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Business of the Month: 'We all want to see it succeed'

Collaborative environment at A10 Fabrication helping Sudbury-area welding shop grow
A10 Fabrication is putting the finishing touches on its expanded 10,000-square-foot shop, which will be operational this spring.

It’s been more than a month since Marc Benoit returned from an early March trip to the annual conference of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), and he still hasn’t made it all the way through the two-inch-thick stack of business cards he collected at the event.

Deemed the world’s premier gathering of mining and mineral exploration expertise, it was the second time around for Benoit, president at A10 Fabrication, but the first exhibiting as part of the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase (NOMS).

The largest pavilion at the event, NOMS provides an invaluable opportunity for Northern Ontario mining service and supply companies to network, meet prospective clients, and potentially sign contracts on the exhibition floor.

Consider Benoit impressed.

“The northern pavilion is truly the most amazing space,” he said of the area that hosts more than 100 Northern Ontario businesses over the course of four days.

“We had a lot of success with securing relationships that are new, as well as tightening up some that we've had for the 11 years we've been in business.”​

​The difficulty now, Benoit said, will be finding the time to follow up with each of those new contacts while balancing a full workload and transitioning production to A10’s newly built facility.

In operation since 2013, A10 provides custom fabrication and machining services to clients in mining, forestry, and other industries, in addition to manufacturing a range of retail products.

Two years ago, the company realized it was running out of space and started planning an expansion to its facility, located in McKerrow, just off Highway 17 about 40 minutes west of Sudbury.

When complete, the project will bring the total amount of work space to 10,000 square feet, enabling the company to take on larger, more complex projects. Engineering work is underway on a bridge to anchor an overhead crane, with A10 doing the fabrication, Benoit said.​

A10 Fabrication marked its debut as an exhibitor in the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase at the annual PDAC convention in March. Pictured from left are Kennedy Soucie, production manager; Marc Benoit, president; and Eric Lafontaine, shop manager. | A10 Fabrication/LinkedIn

​In advance of the expansion, Benoit recognized that he’d need some additional help to handle any new work that came their way. So, he’s added to his complement of staff, in the shop and in the office, in preparation.

“Even before the new shop was occupiable, we started hiring,” he said. “We kind of had to work on top of each other, but when we got the right talent coming through, we wanted to lock it down.”

His staff now sits at 15.

Like many smaller shops, finding skilled employees in the midst of a mining boom can be challenging. Big mining companies pay workers a premium wage that mom-and-pop outfits can’t compete with, and it’s priced a lot of smaller shops out of the labour market.

But Benoit believes A10 has something to offer that bigger companies may not: a close-knit, supportive environment that encourages people to take care of themselves and each other.

“Honestly, we've never had too much of an issue on standing out,” he said. “A10 has always been a great brand name outside of the shop and inside the shop — we are the A10 family. We've kind of always looked at it that way.”

That approach goes all the way back to the company’s early beginnings.

A10 was founded by Benoit, his brother, and a cousin through marriage, and it remained a three-man crew through the early years until the business started to grow.

Benoit is open about experiencing some personal challenges — his wife was in a life-altering cycling accident three years ago — that sharpened his focus on what’s important in his life.

Through it all, he said, his staff has been incredibly supportive and he seeks to offer them that support in return.

He said he takes complaints about other workplaces to heart and uses them to create a welcoming work environment where employees can feel comfortable opening up about any issues they may be dealing with in their lives.

It’s nice to be financially compensated, Benoit said, but staying close to family, nurturing mental wellness, and prioritizing personal relationships are more important than buying another expensive toy to sit in the driveway.

“Maybe at the end of my career, people will be saying, ‘Well, you should have made a lot more money,’” he said. “But I'm just going for the good tombstone.”

In operation for more than a decade, A10 Fabrication does custom welding and fabrication for mining clients, in addition to creating a range of retail products. | A10 Fabrication/LinkedIn

​As production kicks up a notch at the new facility, A10 has more projects in the pipeline.

Work is ongoing to develop an industrial park on the 42 acres Benoit owns in McKerrow, where he’ll portion off parcels of land for interested developers looking to set up in the area.

With area mineral projects getting underway — Magna Mining is exploring its Shakespeare and Crean Hill nickel properties nearby — he believes there will be increased demand for mining-related services.

A10 is also developing a line of self-contained, purpose-built units made from used shipping containers.

On the residential side, concepts range from wellness rooms to pool houses, but there could be industrial applications, too. The company is currently crafting a design for a sea can that would house an underground battery storage system.

“Through all of my life adventures recently, I realized that if you even force yourself to take that time for yourself, it's beyond beneficial,” Benoit said.

Whether it’s going to the gym, practising yoga, or enjoying a sauna, having a private area where you can relax or do something you love can help give the recharge you need, he noted.

“I've seen that within myself in the last three years…. And without creating my own little oasis, I probably wouldn't be able to be where I am right now.”

A10 is drafting various designs for the units, which Benoit said will be listed on the website, complete with features and options. Customers can then select the one they like and it will be manufactured and delivered by A10 to their preferred location.

For now, Benoit said, the company is working to finalize its designs and then will build a pricing structure before opening it up to customers.

There are other projects he has in mind, some of them generated by employees themselves, which he welcomes.

“Every employee that comes in, we get to know each other and we kind of feed off each other's ideas,” said Benoit, who has a self-described “inventive mindset” with a list of “600 inventions” he’d like to do if only he had the time.

“We listened to each employee, too, and we've just kind of come to these ideas, because we all have a little bit of a passion into this. We all want to see it succeed.”


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Lindsay Kelly

About the Author: Lindsay Kelly

Lindsay Kelly is a Sudbury-based reporter who's worked in print and digital media for more than two decades. She joined the Northern Ontario Business newsroom in 2011.
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