Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cubex snags Export Award before it's too late

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IT'S a good thing the Manitoba division of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters didn't wait another year to bestow its annual Export Award on Winnipeg's Cubex Limited.

The family-owned firm's highly successful drilling solutions business, which manufactures drilling rigs and equipment for the global mining industry, accounts for all of the company's exports. A week-and-a-half ago, it was announced it was selling that side of the business to Swedish equipment-manufacturing giant Sandvik for an undisclosed sum.

When that deal closes in the next quarter, Cubex will go back to being a domestic operation, selling and distributing machinery and equipment to Canadian municipalities, construction companies and oil and gas firms. That includes street sweepers, sidewalk tractors, mowing equipment, asphalt pavers and snow-removal equipment.

Cubex president Kitch Wilson, who along with his brother, Bill, owns Cubex, said there are no plans for the distribution business to begin selling products outside Canada. So this year was likely its last shot at winning an export award.

To hear the publicity-shy Wilson tell it, it almost never happened this year, either.

"I'm not public speaker... and I wasn't going to do it (throw Cubex's hat into the ring for an Export Award)," Wilson said Friday.

"But my brother, who lives in Calgary, said; 'Kitch, what about your employees? This is all about them.' So I'm taking one for the team in accepting this (on awards night Thursday). But I'm also very proud of it."

Wilson said the sale of the drilling operations to Sandvik was a natural progression for the operation, which is a global leader in manufacturing underground drill rigs and equipment.

Although it was one of Cubex's competitors, Sandvik had been marketing and distributing Cubex's products in export markets for the last four years, as well as providing after-sales to its export customers.

"As our relationship got tighter, we also began developing products together," he said. And it eventually became obvious that for Cubex's drilling-solutions business to reach its full potential, it needed to be part of a larger company.

Wilson said Sandvik will keep the manufacturing operation here and will retain all of its approximately 125 employees. But once the deal closes, it will assume the Sandvik name.

"We've had a very good reaction and buy-in from the employees," he said, adding they've seen how successful Sandvik has been in growing export sales during the past four years.

He said the drilling-solutions business, which operates out of a large production plant in the Rural Municipality of Springfield, exports 60 to 70 per cent of its products to more than 29 markets around the world.

Cubex's distribution business operates out of a separate facility on McPhillips Street and will continue to be owned by Wilson and his brother. However, Wilson said he will also likely take a position with Sandvik's local operation.

"I'm basically a salesman... and after the transitional period, that's where I can see a new role for me -- helping to develop new markets and products."

He noted Cubex started as an equipment-distribution business 40 years ago and branched into manufacturing about a decade later.

"So in a way, we're going back to our roots... "

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca


For a job well done the awards go to...

HERE are this year's CME Manitoba award winners, who will be honoured at a gala dinner Thursday at the Winnipeg Convention Centre as part of local Manufacturing Week activities:

CUBEX LIMITED

This year's winner of the Export Award, which honours a Manitoba-based company that "demonstrates excellence in expanding its markets numerically and geographically." In its 40 years in business, Winnipeg-based Cubex built itself into a global leader in the design and manufacturing of underground drilling rigs and equipment. Its products are sold in more than 29 markets, including the United States, Africa, South America and Australia.

HERD NORTH AMERICA

Winner of the Emerging Award, which celebrates "new companies with significant future potential that are distinguishing their business through growth, impact and innovation."

Winnipeg-based Herd specializes in the design and manufacture of aluminum protection-grill guards, sport bars and brake-caliper protection guards for semi-trucks and working-class pickup trucks. Now in its 10th year, the company has shown consistent growth and now boasts 11 product lines and more than 100 employees.

BILL FAST and PHILIP ENS

Winners of this year's Hall of Fame Award, which honours individuals "who have consistently demonstrated visionary leadership and designed or implemented new or revolutionary products, systems or processes."

Fast is the founder of Willmar Windows, one of Manitoba's most successful window and door manufacturers. In the 27 years he and his wife, Margaret, owned Willmar -- they sold it to U.S. giant Jeldwen in 1997 -- Fast grew the business to include six branches and a workforce of 1,000 employees.

He remains involved in several Canadian companies, including All-Fab and HiQual in Winnipeg and Excel Batteries and Tasman Helicopters in British Columbia.

Ens is a founding partner of Triple E, a Winkler-based firm that began manufacturing trailers in 1965. Fifteen years later, Ens and business partner Terry Elias also co-founded Lode King Industries, which they merged with Triple E to create Triple E Canada Ltd. Thirty-three years and several acquisitions later, Triple E Canada boasts more than 600 employees and annual sales of more than $130 million.

Its products are sold in Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan.

DAVID W. FRIESEN

This year's winner (posthumously) of the Pioneer Award, which celebrates "individuals who began a manufacturing business in Manitoba and nurtured it into a successful company."

Friesen opened a small confectionary store in Altona in 1907, expanded into the retail books business in 1923, and into the printing and wholesale stationery-supplies business in 1930.

His venture went on to become one of Canada's largest printing companies -- D.W. Friesen & Sons -- which in 1995 was renamed Friesens Corporation.

The now employee-owned firm boasts more than 600 employees and remains one of the country's largest book printers.

-- source: CME Manitoba

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 B6

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