‘Considering I grew up 15 minutes down the road, it’s almost like a dream come true’
By Nancy Russell, CBC NewsPosted: May 25, 2016 6:00 PM ATLast Updated: May 25, 2016 6:00 PM AT
Vector Atlantic president Jeff Poirier says they now work on as many engines in a week as in the first two years of the company’s time on P.E.I. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Jeff Poirier embodies the Vector success story on Prince Edward Island. He started at the company in 1993, straight out of the Accounting Technology program at Holland College.
“There were 35 people here,” recalled Poirier. “I was a green little kid sitting in the corner, 19 years old, and everyone was saying the business would never succeed, that we were only going to be here until the government money ran out.”
Now Poirier is President of Vector Aerospace Engine Services – Atlantic.
Vector, then known as Atlantic Turbines, was one of the first tenants at Slemon Park in 1991, starting with just four employees. The company specializes in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of gas turbine engines. Jazz and Pratt and Whitney Canada are among its biggest customers.
‘Considering I grew up 15 minutes down the road, in a little place called Grand River, it’s almost like a dream come true every day … I get to walk into this facility and see so many of my friends, my neighbours, cousins.’— Jeff Poirier
“Standing where I am today as the president of 475 people, touching as many engines in a week as we touched in the first two years with customers around the world, I think it’s safe to say we’re not here for a short time,” said Poirier, with a smile.
In 2015, the company also signed a long term lease with Slemon Park to stay at the facility to the end of 2030.
President Jeff Poirier started working at Vector at the age of 19, right after graduating from Holland College. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Island’s 2nd largest private employer
Part of Vector’s success, according to Poirier, lies in its deep P.E.I. roots. More than 90 per cent of the employees are Islanders.
“Considering I grew up 15 minutes down the road, in a little place called Grand River, it’s almost like a dream come true every day,” explained Poirier.
“I get to walk into this facility and see so many of my friends, my neighbours, cousins. It gives you that extra drive to make sure you’re doing everything possible to make sure the business succeeds and to ensure there’s a long livelihood of careers in this facility.”
The company has attracted Islanders to return home with the promise of stable, year-round employment.
“That’s a core DNA for us to ensure we can employ many good Islanders,” observed Poirier.
Vector employees at Slemon Park have had lots of smile about this spring as the company announced a new 10-year contract extension with Jazz and opened a new engine test cell. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Vector gets good reviews from its employees. In 2016, it was named one of the Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada, earning the distinction for the second year in a row.
Clifford Gallant, originally from Miminegash, has been working at Vector for 15 years and has a brother who also works for the company. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Clifford Gallant is supervisor of the inspection department and has been at Vector for 15 years. He’s originally from Miminegash and his brother also works for the company. Gallant joined Vector after completing the gas turbine technician program at Holland College.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for a career and sustainable employment,” said Gallant, adding that he would likely be working in fishing or farming if he hadn’t found aerospace.
Krista Lightbourne-Storr is a Holland College graduate originally from the Bahamas. She and her husband both work at Vector.
Krista Lightbourne-Storr works in sub-assembly. She and her husband are from the Bahamas, where Holland College does extensive recruiting. The couple did their on-the-job training at Vector and now have full-time jobs. They’re now recruiting friends and families to join them on Prince Edward Island.
“I have two persons who are going to take the course in September who I’ve recruited to come as well as there’s another Bahamian who will be joining shortly to the company,” said Lightbourne-Storr.
“So it’s definitely something I would love to spread around to the Bahamas.”
Rodney Barbour, who has been with the company since 1998, says he probably would have ended up going out West if it hadn’t been for Vector.
A 2015 consultant’s report prepared for the Aerospace and Defence Association of Prince Edward Island reported that P.E.I.’s aerospace workforce receives wages 22 per cent higher than the average P.E.I. worker.
“I think just having the security,” added Rodney Barbour, assembly operations supervisor, who has been with Vector since 1998.
The walls at Vector at Slemon Park feature the logos of airlines from around the world that they have worked with over the years. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Aerospace tax rebate ‘critical’
Many jurisdictions around the world offer tax incentives to aerospace companies. P.E.I. is the only one to offer a specific aerospace tax rebate, which Poirier calls “a critical piece.”
