After nearly seven years of debate, discussion and hard work, it's taken organizers more than a wave of a wand to bring the Kirkland Lake-based Materials Joining Innovation Centre (MaJIC) into existence.
Upon hiring CEO Don Dekker in May 2008 and establishing its own space within Northern College, this not-for-profit, welding-focused centre has already begun testing, training and research.
"We hope to do is take theoretical research and move it on to the shop floors in the form of applied research," says Dekker.
"We're responding to the policy of governments to enhance the economic diversification of Kirkland Lake, and also to strengthen the province's manufacturing industry."
Though associated with Northern College, MaJIC is independent and features its own Board of Directors. In fact, the centre is renting its location from the school, occupying a 2,000-square-foot laboratory space and 3,500-square-foot office space.
State-of-the-art equipment lines the laboratory floor, which has been renovated to suit client needs and enhance security. Bending equipment, universal press for testing metals, cutoff saws, arcwelders and robots are all housed under this roof and are available to aid clients' research or contract MaJIC for hire.
The centre also allows for a wide variety of services, manufacturing and maintenance welding technical procedures to be refined.
While the idea of welding technology may seem distant and obscure to the layperson, Dekker says it's important to note that welding is applicable to a wide variety of elements affecting people's lives. This particularly holds true to infrastructure such as bridges, sewer lines, mine and underground workings, and railways, which in many communities are anywhere from 40 to 100 years old and beginning to decay.
Industry and government leaders have been among the key supporters raising $3.1 million for the site's start-up. Cementation Canada, Heath & Sherwood, Mining Technologies International and Gorf Contracting Ltd. have all contributed financially or with in-kind materials.
Clients from across the region have also taken note of the center, as it has been asked to research rail failure analysis for Ontario Northland, and tanks for various mining firms. Word-of-mouth has been such that Chrysler has also invited MaJIC representatives to visit their facilities in Detroit to examine some of their pervasive problems.
While the automotive industry had been a strong focus for the centre prior to the economic crash, that has changed, and is being replaced with resource industries. This includes potential work with regional mining giants including Vale Inco, and gas pipeline companies.
Though market demands have changed in short order MaJIC has remained true to its mandate, to provide employment to Northern Ontario.
Indeed, all four of MaJIC's full-time staff are originally from the region, and another 11 are expected to be hired within the next 10 years. Even Dekker fits the profile: a graduate of Northern College, he was raised on a dairy farm in Englehart before spending his professional career in civil engineering in far-flung locales in Africa and Israel.
The early October hire of Mike Babiak, the centre's technical director, also holds to this trend. Having grown up in Timmins, Babiak was recruited from a career in research and design for auto giant Magna, in southern Ontario.
"There's definitely a need for a company like this up North," says Babiak. "There's a lot of stuff that goes on where people are going to need technical assistance, and they'll be able to find it out of Kirkland Lake.”