally office could bring the larger organization, which also has offices in Calgary and St. John, New Brunswick, in addition to Edmonton.
Both Thompson and Croft were assisted by a former colleague who had left the same firm they had left prior to forming Rally’s Sarnia office but again, what was key to the proposal they made was to “right size”—focusing on business that could drive value for customers on a consistent basis. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call Rally’s approach a variation of the “Goldilocks” strategy—not too big or too small but just right. “That’s exactly right,” says Croft. “As an organization, with a reach across Canada, we’ve got the horsepower to accomplish what needs to be done but we don’t have the policies and procedures that a megaproject requires. But we don’t want to do that kind of work anyway.” From the perspective of Thompson and Croft, who say they’ve achieved their original business plan numbers, being flexible while having a team that represents the full line of engineering disciplines allows them to engage customers in a way that builds lasting relationships they expect to reap the benefits from over time.
It’s work that both Thompson and Croft say will continue to be the bread and butter of Rally. And for good reason. “We’ve seen far too many companies take on projects that end up having them ramp up followed by having to slash staff when things slow down,” says Croft. “They’ll balloon up, then shrink down. Those projects don’t happen every day in the industry and we have no interest in chasing those mega projects.”
In any business, understanding who your customers are (or should be) is key and for Rally Engineering in Sarnia, that’s no different.
“When our customers come to us and say ‘that’s what we wanted’ we know we’ve hit the mark,” says Croft. And that kind of success, he adds, doesn’t happen by accident. “In the past,” says Croft, “we’ve seen instances where the IFR [the Issued for Review part of the engineering lifecycle] has come back and the customer says it’s not what they wanted. Now with the process we have in place, there’s typically very little comment. It’s our belief that if we do our job, the customer is going to get what they wanted in the first place.” Thompson adds that the Rally approach is one that is built with a focus on early engagement. “It’s not only early engagement but continuous engagement for the life of the project,” he says. “We don’t throw it over the fence and hope it’s what they were looking for afterwards.” The relationship between Thompson and Croft, the employees who call Rally Engineering their preferred place to be, and representatives from the firm’s head office in Edmonton is an ongoing one that emphasizes regular conversations around strategy and keeping upto-date on various projects. Skype video calls are a regular part of what makes the entire system flow smoothly. Those connections include conversations that take place between designers and engineers in Sarnia and their counterparts in Edmonton.
Thompson agrees. “What we want to focus on is the long-term relationships that come from us working on site sustaining capital projects,” he says. “Every January, those numbers reset and we’ll get a proportional share of that work. While the big guys are ramping up, we’re doing what we do, giving good service. When the big project goes away, we want to be the people a plant turns to, recognizing the good work and good service we have provided in the past.”
What’s also key is just how important the people in the office are to the future success of any company, Rally Engineering included. “It may be a trite expression, but your people are what you have,” says Croft. “When we bring someone on board it’s for the long term. We’re not a ‘hire and fire’ type of company and one reason is that we’ve seen that kind of thing happen over and over.” Indeed, both Thompson and Croft have been on the receiving end of that kind of downsizing, which is one reason why they talk regularly, making sure that there is the kind of sustaining work, with a limit on the “crazy hours” that end up creating undue stress and overloading of staff. Currently, Rally’s Sarnia office has a complement of 36 staff and while future growth is anticipated, the intention is to maintain a relatively flat organization, with many of the back office type of services that are able to be performed in Edmonton remaining there, although there are some basic locally based positions as well. Today, Croft and Thompson say their early results are “bang on” with what they originally proposed to Rally’s owners. “They’re extremely happy,” says Croft. “Mike and I are happy with the support we get out of Edmonton and things are even better than we anticipated on all sides.” Thompson echoes what his colleague has just said, adding one key point: “Without the support of the senior management team, there’s no way we could have gotten this big this fast.”
In any business, understanding who your customers are (or should be) is key and for Rally Engineering in Sarnia, that’s no different.
Still, when it comes to growth, Croft makes it clear that growing at a pace that’s sustainable will be clear.
“Our niche now is the brownfield capital projects that every plant in the area has,” says Croft. “They’re the site sustaining projects, like an upgrading of a piece of equipment.”
