Local MP Robert Nault was on hand yesterday to present NorFab Building Components a cheque for $355,000 at the grand-opening ceremony of its new utility shed plant—a $1-million expansion for the local company.
Several dozen people were on hand as NorFab owner Mel DeGagne, together with Nault, Alberton Coun. John Milling, and Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, cut the ribbon inside the new 80’x200’ building.
Sales manager Brian Hagarty said the expansion will create at least 30—and possibly 40—new jobs, bringing the number of employees there up around the 100 mark.
“That’s a big employer,” noted Mayor Witherspoon. “We applaud Alberton and we applaud you. As your neighbour to the east, we say thank you and good luck.”
The money Nault presented comes out of the Transitional Jobs Fund, a program set up by the Liberal government which draws upon the employment insurance surplus.
“The federal government and the taxpayers of Canada will help Mel expand but in a selfish way,” Nault said, noting one of the key factors of the amount of grant money NorFab received was how many jobs it would create.
“While we can appreciate the help from the government, we realize it’s not a total freebie,” Hagarty said. “It gets at least 30 people back in the workforce so from the government’s point, it makes sound economic sense.”
About 25 of the new jobs will be labour positions in the new plant, with about five more management positions.
“Some of them will be skilled and some of them would be forklift operators,” Hagarty said, stressing the wide array of employment options within the plant.
“Our positions aren’t just entry-level positions, either,” he added. “The average wage in the shop will be well above minimum wage, about $10-$12 an hour.
“It does provide some fairly good employment.”
And Hagarty said this could just be phase one of an even bigger expansion later this year. Even though the slab has yet to be poured and the equipment moved into the new building, the bit of extra space left in the back of the building has just been filled by a contract with a company in Denver, Col. which wants to retail 1,000 of NorFab’s gazebos.
“In some respects, we’re cautious,” Hagarty said. “We’re certainly wanting to rise to the task of filling these orders. We know we can do it, it’s just a matter of bringing in the right people to do it.”
Hagarty figured NorFab will start hiring people for its new plant by the middle of next month. And he foresees a possibility where NorFab’s employees will number in the 200-300 range.
“Maybe in a few years, NorFab will do for Fort Frances what Marvin Windows did for Warroad,” he remarked.
“We’re trying to create more jobs in the district,” agreed Nault. “If [DeGagne] can generate us another 50 jobs in the region, we’ll come and see him again.”