Sturgeon Falls Brush (SFB) Group

Profitable Business the Northern Way

With the base of operations in Sturgeon Falls, Ont., Sturgeon Falls Brush (SFB) Group continues to draw on the heritage of French Canadians in Northern Canada, realizing the long-lived pride working in forestry and lumbering industries. It is the Franco-Ontarian heritage and legacy of good reputation in these industries that makes SFB Group the agile business to be reckoned with.

Started by Claude Larcher in 1976, Sturgeon Falls Brush and Contracting Limited (SFBCL) represents the core of the company services, focusing on land clearing, general contracting, excavation and road building contracts. However over the years the company also added fleet services such as heavy equipment and truck repair and maintenance, fabrication shop, welding, and truck and heavy equipment painting; in 1986 the company added Sturgeon Falls Brush and Manufacturing Limited (SFBML), and Sturgeon Falls Brush Properties Inc. in 2008.

With and opportunistic attitude towards synergies in related industries, the list of company services and business initiatives continues to grow, even adding a planer mill that the company uses to process unclaimed wood gathered from land clearing projects, converting it to lumber, wood chips, shavings, and with plans to surpass this pedestrian production with new, high quality products that will offer a much higher return on investment.

“Northern companies have to be diversified,” says Michel Langevin, Director of Logistics & Client Relations. “To survive in the north, we are not passing on opportunities proposed by large companies coming into the picture. We survive by being generalists. That’s the nature of business in northern Canada.”

“The idea is to listen to our customer base first, looking at their needs, and growing from there. For example, when we do land clearing, the clients just want to get rid of the wood, so we have a material we can be opportunistic on, and use it to create new products. Most likely we will also work with these clients during the construction phase, and they will need wood and construction products, so we create these synergies. It’s a matter of establishing proper communication and good relations with customers, and addressing their needs — we are being opportunistic with the same customer base, creating turnkey solutions,” says Ivan Filion, CEO.

Expertise in land clearing and lumbering is a unique niche, and SFB Group’s proactive business attitude turned the company into a business with over 100 people, often hiring additional workforce to support the company projects, and working on projects right across Ontario and even in other provinces. Over the years, SFB Group worked on government projects such as airports, initial travel corridors for infrastructure projects, and pipeline developments for oil and gas companies.

“Most of the companies with lumbering expertise reside in Northern Ontario, so if there is a large project in the province, it’s typical for these companies to come and consult here in Northern Ontario. If a client has a lumbering project in a very sensitive area or has trees that are difficult to remove, we have people who can do the job efficiently and securely. We have created quite a unique niche for ourselves,” says Filion.

Novel Business Ideas

With a proliferation of mining projects in Northern Ontario and across Canada, SFB Group is turning towards the companies of these proposed developments to provide them with land clearing and pre-civil infrastructure services. Besides (and including) these large projects coming into the picture across the province, the company gets its hands on high quality unclaimed timber. While the company mill and dimensional lumber production have been increasing the company ROI, the management is working on a plan to utilize this income source in a whole new way.

“Outside dimensional lumber, we are looking at creating more sophisticated products that would yield higher return on investment, and we are getting into high-end timber-frame structures – architectural products that will require sophisticated and appealing designs. We are talking structures such as small chalets, domes, and so on. People are looking for new, appealing designs and it seems that wood may be back in in the picture,” says Langevin.

According to Filion, this niche of prefabricated timber buildings would focus on export markets in Europe, where the interest for high-end white pine buildings seems to flourish. SFB Group is working on training its employees in new technologies such as computerized solids modeling, and also moving into automated jointery technologies for these timber frames.

“This will allow us to create prepackaged building kits, and people can assemble these buildings on site using basic tools without screws or glue. We also have a good supply of timber to create large frame structures. Large frames are very rare today. Overall, creating these prefabricated buildings will move our ROI exponentially, but will also move our usage and expertise in wood products way forward, ahead of the curve even,” concluded Filion.

SFB Group is truly a Canadian company – built on the heritage of challenging the natural and business environment, and thriving in conditions others may not even consider worthwhile. SFB Group continues to prosper by always seeing the most effective business synergies.