“We knew if we were able to execute our vision, which is to provide good quality work at the right price and the right time, to predict WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 17
what our customers were going to spend on engineering services, we would be in good shape.” And one key word there is “predict,” adds Croft. “Cost predictability is a big thing,” he says. Part of it is getting more projects done for the same money, which is something Croft and Thompson say they are focused on achieving. “We’ll look at all the processes,” notes Thompson, “tweaking them and allowing our customers to reap the benefit. If our customer has a $10 million budget and we can do 20 projects compared with our competitors doing five projects with the same budget, we can improve their asset more efficiently and they can focus on higher targets.”
“We have a vision for how we can do business better,” says Croft. “We’re constantly challenging each other and at the end of the day, we know we’re doing the right thing.” Looking ahead, Rally will be remaining on the hunt for good people. “We’re very focused on hiring at this point, at all levels,” says Croft. “We think it’s very important to have the full range of professionals, including senior, intermediate and juniors and we have a strong mentorship program that we want to keep going.”
We think it’s very important to have the full range of professionals, including senior, intermediate and juniors and we have a strong mentorship program that we want to keep going.
And although neither Croft or Thompson are themselves engineers, they’ve been in the business long enough to know and understand, both from the perspective of the contractor and the owner, what’s required. Both have the field experience that is helping to sustain the business over time.
“We’ve got to look ourselves in the face and know that there’s going to be work to keep people working in the long run. What we’re looking for is the young, talented people that are energetic about how projects are being run. And if we’ve got them on our radar, Mike and I can go out and look for work for them.”
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE COMING
At the same time, Croft and Thompson are both determined not to fall into a cycle of “hire and fire.”
Call us today at 519-337-2001 and speak to me, Falk Hampel to ask about our
MARKET CORRECTION? This long running bull market is surely nearing the end. A wrong move, or no move at all can put you squarely in the
plan, to help ensure you can weather the coming storm!
RETIREMENT RISK ZONE.
RJ Rau & Associates 1315 Michigan Ave. Unit E, Sarnia, ON N7S 4M6 519-337-2001 x229 • Direct: 519-466-0243 firstname.lastname@example.org
18 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
Looking for a little
in your life? Sometimes we need to ‘let the kid inside’ loose... once again By Helen Lomax, Vice President of Enthusiasm, Pathways & Transitions
o, I’m not talking about your torrid love life – I’m talking about your day to day living. Do you wake up in the morning excited about the coming day? What you are going to do or perhaps who you are going to meet? Do you start the day with energy and a spring in your step?
Life is meant to be alive with challenges to be overcome and opportunities to be grabbed. Everyone has possibilities and potential, but its up to each of us to determine which ones we will tap into and how we can shape and create the future we want to see. Are you looking for the ones coming your way? It doesn’t matter if you run your own business, work for someone else, have retired and left the working world behind, or maybe just graduated and are thinking about your future career. Everyone needs passion and zip in their life to be happy and truly successful! Sometimes we need to let the kid inside of us loose once again. Remember those days when anything was possible and we might have even strived to become a “super hero”? Well you can do that
again. It's easy for any of us to say why something won’t work, or why something is a silly idea. Turn that around and see what nuggets might be hiding in there. How can you make something work and who can help you do that? Sometimes just brainstorming with a friend or work colleague can produce some very interesting ideas. You may not realize it, but you might already be a “super hero” in other’s eyes. If you have your own business, reach out to others for their suggestions and input. When you do this, be sure you are listening with an open mind for possibilities. Don’t automatically discount what people may say or that “we’ve tried that before”. Maybe the time wasn’t right then and it might be now. Don’t limit yourself in these sessions and reach for your dreams. That’s what Shawn Mendes and Ariana Grande have done and look at the success they have achieved. When Oprah was struggling in her early life, do you think she would have envisioned her world today? Not likely but she went after her goals and is a great inspiration to many. What would really kindle the internal fire and excite you? What brings you joy, a challenge, and intrigues you? What brings your passion alive? Sometimes we need to chase that dream to turn a corner or to start down a new road. Meet new people, try new things, change your routine, do something you like, but haven’t done in years. In essence what I’m saying, if you always eat green beans, try carrots for a change – you might just like them! WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 19
here’s an age-old “truism” in real estate that points to the importance of location in making a decision.
