Timberock International signing up distributors in Mexico and Chile
BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
Timberock International's participation in recent trade missions to Central and South America has paid off.
Don Michaluk, sales manager at the Elliot Lake-based company, accompanied Ontario government trade officials and representatives of several other Ontario mining supply businesses to Mexico last October and to Chile in June. He is also planning to exhibit at a trade show in Peru in September.
Timberock, which sells complete single and telescopic hydraulic feed systems for jumbo rock drills, one-man Anfo loading systems, replacement parts for jumbo rock drills and engineered pin drivers, found a distributor for its products in Mexico and is currently negotiating with another potential distributor in Chile. It does some business outside of North America already, but this is the first time it has signed up distributors outside of Canada.
The Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) covers the cost of exhibit space at selected mining shows and arranges for matchmaking sessions with companies in the host country. Exhibitors pay a small fee for the service and cover their own travel costs.
“For a company that hasn't been able to break into another country or mining market elsewhere, it's hard. You have to do a lot of groundwork and you have the barriers of language to fight with,” said Michaluk.
“Paul Bradette and Pierre Seguin with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines did all the groundwork. It was nice. They had meetings set up with customers and potential distributors ahead of time.”
Yves Nelson, who owns Timberock along with his brother, Frank, said he was “fairly skeptical” about sending Michaluk on the trips at first. But after the company's success in Mexico and Chile, he's sold on the idea.
“After Don came back from Mexico and he explained how everything went and how it was well organized, we were actually really impressed.”
The company’s 22 employees specialize in repairs to jumbo rock drills, boom and feed systems and hydraulic and pneumatic systems. Timberock is often able to repair and refurbish machinery that customers are tempted to just write off, said Nelson.
“We developed special techniques to repair items that are very difficult to repair.”
It’s often a less expensive solution than replacing a component, he added.
Timberock is always looking for ways to improve its own products so they're easier to use and repair, said Nelson.
“I think the strength of our company, and the reason we are where we are today, is that we spend a lot of time with customers trying to improve on processes and procedures.”
Timberock was started by the Nelson brothers in Elliot Lake in 1984. At the time, most of their business came from the local uranium mining companies, Denison Mines and Rio Algom.
When the mines closed between the early and mid-1990s, Timberock lost 80 per cent of its business, so it started selling to the mining companies in Sudbury and across Canada and the United States instead.
Although they could have relocated to Sudbury, the brothers decided to stay in Elliot Lake. Nelson said he enjoys the small-town atmosphere of the community of 11,500 located 160 kilometres west of Sudbury.
He loves going fishing and hunting, as do most of his employees.
“There was lots of opportunity for us to leave and move to Sudbury or the United States,” he said.
“We're here because we want to live in Elliot Lake. We've lived most of our lives here. It's a great place. It doesn't really matter where you're based when you're servicing the North American market.”