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By Alex Frazer-Harrison
When it comes to finding examples of manufacturing innovation in Alberta, you don’t need to go far — just head 15 minutes north of Calgary to the city of Airdrie
In October 2014, ZyTech Building Systems LP bought 10 acres of land in Airdrie where it has established a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility dedicated to developing ZyTech’s “fast frame” systems. Using equipment originating in Sweden, ZyTech prefabricates floors, walls, trusses — basically most major lumber components related to building construction — and then ships them out to building sites.
Glenn German, who established the Alberta-based ZyTech in 1997, says innovation is the way forward in order to keep up with the demands of the construction industry.
“The world is changing and we’re changing with it,” German says, citing how using ZyTech’s fast-frame product, which uses leading-edge automation, can shave months off a builder’s construction timelines.
German says the Airdrie plant is seen as the flagship for ZyTech’s fast-frame product line. The company, with just under 500 employees continent-wide, has plans to start replicating the format in its facilities in Edmonton, Red Deer, Saskatchewan and the US.
German says the location of the new Airdrie plant was chosen due to its proximity to the QE II highway, Alberta’s major transportation route. “This plant serves Calgary and Edmonton with fast-frame product, and a huge advantage of being in Airdrie is we can service those markets very easily,” he says.
ZyTech is just one of a number of manufacturers that have brought their brand of innovation to Airdrie. For example, the city’s eastern edge is dominated by Propak Systems, which next year marks 40 years of being based in Airdrie, making the city a hub for engineering, fabrication and construction services.
Alta Injection Molding doubles as both a manufacturer and as an ideas-incubator, working with composite and engineered resins and helping companies get their products to market. Mirolin Industries Corp. manufactures acrylic tubs and showers. TransCanada Turbines Ltd. is considered a world leader in repairing and overhauling industrial and marine gas turbines; it moved to Airdrie from Calgary in 2011. For power-management solutions, many companies turn to Eaton Canada, which has been in Airdrie since the 1990s.
Mayor Peter Brown says these companies, along with ZyTech, provide diversity and opportunity to the city of 60,000 residents.
“When you bring in this kind of innovation, it requires a high level of expertise. Economic development-wise, I’m thrilled to have ZyTech in the community.”
Airdrie is well situated for serving innovative companies like ZyTech, adds Airdrie Economic Development Team Leader Kent Rupert.
“We’re trying to diversify the provincial and Airdrie economy,” he says. “When a company like ZyTech comes in, they’re using technology and it encourages other areas, whether it’s transportation, logistics, or manufacturing…outside of oil and gas.”
The City of Airdrie embraces business and their growth plans and fosters community, German says. “It’s a breath of fresh air to come into a community with business ideas and have them accepted, and they work with you to find ways to make it happen.”
For more information about ZyTech Building Systems, visit zytechtruss.com.
To learn about business opportunities in Airdrie, Alberta, visit airdrienow.ca.