For Devin Johnson, whose “born and raised in Sarnia” pedigree includes having attended Lambton College before finishing up a degree in mechanical engineering at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, coming home was at least a factor in him returning home after several years working in Calgary. Johnson, now sole owner of MIG Engineering calls the Calgary experience a “different opportunity” that may have had as much to do with what kinds of jobs were available when he graduated from Lakehead. But the pull of home, where his wife is also from, and the allure of being able to raise a young family (they have two children) in a community where extended family is near, took hold in 2014. That’s the year Johnson moved back to Sarnia, which took place after conversations he had with Marty Raaymakers, now retired as MIG’s previous owner. The move turned out to be good timing, although Johnson says it wasn’t related to what ended up being a significant downturn in the Alberta economy, related as it has occurred in the past to the volatility of oil prices.
Devin Johnson, left, is pictured with former MIG Engineering owner Marty Raaymakers.
WITH A NEW OWNER IN PLACE
MIG Engineering Continues to Grow and Renew Sixty years after firm opened its doors, there’s much to celebrate, and much to anticipate in the years to come 20 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
Since landing at MIG, the decision to acquire the firm began about a one-year process that culminated in the ownership change just before the end of 2018. Now at the helm of a firm that includes 16 employees, seven of them professional engineers, Johnson agrees that he’s in a market that’s definitely a competitive one, with various engineering firms existing locally, although to be clear, MIG is no newcomer: it will celebrate 60 years in business in 2019. “We’re both a multidiscipline and multisector firm,” says Johnson, adding that those two areas “allows us to be involved with different clientele in industry as well as the municipal, commercial and private sectors.” It’s a good place to be, especially in an industry known for having fluctuation with project workloads. “Not having all your eggs in one basket is a big strength,” says Johnson, referring to a strategy that balances activity in one area against another on a year-by-year basis.
But there’s more to what Johnson sees as part of the value proposition around MIG Engineering. “For me, it’s about the history of the company as well,” he says. “MIG was a municipal engineering and survey firm when it was originally formed and that was for the same reason: there was a fluctuation in workload at certain times over the years, so the firm became more involved with serving industrial clients.” MIG client list would be heavily weighted toward the actual owner/ operator of the facility, Johnson notes. “We don’t do as much work for the fabricators, although we might do work indirectly for the same client. What we’ll do is engineering to the final design with the fabricator then taking it over to build a specific project.” From a business development standpoint, Johnson says he’s usually the key person involved, either work that comes in from existing clientele or complete proposals that are a result of MIG responding to bidding calls that are issued throughout the year.
make sure we have a structure in place for each of the disciplines and a transition plan for our senior, intermediate and junior levels. From the learning perspective, it’s being able to grow in each of those areas and it’s difficult to know if there’s one area that’s going to be busier than the other.” Currently, one of the larger areas would be projects that have a strong civil engineering focus, but underground work (sewers and water mains included) has a mechanical engineering component. Johnson says his focus as an owner includes an emphasis on being transparent with every aspect of how he does business.
We want to make sure the growth is being done on a strategic basis, with the right people. What I’m trying to do is to make sure we have a structure in place for each of the disciplines and a transition plan for our senior, intermediate and junior levels.
“I want everyone to be involved with the process and I value the input from employees on changes, whatever those might be. Allowing that information to come into the discussion means everyone has to be aware of what the plans are,” he adds. It also includes making sure that the entire team knows and understands what the company will look like in the future.
Although the full scope of what MIG does in any year is varied, individual projects do stand out, one being a rail yard expansion at NOVA Chemicals Moore site, a project that included MIG working on the feasibility study and then right through to the completion of engineering and design.
Johnson says he sees opportunity, particularly in the industrial sector and with project work for clients that MIG hasn’t worked with, either at all or for some time.
While Johnson is predictably circumspect about the numbers involved, he does acknowledge that the project “was large for us.”
Those relationship building activities are areas Johnson will continue to be focused on doing, although he still enjoys the project work that may be at the heart of what had him take on engineering in the first place.
For the company as a whole, what’s important to note is that having a diverse list of clients is definitely a strength, although Johnson did say that rail work like that done at NOVA is something MIG has taken on regularly, although it’s not work that companies do on a yearly basis. The company’s portfolio of projects also include various undertakings for the Federal Bridge Corporation, the Crown company that owns the Blue Water Bridge, as well as numerous area municipalities. Examples there include road construction projects in Petrolia and various water main projects for the City of Sarnia. “There’s certainly enough business to keep us employed in this area,” Johnson says. As far as growth is concerned, Johnson sees opportunity but with the kind of strategic emphasis you would expect to hear from an owner. “We want to make sure the growth is being done on a strategic basis, with the right people,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is to
“It’s going to be about rebuilding those relationships and getting to do work for additional clients,” he adds.
