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Keeping it local a priority for NorFab (4 photos)

This week's What's Up Wednesday looks at the custom manufacturing business that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary

For a quarter of a century, NorFab has been a perfect fit for the mining industry.

Last year the business celebrated its 25-year milestone of manufacturing custom-made equipment for mining companies.

Dan Katic, owner of NorFab Metal and Machine, reflected on the keys to their success.

“Consistency. I think our customers always know what they’re getting. They’re getting the same quality every time,” he said. “Pricing is always competitive. We’re never crazy up and down.

“Quality, competitive, on-time deliveries … I think that’s our success.”

He recalled the start for NorFab, and appreciates its history.

“When we started, it was myself and Walter DiTullio. He was my partner, 50-50,” Katic said. “Then Walter got older and sold to his son, Terry.

“Terry was my partner for several years. It’s only been five years since I’ve been on my own. Terry still works here (business manager).

“I don’t want anyone to think this was done on my own. This was a 50-50 partnership with Walter, who was actually my mentor, who sold to his son, who moved on and actually still works here part time.”

NorFab currently has 22 employees and features a modern machine shop and welding facilities.

“It started off local. There’s so much activity locally that we were lucky to be successful right away,” he said. “We hit the ground running. It’s never been quiet. It’s always been very busy.

“Since we started, we’ve spread our wings a little bit — I’m not going to say a whole lot. We get as far as Sudbury, because we just have so much right here in our backyard. We do a little bit of exporting overseas to South America. But other than that, it’s our backyard.”

NorFab has kept pace with the changes in the mining industry to provide its customers with equipment.

“We started as underground rail equipment manufacturers,” he said. “Cars that carry the material underground from one end of the mine to the other. You have to dump these cars, so we make car dumpers. You have to pull these cars with a locomotive, we make that. All the infrastructure around the rail-hauling system, is what our niche market was.

“Mining has kind of gone automated since then, so it’s not so much that kind of mining any more. We’re still custom fabricators, anything to do with mining, we make.”

Technology has also changed on the manufacturing side.

“The equipment is a little more automated than it was 25 years ago,” Katic said. “A lot of the equipment is still manual. A lot of the equipment is still conventional. There are areas where it’s gone automated and it’s helped drastically.

“It has definitely improved production and safety.”

As NorFab grew, it was necessary to update its facilities.

“This our third location. Our first location was across the street from where we are now,” he said. “We grew out of the first spot. We renovated it until we ran out of land.

“We went to the next spot and renovated and renovated, then got bought out by the Dome Mine when they rerouted the highway when they wanted to make a super pit there.

“Then we bought a chunk of property and built this place in ’06. It took us a while to get a big, fancy facility, but now we are set for the future.”

All through the years, giving back to the community has been a big part of NorFab. It has been a supporter of the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation and numerous local charities.

“I’m a sports guy — I played hockey all my life, my kids play hockey, my brother plays hockey. We really support the sports,” Katic said. “There’s KidSport … we sponsor so many little hockey players, basketball players, ringette, golfing, baseball, you name it.

“The local schools, the high schools, we’ve helped them out with materials for their shops, stuff like that too. And then, of course there is the food banks, the Good Samaritan Inn and these people. As a matter of fact, the payment for our annual Christmas party is non-perishable goods that go towards the food bank.

“I think it’s one of the most important things. It’s a small community. We have to take care of each other. If we don’t, who will? The GTA, if we get our work done over there, what are they going to do for us? What are they going to do for us overseas? I really believe in buying local, hiring local and trying to keep as much of our work as local as possible.”

Looking ahead, Katic sees continued success for NorFab.

“We’re not a rah, rah, rah company and we don’t have billboards around the town and we don’t have TV ads. We just keep our nose to the grindstone and we just keep plugging along,” he said. “I see us with a fantastic future. I’m a young guy, I have many years to go in this community. I was born and raised in Schumacher.

“I just see us plugging along. There’s so much mining activity locally, gold prices are soaring, base metal prices are strong. I just see us plugging along, do the same thing that made us successful for the past 25 years. I just want to keep doing that.

“What makes me proud, is in that 25 years anniversary, we’ve had three employees celebrate 25 years with us. That’s impressive.”

NorFab Metal and Machine is located at 7117 Hwy. 101 E. in Porcupine.