Northern Ontario mining supply and service companies need to get more active to take their products into the global market, and the provincial and federal governments have money to help them do that.
That was one message that came out of the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention held in Toronto last week.
Jenni Myllynen of Sudbury, the program manager of the Northern Ontario Exports Program, was a speaker at the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase. The program is jointly funded by the provincial Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) and FedNor, the federal economic development agency.
"There's a world outside of Northern Ontario, and we help them take that expertise elsewhere," Myllynen said.
"We have grants that we provide to companies. But most importantly, what we do is we connect companies to expert advisors."
Myllynen said it is one thing for companies to develop a product or service that meets the needs of the North's mining industry. But if it is something valuable to the North, chances are it's valuable to industry around the world.
She said a lot of companies would benefit by taking their business "to the next step".
"What areas do companies need support on?" Myllynen asked.
"Well, everything from actually being in-market and meeting customers, but also the back office operations. So these are the areas that we can provide funding for expert connections to."
For example, she said a business might find a huge new demand for its products, but there are problems with inventory processes. She said Northern Ontario Exports can help resolve that.
"Now you want to be more efficient. We can provide funding so that you can work with an expert to look at your inventory control processes, so that you're able to respond to orders," Myllynen said.
Other areas of expertise include marketing, connecting with customers and distributors and agents. Sales is another key area companies need help with, she said.
"You know, a lot of companies start because they have a technical expertise, they might not be sales experts. And so to provide companies with the support that they need to actually train up their staff on the kind of sales that they need to do, or infuse their company with sales culture so that they're ultimately more effective and more profitable," Myllynen said.
The Northern Ontario Export Program is available to any Northern Ontario company regarded as a small- or medium-sized business, less than 500 employees. Companies must also have at least $500,000 worth of annual sales, to demonstrate stability.
Myllynen cited examples such as The Bucket Shop in Timmins, which manufactures heavy equipment for digging and excavating, and Miller Technology in North Bay, which makes battery electric mining vehicles. She said both companies worked with her agency and both are successful in expanding their markets far beyond the North.
Myllynen said many companies can experience success without help from Northern Ontario Exports, but those companies that seek help will likely find the experience a lot easier.
Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com.