The fact that Johnson’s father was an industrial engineer may have been at least part of how his path included going to Lambton College, where he was able to get a better feel for what engineering would look like before finishing up at Lakehead, a school that offered one of the best formulas for credit transfer leading to his mechanical engineering degree. Today, his approach to providing engineering services includes the same kind of thinking that he embraced in those early years— finding the most efficient ways of accomplishing a specific task and following through to completion. “We have a preferential way of doing things,” says Johnson, referring to the way work tends to find its way to the doors of MIG Engineering. “Our clients have their preferences as well. In the end, they’re doing to get support from different areas and we do the same in our project work. By no means do we say we can do everything. But ultimately it’s about helping the client.” WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 21
SNC-Lavalin executive Andrew Stoesser is pictured at a community event held in early March at Lambton Mall.
BIG FIRM, EVEN BIGGER OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD As lead firm for NOVA Chemicals expansion, SNC-Lavalin expects to maintain its market position 22 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
here’s little question that one of the largest—perhaps THE largest—engineering firms in our region is SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian-based but global powerhouse that is, notably, the lead firm behind the $2 billion expansion of NOVA Chemicals’ Corunna site. It would be odd at the very least not to acknowledge that the firm has been in the news lately, with allegations of bribery related to activities half a world away and whether politicians here in Canada had improperly, perhaps illegally, sought to interfere ahead of any domestic legal actions against the company that may be forthcoming. This is not, however, a story about those issues, but rather how SNC-Lavalin’s office of some 200 employees and its leadership remain positioned to bring their clients the kind of value the firm has delivered since its founding in 1911. We sat with two of its most senior officials in Sarnia, Alastair Perry, an electrical engineer by training who joined the firm about seven years ago and who now serves as general manager of the Sarnia office, and Andrew Stoesser, a chemical engineer with 30 years’ experience at SNC Lavalin who serves as vice president of Business Development for Eastern Canada.
Your Resource for Business Support Whether you're just starting out, growing your business, looking for financing options, or business resources, we are committed to helping expand Lambton County’s economic community by partnering with and strengthening current and future business owners. “The process was definitely easier than dealing with the banks.” - Dr. Kimberly Eskritt, Lambton Audiology Associates
“They’re an incredible support and a wealth of information. They give more than just the basics; they are realistic and make you work for it so you know [being an entrepreneur] is what you want to do.” - Nicole Moore, Junior Baker
519-383-1371 109 Durand Street, Sarnia, ON N7T 5A1
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 23
As certainly many others would describe SNC-Lavalin, Perry says what differentiates the firm is its full-service capabilities, providing a turnkey solution for clients and in a manner that remains flexible in the way it delivers and executes those services. In Sarnia, the business is focused (not surprisingly) on the oil and gas business that forms the nucleus of so much of the area’s industry, but as Stoesser points out, the depth and breadth of the firm’s operations that stretch out to every aspect of engineering and in almost every area of the world count for quite a bit when firms like NOVA Chemicals look for both expertise and capability.
Further to that, as Perry points out, the firm is in the problem solving business.
Naturally, any discussion around growth will include how people— engineering being very much a people business at its heart—are brought into the organization.
It’s about change management, collaboration and innovation. It’s about driving people to that different approach that will provide a different value to the construction side of the business.
For the NOVA Chemicals expansion, for example, SNC-Lavalin created a consortium that includes TechnipFMC. Under an agreement announced in March 2018, TechnipFMC will have primary responsibility for the detailed engineering and procurement aspects of the work, while SNC-Lavalin will be responsible for the modular fabrication, erection, construction and pre-commissioning of the work to deliver two gas cracking furnaces. The consortium is evidence of a long history of SNCLavalin collaborating with other partners, the key motivation being whatever drives the most value to the client.
“It’s about change management, collaboration and innovation,” he says. “It’s about driving people to that different approach that will provide a different value to the construction side of the business.”
But what may be even better, Perry would say, is to attract someone who is graduating from university and who wants to enter the space that SNC-Lavalin occupies. “With a co-op, sometimes you only have a limited time of interacting with the individual,” notes Perry. “But when we engage with someone who has finished their studies, you’ve got a sense of continuity and you have that much more time to help them develop.” As popular as the co-op experience may be, at least a few current engineers in the firm have never been in a co-op, at least in part due to SNCLavalin’s emphasis on hiring directly from schools in addition to its interest in the co-op route.
