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Tecvalco takes over Grit Industries’ assets and product lines

Planning for growth and going global with NB-built products

North Battleford, Lloydminster – Victor Kiam, president of Remington products, for years had an advertising campaign where he would say, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.”

A similar situation has taken place in North Battleford and Lloydminster, where Mike Menger, owner of Niagara Falls-based Tecvalco Ltd., bought the assets of Grit Industries. The difference is, instead of shavers, the primary product is Cold Weather Technologies indirect line heaters.

Wayne King, one of the most unique characters in the Lloydminster oilfield, has sold off most of his business, Grit Industries, to Tecvalco effective Mar. 1.

King has a long history of inventing and bringing new technologies to market. Those products have ranged from sand-handling in heavy oil to natural gas heating systems to tank heaters to secondary containment, just to name a few.

Asked by email how the sale came about, King responded in kind on March 9. He wrote, “I know that the word is out.

“This has been going on for quite some time. The company that I sold the manufacturing division to, as well as the Cold Weather Technology natural gas and flammable liquid heating systems that I developed over the last fifteen years, is a company out of Niagara Falls with offices in Edmonton. They were my Canadian manufacturing reps for all of Canada in the natural gas market, except for SaskEnergy in Saskatchewan. They wanted to grow their company into the U.S. market and with Grit’s recent success in the Bakken, in North Dakota heating light oil they saw this as an opportunity.

They are younger and full of enthusiasm. Me, I am turning 65 this December, took one week off in the last 8 years, work too much, and decided that I needed to clean up my mess before I die.

“It was a good life in the product development arena. It is very risky, very costly, never know where you are going to end up, and different issues come at you on a regular basis, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. I could write a book over the last thirty years of starting with nothing other than enthusiasm and a dream and working on technology to make a difference in this world. I have been supported by people such as you and your group, oil companies, regulatory bodies, engineers, and many others, and I must thank them all. The CWT technology took me over 10 years to have introduced into light oil but now it is there, with companies really seeing the value.

“I started the company with a $50,000 grant from the Alberta government as seed money in 1984 now, in 2016, I have sold. I will continue to do product development in some form till I die and have one or two new products that I am going to introduce this summer as product prototypes. Stop around or call sometime if you have an idea you want me to help you develop, I am looking for stuff to do.

“Thanks again for your support over the years,” King concluded.

New owner

Mike Menger is the owner of Tecvalco. He explained by phone on March 9, “We’ve been the distributor for the Cold Weather Technologies side of Grit Industries for all of Canada except Saskatchewan. So we’re very familiar with the product line. I found out through the grapevine there was a possibility Wayne was interested in selling. I was able to approach him, and we started negotiating a while back, and we did purchase the assets of the company March 1.”

The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

Tecvalco has been around since 1980. Menger purchased it in 2002. They’ve had a presence in Edmonton since 2004.The company started doing sales into the United States in September 2015.

“We sell to the Canadian natural gas industry, mostly, we also sell to utility contractors, wholesalers for plumbing and gas, and products to Canadian municipalities. We’ve very much (from) burner tip, back to the well, involved in the Canadian gas industry.”

King is staying on as a consultant, with a multi-year agreement.

“We’re happy to have his ability and expertise and we hope to work with him for many years to come,” Menger said.

King retained one product line and Grit still exists as a corporate entity, but nearly all of its lines are now with Tecvalco. This includes their Cold Weather Technologies heaters and G55 secondary containment lines.

It also includes a 10-year lease on the North Battleford factory King set up several years ago. That facility had long been the manufacturing facility for Peak Manufacturing Inc., a recreational vehicle maker, until it shut down. The Canadian RV manufacturing sector all but disappeared in that time frame due to the strength of the Canadian dollar making American-made units more affordable to Canadians. WinAlta took over the plant for a few years, continuing with RVs before trying its hand at ruggedized campers for the oilfield as well as wellsite shacks. That, too, eventually shut down

King had found the Lloydminster labour market was too pricey to maintain manufacturing there, so he moved manufacturing to North Battleford, into the former Peak plant in 2011.

Menger said, “I’m leasing it. I made a 10-year commitment to the community of North Battleford. I’ve rented a house here. I plan on living here at least half the year. I’m impressed with the community. It’s a nice place. I like North Battleford.”

He even contributed to the vet bill of a local dog that made headlines after it was shot.

“I did everything I could to maintain as many employees as possible. We’re basically putting two companies together and making it Tecvalco. I do care about people. I’m not looking at this as a short-term gain. It’s a large factory that has capacity for more goods to be manufactured out of it. I’m hoping the net turnaround in the next couple years is we’re hiring and hiring and hiring and hiring! And we’re not going anywhere. We’re staying in North Battleford,” Menger said.

Prior to the acquisition, Tecvalco had 24 employees. They were able to retain 54 of the 62 people Grit had.

“We kept as many as we could,” he said.

They will maintain a research and development facility in Lloydminster.

Cold Weather Technologies had become a major part of Tecvalco’s business. “I was motived by the fact I didn’t want it to fall into the hands of someone who would take it to China or to India. I wanted to keep the company and the jobs in Canada. I approached Wayne from that perspective. I’m a family guy, a hard-working person who owns his own business, just like Wayne, (but) a big younger. We connected from the standpoint that Mike has his morals and beliefs and hard work ethic in the right place, and that’s the kind of guy that I would be willing to move my business with.”

Menger is 47.

“I really do care about keeping jobs in Canada. It’s important to me that we employ people in Canada. How else do we have a society if everything is made somewhere else?” Menger said.

“The product is being made here, the innovation is here. The talent is here. The smart people are here. All I want to do is come in and make it better.”

Tecvalco has largely been a distributor. They are the manufacturer of record of a product called Diamondback, but don’t do the actual making of it. The absorption of much of Grit into Tecvalco changes the dynamic.

As a distributor, he’s spent a lot of time working with manufacturers on developing their products and bringing them to market. Menger said, “I’ve been a casual observer (of manufacturing), but I’m a fast learner. I’ve had it in my heart that I’ve been saying for 10 years: I want to be a manufacturer. I want to bring Tecvalco to the next level, to fully integrate ourselves through distribution, manufacturing, and research and development of new products.

“I’ve pushed forward as far as I possibly could so that we could get to this point. It’s been a long road to get here, but I know I have a great team behind me. There’s a great team here. We put these two together (and) the future looks very bright for Tecvalco.”

Growing up, his father had a small factory making doors for fireplaces, inspiring Menger’s desire to, one day, be a manufacturer himself.

“We made the CWT line our number one product we’re selling. It’s passed everything else. We love it. We love the technology. There’s great market potential to take it across North America and possibly take it across the world at some point.

“The goal is to make this as global as we can,” Menger said.

The oilfield portion of Grit’s work has been down, in line with the downturn of the industry, but on their G55 secondary containment line, Menger wants to continue promoting it and to bring on new dealers. 

King’s recent development of concrete panel products has been excluded from the deal.