Niigon Technologies: For this First Nation manufacturer, the future is now
A technician programs an injection molding machine at Niigon Technologies, located in Moose Deer Point First Nation outside of Parry Sound.
Along the picturesque shores of Georgian Bay, near Parry Sound, stands a shining model of industry and technology amid the tall pines that surround Moose Deer Point First Nation. Modern manufacturing has come to this tiny community with a 48,000 square foot, world-class injection facility that is a showplace of innovation, automation, efficiency and environmental responsibility. Niigon Technologies is truly a unique company with an unusual history and purpose. Through a partnership with leading industrialist and philanthropist Robert Schad, support from senior levels of government including FedNor and the First Nation itself, Niigon was created as a community-owned, not-for-profit corporation helping to generate a more diversified local economy.
Since Niigon’s machines started pumping out plastic parts and technical molds for a variety of industrial uses 12 years ago, the company has made significant strides into both national and international markets. “We are demonstrating that innovation can take place in a rural area in this country”, says Steve Mason, General Manager, Niigon Technologies. “We can compete because we are highly automated.” The proof is on the conveyor belt. Millions of small plastic clips used to support tomato plants for an Israeli client are churned out of a 160 tonne machine and onto a conveyor system that packages and prepares them for shipping. Niigon has expanded its round-the-clock manufacturing operations to include seven production machines that are fast, efficient and programmable.
For Niigon Technologies Inc., ‘highly automated’ also means operating an energy- efficient, eco-friendly building in harmony with Moose Deer Point First Nation’s values of environmental responsibility. “The plant was built on a rehabilitated gravel pit”, says Steve Mason. “As well, we constructed much of the building using recycled materials and products.” High efficiency windows and skylights, plus photo voltaic light panels which allow the plant to operate partially on solar power are helping the First Nation achieve its vision of a healthy and prosperous environment. Even the plant’s waste water is co-generated as a source of heating before being filtered to natural ponds outside.
A forklift moves boxes of plastic clips, created for agricultural use, from the assembly line to the shipping bay at Niigon Technologies.
Throughout Niigon’s impressive progression towards becoming a world-class manufacturer of high-end plastic products, FedNor has provided several timely investments to support the company’s capacity building and expansion. Since 2002, FedNor’s contributions totalling $1.34 million have helped Niigon expand its facilities with additional production machines, a water cooling system, along with other upgrades and retro-fits. A unique and successful partnership has been forged and a vision realized according to the Chief of Moose Deer Point First Nation. “FedNor’s support has been vital to the business and economic development of our community,” says Chief Baron King. “We are committed to becoming a major contributor to the growth of not only Moose Deer Point First Nation, but to all of Northern Ontario.”
Niigon is an Ojibway term meaning ‘for the future’. With enhanced employment opportunities and skills-training for community members in a state-of-the-art production plant serving an international clientele, the future looks bright for the people of Moose Deer Point First Nation.