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Top 10: movers & shakers; Find out what fuels their passion for northern economic development.

Dawn Madahbee, Manager, Waubetek Business Development Corp.

Dawn Madahbee has witnessed first hand how creating business development opportunities for Aboriginal people can dramatically overcome many social difficulties, improve living standards and affect change in a region's economy.

"That's what really drives me," says the general manager of the Waubetek Business Development Corp.

Madahbee hearkens back to the corporation's first client, a skilled mason who had no steady job, had no vehicle or tools, nor any source of commercial financing for Aboriginal people.

"Eventually this young man was able to employ 14 others, purchase vehicles and large equipment he needed; built himself a beautiful home, raising children in this business atmosphere.

"Now we're finding young people raised in a business family have a really high chance of becoming business people themselves. We're already dealing with second-generation entrepreneurs. That's pretty exciting to see that."

There have been countless other examples since 1988.

As general manager and architect of the corporation for the last 17 years, Madahbee and her staff of 18 have established an entrepreneurial class of Aboriginal business in 27 First Nation territories in northeastern Ontario.

The Manitoulin Island-based entity is the lead financing, tourism and business consulting agency for First Nation business opportunities in a region stretching from Sault Ste. Marie to Mattawa, and from Temagami as far south as Barrie.

Madahbee is heavily involved in promoting trade and tourism opportunities in Germany.

In working with the Canadian cultural attache in Munich, she is promoting First Nations artists internationally and hopes to bring a Northern Ontario delegation to Europe in 2005 to promote Aboriginal business partnerships.

Waubetek is also twinning with the City of Greater Sudbury to create business, educational and cultural exchanges in Europe where Native culture is a source of fascination and respect.

"Having that knowledge, and sensitivity, and incorporating that cultural value into everything we do really makes a difference. Those are the core values of Waubetek."

While also serving on the Northern Ontario Native Tourism Association and the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board, she is a strong voice for the region and a guiding hand in the First Nations business development.



Northern Ontario Business

Silvio Di Gregorio, secretary, treasurer, Bruno's Contracting

Silvio Di Gregorio and his brother Bruno of Bruno's Contracting typically shy away from being recognized for their economic contributions. They would much prefer to consult with people in a small back room somewhere unbeknownst to the public. But the North needs a bit of economic saving and the brothers realize they cannot, in good conscience, remain non-verbal.

Bruno oversees the day to day operations of the contracting business, while Silvio takes care of the subsidiaries.

"I just do the work, but (Bruno) makes it happen," he says, his hands folded into one another, leaning toward his desk.

"He is the greatest asset we have."

They both know what a hard day's work means. Perhaps they were taught by the best of the best, their father Cesare. He was a farmer in Italy and worked endless hours toiling over crops to make a living for his family.

"I remember my dad used to come home and I was in Grade 2. I would calculate the costs of the day, his revenue to determine whether he made or lost money that day."

"You don't forget things like that," he says. "We don't know what hard work is."

His parents saved every penny to come to Canada, and later were able to bring the grandparents over. Di Gregorio remembers how eager his father was to lend a helping hand especially when their business was young. Maybe that is why they can now 'pay it forward' and provide business owners mentoring.

Di Gregorio criticizes his generation, calling it the "me generation."

"We have been so preoccupied looking after ourselves, what have we left for the next generation?" he asks rhetorically.

Summer jobs are few in Northern Ontario and youth have to go to the larger centres to get jobs.

"This is the highest level of failure you could achieve and I don't feel good about that."

He has made it his mission to support young entrepreneurs in the city, either through advice or by lending a financial hand.

He is one of the founding fathers of the Ambassadors Northwest, an incorporated company consisting of key people aiming to attract business development to the city.

Di Gregorio hails the North's strengths rather than its weaknesses.


The brothers are one of the largest land developers in Thunder Bay. They own office buildings, shopping plazas, resorts, highway construction companies and their recent undertaking, the Whitewater Golf Course.

"Seven out of every 10 lots for sale are ours. We are very large in residential land," he says.

The two have bailed out more businesses in the northwest than they care to mention and dispel the myth that business success is based on initial funding capital.

In fact, nothing can be further from the truth, he says.

"You need a proper business plan, then the proper people, lastly comes the money," he explains. "If people would figure that out they would have a better chance at succeeding."


Northern Ontario Business

Mary Nelder, general manager, LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corp.

Often, people find a myriad of reasons why a project will not work, but Mary Nelder devotes her energy to finding reasons why a project will work.

Describing herself as a "pragmatist," Nelder, the general manager of LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corp. (LAMBAC), seeks out ways in which projects will benefit all parties.


Before accepting her current position last January, Nelder sat on council in Mindemoya for six years. While appointed as Reeve, she worked with 19 municipalities in and around the Greater Sudbury-Manitoulin area to lobby the provincial government on the cost of downloading to municipalities.

She likes to find commonalties among groups and help them collaborate to work toward a greater good. When aquaculture operators in Northern Ontario were frustrated with the amount of regulations being passed down from various government levels, Nelder sprang into action and helped them form an association, which gave the group access to government funding, which they used to hire a co-ordinator.


