By GRAHAM HICKS
The announcement came out in November.
Located in the city’s west end, RAM Elevators and Lifts Manufacturing had been sold.
It was not so much the sale of an independent manufacturing company, founded, operated and owned by lifelong Edmontonians Richard Meunier and his partner Sandy Smart, that was of interest.
It was about the buyers.
Aroon Sequeira and Corey Smith are among the city’s top businesspeople, business leaders and business thinkers.
Sequeira heads up Sequeira Partners, a financial advisory company focused on helping oilfield servicing companies be bought and sold.
Smith was the president, CEO and minority partner in oilsands camp operator Noralta Lodge. He steered that company from a value of minus-$50 million (following the 2014/15 oil crash) to its sale in 2018 to former competitor Civeo Canada for $420 million.
Small is beautiful. On their own, without partners, without other investors and outside of other business dealings, Sequeira and Smith have purchased a majority interest in RAM from Meunier and Smart. Meunier and Smart remain as minority partners and will continue in management positions, Meunier as chief product officer.
It’s great for Edmonton. A local manufacturing company with serious growth potential outside the oil and gas sector has been purchased by accomplished businesspeople with deep, life-long roots in this city.
The purchase underscores the fact that, all things considered, Greater Edmonton is a viable location for the manufacture of specialized products — and not just for the oil patch.
Aroon and Corey became friends when Sequeira Partners assisted Noralta Lodge in its sale to Civeo. In the aftermath of that transaction, they met for lunch.
“I was thinking of Corey as a potential CEO for any number of companies,” says Aroon. “But he surprised me. He’d been on the Covenant Foundation board, saw a social need (and a business opportunity) to extend the opportunity for independent living beyond “younger” seniors to those over 75 or 80; still able to live at home but needing additional services.
“I had met (RAM owner) Richard some 10 years before, in other business dealings. In the meantime, my parents were aging. We purchased and installed a RAM lift for wheelchair access from the garage to their house. I really liked the product.”
One thing led to another. Let’s talk to Richard, Aroon said to Corey.
A subsequent exploratory meeting led to a “wonderful courtship” says Smith. Each partner’s talents — Corey’s marketing, development and management skills, Aroon’s in finance, Meunier in engineering as chief product officer — could be fully utilized.
Smith obviously disagrees with the nay-sayers, given his investment of his own capital into an Edmonton manufacturing company.
Edmonton, he says, is a “wonderful place for manufacturers. We have a talented, capable workforce with reasonable labour costs. The local supply chain is very good — we can purchase most of our components nearby.
“We pay in Canadian dollars, but most of our sales are in U.S. dollars. We have the brainpower to develop new technology — Richard’s been at this for decades. Because many trucks leave Edmonton with less than full loads, RAM gets favourable shipping rates.”
The biggest challenge, the partners say, is finding executive talent. “We don’t have the concentration of manufacturing expertise, say like Southern Ontario’s vehicle parts and manufacturing cluster,” says Aroon.
“But if we can get candidates out here for a look-see,” says Corey, “I can sell them on living in Edmonton. There’s no better place to bring up kids.”
With proven, competitively priced products, a good North American reputation, and a growing market of seniors needing lifts in their homes, Smith foresees a tripling of revenue — “to north of $100 million” — in RAM’s five-year growth plan, moving from one shift a day to three, from 55 shop personnel to 150.
“I’m really pleased with the way things turned out,” says Meunier. “No disruption to our employees, the expertise within the company to meet growing demand … and I can still be involved in what I do best.”
Next week’s Hicks on Biz column: Setting the stage for long-term growth of Alberta’s manufacturing sector, both within and outside of oil and gas.