MacKenzie Atlantic Tool & Die

Welcome to The Pivot series, where we celebrate the resilience and innovation of Atlantic Canadians entrepreneurs who adapted tremendously to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked business leaders from across the region to tell us in their own words how they navigated the new economy and the lessons they learned along the way. Here is what one entrepreneur had to say.

Matthew MacKenzie, President
MacKenzie Atlantic Tool & Die|Machining Ltd. 

Our hearts sank when interprovincial travel restrictions were introduced at the beginning of the pandemic. We had just installed $2.3 million worth of robotics equipment in our two facilities, and suddenly the training and installation team from Quebec was unable to travel here and set it up. So, before we’d even had a chance to flip the switch, we had to accept that this equipment was going to sit idle as the new monthly payments for them began. 

As a business considered an essential service, however, we knew we could continue fulfilling our aerospace and defence work while putting safety measures in place to keep our teams safe. When news headlines began warning that Canada, particularly its smaller provinces, may be left stranded without the PPE it needed amid the “Wild West” global scramble to secure it, we knew we had to do something to help. 

After looking at everything from community halls to hockey rinks and hotel ballrooms, we partnered with the school board to get approval from the province to open a high school and turn it into a temporary production facility. Within days, thanks to a personal Facebook post that went viral announcing the need for assembly workers, we had received hundreds of resumes and conducted interviews by phone when most people were likely heading to bed. Within a few weeks, we had a team of 45 new staff – more than doubling our pre-pandemic numbers – working with us to assemble and ship out 100,000 face shields a week to Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre. Taking risks like securing and transporting enough plastic to make hundreds of thousands of face shields without having a confirmed order in hand, thinking outside the box and working towards a common goal with new partners was key. 

You have to be willing to take risks and do things you’ve never done before. Work in service of others and for something bigger than yourself. Expect stumbling blocks and missteps, and roll with the punches. Stay humble. The pandemic has been a global teaching moment for us all. We can all adapt, we all have that ability. We just have to remember that and keep going.

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