Kim Blagborne exports about 90 per cent of his business from his Penticton Slimline factory internationally.
“We are the best kept secret in Penticton, very few people know that,” laughed the owner and president of Slimline Manufacturing Ltd.
Blagborne hopes to keep extending that global reach and on Wednesday he may have just done that. Penticton Economic Development Services, in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation hosted a forum with international trade and investment representatives. The delegation representing China, Japan, Europe and the U.S. West Coast outlined their services for B.C. businesses, offered advice on building networks in foreign markets, toured area factories and met one-one one with companies.
“They were very surprised of what we do in Penticton. It was a great benefit to them to understand what is available here and a great benefit to us to be able to show them that,” said Blagborne.
In 1991 Blagborne said he bought the company Slimline Manufacturing Ltd. from receivership. Blagborne purchased the patents and Turbomist name from the receiver and started to rebuild the company from the ground up. Today they export equipment for agricultural use in orchards and vineyards to the U.S., Australia, South America, Russia, Syria and other countries. Slimline was one of three business (Waycon and Brutus Truck Bodies) asked by the Penticton Economic Development Services to offer tours to the delegation.
Blagborne said the U.S. and European delegates are contacts that he looks forward to working with in the future.
“We have sold a few items to the European block but this gentleman is able to open it up totally to us. The U.S. representative also deals with a lot of people in similar business to us that he is able to connect us to. It will be a huge cost and time savings for us and hopefully in the end a marketable joint venture,” said Blagborne, who employs 35 people.
Despite some challenges of doing business in the area, Blagborne said he was born and raised in the Okanagan and wants to raise his own family here.
“It would be way more practical and economical to do business in the U.S., but I am a proud Canadian and I want to stay right here,” said Blagborne.
Penticton Economic Development Officer David Arsenault said delegates relayed to him that they were very impressed with the quality and innovation of the companies in Penticton. He said wine and spirit makers are looking at breaking into the Chinese and Japanese markets and one manufacturer is already having discussions about moving into China and Mongolia.
“The bottom line is that this means some security for our local manufacturers and keeping jobs in the community. All of these companies are growing and that bodes well for the community. They are growing, hiring people and expanding. That is important for the overall economic well-being of our community,” said Arsenault.
Dana Simpson of Simpson Innovations Inc., creator of the Truck Transformer a truck body swapping system, said the opportunity to meet with the delegation means a huge step forward in advancing the company. The Penticton economic development office arranged for Simpson to meet the delegates whose countries he was most interested in to show them how the system works. Simpson said the delegates were impressed and are taking it back to their respective country.
“They have given me a huge opportunity to advance my business which will increase local employment,” said Simpson. “Until the past year I felt that the City was only taking from my businesses. My involvement in recent seminars, created by invitations and follow ups invitations from the economic development department, has proven to me that the City is looking to help and advance its local businesses. The quality of people with their contacts that I met at this seminar increases my chance of advancing our company faster than ever before.”