By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
The federal and provincial governments jointly announced the contribution of $4 million to De La Fontaine, a designer and manufacturer of steel doors and frames for commercial use, for the acquisition of automated and digital equipment. Speaking at a press conference held at the company’s Sherbrooke headquarters, and the site of the expansion, Gabriel de La Fontaine, general manager of the company, said automating the Sherbrooke facility would enable them to better support the rest of their business. “With these improvements, we can increase our capacity and thereby continue to expand our presence in North America.”
Representing the federal and provincial governments were Élisabeth Brière, Member of Parliament for Sherbrooke; along with MNA Christopher Skeete, Minister for the Economy; and MNA Geneviève Hébert, Assistant Government Whip and Member for Saint-François. The investment is part of a larger expansion project to the Sherbrooke facility, with a second floor being constructed to house administrative offices displaced by the equipment.
The company is looking to purchase machines that will automate the bending process, wherein metal is shaped into doors and frames. “We need to automate that process,” said de la Fontaine, citing difficulty finding skilled labour. “It’s not easy to find a bender out there,” he said. “I’d be happy to hire them,” he added.
De la Fontaine stated that automating the production line wouldn’t result in a loss of available work at the factory and that they would be looking to hire more people as part of their expansion.
“We need Sherbrooke [in order] to manage all the biggest and most complex projects,” explained de la Fontaine. He said that while they manufacture steel doors and steel frames, “what we really sell is service,” providing their products to contractors within a quick timeframe.
Québec is investing the lion’s share of the money, with $3 million granted as a component of the ESSOR program, which offers financial assistance to businesses to modernize and implement new technologies. “One of our economic objectives is to have an...innovative, high-performing manufacturing sector that uses automation and robotization more in its processes. By guiding [small and medium enterprises] through this phase of their journey, we are enabling them to create projects that will boost their growth and ensure their competitiveness,” noted Skeete.
“Thanks to our government’s financial assistance, De La Fontaine will be able to strengthen its position in the industry and on the markets, which will also help stimulate the regional economy. This support will thus benefit the entire Sherbrooke region and enable the Canadian economy to bounce back even stronger than before,” said Brière.
The remaining $1 million is coming from the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions’ Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program.