Northern Ontario Business

Denis Turcotte, president, CEO Algoma Steel

Two years ago, steel industry pundits were calling for the timely death of Algoma Steel.

Denis Turcotte was parachuted in from Tembec tasked with turning around a floundering, debt-ridden Sault Ste. Marie mill emerging from bankruptcy protection.

Good fortune in the world steel market has contributed vastly to Algoma's improved financial picture, but its 43-year-old president and CEO has spearheaded the organizational and "cultural changes" at Canada's third-largest steel producer.

"We're a totally different company with a strong balance sheet, lots of cash, and some strategic ideas for the first time in many years," says Turcotte.

The company posted third-quarter earnings of $121.6 million net profit--its most profitablequarter ever--on top of $100.1 million generated through the first six months of this year. With no net debt and a large cash balance building--$243 million--the company is repositioning itself to handle the inevitable cyclical dip.


Blessed with a state-of-the-art rolling mill (its Direct Strip Production Complex), Algoma is North America's lowest-cost producer of hot-rolled coil steel and has the highest operating income per tonne at $267 US.

Instead of wondering how they would survive the next 12 months, the 2,900-person company is strategizing for the next 10 to 20 years.

As Tembec's vice-president of corporate development and strategy, Turcotte was well-versed in acquiring under-performing companies. His career included leading an employee buy-out plan with Tembec to purchase the Spruce Falls Paper Company in 1991.

Upon arriving in September 2002, Turcotte expected to find a sad sack organization with major talent deficiencies. Not so.

In terms of crystalizing strategy, developing and driving a culture, and focussing the organization, Algoma was deficient in all three areas.

Though he did pepper the organization with new faces--nine new managers in the first six months--there was no need for major housecleaning.

"It was clear to me the culture was the big issue. These individuals with all these capabilities were not functioning well together. Organizationally, it was not integrated well.

"The culture was not results-oriented, high-intensity oriented and there was no focus" in dealing with short-run priorities or long-term strategies.

Seven hundred positions were eliminated through attrition to improve their cost structure, but Turcotte has also driven a culture of accountability in the board room and on the shop floor.

"I knew people would respond well to a certain approach to managing this company. We're a long way from doing it well by my standard. We're on the road and our leaders are coming around ... and I feel confident we're going to continue to move forward and drive this cultural change.

In assessing the company's human productivity as bench-marked to its competitors, Algoma is "at best, average."

"And I don't like being average ... nobody can be average in this kind of business. Even though we've got great pricing today, there's no illusion it's going to stay there. Prices will fall apart, it's just a matter of when."

Consolidation with another steel maker is definitely on the horizon for Algoma.

"In a difficult industry like this that is truly global, when I think 10 to 20 years out, I worry most about where the lowest cost producers in the world are."

His recent South American trip to tour an undisclosed Brazilian steel mill with the lowest production costs in the world, the highest quality steel and plans to double capacity in three years proved truly "frightening."

"That kind of plant is going to be a dominant force in the world," says Turcotte.


Northern Ontario Business

Don Wyatt, owner, Timmins Basics Office Supply

Don Wyatt admits he can't stand on the sidelines when something needs to be done.

"In any community, a lot of people sit back and watch the parade. I choose to be in the parade."

It was a trait passed down from his father, a prominent Timmins businessman and manager of Doran's Brewery in Timmins for more than 40 years.

The 53-year-old owner of Timmins Basics Office Supply and Wyatt Image Solutions Inc. is regarded as a walking resource and a mentor for many in the business community.

"He's the go-to guy. If he doesn't know the answer, he'll find it and he never lets anybody down," says Keitha Robson, Timmins Chamber of Commerce manager, who calls him "reliable, trustworthy, honest, ethical--all the adjectives you think of a strong business person in your community.


Humble, but occasionally outspoken, Wyatt does not attract much fanfare, but is not afraid to take the lead on any community effort.

As one of the chamber's more active past presidents, Wyatt has served on a multitude of business and development-related boards.


Northern Ontario Business

John Gammon, assistant deputy minister MNDM mines and minerals division

Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci is anxious to put to rest any talk that both his right- and left-hand man, John Gammon, is entertaining thoughts of retirement next year.

"As far as I'm concerned, John Gammon should not be talking about retirement," says the Sudbury MPP. "He still has too much to do."

Bartolucci defines the 64-year-old Sheffield, U.K. native as the "essence of mining expertise" who knows the industry, its players and its vast potential.


A former Falconbridge exploration manager, Gammon, the assistant deputy minister of Ontario's mines and minerals division, has worked under 10 ministers from five governments since 1990 and is an important behind-the-scenes public servant.

Gammon will have tremendous influence on the region's economic future, specifically in developing a Mining Centre of Excellence, and in unlocking the vast untapped mineral potential of the remote areas of Ontario's North.

When the Liberal Peterson government transplanted the Ontario Geological Survey from Toronto to Sudbury and succeeding NDP and Tory governments in the mid-1990s slashed the ministry's budget and staff by 50 per cent, Gammon shepherded the department through a crisis period while laying the groundwork for an invaluable investment vehicle to the mining industry.

