Steel Plus Network Connections Issue 2 | Page 12



t was the first time they had gathered together in two years . It was a beautiful fall day in Halifax , Nova Scotia , the perfect backdrop for a key meeting of Steel Plus Network ’ s ( SPN ) Board of Managers .
Eight people had travelled to the port city ; two others , long-time American members , joined online , including past chair Brian Carmer of Stonebridge Iron & Steel Inc ., near Albany , New York . Carmer described himself as “ one of the old-guard .” He joined SPN in 1997 .
“ It ’ s the history behind it and the connections through the network which are the most important part for me — the networking . There are great people on the board and as members . We ’ re able to lean on each other . We ’ ve learned a lot from one another over time .”
The mood in the conference room was electric : a blend of elation , reflection , and determination . Like many sectors , the North American steel industry is dealing with fluidity , resulting from the impacts of the global pandemic on supply chains , staffing , product availability , construction , fabrication , trade , and market demands .
The group of 10 included SPN ’ s president , Colleen Doucette , and Judith Gray , operations administrator . The event was held at The Lord Nelson Hotel , a city landmark which has been beautifully updated . It faces Halifax ’ s Public Gardens , a rare example of a true Victorian garden anywhere in North America . The meeting setting was a mix of time-tested and modern , just like SPN and the board .
The collective wisdom within SPN is a primary selling feature . Many members have remained loyal to the group since its beginnings 26 years ago . Mark Dutil , of CANAM Group Inc ., founded SPN in 1995 as a detailing company .
Since the 2000s , SPN ’ s current 52 fabricator companies have become the shareholders . CANAM remains a strong voice and presence . Two representatives from CANAM are on the board , including Mike Holleran .
At the table , Holleran asked an important question — for both SPN and the steel industry . Holleran is general manager of CANAM ’ s Mississauga , Ontario , facility and is vice president of sales for its Joist and Deck division .
“ What holds me as part of SPN and the board is that engagement to make things better . We talk about , ‘ What does good look like ?’ How do you make the steel industry better ? What ’ s better for the collective ? That drives us ; not living with the status quo . It ’ s easy to have the wheel go around and say , ‘ Another year , turn the calendar .’ Instead , we must say , ‘ Here are some things we ’ re facing ,’ and [ then ] debate ; challenge each other . This is a safe zone . People can raise questions without feeling uncomfortable . Let ’ s dig down and peel the layers off the onion .”
One of those layers was addressed by the veteran in the group and one of the two Americans participating virtually . Ken Ballweg is CEO of Endres Manufacturing near Madison , Wisconsin . Ballweg has been in the industry for an impressive 56 years . He was the second member from the United States to join SPN .
Ballweg told his peers that he “ really missed ” being in Halifax and isn ’ t a fan of online meetings . The conviction and passion in his voice rang clear . COVID-19 has forced a new business reality of mixed in-person and virtual events . Adaption is more important than ever , as underlined by Ballweg .
“ Where I ’ d like to see SPN go is to promote the steel industry over other construction products . It was one of our original mandates . Then , we were going to promote the steel industry itself , and I don ’ t know if we need that right now , because it ’ s so over-demanded , at least in the United States . Currently , in the U . S ., focusing on the products is what ’ s important . We have to adapt to the changes that are occurring right now in the construction industry .”
That sentiment was echoed by board chair , Jacques Labbé , president of Camnor Group , which includes Trimax Steel in Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce , Québec .