With a co-op, sometimes you only have a limited time of interacting with the individual. But when we engage with someone who has finished their studies, you’ve got a sense of continuity and you have that much more time to help them develop.
“What’s enticing about this industry, and part of what makes recruitment to SNC-Lavalin, is the welldocumented challenges that the construction industry faces and the fact that it lags behind manufacturing,” said Perry. “We’re now starting to see solutions being proposed, some involving technology, training and different people skills, and the question is how do we change the engineering that we do to get improvements in productivity. And how do we increase collaboration. The skill sets of a designer might be quite a bit different in the coming years than they are today.”
What that means is that people like Perry are finding themselves remaining focused on the technical side of the business but also putting an even stronger focus than exists today on the people side.
24 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
While Perry says SNC-Lavalin sees the co-op model as being a great one and the firm has been able to leverage that to its benefit, he sees that being an introduction to the business, which is in itself, a good thing.
Stoesser, a native of Sarnia who joined the firm after just a couple of years working elsewhere in Toronto and Boston, says SNC-Lavalin offers the opportunity of staying in one place (which he has for nearly three decades) or going abroad.
Both say Sarnia is somewhat uniquely positioned when it comes to the engineering community, with its close proximity to the owner base, especially compared with locations such as Montreal or Calgary. “They don’t have the opportunity of walking out the door and seeing what they’ve designed being in the construction process,” notes Stoesser. The NOVA Chemicals expansion aside, a sustaining part of SNCLavalin’s business locally is the kind of sustaining capital project work that are part of what keeps companies throughout the Chemical Valley in operation, year after year.
That kind of thinking, on the part of SNC-Lavalin and its various clients, goes beyond SarniaLambton, one example being the longstanding relationship that exists with Imperial Oil, which is owned by ExxonMobil. In fact, the Imperial Oil connection began the same year Kilborn was acquired by SNC-Lavalin and since then various standards, processes, and tools have been standardized across various sites. And because SNC-Lavalin has similar relationships in the U.S. and western Canada, the common language and processes are widely shared, back and forth. Perry acknowledges that one of the reasons he was attracted to SNC-Lavalin (remember he came to the firm from Imperial Oil) was the rich history of the firm and its Canadian roots.
SNC-Lavalin has the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract on NOVA Chemicals’ $2.2 billion Corunna expansion.
Locally, SNC-Lavalin’s reputation as a provider of engineering services related to the oil and gas industry continues to grow, notably through acquisitions like the one it made in 2014 for Kentz, an Irish-based firm with a global reputation. With that acquisition, Stoesser says SNC-Lavalin, which had made another key acquisition in the form of Kilborn in 1996 (the firm Stoesser worked for) had the effect of further leveraging its presence locally. As part of its contract to provide Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) services to NOVA, there is a heavy emphasis on building modules for the expansion, that work being done by CIMS, which bought the former Chemfab Industries facility at the end of 2016. “Doing it this way will positively impact construction productivity by moving as many construction hours out of the site, but there has to be good collaboration between construction and engineering in order to make sure those concepts are built into the design,” adds Perry. Here’s where the size of a firm like SNC-Lavalin starts to pay off.
He was also attracted to the firm which he saw as having grown in scope as it took on work and in places where other companies might not have gone.
As SNC-Lavalin continues to grow, the argument that its size facilitates even more growth is a compelling one, with capabilities that not many companies would bring to the market. One example of that was the famed Highway 407, the Greater Toronto Area toll road that would likely not have become a reality had SNC-Lavalin’s capital group not taken an equity position ahead of construction. That doesn’t mean that the firm is closed to collaborating with others, although clearly the motivation would be to do as much work internally as possible. That said, Perry says the firm would tend to focus on the obvious— what ultimately brings the best value to the project. Looking at the NOVA expansion and the impact that project will ultimately have in the community, Perry says it’s good for business and the community. “We want to see new NOVAs established in the community and support those initiatives. And one of the biggest things we can do toward that is to execute efficiently, which paves the way for further investment.”