“We operate in seven different jurisdictions around the world and the tax holiday that we enjoy here from the provincial government is an added bonus,” said Poirier.
Vector executives also point to federal and government support for the company projects, such as the construction of a new facility for testing engines.
Dave Trainor set up Action Aero in Charlottetown with Vector as its primary customer and has now expanded world-wide. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Vector spin-off in Charlottetown
Vector’s success has also inspired a spin-off.
Islander Dave Trainor returned to P.E.I. in 2008 to set up Action Aero, based in a large hangar on Belmont Street in Charlottetown. Vector has remained their number one customer though they now do work for companies around the world.
“At that time, they [Vector] were sending most of their engine accessory work into various companies in the United States to get it repaired and overhauled and that was my background so I thought it would be a great fit for us to set up a company locally to support them,” explained Trainor, who now employs about 36 people.
Action Aero recruits employees through presentations at high schools in the Charlottetown area and offering co-op and on the job placements. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Trainor set up Action Aero in Charlottetown instead of in the Summerside area in part because he didn’t want to compete with Vector for employees in the western end of the Island.
“When we opened up in 2008, very few people in Charlottetown or east, knew there was an aerospace industry,” said Trainor.
That lack of awareness posed a problem for Trainor, who started working with local high schools, giving presentations and offering tours. The company also welcomed students to come in as part of the co-op program.
“We’ve been able to fill our supply chain of future technicians through that program,” added Trainor.
Trainor suggests that the aerospace sector as a whole needs to do a better job of raising awareness of what it offers.
Action Aero has about 36 employees, most of them from the eastern end of Prince Edward Island because it doesn’t want to have to compete with Vector for workers. (Nancy Russell)
Everyone who lives on Prince Edward Island knows the power of word of mouth – whether good or bad.
For businesses, word of mouth can make or break you.
Every business owner knows technology and social media has magnified the devastation of a bad review gone viral. That’s where Charlottetown company BamTextcomes in.
BamText allows customers to communicate feedback instantly to a company.
Whether it’s a rave review or an unforgiving pan, this mobile comment card allows a person to immediately and anonymously send a text message on a unique local number – hopefully before airing a grievance on Facebook. Ninety six per cent of text messages are opened and read within minutes.
We wanted to offer a way for businesses to rectify an issue and for customers to give feedback right away.
“The majority of business owners want their customers to leave happy,” said company co-president Jordan Fraser, a 31-year-old UPEI grad. “We wanted to offer a way for businesses to rectify an issue and for customers to give feedback right away.”
Fraser and co-founder Keir Pollard started building their company 26 months ago as a sideline to their other jobs. They didn’t want investors, they wanted to try to make it on their own.
We knew these products were selling, but to really get off the ground we needed these (government) programs.
They realized they were really onto something and were awarded a $25,000 grant from the Government of Prince Edward Island’s Ignition fund. At that point, Fraser decided to quit his day job and make a go of it.
“We were bootstrapping it,” Fraser said with a laugh.
“We knew these products were selling, but to really get off the ground we needed these (government) programs,” he said.
As business continued to grow, BamText took advantage of the government’s Graduate Mentorship Program to hire UPEI Business grad Megan Murnaghan to do sales. The program paid 70 per cent of her wage for the first year. They now have seven employees and will be up to nine by the end of the year.
The company has grown from 40 customers to 400, recently landing Irving Oil North America as its biggest client.
Irving representatives saw a BamText poster on some Northumberland Ferries Limited ferry and were intrigued.
“They called us, we didn’t call them,” Fraser said.
The deal means BamText will be offering their service at hundreds of Irving Oil and Circle K’s across Canada and the United States over the coming months.
Jill and Brian Burridge were working for a Western Canadian company in Alberta when their first child was born and the magnetic pull of the red Island soil got stronger and stronger.
Jill (Cheverie) Burridge, a Holland College grad who got an engineering degree from UNB, wanted to be closer to her family in Souris and Brian, a New Brunswicker she met at university, was game to make the move too.
