The Westmounter behind
“Made in Montreal”
Non-profit organization promotes Montreal manufacturing
By Patricia Dumais
Manufacturing: The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale.
If you google “Montreal manufacturing” you will come across the web site of Made in Montreal, a non-profit organization committed to promoting and supporting the local manufacturing community. It states in its mission, “to foster an environment and culture of making local, buying local, and hiring local – where manufacturing businesses can flourish.”
According to Made in Montreal, cities across North America are experiencing an urban manufacturing renaissance. Driven by a growing consumer appetite for specialized and boutique items, technological innovations and an inherent desire among many entrepreneurs to produce tangible products, new manufacturers are capitalizing on the unique opportunities of an urban location to drive their success. After decades of seeing manufacturing jobs off-shored, these businesses are starting to bring jobs back to cities, helping to stimulate local economies and revitalize neighbourhoods.
Made in Montreal is the brainchild of Westmounter Alex Carruthers and his two associates, Jill Merriman and Steve Charters. The trio met while studying Urban Planning at McGill University. Says Alex, “When working on our own student-led projects, we discovered it was virtually impossible to find information about what exactly was being made in Montreal and where to find the businesses actually doing it.”
At that time Jill and Steve were involved with the buy-local movement. In 2010 the trio began working on a website that promoted the idea of local manufacturing and by 2012 Made in Montreal was born. After registering Made in Montreal as a non-profit, the team looked to similar organizations such as Made in NYC and SF Made for inspiration, as well as potential partners and collaborators.
The Made in Montreal website invites manufacturers to become members and so far more than 300 have signed up. “The majority are small businesses of less than 20 employees”, explains Alex, “In fact, most urban manufacturing firms are small, with only 20 or so in the Montreal area having 500 or more employees.”
Membership allows manufacturers to increase their online visibility with a business profile on the site’s directory, thus connecting them with consumers, product designers, local retailers and complementary manufacturers. It also allows them to advertise and promote their products and services through Made in Montreal’s website, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo), print material and events. Product designers can find and connect with local manufacturers who can turn their designs into finished products, and retailers can discover local producers and their products to add to their existing stock.
Members share a collective voice on issues of importance to the local manufacturing community and have a say with voting rights at the organization’s Annual General Meeting. They can also run as candidates for the Board of Directors.
The Made in Montreal website offers plenty of information and resources for manufacturers on topics such as product development and prototyping, subcontracting, selling online and exporting, to name a few.
Visitors to the site can view an interesting series of six documentary videos that present different Montreal industrial neighbourhoods through the eyes of the businesses that operate there.
Alex and his colleagues offer consultation services and have worked on a number of government-sponsored research projects and studies. As examples, the team compiled a comprehensive business inventory and survey of Acadie-Chabanel, and a census of manufacturers and multi-tenant buildings in the South West Borough.
Made in Montreal has produced a number of networking events, notably the Montreal Urban Manufacturing Summit, held on June 2 and 3, 2016. The Summit explored how Montreal and other Canadian cities can capitalize on the urban manufacturing renaissance.
Alex has manufacturing in his blood. Originally from Ottawa, he arrived in Montreal to train and eventually work as a paper maker at Papeterie Saint-Armand, on the Lachine Canal. The company, a proud member of Montreal’s community of manufacturers, was established in 1979 by his uncle, David Carruthers. There, Alex developed an interest in manufacturing in a contemporary urban context.
He went on to pursue his enthusiasm for urban manufacturing and local economies, obtaining a Bachelor in Urban Planning from Concordia and then a Masters in Urban Planning from McGill, where he focused his research on Montreal’s manufacturers.
In addition to his manufacturing experience at Papeterie St-Armand, Alex has also worked within Montreal’s business development sector, at the Société de développement du boulevard Saint-Laurent and with RESO – le Regroupement économique et social du sud-ouest. He has developed strong roots in his adopted city and has a close connection to current planning issues.
Alex and his family are fairly recent arrivals to Westmount. The thirty-something father of eight-year-old Mack and four-year-old Bea explains, “We were living in St-Henri and enjoying it, but as the children were growing we became concerned about schools. So about three years ago we moved to Westmount.” They live in the Victoria Village area and love the convenience as stores and services are just around the corner.
Alex recently joined the Board of Directors of the Westmount Municipal Association where he hopes to lend his expertise on Urban Planning, and economic development when issues of that nature arise.
For more information about Made in Montreal visit madeinmontreal.org
Images: courtesy of Made in Montreal
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Patricia Dumais, artistic director, award-winning graphic designer specialized in brand design is co-founder of Visionnaires, publishers of Westmount Magazine. Patricia develops visual concepts and ensures that all deliverables follow our publication’s standards and reflect the editorial voice. You can connect with Patricia on Linkedin, Twitter and Pinterest. or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.