He oversaw major structural changes and introduced new initiatives such as a digital claims map system, a database of online material that has kept Ontario at the forefront of being one of the world's best mining jurisdictions.

Gammon has been credited for forging lasting partnerships between OGS, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and Laurentian University.


Northern Ontario Business

Frank Dottori, president, CEO Tembec Inc.

A champion in the forestry sector, Dottori, 65, CEO of Tembec Inc., has no qualms about taking the United States head on in tariff disputes. Nor does he have any hesitancy in claiming his company's right to be redeemed in the international market.

There is no doubt Dottori does not hold back when it comes to speaking out about forestry issues. He considers himself a missionary in the industry and says the sector is not getting a fair shake of government dollars for research and development.


"We are ignored by governments and yet we are the foundation of this country," he says.

The cod industry contributes approximately half a per cent to the Canadian economy, Dottori says. They receive five times more money for research than the Canadian forest products industry, which takes up 13 per cent of the Canadian economy.

"This industry brings in $40 billion per year. We are Canada's paycheque and yet no one realizes that, and it irritates me to some extent. They take us for granted."

He wants the government to focus on nurturing the primary sectors before investing in information technology centres, for example. IT is driven by people who can relocate at a moment's notice, he says. Let's get back to the basics and draw revenues and employment from what we know works.

"Keep things simple," Dottori says. "I'm a relatively logical thinker, not very complicated."

An engineer by profession, Dottori led an employee buyout of a pulp mill in Temiscaming, Que, in the early 1970s. He has been there since, weaving his name into the fibre of the company with such detail, it is hard not to mention one name without the other. This will be his last year at the helm of Tembec.


Northern Ontario Business

Russ York, CFO, Buchanan Forest Products

If one is a straight shooter, honest and sincere, people can extrapolate that from the character of a leader and, to Russ York, CFO of Buchanan Forest Products, that is important.

"To me, your word is your bond," York says. "Your reputation, well, you only get one of those."

Maintaining his integrity has been part of York's success. York oversees seven softwood mills and one hardwood mill in northwestern Ontario. He was appointed for two three-year terms on the Lakehead University Board of Governors, and is a member of the Thunder Bay Community Foundation and the Thunder Bay Superior Federal Liberal Riding Association where he co-chaired in the campaign to elect Joe Comuzzi.

Some people think they have to cheat to win, but York's view on the whole matter is, "then why win?"

It is better to win through solid negotiating skills and being a better strategic thinker; any other way is just a quick fix, he says.

In contract negotiations, for instance, the agreement has to work for both parties otherwise it will not survive the test of time.

York and Ken Buchanan, owner of Buchanan Forest Products, have worked with one another for over 20 years, says Jim Boniferro, president and CEO of Boniferro Mill Works Inc. Boniferro attributes much of his knowledge and expertise to the days of working with the duo and recalls the respect Buchanan shares for York.


"Buchanan's success is a testament to Russ's tenacity and that is really important."


Northern Ontario Business

George Stivrins, owner, Georgian Bay Cruises

The ability to wear many hats has given George Stivrins of Georgian Bay Cruise Company an advantage in understanding his business and the local government.

Having flexibility in life is something inherited, he says, but being the third brother in line also helps. Family is where he learned good listening skills.

"You really have to listen to people and it does not matter whether you're in business or municipal politics or anything else,... you have to understand where they are coming from so that you can make a decision," he says.

Stivrins, an engineer graduate, was former reeve of Seguin Township and is a current member of the Northern Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership. He holds the directorship position at the local CFDC and participates in a second vice-president capacity at the Parry Sound Chamber of Commerce.


It was a bit of a leap of faith starting the cruise line operation out of Parry Sound, he says.

"(My wife and I/business partner Martha Dion) started looking (at cruise liners) in the dead of winter (February) and, by early May, we were up and operating."


Northern Ontario Business

Chris Hodgson, president, Ontario Mining Association

Chris Hodgson confesses he is a "wanna-be" northerner.


Having been raised in Haliburton, he likes the kind of 'tell-it like-it is' mentality offered by small communities.

"People are not shy about telling you how they feel," he says, referring to his political days when the coffee shop was the next best thing to sitting in front of the opposition.

As former Ontario minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines, Hodgson was known to search out solutions on contentious issues from private and public community leaders. If people agreed on a resolution, he would implement it. It was that simple, he says. The secret is to "let people have input at the table." He was an advocate of smaller government and looked to community people to solve community issues. It is important for regions and economies to have vision, Hodgson says, but it is equally essential to have co-operation.

Hodgson is a full supporter of economic development in the North.

Wearing the hats of both ministers gave him an understanding of the North's advantages. Initiatives like the centres of excellence in forestry and mining will spawn entrepreneurs and that will lend itself to new mining and forestry segments, he says.

In January 2003, Hodgson announced his resignation from cabinet while he was the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Hodgson was recently appointed president of the Ontario Mining Association.


Northern Ontario Business
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:NEWS; Waubetek Business Development Corp; Bruno's Contracting; LaCloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corp.
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Previous Article:You're invited to Sudbury in 2005.
Next Article:Robert Calhoun.

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