They had spent nine years working for Midwest Surveys as engineers offering survey work for oil and gas, private citizens and construction companies.
We decided it was time to get back home so we proposed this to our president.
In 2013 they made the move east and set up a satellite office in their Stratford home.
“We decided it was time to get back home so we proposed this to our president,” Jill Burridge said. “The big advantage the company saw was the three hour time difference.”
Now working on Island time, the Burridges would start the day at 7:00 am. Doing so gave the company a big head start on the competition in the west while everyone there was still sleeping at 4:00 a.m. In this way, Midwest Surveys could offer a quicker turnaround to beat its competitors.
Two years later, the Burridges were ready to expand and set up an office so they reached out to the Prince Edward Island government. Through the Launch Pad program, government helped them set up their office on the main strip in Stratford next to the vet clinic and offered wage subsidies to hire staff for the first year.
Officials from provincial government also visited their headquarters in Calgary, Alberta to discuss the satellite office in Stratford.
“Government’s support really attracted our company and the funding cemented the idea. They were really good and things came together quickly.”
The expansion to PEI has gone well. One of the company’s office employees had been traveling to Fort Mac to work and spending most of his time away from his young son. He is now living and working at home on PEI.
“We are happy to get some of those guys home,” Jill said.
Government’s support really attracted our company and the funding cemented the idea… things came together quickly
The Midwest Surveys office is equipped with Microsoft Link for daily conference calls from its Stratford boardroom to the Calgary one – after noon PEI time, of course, when Western colleagues arrive for work.
“Technology has made it all possible,” Mark said. “You can provide service from anywhere if you have the right setup.”
They’re two Commonwealth Islands, separated by 3,700 kilometers of water, with one nearly at the Arctic Circle, the other, the equator.
But in an office in downtown Summerside, PEI, staff is busy helping a Barbados company manage and organize their employees’ vacation, sick time, benefits and pay.
For the past few years, Worklinks has been working hard to establish trust and rapport with several Caribbean countries where the PEI company is expanding its reach.
Its latest client, Williams Industries, is based in Barbados, owning 20 companies across the island in industries ranging from manufacturing to retail.
“A lot of these countries haven’t automated their HR processes yet, and we can help with that,” said Worklinks Sales and Marketing Director Nancy Gaughan. “The ultimate goal is to enable a paperless office, which is good not only for these companies, but for the environment.”
Barbados wasn’t on Worklinks’ radar until the PEI government connected them with the country’s High Commission and provided the opportunity to visit the island, through the support of ACOA, Innovation PEI and the Trade Team PEI via the trade mission initiatives. Thanks in part to the success of these missions, there are now eight staff at Worklinks, and they’re planning to hire more.
Barbados is a good fit for PEI, Gaughan said. “We’re both English speaking islanders, linked to Britain as part of the Commonwealth. Plus most Barbadians have family or friends in Canada, and lots of Canadians visit Barbados regularly.”
Many global companies have operations in Barbados due to the availability of a highly educated population and the government’s efforts to ensure enough good jobs to keep them there.
“We’re expecting to land more sales as a result of the latest mission; our repeated visits to the island are a signal that they can trust us, that we’re there to stay,” Gaughan said.
“Our efforts there are really starting to gel.”
We’re expecting to land more sales as a result of the latest mission; our repeated visits to the island are a signal that they can trust us, that we’re there to stay,” Gaughan said. “Our efforts there are really starting to gel.
A trade mission to India last February with the premier is paying off for Aspin Kemp CEO, Jason Aspin.
The engineering and manufacturing company, with corporate headquarters in PEI, provides power and control systems to marine and offshore industries. The company’s approach and innovation caught the attention of an Indian IT business they met.
Grintex India Limited, which specializes in ship design, homeland security, aerospace and space industry and air traffic control, was interested in a second meeting, so Aspin and his Finance Director Ravi Naidu travelled back to India in March.
The second meeting went so well that the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding witnessed by the premier during their third meeting just last week in the Aspin Kemp office in Stratford, PEI.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan made himself available on a moment’s notice to witness the deal.
“That just doesn’t happen anywhere else,” Aspin said. “The Province is very supportive that way.”
