Challenge: Sustainable workforce and continued R&D
Solution: Skilled labour and diversification in a rural area
Making the shift from professional balloonist to being the premier solutions-based provider of protective structures may not seem like a logical path, but it's exactly how Dynamic Air Shelters was born. In fact, the company began as an innovator and creator of hot air balloons in 1981. It now employs similar technology to create inflatable shelters used for anything from mobile industrial sites to temporary shelters for disaster relief efforts.
While that story may be unique in itself, how the Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Labrador, headquartered company came to Atlantic Canada has even more to do with its ongoing success.
The company was launched by Harold Warner in Calgary in the early 1980s. Warner's first company sold advertising and marketing on hot air balloons. Using his knowledge of air-filled structures, he began constructing domes to again provide a backdrop for corporate marketing opportunities. Dynamic Air Shelters was born.
However, the company ran into trouble in the early 2000s with a high employee turnover and a lack of available workers. That's when they turned to the community of Grand Bank, where they set up a temporary plant which has subsequently become the company's primary production facility. This plant has experienced steady growth with 80% of its employees having worked there since 2008.
Kay Riggs, VP of Operations for the Grand Bank plant, says the decision to set up shop was counterintuitive to what every business book would have told you.
"There's no business model that would tell you that you should set up a factory in a rural community in Newfoundland and Labrador, four hours from the nearest airport, says Riggs. But it works. We rarely lose our production workers to another company," says Riggs. "In a bigger centre, there would be more competition for skilled labour. Being able to retain our workforce is the single biggest key to our success. It's allowed us to invest in their training to allow them to develop the specialized skills we need to compete on a global level."
Dynamic continues to employ innovative R&D to improve the airbeam structures they build around the world. In particular, the development of the "blast resistant" shelter has allowed the company to grow from building small domes to large blast resistant shelters proven to keep employees and equipment safe from potential catastrophes.
Since 2011, Dynamic's plant in Grand Bank has created significant employment for over 50 people in the community. A slowdown in the oil and gas sector hindered growth for the last two years, but through continued innovation, R&D and expansion in other sectors like military and mining, the company is weathering the storm. Being aware of market challenges and hiring skilled people has allowed the company to provide customers with different solutions that meet their needs.
Partnerships, such as the one with the Government of Canada, also play a key role in Dynamicâ€™s continued growth. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Dynamic develop its blast-resistant, wide-span air-inflated (pressurized/pneumatic) fabric structures from 34 metres up to 100 metres. The new shelter will also be portable, lightweight, blast resistant, tolerant of temperature extremes, high winds and snow loads, as well as easily and rapidly deployable (and re-deployable) for temporary or semi-permanent installations. The over $3 million investment will also help the company capitalize on international marketing opportunities through the expansion of a rental fleet of inflatable air shelters.
Dynamic Air Shelters is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canadaâ€™s economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.