While declines in the forest industry have made headlines over the past few years, that’s not the story at Sawmill Equipment Company Inc. (SEC) in Salmon Arm’s industrial park.
Now employing about 50 people, business is good.
General manager David Gibb explains that SEC has been around since 2002 but was operating in Enderby. In 2011, the company was down to three employees, when the BID Group out of Vanderhoof, headed by CEO Brian Fehr, bought SEC.
The company had started to outgrow the Enderby facility and steps were taken to set up in Salmon Arm to tap into the skilled people in the industry – stemming from the local legacy of Newnes Machine Ltd., created by father Ray Newnes and sons Doug and Bill.
A building was quickly constructed and SEC opened for business in June 2012.
Gibb says SEC fabricates and welds its own sawmill equipment, with a focus on unique, innovative and high-end products and services.
“Our ownership group is really tied into the industry; they know what’s going on out there. I think they did a great job of anticipating the upturn and jumping in at the right time.”
The company runs two shifts of employees in the shop – welders, fabricators, millwrights, including 10 apprentices. Their engineering group includes electricians and mechanical engineers.
SEC has been hired for jobs all over North America, Gibb says, such as South Carolina, Mississippi and northern B.C. One job was in Brazil.
“We’re trying to differentiate ourselves in the market. We fully assemble and test all our equipment here before shipping, to ease the installation time. That’s considerably different than what a lot of our competitors do,” Gibb says.
Gibb mentions a statistic that may be news to some.
“Three of the four largest manufacturers of sawmill equipment in North America are here in Salmon Arm,” he says. “SEC, Mill Tech and USNR.”
As SEC attracts business, so do other local and regional companies.
“We’re using shops all the way from Vernon to Prince George to supply material, and we’re using a lot of the local shops as we can,” he says, noting SEC works regularly with Mt. Ida Machine & Welding.
Gibb says SEC also has job opportunities to offer.
“A 20-year-old can work as a labourer and, if they prove themselves, we put them into an apprenticeship program.”