“With a company this size, there’s a lot of learning that’s taking place,” says Perry. “It absolutely carries over to other jobs. Knowledge management is a hot topic and being able to share what we’ve learned on previous jobs is part of that.” WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 25
Laydown and Main Entrance site just west of Yonge/Eglinton intersection. Photo by Rick Radell for Crosslinx Transit Solutions/Metrolinx
Shotcrete is being sprayed to stabilize the walls for the mining of Laird Station on the Eglinton Crosstown. The exposed precast tunnel sections will soon be removed to make way for the stationâ€™s platform level. Photo by Stephanie Lake for Crosslinx Transit Solutions/Metrolinx.
26 â€˘ LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
An action shot of rail installation works occurring 22 metres underground for the Eglinton Crosstown.Photo by Stephanie Lake for Crosslinx Transit Solutions/Metrolinx.
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM â€¢ 27
From the GROUND it
Turning nature’s bounty into new products is all part of what drives BIC
then and still does now, that engineering is a problem-solving discipline that combines mathematics and sciences. “I just didn’t see that there was an opportunity to be challenged on the farm,” he says now, a smile appearing on his face.
hen Sandy Marshall looks back on his career and recalls growing up on a farm not very far from Sarnia-Lambton, he finds it somewhat ironic that much of his work as executive director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada is in many ways related to a way of life he once wanted to leave behind.
Today, there are several projects that BIC continues to have a role in overseeing, its mission being to give not only a boost but to make the connections and foster relationships throughout the Chemical Valley and beyond. The intention of course is to build a base for a new industry, one that’s based on a source of energy that has more recently been in the ground than the conventional oil and gas that industry continues to depend on as a source for its products.
The fact is, Marshall went on to attend the University of Waterloo, where he earned both an undergraduate and master’s degree in chemical engineering, the graduate degree specializing in pyrolysis, the science that governs the breaking down of biomass into various oils that are key to various projects that Bioindustrial Innovation Canada is helping to commercialize.
One of those projects is Comet Biorefining, a firm that’s working to commercialize a process of converting cellulosic biomass into high-quality cost competitive products. This enabling and groundbreaking technology allows manufacturers to have a reliable and consistent source of sustainable ingredients that can be used directly or converted to value-added end products.
“It’s a core piece of what we’re doing now,” says Marshall, a veteran of Chemical Valley who just a few years ago served as president and general manager at LANXESS (now ARLANXEO).
In 2016, BIC established the Centre for Commercialization of Sustainable Chemistry Innovation (COMM SCI) initiative program, an investment envelope created with funding from the Canadian government (the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario) and Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.
When he left the company in 2013, Marshall set up his own consultancy before taking the helm at BIC in July 2013. He still sees the irony in remembering that he left the family farm because he wanted to be more challenged, something he believed 28 • LAMBTON SHIELD MARCH/APRIL 2019
Through COMM SCI, BIC champions commercialization, cluster and value chain development by providing business advice, technical
services and project funding support to participating small- and medium- sized enterprises, including Comet Bio. In doing so, it hopes to accelerate technology development, removing barriers to commercialization and enabling broader product adoption. With Comet Bio in particular, Marshall and his team are continuing to support the drive to build a network of farmers, producers who will provide biomass such as corn stover that will be subsequently processed into products such as sweeteners. Marshall says Comet Bio has now close to 120 producers, which represents sufficient biomass acreage to commercialize its process. What’s left is to secure financing for a plant that will be built on the site of TransAlta, the energy producer that occupies the former Dow Chemical Canada site in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. It’s a project that BIC has been engaged with since 2012, which means projects such as this have a fairly long incubation period, much longer than what Marshall was engaged with when he worked in Chemical Valley.
recovered back to “virgin” grade, and a much higher efficiency. Marshall and his team worked with Li-Cycle on a site study that identified two Canadian cities—Brockville and Sarnia—as both more advantageous than a third alternative choice located in New York state. “I think that’s exciting,” said Marshall. “It showed Ontario is very competitive even with the kind of financial incentives coming from the U.S.” While BIC continues to invest in several ventures, all promising in their own right, one relatively early stage initiative is Forward Water, a firm based in Kingston, near Queen’s University.
Marshall gets excited about a good many projects BIC takes on, but especially those who focus on what he calls the 'circular economy'— materials that will deliver a value equivalent to what they were originally created to do.
“When I was there, working in operations, it was often about optimizing a process,” he said. “This is an interesting difference where you’re looking ahead, down the road, not just optimizing a system but actually creating something.”
The company, which has been struggling to commercialize its operation, has now received funding from BIC as well as a “family office” based in Toronto—essentially a high net worth family that chooses to make a difference without disclosing their identity. BIC’s role was to introduce Forward Water’s technology to the investment group.