A small company like us is on the radar here. We can adjust and move fast as things change and PEI can too — it’s a good match for us.
Aspin Kemp employs more than 150 people from around the globe on Prince Edward Island and has locations in Singapore, Texas, Nova Scotia and Ontario. They’re rapidly expanding their reach and growing the business.
“Most of our business is in Asia,” says Aspin, whose wife Chunying Li, is an engineer and the company’s director of operations. The two met in Singapore and she agreed to make the move back to his Island home. The couple lives in Charlottetown with their two children.
This latest deal with Grintex is just another win for the successful company which relocated its headquarters to PEI three years ago.
I can hop a flight to Toronto and be anywhere in the world from here a lot easier than I could dealing with traffic in Hamilton.
Aspin, who grew up on a Pinette farm, said the prospects for doing big business from a small jurisdiction are many. “A small company like us is on the radar here. We can adjust and move fast as things change and PEI can too — it’s a good match for us.”
He and his staff appreciate the Island lifestyle, low cost of doing business and the ease to reach foreign markets.
“I can hop a flight to Toronto and be anywhere in the world from here a lot easier than I could dealing with traffic in Hamilton.
Government programs such as the labour rebate and provincial tax incentive for marine-based companies have been, and will be, their two biggest supports, he said.
“Innovation PEI has been really helpful to us. I want people to know the Island is open for business. It will offer you a lot more than expected. It has advantages over any place in Canada or the world. Companies thinking about setting up really need to take a look under the hood here in PEI,” he said.
“It has worked out well for us, and it’s great to prove all the naysayers wrong.”
Original Article: http://www.peisuccess.ca/home/aspin-kemp-making-waves-in-pei-and-around-the-globe
“Avast, me hearties, ye had best practice ye scurvy pirate speak in preparedness o’ “Rapscallions.”
OK, so writing pirate talk is not as easy as it sounds. In case you missed that, Summerside video game company Funky Finger Productions Inc. is ready to release the newest pirate-themed addition to its lineup, “Rapscallions.”
Andy Roberts, director of product development at the studio, explained that the game is his small, but mighty, crew’s most ambitious project since the company was founded in 2012.
“This is the most adventurous game that we’ve done yet and we really want that to be our calling card. This is what a small team can do and this is what we’re capable of as a company,” said Roberts.
The game itself is akin to checkers, with the object being to send your pirate crew from your ship out onto a net grid connecting it to your opponent’s vessel. When two pirates encounter each other the aggressor knocks the defender off the grid. Whichever player completely decimates the other’s crew, wins. There are also various items and bonuses players can use to give their sprightly crew an advantage.
Users can play against an artificial intelligence, locally on the same device with a friend or over the Internet.
The game itself is free, but there are in-game, real money, purchases and advertisements.
Roberts called it a “spiritual successor” to an old Commodore 64 game called “Piracy.”
“Rapscallions” will appear on the Android store by the end of this week, while the iTunes version will appear, hopefully, sometime within the next couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, they can’t be more specific regarding release dates, said Roberts, because once the company submits the game to the distributor even they don’t know exactly when it will work its way through their system and be posted.
This will be Funky Finger’s third title, the others being “Ice Slyder” and “TyRunAsaurus.”
The company currently employs five people and operates out of the Holman Centre. As far as they know, they’re the only company developing video games in the Summerside area.
The fact that they exist might surprise some people, said Roberts, as the company tends to have a low profile. But they try to stay active in the Island’s small game-development community, which has about half a dozen members, take on students when able and generally trying to support the industry.
James Martin, one of the programmers, said he grew up wanting to work in the video game industry but always assumed he’d have to move away. However, an information technology expo he attended in Grade 10 surprised him with the amount of options he had locally.
He ended up being hired by Funky Finger right out of UPEI’s computer science/game programing program and moved to Summerside from Charlottetown.
“Rapscallions” will be the first game Martin has worked on with an actual studio and he’s proud of how it turned out.
“I’ve never released anything through a company yet, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
“There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve never done before that I’ve been able to do in this (game) that I think turned out well. So I’m excited for our future projects to be able to integrate that stuff and improve upon it.”