Not only is Gorf Manufacturing/Contracting Ltd. a third generation family-run business, some of its employees are also third and second generation.
“We also have some long-term employees here who have been with us for more than 35 years,” said president Mark Norkum.
The Porcupine business was started by Norkum’s father and a business partner as a residential and light commercial construction company in the early 1960s.
Not long after, the Kidd Creek Mine was discovered and Gorf Contracting was established to branch out into heavy industrial work.
“The original name of the company was Normac and when Gorf was established, Normac became a rental company supporting the contracting side,” said Norkum.
In order to support its construction work, a manufacturing side was established. The company primarily caters to the mining industry since the forest industry has been in a downturn over the past several years.
“We are pretty self contained,” said general manager Mark Norkum Jr. “We make it and install it. We can take on any size job and we specialize in offering a service many others can’t.”
With about 75 employees, Norkum has been with the company for 35 years and Mark Jr. has been there for 10.
“The key to our success has been diversification and being self contained,” Norkum said. “We do as much as we can in-house and Normac takes care of our transportation needs by trucking all our fabricated products.”
About a year ago, the companies amalgamated to simplify the administration side.
When Xstrata Copper closed its metallurgical site in Timmins, the company was affected since it was a major supply and service provider. “We diversified again and the slack has been picked up by other companies and operations,” Norkum said.
“We are involved in Vale’s Clean AER (atmospheric emissions reduction) project and are currently setting up a branch in Sudbury.”
A management group has been put in place in Sudbury and the company will be hiring those from the Sudbury Basin.
“We are finalizing the new branch office and our intent is to be there a few years,” Norkum said. “I will be managing that office and Mark Jr. will be running our base operations in Timmins.”
Norkum’s younger son, Bradley, who is currently in university, is working for the company this summer.
Norkum said its workforce is also regarded as an extended family and the company hosts family picnics and other events for its employees.
“My grandfather always gave back to the community as much as possible and that was handed down to my father and he passed that on to me. It is still an important part of what and who we are,” said Mark Jr.
Gorf also promotes young employees by encouraging them to take apprenticeships. That practice was recently acknowledged when the company received a Nova award from the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.
“It provides sustainability to our operation and it gives young apprentices the opportunity to grow in our operation,” Norkum said.
The company has been ISO 9001 certified for a quality management system and is also 18001 certified for occupational health and safety management.
“It helps our sustainability to try and stay above the others,” Mark Jr. Said. “I believe strongly that a good health and safety record paves the way for a lot of opportunities,” Norkum said.
The Kidd Creek discovery in 1964 changed the direction of the company in its early years and its ability to adapt to the changing resource industries will lead it into the future.
“We will keep the tradition going,” said Mark Jr. “The challenges of the industry are up and down but we have been able to sustain the company.”
And if you are wondering about the company’s name, there are several versions of its origin but no one knows for sure.
“It is definitely unique,” Norkum said.