When Rob Maguire needed a name for his new roll-form steel roofing and siding venture, he turned to nature for inspiration.
TerraStar Building Products takes its moniker from “terra,” meaning earth, and “star,” a reference to the dark, star-filled skies for which Manitoulin Island is known. Maguire was a key player in getting the area designated a national dark sky sanctuary, and he's passionate about nature. But a love of nature alone can't sustain a family, so the new Manitowaning plant was created.
“I liked the idea of manufacturing and distribution,” explained Maguire, who has experience in the industry. “Being on Manitoulin Island, I was seeking something I could do that would allow me to be my own boss and stay on the Island, but also have a business that wasn't dependent strictly on the local economy, something that could benefit a more vast region. This became it.”
The 5,000-square-foot plant—the first of its kind in Northern Ontario—houses a specially built steel roll-form machine that can roll out 37 and 3/4-inch panels of 29-gauge tensile steel with a G-rib profile for use as roofing or siding in commercial, residential, industrial and agricultural applications. Custom gauges are available, and the company is a dealer for complementary building products such as windows, doors, trim and fasteners.
The panels come in an array of Akzo Nobel colours, the pigment of which reflects the sun's heat, keeping attics cooler and reducing energy costs. They also come with a 40-year warranty, and because of the reusable, recyclable nature of steel, the panels are kept out of the landfills, making the material environmentally friendly, Maguire said.
TerraStar was able to move forward thanks to a $115,000 grant from the NOHFC's Northern Ontario Entrepreneur Program.
News of a new manufacturing plant is rare, but welcome, on Manitoulin, a region known more as a prime tourist and sailing destination than for big industry. With a population of 914, the Township of Assiginack, in which Manitowaning is situated, can benefit from even a few new jobs.
“It's very common—and I learned this in the economic development world—that good, year-round, full-time career-related jobs are very hard to find,” said Maguire, Assiginack's former economic development officer. “The neat thing about this industry is now I have an opportunity to provide those types of jobs.”
The company will start out with Maguire and his partner, Merdick McFarlane, but the pair hope to have up to five employees within a year.
If anybody knows how difficult it can be to secure employment on Manitoulin, it's Maguire. At the age of 20 he followed in his father's footsteps, relocating to Toronto to find work. Tiring of the rat race, he moved back to the Island a decade later, where he became Assiginack's EDO, simultaneously taking on community roles with Pet Save and the S.S. Norisle Steamship Society.
His current venture resulted from a relationship forged with John Beimers of Easy Building Products in Hensall, Ont. After ordering steel siding for the Central Manitoulin Welcome Centre building project, Maguire was keen to replicate Beimers' success in Northern Ontario. Easy Building Products now supplies TerraStar with its steel—a buying group ensures competitive pricing—and Beimers is providing administrative support.
“Although we're a stand-alone business, we're adopting a lot of the methodology that he has that's made his business a success,” Maguire said. “So it's great for us and it's great for the Manitoulin Island, because we have an opportunity now to create jobs on the Island where we wouldn't otherwise have been able to.”
To start, Maguire anticipates a catchment area stretching from Wawa to just north of Barrie, but he's also looking to set up dealers within certain territories. Maguire, an earnest and mild-mannered man, emphasized customer service will be a key component of the business. He wants clients to be satisfied with both the product and the support provided by TerraStar.
Forged from the earth and offering protection from the elements, steel provides an ideal building material, Maguire said, and he believes the plant will meld in well with the Island aesthetic.
“Manitoulin has a special bond between the water, land, and sky,” he said. “I've been interested in manufacturing, so when the opportunity came about—and I researched a lot of different businesses I could get into—this seemed to be a good fit for me and for my business partner.”