Charl-Pol, an equipment manufacturer and maker of mechanically welded parts for the heavy industry is, at the very least, in full growth. While the Saguenay company will soon be celebrating 100 years of existence, they have recently launched construction of a fifth plant located in the town of Baie-Comeau, a $3-5 M investment, says CEO Richard Tremblay.
Note that the group acquired the Fabnor plant in Sept-Îles with a local partner. “We began setting up these new facilities following major contracts signed in the North Shore region. Operations will begin in Sept-Îles in December, and production will gradually move to Baie-Comeau after the Holidays.
Charl-Pol, which has facilities in La Baie, Portneuf and Kitimat (in addition to Sept-Îles and Baie-Comeau), is active in aluminium, mining, energy, steel, pulp and paper and other heavy industrial sectors, including the naval sector.
Relying on the next generation
To support this growth, Richard Tremblay has been preparing his succession for the past few years. So much so that in September 2018, Jonathan Lalande, Plant Manager, Marlène Gauthier, Finance Director, and Jean-Sébastien Michaud, Human Resources Director, became partners with 25% of the company’s shares. “Since September 2018, we’ve introduced a fourth generation of successors, set up two new plants, and I can tell you that we have other projects in the air,” says the CEO.
“The three successors have been with us for six to ten years. Their involvement allows us to look to the future with great optimism. I must say that it also gives a new impetus for development and investment. We have proof of this with the two new plants in Sept-Îles and Baie-Comeau. This succession process began informally a few years ago. There are people who stand out in the organization because of their skills, their attitude, and their aptitudes. Over time, I identified those who were ready to take over, and we then undertook strategic planning. All of this enabled the eventual successor to get to know the company, the entrepreneur and the projects to come,” says Mr. Tremblay.
Taking care of colleagues
The businessman adds in the same breath that, in addition to the succession, human resources are an extremely important aspect of his company’s success. “If I didn’t have dedicated employees and partners who are creative and experienced, all this would not be possible. We are all comrades, and we all take care of each other. We need to keep that flame burning all the time and not take anything for granted.”
“There are many major projects in the North, but also LNG in British Columbia ($40 billion), as well as the LNG project here. I may not make friends by saying this, but these major projects, if they are not done here in Canada or in Saguenay, they will be done elsewhere in the world. And in places where they don’t care about the environment like we do. The energy transition is going to happen anyway over the next 15 to 20 years. I think it’s essential to respect the environment and to take care of our planet, and that’s why I think this transition must be entrusted to countries like Canada, which have very strict standards. It’s good to protect the environment and to be strict about it, but not at the cost of having these projects done in places that are not as stringent as we are.”
100 immigrant employees over seven years
Since 2012, the Charl-Pol company has met a large part of its labour needs with foreign workers. More than a hundred immigrants from the Philippines, France, Belgium and Tunisia have settled across the group’s five factories.
“As everywhere else, our challenge is labour. Over the next year, we will surpass the 400-employee mark. For seven years now, we have been organizing missions to recruit staff with our teams on location. Jean-Sébastien Michaud is leading this project with a masterful hand. We are recruiting tradespeople: engineers, technicians, electromechanical engineers and welders. The government infrastructure is responding well. I know they are often criticized, but for us, the deadlines are reasonable. It can take two to three months between recruitment and the worker’s arrival in Quebec. It must be said that we have established good relations with government officials, and we have become familiar with the procedures over time. Even though hiring immigrants is very helpful, and despite internal recruitment, this is still not enough to meet growth. It’s the same thing at our plant in Kitimat, British Columbia, where the needs are great,” admits Charl-Pol CEO Richard Tremblay.
Davie Shipbuilding, a long-time client
Charl-Pol has developed a niche expertise for the naval industry. In particular, the industrial equipment manufacturer builds large shipyard modules and gigantic ship hulls, thanks to its highly specialized workforce for this niche industry. “There’s something special going on in this sector at the moment. The Canadian navy wants to renew its fleet, and there is talk of a multi-billion-dollar envelope. The Canadian government wants to introduce a third shipyard to meet the challenge of renewing the fleet on time and at reasonable cost,” says Mr. Tremblay.
“Davie is a long-time client, and I’ve lived every adventure with them. The new owners are exceptional entrepreneurs who are not afraid to invest in Quebec and in companies like ours for their projects. We are part of a network of 880 Davie suppliers in Quebec and 1,080 across Canada. We have our piece of the pie. For example, we worked for the supply ship L’Astérix, which provided jobs for about fifty of my employees over two years.”
It is for these business opportunities with Davie that Richard Tremblay was one of the founders of the regional chapter of the Davie Suppliers Association. “It’s an area of the economy that’s being reborn, which is extremely important. It’s also very important for Quebec to get its share. We represent 23% of the population in Canada. For us, these are major spinoffs. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars per year for the Saguenay region. For the past six or seven years, Davie has generated $3 billion in spinoffs in Quebec, and with the billions that are coming with the Canadian navy, we have to be involved.”
In 2021, Charl-Pol, Quebec’s leading equipment manufacturer and maker of mechanically welded parts, will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The La Baie, Qc, company was founded in 1921 by Joe Tremblay. His sons Charles and Paul took over in 1973, while the third generation joined the organization with Richard and Marc, sons of Paul and Charles, respectively. In 1996, Richard Tremblay became the sole owner when he acquired his cousin’s shares and, in 2018, three new shareholders joined him, Marlène Gauthier, Jonathan Lalande and Jean-Sébastien Michaud. Other important dates in the organization’s history include the purchase of the Portneuf plant, which specializes in the machining and manufacturing of heavy machinery, and in 2014, when Richard Tremblay and other partners invested in a facility located in Kitimat, British Columbia.
Charl-Pol generates close to $50 million in sales and will employ some 400 people with the upcoming opening of plants in Sept-Îles and Baie-Comeau.