Green Mobility Comes to Halifax

“I believe that business can change the world and that it is a noble thing to do,” says Pam Cooley. “It’s an amazing reflection of how you can move through the world.”

Pam Cooley is the president and co-owner of CarShareHFX, a young, award-winning company based in Halifax. Cooley co-owns the business with Peter Zimmer, who works as the general manager. Both are committed environmentalists and life-long community activists.

The premise of car-sharing is simple: use a car only when you need to, save money and live a greener life. For a flat yearly fee and a small hourly rental, members have access to a fleet of fuel-efficient cars or vans, on an hourly or daily basis. Fees are all-inclusive. Vehicles are parked in nine central locations on the Halifax peninsula and in downtown Dartmouth. Access is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members book their vehicles online or by telephone.

In January, CarShareHFX won gold as the best new company of the year at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. The company’s registered name, CarShareAtlantic, reflects the owners’ ultimate hopes to expand across the Atlantic Provinces.

“CarShare is a terrific business that is both entrepreneurial and environmentally progressive,” says Colin MacLean, CEO of the Waterfront Development Corporation. “We are inspired by their vision, and pleased to be a partner.”

CarShare is also ideal for those who deliberately choose a car-free life, but need regular transportation. “CarShare is absolutely perfect for me,” says Halifax MP Megan Leslie, of the New Democratic Party. “The riding of Halifax is bigger than people might think it is. I can walk or take a taxi or bus downtown, but once I need to get off the peninsula, I need a car.”

CarShare’s newest client is the provincial Department of the Environment. Using CarShare, says Solveig Madsen, an environmental analyst with the Department, “supports a new transportation option in our community that is environmentally preferable to individually owned vehicles.”

In the future, Cooley hopes CarShare will be part of “regional mobility strategies” at all three levels of government and across the business communities. “We want a people culture,” concludes Cooley, “not a car culture.” By Marjorie Simmins

Major Drilling Explores New Ground

Ten years ago, Francis McGuire joined Major Drilling as president and CEO and turned the company around from two-dollar shares by finding a niche. By focusing on hard to reach deposits in remote locations, McGuire was able to steer the company towards enormous growth. Until the economy collapsed, that is. From January 2008 to January 2009, stocks fell from just shy of $65 to just over $13.

Business has been regrowing slowly since then, which might explain why Major Drilling recently spent $4-million to buy SMD Services (a startup from Huntsville, Alabama) and invested another $5-million in a new division called Major Drilling Environmental. “During the last recession, environmental drilling proved to be very resilient in North America. Furthermore, the addition of sonic drilling expertise, which we are acquiring through SMD, will enhance our specialized drilling capabilities globally” notes McGuire.

It might be another example of McGuire’s strategic brilliance, but it’s one which won’t be showing significant dividends in the short run. “This will be still a very small part of Major’s business … it will only account for less than five per cent of its revenue initially,” according to CFO Denis Larocque. By Martin Connelly

Best in Class

Now in it’s 17th year, Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies is a yearly awards program for excellence in Canadian owned and managed companies with revenues over $10-million. Firms have to apply to be considered, and after one win they are eligible to retain the designation as a Requalified Member for two years subject to an annual review. Winners who reapply and maintain their status for a minimum of six years are awarded membership to the Platinum Club. Of the four Atlantic Provinces, only PEI awaits representation in the 50 Best ranks. The program is sponsored by Deloitte, CIBC Commercial Banking, National Post and Queen’s School of Business. By Martin Connelly

Atlantic Canada Winners

Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies

New Requalified Platinum Club
  • Bluewave Energy LP (Dartmouth, NS)
  • EastLink (Halifax, NS)
  • Colemans Food Centres (Corner Brook, NL)
  • GJ Cahill & Company Ltd (St. John’s, NL)
  • Charm Diamond Centres (Dartmouth, NS)
  • Cooke Aquaculture Inc. (Blacks Harbour, NB);
  • Day & Ross Transportation Group (Hartland, NB)
  • McCain Foods [Canada] (Florenceville, NB)
  • O’Regan’s (Dartmouth, NS);
  • PolyCello (Amherst, NS)
  • Wilsons (Halifax, NS)
  • Acadian Seaplants Ltd. (Dartmouth, NS)
  • ADI Group Inc. (Fredericton, NB)
  • Armour Transportation Systems (Moncton, NB)
  • I.M.P. Group International Inc. (Halifax, NS)
  • Maritime Travel Inc. (Halifax, NS)
  • The Shaw Group Limited (Halifax, NS)
Colour Deepens, Doesn’t Change

Senior personnel at Colour say that two significant moves in their executive ranks don’t signal a shifting corporate culture. Rather, they say, it denotes an enhanced status quo and growing bench strength.

