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Fabricating a technological future

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A Yellowknife welder has opened a state-of-the-art computer-guided steel fabrication shop in the Kam Lake industrial park.

NNSL photo/graphic

Eddie Paul, owner of NEXTreme Steel Specialists, has opened a shop in the Kam Lake industrial park that will use computer-controlled steel fabrication equipment. Paul poses here with an example of his recent welding work, a sculpture created by Francois Thibault at Somba K'e Park. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

For Eddie Paul, the half Gwich'in, half North Slave Metis owner of NEXTreme Steel Specialists, it's a dream that's finally coming true after a decade of preparation.

Paul, whose family owns Paul Bros. Welding on Melville Drive, is expanding that business to include NEXTreme.

The family's shop near Kam Lake will gain an additional 4,000 square feet to accommodate several pieces of new equipment that Paul will use to design and fabricate steel components.

The machines are the type of modern computer numerical control (CNC) tools that have gradually swept the manufacturing process in the past 30 years - but they're only now catching up to Yellowknife, said Paul.

While Paul is already putting the equipment to work, the expanded shop will see him working at full capacity.

"Basically somebody could come to me and I can design it myself with the engineering software I have, basically design it in (the program) and it will tell me whether I've designed it to 2005 building code, which is the latest building code," said Paul. "It tells me whether it's structurally suitable or not."

Paul received $75,000 from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency to start up his venture.

NEXTreme will initially create three new positions, "but in the next two years, I foresee at least 10 to 15 new employees," said Paul.

The most obvious advantage to fabricating steel parts for customers in the North is "reducing a lot of costs that are incurred by having to outsource a lot of stuff," not to mention shipping materials from Edmonton, Montreal and as far away as the United States, he said.

Paul, a member of the North Slave Metis Alliance, began as a welder at his family's company but decided to strike out on his own, coming up with the idea for NEXTreme and starting a civil engineering technology diploma in Victoria, BC in 2002.

He graduated in 2007 and began pitching his plan to potential funders like CanNor and Aboriginal Business Canada.

"I've always had big goals. I've always wanted to be successful," he said.

Paul's not the only one in Yellowknife with steel fabrication on the brain.

In the next two months, Nahanni Construction and the Deton'Cho Corporation will open a similar facility in the Kam Lake Industrial park where millwright, machinist and welding apprentices will engage in heavy steel fabrication, heavy machining and hydraulics cylinder repair.

"It's definitely not impacting my own plans," said Paul. "If anything, it's just giving me more drive and it makes me realize that I definitely had a good idea."

And unlike the Nahanni/Deton'Cho joint venture, "I'm all in-house... There's not too many like me out in the world. I'm making it more sophisticated by bringing in more innovative machines that are CNC quality."

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