By Heidi Ivany (special to Saultonline.com)
Sault Ste. Marie is poised on the cusp of change. A required weening from the allure of big industry is setting the stage for the development of the entrepreneurial spirit that lives amongst the citizens of the Sault. Currently, many local small businesses toil in obscurity—working independently to create something sustainable—for themselves, for their families. The efforts put forward can lead to success, but often, the grind of working a side hustle alongside the demands of working full time in standard employment, balancing family duties can lead to the small business dying on the vine.
There is, however, a connector—a small business that is rapidly becoming big. Nestled in an old warehouse, at the base of Church Street, on the water is a very demure looking series of doors. Walking through one of these, you will find Maker North. A co-operative manufacturing facility, Maker North offers everyone and anyone the opportunity of developing what they need for there business, personal life or entertainment purposes. They offer four basic services; designing, prototype development, 3D printing and laser cutting. With equipment onsite that facilitates the creation of literally any item you could name, you have but to choose your medium—they do, onsite, 3D printing, woodworking, laser cutting, iron working and now they are becoming actively involved in developing curriculum in the STEM field.
“Our customers range from entrepreneurs who seek design and prototyping services to bring their own products to market to businesses and individuals who wish to purchase an available product that we can 3D print or laser cut.” Maker North states on their website which hosts a modest telling of the myriad of options offered there. “We have already played an integral role in the design / prototyping of several products that were created and brought to market by our customers. We continue to work with several others who are on the path to mass production of their own creations.”
Owner Operator, Joseph Bertrand, a visionary in so many ways, has created this space to support others in being creative, and truly working towards their own excellence. An active part of the community, Joe has left his mark in every job he has held and laughingly describes this as his third career. While working in Social Services, Joe began to research and nurture his concept. “I did a lot of reading about jobs of the future as I worked in the employment area of Social Services.” Said Bertrand. “I came across an industry poised for growth and decided to build an additive manufacturing and prototyping business that included a makerspace that we could share with the community.”
Given that Joe had worked within at least two jobs that most would describe as “career positions”—namely working within employment division of Ontario Works, and also having worked at SSM Transit, one might question, what it was that would drive him to move forward in such an entrepreneurial endeavor. Joe responded, “I saw that we would need to be competitive globally and if done correctly, we could things from across the region and the world.” His commitment to this community evident in this statement, he went on to add “Think global, act local.” On a personal note, he adds, “And, I’m a nerd at heart”.
Maker North is open daily from 9am to 9pm and is staffed with staff skilled in all areas of production currently available. They have been hosting very popular summer camps, and offer workshops, team building programs for businesses, as well as birthday parties. Beyond any of this, just entering the facility is to feel the excitement of possibility—the smell of wood, the quiet confidence of the staff, and the certainty that the sky is truly the limit at Maker North. Walk ins are welcomed.