This past March, Chris Keevill (president since 2005), became a majority shareholder and chief executive officer. In April, public affairs strategist Ed Wark joined the communications and marketing firm as a principal in the firm’s Halifax office. Wark has a distinguished resume in public policy, with a variety of senior roles working for elected officials and decision makers under his belt. “Our managing partners believe Ed will be a great help in working with our clients on both the public affairs and marketing sides of the business to achieve meaningful change,” said Keevill.

“Meaningful change” in this case should be taken as “successful business objectives”. According to Rob Batherson, Colour’s senior vice president for Public Affairs, “Wark’s hiring doesn’t reflect a change in our practice – we continue to employ a wide variety of people, including government relations specialists”. By Martin Connelly

Pimp my…Railcar?

Moncton company Industrial Rail Services Inc (IRSI) will spend the next year and half refurbishing six vintage rail cars for use by VIA Rail Canada in British Columbia and Northern Ontario. The project is being fully funded through the federal government’s Economic Action Plan.

The six self-propelled rail diesel cars (RDCs) were built by Budd Company of Philadelphia in the 1950s. While they are still structurally sound, IRSI will be installing brand new interiors and sub-systems (like brakes). The contract will support 31 to 40 positions at IRSI and generate the equivalent of 22.5 person-years of direct employment.

“The awarding of this contract for the rebuilding of our RDC fleet is yet another tribute to the unique skills and expertise the people of IRSI bring to every project,” said Marc Laliberté, president and CEO of VIA . “You are helping all of us at VIA prove that the road to the future is paved with steel rails.” By Martin Connelly

Sunny Tidings for PEI

The Charlottetown Guardian has reported that a signed memorandum of understanding is in place to construct Canada’s first thin film solar panel manufacturing facility at Slemon Park in Summerside, PEI. The $65-million facility is Phase One of a new four phase joint venture between Indian company HHV and the Ontario-based Solar Source Corporation.

Solar Source, headed by former PEI Energy minister Jamie Ballem, will run the plant through wholly owned subsidiary, Solar Source PEI. HHV has been a leading solar energy firm in India since 1964, and Solar Source has gone to lengths to stress the legitimacy of the venture. “They are a legitimate company,” Ballem told CBC News. “Their panels are certified for North America, which is critical. With the expansion of solar energy production across the world, they want to move to North America.”

If the plant is located in Summerside, 120 full-time jobs would be created with a potential for more down the road. No information is available on when that decision will be made. By Martin Connelly

Vale Inco Update

If you were to divide the value of the nickel processing facility currently being constructed in Long Harbour, Newfoundland among the community’s 211 residents, each one of them would be millionaires 10 times over. Another interesting fact? The number of people currently working on construction of Vale Inco’s $2.2-billion plant is more than double the town’s population. About 80 of the 500 workers are from communities in the immediate area.

Company spokesman Bob Carter says the project is on schedule for completion in 2013 and contract awards are proceeding as planned, with 55 per cent of the contracts awarded so far having gone to Newfoundland and Labrador companies. “We have in excess of 100 packages out for bid and by the end of 2010 we expect that about 80 per cent of our procurement will be committed,” says Carter. Though employment at the site varies depending on the work schedule, Carter says about 1-million person hours of employment have been generated since work began in April 2009. Construction priorities for 2010 include: completion of site development work; installing the construction camp, offices and temporary power; construction of a Roll On-Roll Off facility; and dredging at the wharf.

The community of Long Harbour has a long history as a center for big industry. It was the site of the ERCO (Electric Reduction Company of Canada Industries Limited) phosphorus plant, which operated from 1968 to 1989. When that plant closed, the community lost 290 jobs. The processing plant is the first major investment in the community since the ERCO plant was shuttered.

Meanwhile, as of press time, the United Steelworkers are continuing their strike in Voisey’s Bay, Labrador as well as Port Colborne and Sudbury, Ontario. Workers in Sudbury walked out of talks on July 13, 2009 and the workers in Voisey’s Bay followed suit on August 1. Two hundred and fifty non-striking workers are supporting the company’s Voisey’s Bay mining operations. The main issues are proposed pension changes, benefits and bonuses. Carter reports that while there are no talks scheduled with the United Steelworkers, the company is available to meet at anytime if the union is “prepared to have a comprehensive discussion of all issues.” By Martin Connelly & ABM staff

Surreal Reality

Imagine passing a large video screen in a store window, and you suddenly see yourself in the screen. Nothing new right? It’s just a video camera capturing images of passersby. Now imagine that you not only see yourself on the screen, but you’re suddenly doing something you aren’t doing in real life. Such as some sort of extreme sport. Or, there’s thought bubbles popping up around you, showing what life would be like if you won the lottery. Now, that’s something to talk about.

Ad-Dispatch, a Nova Scotia-based web video production boutique, certainly thought so and they’re making moves to corner the global market for “Augmented Reality” technology (it merges real and virtual worlds together in real time). Their April purchase of Volt Media brings them one step closer. It gives Ad-Dispatch the ability to build all elements of marker-less tracking Augmented Reality, widely considered to be the hottest new consumer interactive technology to hit the mainstream market. ABM Staff

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