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Small town successes

October 4, 2013 - 8:30pm  BEVERLEY WARE SOUTH SHORE BUREAU


World-class companies..., are calling rural Nova Scotia home


DPM Solutions, for example, in Hebbville, just outside Bridgewater, manufactures very small intricate high-precision parts and also designs and builds larger systems, such as electric battery testing units.

Products that come out of its 111-square-metre production building and 31-square-metre assembly and testing trailer are sold to clients across the U.S. and Canada, the U.K., Germany, Spain and Australia, as well as a few universities in Nova Scotia....

Andrew Button, head of the South Shore Business Growth Association, would like to introduce leading-edge companies ... to each other so that they can share their experiences and look at opportunities to create partnerships.

“I’d like to take companies that are somewhat smaller, have some really great talent, some really great capabilities, and understand how to connect them to each other,” he said.

Many such companies don’t know of each other’s existence, even if they’re only a few kilometres apart, because their market is at the international level. But Button said there could be options for these companies to work together and present a client with a completed product or module, for example, rather than just the components or the cases for that module.

He expects to begin the effort shortly with six companies from Shelburne to Chester. “We’d get them in the room together, talking to and aware of one another and their amazing capabilities and equipment,” and the customers that they serve, Button said.

Simon Trussler, the founder and owner of DPM Solutions Inc., likes that idea. “The more connections you have in any business the easier it is to get things done. I’m sure we’ve all found things out the hard way in different areas.”

Trussler said such a network could improve his business practices as well as his contacts. For one product, he ships in the material he needs from the U.S., does his process, ships it back across the border to somewhere else in the U.S. for another process, ships it back to his plant for a final process, then ships it one final time to the customer in the U.S.

Trussler’s company in Hebbville has five employees, including himself. His company’s main market is lithium ion battery research. In fact, he was designing and creating a small clamp system to hold lithium ion batteries for researchers at Dalhousie University when a reporter dropped by to meet him.

One of his key areas of research is to design and make electronic battery testing equipment, such as precision temperature-controlled, double-walled steel cabinets for safety testing of electric vehicle batteries. That way, if they explode, which Trussler said the prototypes are sometimes wont to do, no one gets hurt and no building damaged.

He’s also developed equipment to predict the lifespan of batteries, which will help car companies figure out how many batteries they should put into new vehicles to make them last — something Trussler gathers is a bit haphazard at the moment.

The equipment also means customers that buy huge quantities of batteries, in the thousands, can check quality control to ensure the batteries are arriving in a good state.

While he’s in a niche market, Trussler is looking at avenues to expand.

For instance, he’s making a foray into the textile business, designing a machine that will be used in textile research, and he’s developing a machine to be used in biofuel research.

“Basically, I’m providing what they describe as reactor tubes,” but he said he’s changed their name. “We don’t call it that for Customs anymore because we did that the first time and it was (a) bad, bad thing,” he chuckled.

It took a month to get the first shipment through to the U.S. because when it got to Customs, “I think they were afraid to open the package because they didn’t know what sort of reaction was going to happen. So we just call them stainless steel tubes now.”

Trussler said he isn’t missing out on anything by choosing to establish his business outside of metro Halifax.

The former British army machinist discovered Nova Scotia while looking after the engines on a private sailboat out of the Mediterranean. The yacht sailed across the ocean to the Caribbean and eventually up to Nova Scotia where it made landfall in Chester. That was 21 years ago.

After 14 years working as a machinist for a professor at Dalhousie University, who has one of the largest research centres in Atlantic Canada, Trussler decided at the age of 45 to try his hand at his own business while still holding down his job at the university. Much of that work he now does in his own nondescript building in Hebbville.

Today, his commute to work is about six minutes, compared to well over an hour before. Four years in, and his company is doing well.

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