Representatives from Manitou Forest Products and the Ainsworth OSB mill in Barwick jointly will accept an award next week at the eighth-annual Global Traders Awards in North Bay recognizing their strong partnership.
“We were a bit surprised,” Manitou Forest Products manager Dale Kaemingh admitted yesterday. “We weren’t expecting it, but it’s nice to see it happened.
“I didn’t think we were a real big player in the market.”
Manitou Forest Products not only shares an alliance with Ainsworth but also a partnership with Rainy River First Nations, which has allowed it to grow and begin diversifying its value-added forest products.
The company came together with Ainsworth (then Voyageur Panel) back in 1998 to produce dunnage required for the OSB mill. Then in 2000, the partnership grew to produce a new product called rimboard, which is used in the home-building industry.
Both companies continue to grow and expand.
While Manitou Forest Products is responsible for all of the production of the product, Ainsworth takes care of all the marketing and sales.
“It’s worked well between us and the OSB mill,” said Kaemingh. “We have a really good working relationship.”
But he stressed the successful partnership is mostly due to the location of both companies.
“It’s feasible for us to do this because we are fortunate to be located close together,” he remarked, noting Ainsworth is only two km down the road.
“If we had to ship the product a lot further, it might not have worked.”
Kaemingh added their location close to the border also has been helpful since the companies rely on U.S. markets to purchase their products.
“If we didn’t have this partnership, it would be a struggle to survive—it’s not easy,” he stressed. “Ainsworth has helped grow our business. If we just had the sawmill to rely on for success, it would be tough.”
Kaemingh said he’s happy to receive an award recognizing their unique partnership.
“We’re having success,” echoed Mark Alderson, site manager at Ainsworth. “And it’s nice to be recognized by the government for that.”
“It’s great to show how a partnership can work between a big company and a little company,” Kaemingh added.
Jane Gillon, with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines office in Fort Frances, felt the same way about the two companies and nominated them for the award back in November.
“I try and promote business in the north,” she explained. “They’ve been really successful and are the perfect example of how partnerships can help businesses grow.”
While Manitou Forest Products and Ainsworth will receive an award from the partnership category, there also are awards for innovation, leadership, and market expansion.
The award is for the northern region of Ontario.
If the companies place first in the category, they will compete for the provincial award, which will be presented next month in Toronto.
“We just want to continue with what we’re doing—to remain competitive enough so we can keep doing work with Ainsworth,” said Kaemingh.