Challenge: A burning desire to dominate a highly competitive market
Solution: Establishing a niche with customized fire truck equipment
More than 50 years ago, a metal fabrication company opened its doors in Centreville, NB, and started selling top-quality products including farm and playground equipment. Today, the company sells only one type of product: fire trucks and related equipment.
“There is a big market for this,” says Ryan Stacey, who oversees Metalfab’s business development. “For insurance purposes, it is recommended that trucks be replaced approximately every 20 years.”
The demand for fire trucks has created a competitive market. “You have to find your niche,” says Ryan. “Ours is customized products.”
The sale starts before there is a sale. Metalfab, which manufactures fire department pumpers, tankers, initial attack vehicles, and special services vehicles, meets with prospective customers to discuss their needs. A truck is then designed specifically to meet those needs. Pumpers, for example, are the work horse of any fire department’s fleet of emergency vehicles. These units can be set up to pump water for long hours at major fires. Customizing the unit can greatly assist firefighters respond at the scene.
Where every department has different levels of staffing, response areas, types of equipment, and water sources, it is crucial to make sure the design of the unit best fits the way you operate, stresses Ryan.
Innovation is essential. The New Brunswick company has created the Heat Series of trucks focused on firefighter safety. “We sold 12 units in the first three years. That’s huge,” says Ryan.
Metalfab’s market has grown over time. It started close to home with increasing sales in the Maritimes, then spread out to all of Atlantic Canada. The company, which has annual sales of roughly $13 million, has also successfully expanded to Maine and Ontario. “Ontario sales have grown 500% in the last five years,” says Ryan. Now the company is looking to establish a market base in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
That will take time. “It usually takes us about five years to get known in a market,” says Ryan. “It is a long-term investment. This is about building relationships.”
Collaboration with the Government of Canada has played a key role in Metalfab’s continued growth. With an investment of over $64,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Metalfab expand its manufacturing facility to add plastic tank manufacturing capabilities.
Metalfab is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
Do you have a business concept? Do you have an innovative idea to improve or grow your business? For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to www.canada.ca/acoa