Windsor companies cash in on Alberta oil boom

Thursday, February 13, 2014

CBC News

Automotive suppliers have had to branch out into other industries in order to stay afloat

A growing number of companies that used to work in automotive supply in Windsor have been switching to other industries in order to survive.

That includes tool and die shops in Windsor that are cashing in on Alberta's oil boom.  One of those companies is Advance Machining Services, where Norm Marcoux is the president.  His company started out as an automotive supplier but switched primarily to the oil and gas industry about 10 years ago, although the transition wasn't easy.

"The biggest thing for us was having the right machinery to do the type of work," he said. "Windsor is a mill town. We do a lot of mill work. There weren't a lot of people machining around here."

Marcoux touted the automotive industry for preparing them to do business.

"As anal as the automotive industry was, or as harsh as they can be on their suppliers, they really make you have attention to detail and be a good supplier, where delivery dates matter," he said. "Working with these guys gave you common sense that we thought was every day. When you work with guys out west they thought it was great service we were providing.

Marcoux admitted his company would not exist today if it wasn't for the switch over.

"We definitely wouldn't have survived the transition and then thrived," he said. "When we got into the oil and gas, we entered into a strategic alliance with our biggest customer and at one point we had ... all new machines (and) really nice state of the art shops."

He said last year was slow, but he expects it to pick up.

"We need to keep pushing the diversification," said Marcoux. "If you didn't evolve, you would die. It's as simple as that."

Other companies in Windsor have also diversified.  Valiante Machine and Tool has branched out into the aviation industry.