In essence, Forward Water has a process that involves a three-step process to cleaning high volumes of industrial water, extracting valuable energy and leaving behind clean water that can be recycled to the operation, creating a “closed loop.”
There are others, of course. Many others.
Marshall calls it water clean-up.”
One is Origin Materials, a company that has created a different way of turning underutilized feedstocks such as cardboard, wood waste and agricultural residues into new products.
There are others, of course, and Marshall points to the BIC website (www.bincanada.ca) which has a complete list of projects in its portfolio.
Headquartered in California, Origin Materials was looking for an ideal site to locate a “pioneer” plant when it discovered Sarnia through an independent site selection process with no connection to BIC. It turns out that right here, with our infrastructure and cooperative culture, was just the place to be.
He wraps up the conversation with some thoughts about how BIC is approaching its mission and how engineering plays a key role.
The firm then went a step further, taking space in the Western SarniaLambton Research Park to install a pilot plant for its technology, moving the physical equipment and engaging a local engineering firm, Rock Technical, to retrofit it to Canadian standards. Marshall gets excited about a good many projects BIC takes on, but especially those who focus on what he calls the “circular economy”— materials that will deliver a value equivalent to what they were originally created to do. An example of this is in Li-Cycle, another company in which BIC has invested. The firm is focused on taking depleted batteries and recovering the lithium and cobalt that would typically be mixed in with freshly mined material. In Li-Cycle’s case, the materials are
“As much as the development of a bio-economy, we’re really talking about sustainable chemistry,” he says. “It’s what we’ve been focused on for the last few years. The circular economy, things like water purification, are also part of sustainable chemistry. These are equal priorities in our efforts to enable the best sustainable chemistry technologies to commercialize.” And the engineering part? “It really is all about engineering,” says Marshall. “Good science needs good engineering to commercialize. The most exciting time in my career was developing the hydrogenating technology at Polysar, taking the science to convert it into a plant. But the middle phase—going through the applied research and commercializing the technology, the partnership between science and engineering, you need both of those skillsets.”
WWW.LAMBTONSHIELD.COM • 29
WHY WE ARE
THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOUR BUSINESS!
Take your message to every business in the region. Research shows that magazine readers are among the most affluent in their respective markets and are prepared to spend.
Through an efficient distribution network, we help you reach consumers across Sarnia-Lambton.
REACHING CONSUMERS ANYTIME, ANYWHERE
Reach an audience that’s hungry for a positive message in a format that’s highly readable and design friendly.
Grow brand equity in a way that positions your brand in the most appropriate setting.
Looking to get started? EMAIL OR CALL
Fatema Bhabrawala (519) 381-1140 email@example.com
LAMBTON SHIELD www.lambtonshield.com
in education, training, and applied research
diploma, certificate and degree programs
#1 CHOICE for more than 13,000 students from 20 countries around the globe
World-class facilities Exceptional faculty and industry-renowned programming,
PROTECT YOUR HEARING & CHECK YOUR HEARING ARE YOU AWARE?? Excessive noise exposure can cause permanent damage to your auditory health. Frequent loud noise exposure can lead to ringing in your ears (Tinnitus), migraines, fatigue and even irreversible hearing loss. Custom hearing protection can help reduce the risk of these health conditions. Your ears are as unique as you are. So shouldn’t your hearing protection be unique too?
CUSTOM HEARING PROTECTION VS. DISPOSABLE EARPLUGS
Allows a secure, natural fitting protection without any discomfort.
Speech filtering technology allows you to carry on conversation with ease, even in a noisy work environment.
Variety of noise reduction filters available to fit any type of noisy situation or workplace.
One set could last up to 3-5 years.
Can be difficult to insert. May not create proper protection if inserted incorrectly.
TRADE IN & SAVE
RECEIVE $25.00 OFF A PAIR OF CUSTOM NOISE PROTECTION WHEN YOU BRING YOUR DISPOSAL EAR PLUGS
Easy to misplace. Not Custom to your ears.
Call today for your FREE hearing consultation
270 North Christina Street Sarnia, ON N7T 5V3
PREVENTION IDENTIFICATION TREATMENT
1565 16th Street East Unit #2 Owen Sound, ON N4K 5N3
118 7th Avenue Suite 106 Hanover, ON N4N 2G9
368 College Street N Durham, ON N0G 1R0