In 2014, when the City of Temiskaming Shores pitched FedNor the idea of a pavilion showcasing Northern Ontario mining suppliers at the continent’s largest mining tradeshow, James Franks and his team cautioned the funding agency it could be two to three years before companies saw any direct sales from the venture.
But the warning, it turns out, wasn’t needed.
“At year one, we made sales right away, and companies were excited,” said Franks, Temiskaming Shores’ economic development officer. “Every year, that dollar figure they create in sales and leads has climbed, and climbed, and climbed as the event’s grown.”
Now in its seventh year, the FedNor-sponsored Northern Ontario Mining Showcase, a highlight of the annual conference of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), can boast some impressive figures.
Number of exhibitors: 110 (with another 20 to 30 on a waiting list). Floor space: 12,600 square feet (the largest exhibit at the show). Percentage of exhibitors that have generated sales from the showcase: 83. Value of sales generated: $50 million (since 2018 alone).
Since its inception, a spot at the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase has been a much sought-after commodity by businesses from across the North.
But organizers are careful to keep to strict criteria to ensure the purpose behind the showcase remains strong.
“It is for small businesses from Northern Ontario who have the ability to supply a mining product or service, and also, as many as possible, have the ability to export, because it is the federal government that's supporting the project,” Franks said.
“(FedNor’s) hope is that people will connect with international companies so they can grow the export business for Northern Ontario.”
Each year, organizers see about 20 per cent turnover in participants, he noted.
Some businesses don’t return because they decide to venture out on their own in a bigger space on the floor, while others don’t feel it’s the right venue to connect with the clients they seek, and some are just too busy to attend.
But Franks and the team view that as a good thing.
Each business gets a small booth where they can greet and talk shop with prospective clients.
In the more interactive exhibits, companies offer demonstrations on some of their products and technology. This year, visitors will see presentations from TopROPS, Drillco Mining and Exploration, NORCAT, the Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (ICAMP), and ORIGIN.
Nearby, a stage is set up for special presentations to take place throughout the show.
On day two of this year’s conference, Maestro Digital Mine will be hosting a discussion panel on underground communications infrastructure, featuring representatives from Newmont, Trevali, Yamana Gold, and Vale.
Franks said the stage will also be open for impromptu presentations on everything from government funding programs to how the mining industry works in other jurisdictions.
“We know that those types of sessions will draw people into the venue, which hopefully then turns into increased leads for the businesses that are there,” he said. “We hope that, in turn, turns into additional sales for some of those businesses in the long term.”
Once visitors are there, they can grab a seat in the FedNor Café, a rest area with comfortable couches and cell phone chargers, where they can enjoy free water or coffee and take a break before continuing through the pavilion.
For the second year, visitors to the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase will also be able to pick up a copy of The Drift.
The 60-page glossy magazine, published by Northern Ontario Business, features stories about the people and companies of the Northern Ontario mining supply and service sector, many of which are exhibiting at the show.
One part of the four-day event that everyone looks forward to is the Northern Ontario Night, an evening soirée held across from the convention centre at Steam Whistle Brewing.
Hosting roughly 1,200 people, the event is sponsored by exhibitors in the showcase and carries a distinctly Northern Ontario stamp.
Music is provided by New Liskeard band Kings of Nowhere, and the food and drinks all feature products made in the North. Thornloe Cheese, Bavarian Meats of North Bay, Loon Vodka from Hearst, and gin made by Crosscut Distillery in Sudbury have all been featured.
Of all the economic development activities the City of Temiskaming Shores undertakes, Franks said the Northern Ontario Mining Showcase is one of the most satisfying, since they can very quickly see the results of their efforts.
“It’s a good news scenario for the businesses, it’s a good news scenario for FedNor, as far as their support, and it’s a good news scenario for the city,” he said.
This year’s PDAC convention will be held March 1-4 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.