By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A Swift Current-based ag equipment company will create a new engineering and manufacturing hub in Medicine Hat, with plans to hire 30 staff this fall toward the goal of having a 100-person local workforce over the next three to five years.
S3 Group made the announcement on June 7, stating that its current manufacturing capacity is strained for six divisions and it wants to explore advanced operations.
A 16,000-square-foot facility has already been acquired in the city’s southwest industrial area, and the company announced promotions this week for top officials to lead the expansion.
Former general manager Al Marques will become the company’s chief operating officer.
“Marques is the driving force behind S3’s new product development and has a demonstrated track record of building teams for success,” said Richelle Andreas, S3’s president and CEO. “Al has played a vital role in the growth that S3 has experienced, and we are very pleased and optimistic to have this level of leadership in such capable hands.”
The company designs and builds a wide array agricultural implements, including air systems for combines and bins, accessories for cultivators, precision springs and provides “a broad-spectrum product development and manufacturing” for clients with industrial and ag process needs.
The Medicine Hat location would be the company’s seventh, with the goal of focusing it on additional manufacturing capacity but also toward an “engineering centre of excellence,” according to S3 communications manager Daniel Engel.
It would eventually become the central hub for testing and prototype development, said Engel, and include a metallurgical lab and advanced testing equipment.
“It’s an expansion to existing capabilities, but in addition we want to use it as a central location for a lot of our really high-end engineering,” said Engel. “It will be a diverse manufacturing space – there are some pretty big plans over the next five years.”
Initially, the company will quickly be looking to recruit about 20 to 30 workers – engineers and technical staff, fabricators and administrators.
A diverse workforce in Medicine Hat was attractive to the company.
“One of the reasons Medicine Hat was an appealing choice is the creative crowd (in the city),” he said.
“A lot of positions are in the engineering, a lot of administrative positions as well.”
The city’s position on transportation routes was also a positive, said Engel. The Hat’s proximity to Calgary, compared to Swift Current, could also aid in attracting engineers.
He also said the city’s overtures on economic attraction and availability of “sustainable energy” were large factors.
“There’s a lot that’s attractive,” he said. “Sustainable energy is big in the community, that’s always been a core to our company. A lot of companies talk that talk, but S3 is really all about sustainable farming practices, developing equipment that promotes stewardship of the soil.”
For the city, the potential of adding 100 positions, most in skilled positions, is one of the most substantial labour force announcements for the city in a decade or more.
The largest private-sector employers in the city are believed to be several grocery store chains, followed by Canadian Pacific Railway and Goodyear, with about 200 employees each.
In terms of manufacturing, more than 400 workers were laid off in 2006 when Leach North America closed its garbage truck manufacturing facility here.